In the 1930′s Monteverde was first occupied by Costa Rican colonists scratching a living by farming and logging. They like the undeveloped land because it was quite similar the early America’s wild west, and had no help from Costa Rica’s government to re-establish themselves in the cool, rugged mountain area.
In 1949, four pacifist Quakers from Alabama were jailed for refusing to fight in the Korean War after being drafted. Once out of jail, along with their community of ‘friend’s’ (the other name for their Christian group), they searched for a new country where peace dominated. Monteverde, Costa Rica seemed to fit the bill, a year earlier the standing army was abolished, and the underdeveloped, cool, lush, mountain sides were ideal for dairying.
In 1951, a total of forty-four Quaker settlers making up eleven families from the ‘Friends’ religion came and called the place ‘Green Mountain’ or ‘Monteverde’ in Spanish. Their mutual friendship and community co-operation helped Monteverde grow to what you see today.
Should you decide to visit Monteverde, you will need at least a couple of days to see most of the organized attractions, hanging bridges, canopy zip-lines, cloud forest paths, a frog museum, birding opportunities, or just hanging out in the quaint Quaker village of Santa Elena, and watch the mix of tourists and locals evolve.
Two hundred thousand visitors enjoy Monteverde each year in spite of the fact it is three hours from Adventure Inn, with the last ninety minutes on a steep, unpaved, spine-jolting road. Monteverde was one of Costa Rica’s initial eco-tourism destinations, and now it is pushing its capacity forcing authorities to set limits on visitors to specific preserves at the same time.
The successes of Monteverde have inspired other regions of Costa Rica to jump on the band wagon as less- crowded options, taking some pressure from Monteverde pristine environment.
People usually go to Monteverde for one of four reasons:
- to visit the cloud forest and see the Resplendent Quetzal
- to do a zip line or walk on hanging bridges in the forest canopy
- to see how organic, fair-trade coffee is grown.
- to learn more about the fascinating Quaker community which founded Monteverde in 1951
If you want easy access to a cloud forest and perhaps luck out seeing a quetzal, consider the rugged mountainous region crossed by the InterAmerican Highway between Cartago heading for San Isidro de El General. All year long quetzals can be seen here. Though the area hasn’t developed like Monteverde with tourist attractions, simply enjoy the fresh mountain air, and go with the flow, there’s lots to do. My favorite lodge in this area, owned by my friend, American Gary Roberts and his wife, is the cozy, charming El Toucanet Lodge in Copey de Dota. This lodge is closer to San Jose than Monteverde, and access is mostly on paved roads. Again mention Adventure Hotels of Costa Rica for a further 10% off your quoted rate.
For those who want the thrill of zip lines and suspended bridges in the forest canopy, don’t think that Monteverde is the only place to find them. The area around Rincon de la Vieja National Park in Guanacaste, with its bubbling mud holes, waterfalls, mountain biking and hiking trails, and also has several of the country’s most exciting canopy rides. Rincon de la Vieja Lodge has an 11-cable zip line only two kilometers from the park entrance. Hacienda Guachipelin’s zip-lines traverse across a canyon rather than tree-to-tree. We, at Adventure Inn, arrange organized tours to Buena Vista Lodge and Adventure Center which has two canopy tours, one with a 700 meter cable going from mountain top to mountain top, seventeen hanging bridges, and a 400 meter long water slide.
The Arenal hanging bridges near Arenal Volcano, and the Tirimbina Reserve near La Virgen de Sarapiqui, 90 minutes from Adventure Inn have well-made hanging bridges through dense rainforest. Stay at my great friends Beatriz and Leo Gamez’s lodge, La Quinta de Sarapiqui (laquintasarapiqui.com) for an education in itself, with their wildlife museum, and educational facilities. This couple are leaders in the environmental movement in their area.
For those who are truly fascinated in the story of these Alabama Quakers who were imprisoned for resisting enlisting and who emigrated to standing armyless Costa Rica at the beginning of the Korean War, a pilgrimage needs to be undertaken to Monteverde. See how an entrepreneurial cheese business unified local families, and how they protected their valuable watershed after founding their famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, and sime time later the Childrens’ Eternal Rain Forest. Though adventure, music, art, culture, volunteers, and scientific studies radiate from Monteverde, other new places are starting to gain momentum in popularity.