Commercial street in Santa Elena
Monteverde, Costa Rica is a small community in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, located in the Cordillera de Tilarán mountain range. Roughly a four-hour drive from the Central Valley, Monteverde is one of the country's major ecotourism destinations. The area is host to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and several other natural attractions, which draw considerable numbers of tourists and naturalists.
National Geographic has called the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve "the jewel in the crown of cloud forest reserves".Newsweek has declared Monteverde the world's #14 "Place to Remember Before it Disappears". By popular vote in Costa Rica, Monteverde was deemed one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Costa Rica, along with Isla del Coco, Volcán Arenal, Cerro Chirripó, Río Celeste, Tortuguero, and Volcán Poás.
This article deals with Monteverde and its surrounding zone. This includes Santa Elena, the area's largest town and tourist hub, as well as the nearby cluster of homes and businesses known as Cerro Plano, the community of Monteverde, and numerous reserves and attractions in the wider region.
Resting roughly at 1,400 metres (4,600 ft) above sea level, Monteverde is misty, humid, and windy, with a mean annual temperature of 18 °C (64 °F) (Nadkarni 2000: 17). Annual rainfall averages around 3,000 millimetres (118 in). Humidity oscillates between 74% and 97% (Nadkarni 2000: 34).
Various pre-Columbian artifacts testify to the existence of small populations of Clovis Native Americans, who once farmed in villages in the area circa 3000 BC. Between roughly 3300 BC to 2000 BC, the nearby tribes of the Arenal area experienced a population decline. These nearby tribes re-established villages in the region between 2000 BC to 500 BC. Agriculture intensified in the 500 BC to AD 300 period, with chiefdom societies replacing small tribal societies. Intense deforestation accompanied horticulture, and stone foundations dating to this period can be found. Jade objects became prominent characteristics of these villages. From AD 300 to 800, complex chiefdoms supplanted simpler chiefdoms and more intricate villages appear, with cemeteries, public squares, gold-work and inter-tribal trade and conflict. Around 1300, a general decline in population occurred, possibly due to Arenal Volcano's increased activity. 408–409:
After the Spanish made landfall in 1502, Costa Rica endured two generations of warfare. Nationwide indigenous populations fell from an estimated 400,000 to 80,000 within little more than 50 years. However, unlike Costa Rica's neighbors, Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica did not yield considerable amounts of Indian labor or mineral resources, and thus the region experienced colonization at a much slower rate than many other Spanish colonies.
In the first three decades of the 20th century, Creole populations arrived in small numbers to what is now called Monteverde. Many either worked for the Guacimal gold mines or provided its workers with goods and services. Some families also settled the nearby lower, warmer valley of San Luis. 353:
What is now considered Monteverde was founded by Quakers from the United States whose pacifist values led them to defy the American draft before the Korean War.The majority of these settlers hailed from Fairhope, Alabama, and included some non-Quaker pacifists and conscientious objectors. The spokesman of the group was Hubert Mendenhall, a dairyman who had visited Costa Rica in 1949 as part of a farmer's tour. These Quakers and pacifists chose the area for its cool climate, which would facilitate dairy farming, due to the country's non-violent, army-free constitution, and its friendly Costa Rican inhabitants. The Quakers stewarded and farmed a large tract of land, part of which they eventually set aside for conservation, today the Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde (Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve). This has become a major tourist attraction.
On March 8, 2005, a group of three armed Nicaraguan men raided and attempted to rob the Santa Elena branch of the state National Bank (Banco Nacional). A guard killed two of the armed men. However, one assailant held bank customers hostage for 28 hours. When authorities successfully attempted to retake the bank, a senior police officer and nine civilians died, and only one of the attackers survived.This event raised tensions between Nicaraguans and Costa Ricans nationwide and prompted higher security in many national banks.
In recent years, the area's rapidly increasing numbers of tourists has brought a sizable influx of Costa Ricans from other towns and cities. Now, an estimated 250,000 tourists visit Monteverde a year. Improved goods and services, including partially paved roads, have arrived in recent years. In 2007, Costa Ricans voted Monteverde one of Costa Rica's Seven Wonders, along with Isla del Coco, Tortuguero, Arenal Volcano, Cerro Chirripó, Rio Celeste and Poás Volcano.
As in the majority of Costa Rica, the official and most-spoken language is Spanish. However, bilingualism is widespread due to the presence of Quakers and three schools taught at least partially in English.
The population of the Monteverde community has between 250 and 750 residents, of whom about 50 are Quaker.The more developed Costa Rican-dominated town of Santa Elena has 6,500 permanent residents as of the most recent census.
There are several public grade and middle schools in the area, including the Escuela Santa Elena, the Escuela Cerro Plano, and two schools in San Luis. The Colegio San Rafael and Colegio Técnico Professional (also known as the Colegio Santa Elena) are responsible for the majority of secondary education in the area.
Private education is fairly robust in the Monteverde region. In 1951, the Quakers constructed a Quaker Meeting house, which served as classrooms and a general store.This became known as Monteverde Friends School (MFS) and today offers bilingual education to Pre-K through 12th grade to roughly 120 students.
A larger bilingual (English/Spanish) institution, the Cloud Forest School, founded in 1991, now enrolls roughly 200 students from Pre-K through 11th grade, over 90% of whom are Costa Ricans. The CFS is accredited by the government of Costa Rica and over 50% of its graduates pursue higher education.
The small private Adventist school, the Escuela Adventista, is also bilingual.
While there is only one institution of higher education in Monteverde, the UNED (State Distance University), the area is home to a considerable number of local and foreign undergraduate and graduate programs. These include the Monteverde Institute, EAP, CIEE, and the University of Georgia (see below). Most residents of Monteverde pursue higher education in the Central Valley at institutions such as the University of Costa Rica.
Monteverde is also home to a substantial number of foreign-born scientists.
Agriculture has long been the area's main source of income and sustenance for both Costa Ricans and Quakers. The original Creole populations relied mostly on subsistence agriculture and trade with Guacimal. Initially they hunted tapirs, deer, pacas, monkeys, and birds, but diminished those populations and turned to pigs, corn, beans, vegetables, fruits, herbs and livestock. In the 1950s, both Quakers and Costa Ricans produced garlic, beef, flax, and homestead cheese. Quakers took advantages of the infrastructure improvements of the 1960s and exported cheese and beef to the rest of the country. However, due to overgrazing, the dairy industry declined in the 1970s. This led the population to turn to coffee. By the mid-1990s, coffee farmers were receiving some of the highest prices in the world for their coffee beans. In the mid-1990s 210 families were contributing milk to the local dairy factory, with a revenue of $5.2 million. 400–405:
Tourism is a growing sector in Monteverde's economy. In 1975, the region received fewer than one hundred visitors. This increased to around 50,000 in the mid-1990s. In recent years, the average has risen to 250,000 yearly tourists. Hotels, taxis, guides, and other tourist-geared services have appeared since the early 1990s. 360:
Due to the area's cloud forests and rain forests (including seven different ecological life zones),Monteverde has become a major part of the Costa Rican tourist trail - despite difficult access. Readers of the country's leading newspaper La Nación voted it one of the "7 Wonders of Costa Rica". Of Monteverde's quarter-million annual tourists, around 70,000 tourists visit the reserve.
The bulk of Monteverde's cloud forest can be found in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. The area around the park entrance is the most visited, and features six main trails, which total 13 km, are well-kept and easy to access. The reserve features a large network of less-accessible trails and a number of research stations, two of which house ten persons each, as well as one larger station that can house as many as forty-three persons, though these are now restricted to use by researchers only.
To the West of Monteverde lies the Bosque Eterno de los Niños conservation area, a project funded by schools and children from all over the world. The Bosque Eterno is the largest preserve in the area with 22,000 hectares (54,000 acres). Farther north is the Reserva Santa Elena. This area attracts fewer tourists than the Monteverde Reserve, but offers a field station and views of Arenal Volcano.
The massive 10,500-hectare (26,000-acre) Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is the region's main draw, due largely to its excellent virgin and semi-virgin environment and world-class biodiversity. Scientists have determined this region to be home to the planet's largest number of orchids, at 500, with 34 being recent discoveries. Fifty-eight species of amphibians, including the extinct Monteverde-endemic golden toad, have been found here. This area is also a stop for ninety-one species of migratory birds. The famed quetzal resides here seasonally. Monteverde's one-hundred-and-thirty-four mammal species include representatives from both North and South America, including six species of marsupials, three muskrats, at least fifty-eight bats, three primates, seven edentates, two rabbits, one ground hog, three species of squirrels, one species of spiny mouse, at least fifteen species of long-tailed rats and mice (family Muridae), one species of porcupine, one species of agouti, one paca, two canids, five mustelids, four species of procyonids, six species of felines, two species of wild pigs, two species of deer, and one tapir.
The University of Georgia uses a 155-acre satellite campus outside of the Monteverde region in the lower San Luis community. UGA Costa Rica operates numerous study abroad programs, ecological and forestry research, as well as ecotourism via on-campus lodging, the Ecolodge San Luis. Additionally, UGA Costa Rica is responsible for various conservation and sustainability initiatives in the San Luis Valley, namely its Carbon Offset Program and reforestation efforts in the Pájaro Campana Biological Corridor. In May 2019, ownership of the campus was transferred to CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange), which only hosts University of Georgia and other academic groups, not tourists.
Costa Rica is located on the Central American Isthmus, surrounding the point 10° north of the equator and 84° west of the prime meridian. It has 212 km of Caribbean Sea coastline and 1,016 on the North Pacific Ocean.
Central America is a region in the southern tip of North America and is sometimes defined as a subregion of the Americas. This region is bordered by Mexico to the north, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south. Central America consists of seven countries: El Salvador, Costa Rica, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. The combined population of Central America is estimated at 44.53 million (2016).
Alajuela is a province of Costa Rica. It is located in the north-central part of the country, bordering Nicaragua to the north. It also borders the provinces of Heredia to the east, San José to the south, Puntarenas to the southwest and Guanacaste to the west. As of 2011, the province had a population of 885,571. Alajuela is composed of 16 cantons, which are divided into 111 districts. It covers an area of 9,757.53 square kilometers.
Guanacaste is a province of Costa Rica located in the northwestern region of the country, along the coast of the Pacific Ocean. It is bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Alajuela Province to the east, and Puntarenas Province to the southeast. It is the most sparsely populated of all the provinces of Costa Rica. The province covers an area of 10,141 km2 (3,915 sq mi) and as of 2010, had a population of 354,154.
The Wildlife of Costa Rica comprises all naturally occurring animals, fungi and plants that reside in this Central American country. Costa Rica supports an enormous variety of wildlife, due in large part to its geographic position between the North and South American continents, its neotropical climate, and its wide variety of habitats. Costa Rica is home to more than 500,000 species, which represents nearly 5% of the total species estimated worldwide, making Costa Rica one of the 20 countries with the highest biodiversity in the world. Of these 500,000 species, a little more than 300,000 are insects.
The Guanacaste Conservation Area is an administrative area which is managed by the Sistema Nacional de Areas de Conservacion (SINAC) of Costa Rica for the purposes of conservation in the northwestern part of Costa Rica. It contains three national parks, as well as wildlife refuges and other nature reserves. The area contains the Area de Conservación Guanacaste World Heritage Site, which comprises four areas.
Arenal Tempisque Conservation Area, is an administrative area which is managed by SINAC for the purposes of conservation in the northwest part of Costa Rica, near the Arenal Volcano and covering part of the Cordillera de Tilarán and Cordillera de Guanacaste. It contains a number of National Parks, Wildlife refuges and Protected Zones. The area was previously known as Arenal Tilarán Conservation Area.
Arenal Volcano National Park is a Costa Rican national park in the central part of the country, part of the Arenal Huetar Norte Conservation Area. The park encompasses the Arenal Volcano, which "was" the most active in the country, which had previously been believed to be dormant until a major eruption in 1968. It neighbors Lake Arenal, which is the site of the country's largest hydroelectricity project, the Lake Arenal Dam.
The Talamancan montane forests ecoregion, in the tropical moist broadleaf forest biome, are in montane Costa Rica and Panama in Central America.
Puntarenas is the first canton in the province of Puntarenas in Costa Rica. The canton covers an area of 1,842.33 km², and has a population of 126,515. The provincial capital is the city of Puntarenas.
Tourism in Costa Rica has been one of the fastest growing economic sectors of the country and by 1995 became the largest foreign exchange earner. Since 1999, tourism has earned more foreign exchange than bananas, pineapples and coffee exports combined. The tourism boom began in 1987, with the number of visitors up from 329,000 in 1988, through 1.03 million in 1999, over 2 million in 2008, to a historical record of 2.66 million foreign visitors in 2015. In 2012, tourism contributed with 12.5% of the country's GDP and it was responsible for 11.7% of direct and indirect employment. In 2009, tourism attracted 17% of foreign direct investment inflows, and 13% in average between 2000 and 2009. In 2010, the tourism industry was responsible for 21.2% of foreign exchange generated by all exports. According to a 2007 report by ECLAC, tourism contributed to a reduction in poverty of 3% in the country.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is a Costa Rican reserve located along the Cordillera de Tilarán within the Puntarenas and Alajuela provinces. Named after the nearby town of Monteverde and founded in 1972, the Reserve consists of over 10,500 hectares of cloud forest, the reserve is visited by roughly 70,000 visitors a year. The Reserve consists of 6 ecological zones, 90% of which are virgin forest. A high biodiversity, consisting of over 2,500 plant species, 100 species of mammals, 400 bird species, 120 reptilian and amphibian species, and thousands of insects, has drawn both scientists and tourists alike.
La Fortuna is the name of a district and a small city located in San Carlos canton, in the Alajuela province of Costa Rica. "La Fortuna" is Spanish for "The Fortune", and aptly named due its ample supply of tourist attractions and extremely fertile lands. Although there is a common myth that the town got its name due to its sparing from the Arenal Volcano's eruptions, the town actually got its name before the latest eruption cycle and was named for the fertile lands where it is located.
Deforestation is a major threat to biodiversity and ecosystems in Costa Rica. The country has a rich biodiversity with some 12,000 species of plants, 1,239 species of butterflies, 838 species of birds, 440 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 232 species of mammals, which have been under threat from deforestation.
The Selvatura Adventure Park, or Monteverde Nature Center, Hummingbird and Butterfly Gardens is a nature center in Monteverde, northwestern Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica. It is located in the Cordillera de Tilarán mountain range, 1.2 miles south of the village of Santa Elena.
UGA Costa Rica is one of the three international residential centers owned and operated by the University of Georgia. The largest of these centers—the other two located in Oxford, England and Cortona, Italy—UGA Costa Rica is used as a site for research, study abroad, symposia, and ecotourism.
Desarrollo Forestal Montreal S.A. is a nature reserve and cloud forest adjacent to Braulio Carrillo National Park in the central area of Costa Rica, about 30 miles (48 km) north of San José. The area is located between 1600–1800 meters (5,249–5,905 ft.) above sea level and extends throughout the mountain range.
Serpentario de Monteverde is an urban park of approximately 14 hectares, located in southern Monteverde, in the Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica. It has an average altitude of 1327 meters and is contiguous to the Monteverde Orchid Garden to the north and the Butterfly Garden to the south. The site includes reptiles, poison arrow frogs and over 20 species of snakes. Most species in the serpentarium can be found wild in the surrounding forests.
The Monteverde Theme Park, previously known as Frog Pond Ranarium, located in Santa Elena, north of Monteverde, Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica, is a frog pond turned animal theme park that houses a butterfly farm with approximately 30 live butterfly species and other insects and over 25 species of frogs and other amphibians from around the country in a climate controlled habitat.
Lake Poco Sol, Laguna Poco Sol or Laguna Pocosol, is a volcanic lake in Costa Rica, in the Cordillera de Tilarán.
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