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Santa Elena is the center of most activity in this area !!

Peace is more precious than a piece of land. ~ Anwar Sadat, 1918-1981

There is no real town of Monteverde, but a charming little village called Santa Elena, six km/3.7 miles downhill. This is the center of most activity and it’s where you’ll go for provisions and socialization. It features shops, bus station, restaurants, supermarket, bars, post office with Internet access and even a very likeable bookstore/laundromat/coffee shop, Chunches, (. 506/645-5147), owned by Jim Stanley and Wendy Rockwell. The bulletin board here is used extensively by the community and visitors.

When not trekking around the woods, serious shoppers head for “Community of Artisans of Santa Elena and Monteverde” (CASEM), a women’s crafts cooperative. They also feature lots of one-of-a-kind T-shirts, clothing, local coffee, weavings, pottery and souvenirs. From a modest start with eight women in 1982, the co-op has grown to over 140 women and 10 men.

The Monteverde Park Visitor’s Center also has a well-stocked gift shop. The Cheese Factory shows how they make and sell cheese. Up the road is a Ceramics Studio and there is a Butterfly Garden near the Finca Ecológica. Gift and art galleries abound.

Check out the Hummingbird Gallery, up on the way to the park entrance, or Galería Extasis, also on the main road uphill. Weekly workshops in various art forms can be arranged for long-term visitors at the Studio of the Arts (US . 800/370-3331, CR . 506/645-5434, www.mvstudios.com), a cooperative of local artists.

More active travelers should contact the Original Canopy Tour which claims to be the pioneers of canopy tours. Participants are strapped into a safety harness and proceed to zip along steel wires stretched between tall trees.

We’ve been on several canopy tours in Costa Rica and found this one pleasing. The best part for us was climbing to a platform through a hollowed strangler fig lattice that had killed the tree it once wrapped around. This activity is great for kids from eight years old to 80. Prices start at US $45 for walk-ins and go up to as much as $1,600 for multi-day itineraries.

Higher and longer thrills can be found at Sky Trek a complex of high suspension bridges, platforms and zip lines to shoot over and through the trees. You’ll be as much as 127 meters/ 417 feet above the ground and travel 427 meters/1,400 feet on one of the runs. Of course, you’re strapped into a safety harness.

Its sister attraction, Sky Walk, offers a more sedate experience. Two km/1.25 miles of hiking trails lead to five long, narrow suspension bridges as much as 40 meters/132 feet above ground. All attractions are safe.

An even more sedentary tour is with Aerial Adventures (. 506/645- 5960). It mimics the tram with cars suspended on rails traversing 1.5 km/ .9 miles of open fields and woods. The slow-moving cars go as low as ground level and as high as 12 meters/39 feet. Near the Finca Ecológica.

All in all, we found Santa Elena a great place to hang out for several days or longer.

There are some good hotels near town and in the area, For a link to Hotels in Monteverde and Santa ElenaClick here

In town, morph into Café Morpho, across the street from the bus station. You’ll get a good economical lunch – veggies and batidos are big here – and a chance to see fellow wanderers. Coffee up and hunker down at Chunches, or eat and drink at El Daquirí.


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