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In 1951 a group of Quakers from Alabama decided to search south of the border for a peaceful land in which to live. They found it in the heights of a cloud forest in Costa Rica.

They knew that this area’s treasures of nature were so valuable that they had to be preserved.

The Monteverde Preserve has since been joined by other successful conservation projects like the nearby Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve and the Children’s Eternal Forest, featuring trees donated by children from 44 countries around the world.

Monteverde means "green hill". It is a world-renowned center of tropical forest conservation, home to one of the world’s most beautiful birds, the quetzal. There are more than 100 mammal species, such as jaguars, ocelot and tapirs; over 400 bird species (including 30 kinds of hummingbirds); 120 species of amphibians and reptiles; tens of thousands of different insects (over 5,000 species of moths alone); and 2,500 plant species, including 420 different types of orchids.

The Quakers wanted to preserve the magic of this region, and succeeded. Today the magic is to be found in the amazing numbers of colorful hummingbirds, in the spectacular sunset views of the Gulf of Nicoya, and in the whispering, almost alive, green forest.

Although Monteverde’s average temperature is 17 C (62 F), the combination of geographic and weather conditions produces great differences in temperature and precipitation between areas just a short distance away.

Monteverde lies between 600 meters and 1,842 meters above sea level. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve has seven trails that total 12.4 kilometers. There are guided hikes that leave daily at 7:30 a.m. with naturalist guides who have a first hand knowledge of the forest.

The reserve is open 365 days a year from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. There are also special tours for birdwatchers, and since the forest is just as interesting at night as it is during the day, there are also evening tours (make reservations in advance and don’t forget your flashlight!)

One of the hotels closest to the reserve and dedicated to eco-tourism is Hotel Fonda Vela, with 17 cozy and spacious standard rooms, 6 junior suites and 2 mountain suites, all with private bath with hot water, large windows, and scattered across the property, surrounded by gardens and sunlight. All rooms are wheelchair accessible. Fonda Vela also features one of the best restaurants in the Monteverde, with typical Costa Rican and international cuisine; an art gallery; a one-kilometer hiking trail, and a private stable where guests can arrange horseback excursions. A recent addition is a coffee shop where one can choose espresso, mocha, glacé or cappuccino, among others. There is also a conference hall where every night at 6 pm (except Friday) there is a slide show about Monteverde’s history and wildlife.

Fonda Vela was established by Quaker Paul Smith; his two sons who grew up in the area, now run the hotel, where their father’s forest paintings decorate many of the walls. Fonda Vela’s commitment to nature conservation includes a 20-year-old reforestation project for local tree species; the use of a solar panel to heat water; and refrigerators and an ice maker using a special refrigerant called R134, which is ozone friendly.

The lumber for construction is from trees that are not endangered species. The hotel also uses organic gardening to supply the hotel restaurant, and pumps the waste water into a drainage system far away from local creeks and rivers.

Another lodge at Monteverde is the Hotel Bel Mar, a cozy and comfortable rustic, mountain style retreat with chalets and standard rooms, each with private bath and hot water, and spectacular views of the surrounding forest and the Gulf of Nicoya. The restaurant balcony offers splendid views of the magnificent sunset, while hummingbirds sip from feeders.

Although the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve made the area popular, there are now many eco-related activities that further expand the forest’s enchantment:

The Santa Elena Rain Forest Reserve, opened in 1992, allows great views of the Arenal Volcano on clear days (the volcano is about 37 kilometers north of Monteverde, and its loud rumbles can often be heard in the forest). A tour that goes directly from Monteverde to Arenal by road has just been initiated (ask the travel consultants at http://www.crica.com/ for details).

Other activities at Monteverde that give an even closer look at this forest’s treasures are a canopy tour (suspension cables leading from one platform to another); a sky trek tour (a network of trails and platforms reaching high above the ground, where tourists can slide through the canopy on ziplines attached to the platforms); one of the most extensive butterfly gardens in Costa Rica; the Orchid Garden; an ecological farm; a serpentarium; a handicraft market; the Valle Escondido Trail and the Bajo del Tigre (Jaguar Canyon) Trail.

Because of its location on the Pacific slope, its elevation and humidity, Bajo del Tigre is a very different habitat from other rain forest reserves in the area. Thirty of the tree species in Bajo del Tigre are among those in the area that are new to science.

Bajo del Tigre is part of the Children’s Eternal Rain Forest, 50.000 acres of primary forest donated by children from around the world (many of whom have never been to Monteverde) when they learned about the importance of preserving this habitat.

Bird watching and horseback riding are two favorite activities in the area. Most local hotels can arrange these activities, but if you want to plan in advance see http://www.crica.com/tours/tours.html.

Near the Santa Elena Rain Forest Reserve is Hotel El Sapo Dorado, which features 30 mountain suites (Classic, Sunset Terrace and Fountain), all with private entrance and porch, and furnished with two queen size beds. The Classic Suites have fireplaces; the Sunset Terrace Suites offer a splendid view of the Gulf of Nicoya. The hotel restaurant serves original dishes in a blend of international and Costa Rican cuisine, along with a choice of vegetarian offerings.

Although Monteverde is mostly a day place, those looking for evening activities can enjoy several restaurants and two discos: La Cascada and La Taberna.

How to get there:

Monteverde is 184 kilometers northwest of San José. Take the Inter-American Highway north to KM.149 (just before the bridge over the Lagarto River), turn right, and continue along an unpaved road for about 40 kilometers.

The drive from San José to KM.149 takes about 2 ½ hours, and it’s another 90 minutes to Monteverde. A four-wheel drive is recommended. Dollar Rent-a-Car and Economy Rent-a-Car offer several models.

Private, comfortable van transportation can be arranged for those who prefer to leave the driving to others. There are also shuttle and local buses.

What to bring:

A raincoat, sweater, and rubber boots or tennis shoes for hiking.

Read the other features:


For more information on visiting Costa Rica to view this spectacular event please visit Costa Rica’s TravelWEB @ www.crica.com, or by calling our toll free number at 1-800-788-7857 or 1-866-822-2269 .


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