The exquisitely misty 310-hectare Reserva Santa Elena offers a completely different cloud forest experience from Monteverde. Cutting through the veiled forest, the reserve's 12km of dewy trails see much less traffic, retaining a magic that is sometimes missing at Monteverde. A recently upgraded observation tower in the reserve offers views all the way to the Arenal and Miravalles volcanoes (on a clear day). Open since 1992, Santa Elena was one of the first community-managed conservation projects in the country.
The reserve has a simple restaurant, coffee shop and gift store. Note that all proceeds go toward managing the reserve, as well as to environmental education programs in local schools.
The reserve itself is about 6km northeast of the village of Santa Elena; the reserve office is in town. A private shuttle service offers transportation to the reserve with pickups from hotels, departing at 6am, 8:30am, 10:30am and 12:30pm. Return trips from the reserve are at 9am, 11am, 1pm and 4pm. You can book the service by phone or directly through your hotel.