knew that this area’s treasures of nature were so valuable
that they had to be preserved.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve made the area popular,
there are now many eco-related activities that further
expand the forest’s enchantment:
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Monteverde is mostly a day place, those looking for
evening activities can enjoy several restaurants and
two discos: La Cascada and La Taberna.
to get there:
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.
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.
comfortable van transportation can be arranged for those
who prefer to leave the driving to others. There are
also shuttle and local buses.
raincoat, sweater, and rubber boots or tennis shoes
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 .