Monteverde, Arenal, and Northern Plains
From Costa Rica Travel Guide: Vacation and Travel tips
La Fortuna/Volcan Arenal
La Fortuna has become one on Costa Rica's top tour destinations Check out our page on the town of La Fortuna, Costa Rica to find out why it's so popular.
Costa Rica’s green jewel, Monteverde, is an environmental playground where nature rules and conservation is part of everyday life. Eco-tourism was born in the Monteverde Cloud forest, as well as innovative ways to experience the wonders of the area, such as canopy tours through the trees and hanging bridges connecting mountains. This magical world is filled with exotic wildlife and vegetation in numbers too large to count.
Monteverde, which means “Green Mountain,” sits on top of a 3500 foot plateau just above the Cordillera de Tilaran, a bumpy offshoot from the Inter-American Highway. A typical Costa Rican dirt road winds in and around the hills, ridges and valleys of the Tilaran Mountain Range, leading into the yellowish grasslands, speckled with a few surviving strands of tropical dry forest. The forest is made up of mangoes, espaves, mayflowers, coyol palms, bastard cedars, gumbo-limbos and wild cottons. Climbing higher the vegetation becomes more underdeveloped and mangled, confirmation of the brutal winds that rage in this area. At the peak, the road is shrouded with fog and mist, even during the dry season, but the cloud forest of this biological reserve only begins after reaching the town of Monteverde. Monteverde forms part of the Arenal Conservation Area and encompasses approximately 26,000 acres of rainforest divided between the Caribbean and Pacific sides of the Tilaran Mountain Range.
Cloud forests are a mountaintop phenomenon. Moist, warm air sweeping in off the ocean is forced upward by mountain slopes, and as this moist air rises, it cools, forming clouds. The Monteverde mountaintops are covered on an almost daily basis in dense clouds, and when the clouds blanket the mountain slopes, moisture condenses on forest trees and other vegetation. This constant and consistent moisture creates an incredible diversity of life forms in an area where nearly every space is occupied with some sort of plant and tree growth. The limbs and branches of huge trees are covered with epiphytic plants: orchids, ferns, and bromeliads to be precise and subsequently there's an equally diverse population of insects, birds, and other wildlife. With over 400 kinds of bird species, jaguars, ocelots, and tapirs, over 2,500 species of plants as well as approximately 1,200 reptilian and amphibian species, it’s no wonder this a must see for any enthusiastic eco-tourist. With that many bird species, be sure and bring your binoculars because the forest is filled with seeds and fruit that feed thousands of emerald toucanets, collared redstarts, blue-crowned motmots and black guans just to name a few.
Monteverde was originally founded in 1951. Founded by a group of U.S. Quakers, who were pacifists seeking refuge from the draft, relocated there because of Costa Rica’s political neutrality. These Quakers made every effort to preserve and maintain the integrity and natural beauty of their new home land. To sustain themselves, the Quakers began making cheese from milk brought to their primitive processing plant each morning by Tico dairy farmers. Today the Quakers produce tons of cheese daily. Consequently, they achieved their goal as well as seeing their community thrive.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest is known around the world for its conservation efforts and has been much praised for its forward-thinking ecological preservation efforts enacted within it. Monteverde is truly a biological and ecological treasure in Costa Rica’s already rich landscape. Scientists have come from all over in order to study and examine Monteverde’s rich ecological and biological qualities. The reserve is not really a national park; it is instead run by the Tropical Science Center, an organization that runs numerous projects in order to maintain and preserve this ecological treasure.
Activities in Monteverde are rightly centered around natural history and adventure; possible activities include: bird watching (especially the quetzal), wildlife-and nature watching, hiking, canopy tours, trips to suspension bridges and visits to butterfly and frog gardens as well as a reptilian observatory where you can view numerous Costa Rican snakes and other reptiles.
And if you want a few places to party and dance the night away, Monteverde has that too!