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Monteverde (“Green Mountain”), is part of the steep Tilarán mountain range. !!

A colony of Quaker farmers from Alabama, searching for a more pacifistic environment, came to Costa Rica in 1951 just two years after it abolished its army. They set up dairy farms in Monteverde (“Green Mountain”)

The community prospered when they developed a market for their excellent cheeses. Come here hungry – Productores de Monteverde Cheese Factory produces a ton of cheese a day.

The original settlers included forward-thinking pioneers who recognized the frailty of the environment and determined to preserve the Guacimal River at its source in the primary cloud forests.

By preventing development in their original 554-hectare/1,368-acre Bosque Eterno, the area remained pristine until the threat of homesteading in the surrounding forest forced further action.

Visiting scientists George and Harriet Powell teamed up with long-time resident Wilford Guindon to promote an “official” nature preserve. With the help of the Tropical Science Center, who now run and maintain it – it is not a national park – the Monteverde Biological Cloud Forest Preserve ( became official in March, 1972.

The foggy forest (elevation 1,440 meters/4,662 feet) boasts six distinct ecological zones. Since its inception, the preserved region has grown rapidly – both in size and fame – and now covers 10,500 hectares and sees well over 50,000 visitors annually.

Bordered by the Santa Elena and Children’s rainforests, plus Arenal and San Ramón forests, the area is one of Costa Rica’s most important protected ecological zones. Entrance into the park is restricted to 150 people at any one time, which may mean a wait.

The Monteverde Cloud Forest is a diverse biological wonderland that contains old-growth trees, favored habitat of the spectacular quetzal. But it is also home to 400 other kinds of birds, including 30 types of hummingbirds and such odd specimens as three-wattled bellbirds and bare-necked umbrella birds. Ground-dwelling residents include the powerful jaguar, the ocelot and the tapir, 2,500 species of plants (including 420 kinds of orchids) and 1,200 amphibian and reptile species.

Because there is so much to see, it’s best to have a guide who knows where to look for wildlife in the wild. Guided tours run about US $15 per person and night tours, when it’s not raining, start at 7 pm.

If you’re driving the Inter-American Highway there are two routes up the mountain. Both feature hard driving on rough roads – a conscious effort by the Monteverde community to slow development by jarring your kidneys.

The southern route from San José is just before the Río Lagarto Bridge at Km 149; look for a tiny sign on a bar to the right. There’s also a shortcut south of the Lagarto Bridge at Río Sardinal, which joins the Lagarto road, but this “shortcut” may sometimes take longer because the road is often in terrible shape.

The northern route is better marked and leaves the highway at the turn for Las Juntas. It’s a good road for a third of the way up the mountain, and then it deteriorates to be as bad as the other. Follow the sign in Juntas for San Rafael, not Los Dos.

Monteverde is two hours from the highway and about four hours from San José. If you have time, check out Las Juntas, once the gold-mining capital of Costa Rica. It has an Eco Museo outside town with trails leading to an old gold mine. Boston – yes

Boston – is a nearby town with an active gold-mining cooperative that you can visit. Call Mina Tours (. 506/662-0753) for an escorted tour.

Three rustic back country huts are available in Monteverde for just US $4 per night, plus the entrance fee for each day. It’s a five-hour hike to Eladios Hut (Portland Audubon Center), the largest of the three. La Leona Hut features an enchanting setting on the Río Peñas Blancas with a cable car upstream for crossings. It takes 3½ hours to reach. The closest, El Valle Hut, takes 2½ hours to reach.

Huts are rustic, with dorm bunk beds, water, propane and wood stoves, cooking pots and utensils, but no sheets or blankets. Bring food, candles, sleeping bags and toilet paper. Arrange with the visitor’s center.

No guides are needed for the following Monteverde Cloud Forest trails, although we recommend you hire one to point out the wildlife. Many of the trails can be combined to form loops. All times given are approximate for round-trip hikes.

is the most popular trail, winding past some fascinating strangler figs. It takes about 1½ hours and is just shy of two km long (1.2 miles), rising 65 m (213 ft). A self-guided tour booklet of this trail is available in English and Spanish at the visitor’s center.

EL CAMINO (The Road)
rises 45 meters/148 feet through a less forested area; the sunlight attracts butterflies and birds. Two km (1.2 miles); allow about an hour.

This 1.6-km trail (one mile) takes a little over an hour to traverse a swamp forest. It features wild magnolias and a podocarpus, the only conifer in the preserve.

SENDERO RIO (River Trail)
follows the Quebrada Cueda for nearly two km (1.2 miles) to a waterfall. Near the waterfall check out the zapote trees and their huge, buttressed roots.

rises 150 meters/492 feet to reach a height of 1,680 meters/5,510 feet above sea level. During your 1¼-hour hike you’ll encounter oak, bamboo, heliconia, and hot lip plants abound.

SENDERO BOSQUE ETERNO (Eternal Forest Trail)
is in the original Quaker preserve. This 20-minute hike shows good examples of strangler figs.

is named after one of the founders of Monteverde. It’s a quick 10 minutes through a second-growth forest.

leads you along the Continental Divide to La Ventana, with a wide view of the elfin forest en route. Bamboo is plentiful. You can hike this .2-mile trail in 10 minutes.

is an appealing narrow trail with a beautiful heliconia grove. It will take 10 minutes to hike. Outside the reserve there is an excellent hike to the top of Cerro Amigos, along the dirt road to the Television Tower. The road begins just before the gas station on the road to Monteverde and passes the Hotel Bel Mar. It’s about 3½ hours round-trip. On a clear day, you can see forever from the 1,842-meter/6,000-foot peak.

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