Fodor's Expert Review Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve
Several conservation areas near Monteverde are attractive day-trip destinations, especially when the Monteverde Reserve is too busy. The 765-acre Santa Elena Reserve just west of Monteverde is a project of the Santa Elena high school, and has a series of trails of varying length and difficulty that can be walked alone or with a guide on tours that depart daily at 7:30, 9, 11:30, and 1 pm. The 1½-km (1-mile) Youth Challenge trail takes about 45 minutes to negotiate and includes an observation platform with views that extend as far as the Arenal Volcano—that is, if the clouds clear. If you're feeling hardy, try the 5-km (3-mile) Caño Negro trail. There's a shuttle service to the reserve with fixed departures and returns; reservations are required, and the cost is $3 each way.