Although Santa Elena (and Monteverde) is famous for its amazing ziplines and breathtaking cloud forests, it’s also a great destination in Costa Rica to explore on a budget. During my trip in Costa Rica I explored 5 free things to do in Santa Elena that I really enjoyed. If you have some time left in Santa Elena or Monteverde and want to explore free things, this post is perfect for you.

The 5 free things to do in Santa Elena are:

  • Watch the sunset from Mirador Valle Escondido Preserve
  • Cross the Ficus La Raiz – Ficus tree bridge
  • Visit the Hummingbird gallery
  • Explore Santa Elena street art 
  • Hike up to Cerro Amigos

Watch the sunset from Mirador Valle Escondido Preserve

This is one of the most popular viewpoints in the Monteverde area, because it’s super accessible. It’s right off the main road and in walking distance from many hotels. There are several benches and it’s a great place to see the sunset. This is where I saw one of the prettiest sunsets in my life. I recommend going early, because the spot is popular and otherwise the best places are taken.

How to get to Mirador Valle Escondido Preserve

It’s super easy to go here as it’s marked on Google Maps as “Mirador Valle Escondido Preserve.” It’s a nice hike from Santa Elena Town to Mirador. If you go by car, you have to pull over to the side really quick, because there are no parking spots.

Cross the Ficus La Raiz – Ficus Tree Bridge

The Ficus la Raiz is one of my favorite free places to visit in Santa Elena. It’s a bridge made up of the ficus tree roots. The tree grew up and eventually fell over, next to a small creek. The roots kept growing sideways and the steam cleared the terrain underneath the roots over decades. Locals call it El Puente Raiz or the Root Bridge. The roots make the bridge very beautiful and picturesque. You can actually climb up the bridge and try to walk across. Just be aware that if it’s raining, you are extra careful, because the bridge is not wide and it’s easily to fell off.

If you decide to visit the ficus tree bridge, please remember it’s a special place and not to ruin it by leaving trash or mistreating the nature

How to get to the Ficus La Raiz (Ficus Tree Bridge)

Ficus La Raiz is located on private land, so tourist offices and hotels will not (should not) direct you to the tree’s location. It’s super easy to go here as it’s marked on Google Maps as “Ficus La Raiz”. Look for the sign and walk down the road. The road is easy but can get slippery if it’s raining.

Visiting Cafe Colibri (Hummingbird Cafe)

At the entrance to the Monteverde Cloud forest is the Hummingbird Cafe. I just love this little place. It has a cozy garden where you can spot up to 5 species of hummingbirds and many other little birds. You can sit close to the birds and get amazing photos, so don’t forget your camera or smartphone. If you are lucky, you can even spot a coati walking around.

You do not need to pay the entrance fee of the Monteverde reserve, so you can visit this place for free. Cafe Colibri closes around 5 PM, so you can combine your visit with a trip to the Monteverde Cloud forest and visit the cafe and garden afterwards. There’s a gift shop and a little coffee shop named Cafe Colibri where they sell tasty coffee and pastries.

How to get to Cafe Colibri

Cafe Colibri is right next to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve’s entrance. It’s marked on Google Maps as “Cafe Colibri”.

Photo by Leslie Cross

Explore Santa Elena street art

If you haven’t had enough walking yet, take some time to explore the incredible street art in Santa Elena. The cozy town is full of street art like high murals and small colorful hidden gems. Which one is your favorite?

Hike up to Cerro Amigos

One of the other popular and free things to do in Santa Elena is to hike up to Cerro Amigos. This hill is famous for its radio towers and for the great viewpoint. It’s the highest elevation point on Monteverde. Hiking up to Cerro Amigos is amazing to do in the early morning, so you can see the sunrise from the top. The hike is known as a challenging and steep hike that approximately takes 1,5-2 hours.

How to get to the starting point of the hike up to Cerro Amigos

Cerro Amigos is uphill from the Monteverde gas station through the Hotel Belmar’s road. If you go by car, you can park your car at the gas station. It’s marked on Google Maps as “Servicentro Monteverde” and is right behind the Mirador Valle Escondido Preserve.


Read about other things to do in Costa Rica below!

Author: Daphne

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