Monteverde, Costa Rica
Less than four hours north of the capital of San Jose by private or shuttle mini-bus, Monteverde is known as the birthplace of eco-tourism in Costa Rica. After biologists were drawn there to see its rare amphibian species, travelers followed suit. As a result, Monteverde’s economy has become one of the strongest in the country, though it still retains its small-town charm.
In the northern Puntarenas province, Monteverde (Spanish for “green mountain”) lies in the Tilaran Mountain Range next to the entrance to the famed Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (or Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde) with its enchanting rainforests punctuated by crystal-clear waterfalls and streams.
Popular activities include guided walking tours along well-maintained trails and suspension bridges; and “zip line” tours on which you zip through the rainforest canopy attached to a sturdy metal cable. Other options include a tour of a shade-grown organic coffee farm, cheese factory, butterfly garden and other flora-and-fauna galleries; horseback riding and mountain biking. The Monteverde Music Festival runs from January-April.
Known for its extreme bio-diversity, both in plants and animals of every stripe, Monteverde is home to the resplendent Quetzal, thought to be the world’s most beautiful bird; and has been the winner of Audubon’s “Christmas Bird Count” (a worldwide competition to find the place with the most species in a given period).
Many townsfolk speak English fluently due to the cultural blending of native Costa Ricans with pacifist Quakers from the United States who settled in Monteverde in the 1950s and intermarried with the locals. The dairy-farming Quakers stewarded and, later, conserved the large tract of land, part of which became the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in 1972, along with adjacent lands purchased by the Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund.
Once famous for its deplorable road conditions, many tourists bought t-shirts boasting, "I Survived the Road to Monteverde." Fortunately, the mountain road connecting it to the Inter-American Highway and other area roads have been paved, making it much more accessible and the journey more pleasant.
Lodging options range from camping to simple inns and luxury hotels, as well as home rentals and “homestays,” which allow visitors to stay with local families to get a taste of local culture. Nearby Santa Elena offers additional lodging, restaurants, bars, shops, banks, etc.
Timing your visit
The weather tends to be cool year-round, so be sure to bring a waterproof jacket and sweatshirt. The Dry Season runs from December to May when you will find more tourists and higher prices. Prices will be much lower during the Wet Season from May to November when and there will be fewer tourists as well as frequent rain showers!