Monteverde Tourist Attractions
Lying at the crest of the Cordillera de Tilarán, Monteverde is one of the most interesting communities in Costa Rica. The story of Monteverde begins in Alabama, when four Quakers were jailed in 1949 for refusing to register for the American draft.
The Quakers chose to move to a more peaceful country whose military policy coincided with their Pacifist beliefs. Costa Rica, having no army, seemed a perfect location.In 1951 44 settlers from 11 families settled in the Monteverde area, chosen for its pleasant climate and fertile land. About 1,500ha/3,705ac of land was purchased at a cheap price, and the Quakers began dairy farming and cheese production. Today, their modern co-operative factory supplies fine cheese to all of Costa Rica. The members of the mixed community have been instrumental in keeping Monteverde and the surrounding area in its pristine state.The crest of the mountainous ridge just above Monteverde is blanketed by a cool, wet cloud forest. This forest is one of Costa Rica's most visited attractions. Hiking and cloud forest tours are popular activities, as well as visits to the various art galleries and wildlife displays in the Monteverde area.
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Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve is one of the most frequented forests in Costa Rica. The Quakers who settled in the Monteverde area were intent on preserving the watershed, and in 1972 the Tropical Science Center bought and established the reserve with help from the Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund. In 1986 the Monteverde Conservation League (MCL) was formed and continues to buy land to expand the reserve through various ventures, including an international children's educational and forest preservation project.Covering over 17,000ha/41,990ac of land, the cloud forest differs from a rainforest because it is usually much more humid and cloudy (due to high altitude) and receives less rain. The Monteverde Cloud Forest includes eight different ecological life zones including over 400 species of birds, 110 species of amphibians and reptiles, 100 species of mammals, 2,500 species of plants as well as thousands of insect species.Visitors should note that the thick vegetation and cloudy conditions sometimes make it difficult to spot wildlife. However, the reserve is very scenic offering tall trees, streams, rapids and waterfalls in the forest area.There are several hiking trails that are often very muddy. The Chomongo Trail reaches an elevation of 1,680m/5,510ft above sea level, and other trails lead through the Peñas Blancas river valley. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve presents an example of a fragile ecosystem that should not be missed.
The Butterfly Garden is one of the top attractions in Monteverde. Naturalists provide information on the butterfly's importance and life cycle through the examination of eggs, caterpillars, pupae and adult butterflies. Butterflies are raised in greenhouses, and hundreds of species can be seen in the screened garden. There are excellent photo opportunities of the beautiful creatures.
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Four loop hiking trails are found on this private property. The trails lead through premontane and secondary forest, and feature lookout points and waterfalls. There is good birding in the area, and other animals that can be spotted include coatis, agoutis, sloths, monkeys and porcupines. A small area of coffee and banana plantations is found on the property as well.
CASEM Arts & Crafts Gallery
Established by eight local women in 1982, CASEM is an arts and crafts co-operative selling hand-painted and embroidered clothing as well as other souvenirs and crafts such as mosaics. Sale profits benefit the local artists and the Monteverde community.
The Canopy Tour is a very popular attraction featuring a zip-line ride from the treetops eventually descending to the ground. A short, guided hike leads to three platforms between 20m/66ft and 33m/108ft. Rappelling to each platform elicits excited yells from participants, so wildlife sightings are rare.
The feeders here attract at least nine species of hummingbirds, including sabrewing the (Costa Rica's largest hummer), and the coppery-headed emerald. Photographs and slides taken by the famous British wildlife photographers Michael and Patricia Fogden are found inside the gallery.
Fresh local cheese and ice cream can be purchased from the cheese factory, also known as La Lechería or La Fábrica. A large window behind the shop allows visitors to watch the production of cheese.
The hiking trail winding up the Cerro Amigos (1,842m/6,042ft) offers excellent views of the surrounding rainforest. On a clear day the Arenal Volcano can be seen, which is 20km/12.4mi away to the northeast.
The Sky Walk is a 3.5km/2.2mi trail of five suspension bridges high among the treetops of a private reserve. Quetzals, other birds and monkeys can be seen darting below the bridges.
This quiet tour is a 1.5km/0.93mi electric gondola-chair ride through the trees. Birds and wildlife are often spotted, and the chairs can be paused to look around.
Guindon Art Gallery
This gallery showcases work made by a local artist from the well-known Guindon family.
Several outfitters in Monteverde offer horseback riding tours to Arenal Volcano viewpoints and the cloud forest.
Low Footpath of the Tiger Trail
This 3.5km/2.2mi trail system is operated by the Monteverde Conservation League. Many birds can be spotted along the trail that offers excellent open vistas.
Monteverde Music Festival
Held each year throughout January and February, this music festival features classical, jazz and Latin music. Daily concerts are held at the Monteverde Institute.
This small collection of snakes and lizards is owned by biologist Fernando Valverde. The displays are informatively labeled in both English and Spanish.
Ecstasy Gallery (closed)
This gallery specializes in woodwork and displays many fine sculptures.
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