Monteverde, Costa Rica

The Ecological Refuge the Quakers Bequeathed the World

Tilaran in the mist
Mist from the Caribbean side of Costa Rica covers the forest of the Cordillera de Tilaran.
wet motmot
A motmot standing in the rain.
walk in the rain
Visitors follow one of the many trails in the Bosque Nuboso de Monteverde Biological Reserve.
Suspension Bridge
One of the suspension bridges that cross the forest on the slopes of the Tilaran Mountains.
spider monkeys
Spider monkeys jump from branch to branch in the Bosque Nuboso de Monteverde Biological Reserve.
Young elder
Don Juan, owner of a coffee farm in Monteverde.
Lianas sway in the wind near the entrance to the Bosque Nuboso de Monteverde Biological Reserve.
A quetzal rests on a mossy trunk from the Bosque Nuboso de Monteverde Biological Reserve.
sunset over the pacific
Sunset gilds the panorama of the Pacific side of Costa Rica.
Exuberant specimen of tarantula, an abundant species in Costa Rica.
forest veins
Mossy trees heavily irrigated by constant moisture from the forest at the top of the Tilaran Mountains.
Bright bromeliad sprouts from a trunk of the Bosque Nuboso de Monteverde Biological Reserve.
stick insect
One of the most eccentric insects present in Costa Rica.
Another Sunset
Monteverde visitors photograph the lush sunset over Costa Rica's Pacific side.
rung to rung
Hikers descend one of the many trails in the Bosque Nuboso de Monteverde Biological Reserve.
Disillusioned with the US military propensity, a group of 44 Quakers migrated to Costa Rica, the nation that had abolished the army. Farmers, cattle raisers, became conservationists. They made possible one of the most revered natural strongholds in Central America.

The journey from the western foothills of the Arenal volcano would have taken half the time if it weren't for the jungle that stretches south from the mountain, for hundreds of kilometers from the province of Alajuela.

Until today, the asphalt is still touching. If they exist, unpaved roads are barely visible on the map.

It is the reason why we inaugurated the journey to the north of the lake, to the ups and downs that the relief of the banks subjected us to.

The rurality of the scenarios intensifies, here and there, intersected by villages out of touch with modernity.

Detained in a stop operation, driving ice cream melting in our hands, we felt how shy the young agent was for confronting outsiders who knows where. "go ahead!” dispatch us in three steps, checking the exoticism of the passports.

We continue to undulate through the meadows, sometimes green, sometimes dry, golden with the imminence of sunset.

We came across peasants on big tractors and Costa Rica's cowboys, their picturesque soaps.

As we get closer to Santa Elena – the town that preceded the final destination – we also get closer to the imagination of the era of its pioneer settlers.

The Abandonment of the Military United States

At the turn of the second half of the 1950th century, a few families lived in the region. Far from guessing, in XNUMX they were joined by a group of Quakers.

During the 40s, faced with the spread of World War II, the United States developed its arms industry to an unprecedented level.

Against their will, they forced the Quaker men into military service, even imprisoning some of those who refused.

As a result, at a meeting in Alabama, a community of 44 members from a village called Fairhope deliberated that, as conscientious objectors, they should leave the US

By that time, they had learned, via the press, that the President of Costa Rica was inviting motivated foreigners to develop the country, which would be attractive to the Quakers, if we take into account that Costa Rica had abdicated its army.

After six months living in the capital San José, looking for a place to settle, they discovered the area of ​​Santa Elena and Cerro Plano, the same area where we continued to zigzag, at times, through roads covered with dry and reddish mud, disseminated by floods.

Monteverde, the Pacifist Refuge where the Alabama Quakers settled

From the successive ups and downs, we started to rise to the serious. More and more, towards the 1400m altitude of Monteverde, towards the lands the Quakers acquired above those of the pioneer landowners, some bought from them.

The Amigos slashed around 1400 hectares of family farms, linked by community properties, such as the school, the Casa de Reunion (built in 1957) and a cheese factory in which they invested.

Many of them weren't even farmers in Alabama. Still, their solidarity efforts ensured them a longed-for success.

Monteverde, Costa Rica, Quakers, Bosque Nuboso Biological Reserve, Don Juan

Don Juan, owner of a coffee farm in Monteverde.

They didn't stop there.

Highways 606 and 620 above, we cross Santa Elena.

Then, we ascend to Monteverde, today, a village tucked away in a deep valley, with unprepossessing houses that, justified above all by the vigor of tourism, expands along the surrounding slopes.

Monteverde Eccentric of Our Days

We settled in a hotel surrounded by forest. There we can see toucans, motmots (in Brazil, udus), hummingbirds and many other birds.

still visit us raccoons, determined raccoons that, at breakfast time, roam the terraces and balconies, attracted by the different aromas.

From our balcony, from other parts of the village, we learn about the orological and meteorological peculiarities of Monteverde, Santa Elena and the area between them.

We installed ourselves in a humble esplanade. we taste one more married, the national dish of Costa Rica, consisting of rice, beans, roasted banana or croutons, in this case, sliced ​​fried banana.

During the repast, we appreciated how caravans of clouds flowed at great speed along the crest of the Tilaran Mountains and how, at intervals, the gusts of wind seized their drops and, despite the distance, sprayed us.

Tilaran Mountain Range and the Crest that Separates the Caribbean from the Pacific from Costa Rica

We realized, better, that we were to the west and a little below that same crest that, in practice, separates the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. Pacifico.

We witnessed how the mountains of Tiraran held back the humid winds blowing from the Atlantic, transformed into cyclonic storms or mere rain.

With the arrival of the Quaker community, this meteorological pattern had already proved to be decisive.

In such a way that, despite clearing vast areas of vegetation for pasture and cultivation, the Quakers understood that they had to preserve the forest at the tops of the mountain range.

It was from there that the watercourses they used in their properties and houses flowed into the Guacimal River. They couldn't afford to lose them.

Watershed Property: the Quaker Reserve forerunner of the Costa Rican Reserves

Accordingly, they established that about a third (554 hectares) of those they had acquired would form part of a Watershed Property, at the time, one of the first reserves of the many existing ones in Costa Rica. PN Manuel Antonio is the smallest but one of the most reputable

The Watershed Property and the Tilaran ridge in those parts were to be of additional interest.

Determined to go straight to what was most interesting in Monteverde, the next morning, we entered its Bosque Nuboso Biological Reserve. There, Juan Ramón Cano Corrales, a young guide, welcomes us.

Until almost reception, the time remains stable. When we go inside and go up the slope, the wind and rain that we had seen from a distance intensifies.

Incursion into the Nuboso de Monteverde Biological Reserve

Chatting, we plunged into the misty rain forest, full of soggy mosses, swaying lianas, and the lush roots with which the huge prickly pear and other gigantic trees clung to the saturated ground.

We stop at one of the balconies installed in places where the reserve's star bird is often revealed, one of the most sought after in Costa Rica.

Experienced in this mission, Juan Ramon sees and reveals a quetzal, with exuberant plumage and beak almost entirely covered by abundant feathers. We photographed it, even shaking off the water that accumulated on it.

Then, we continued to the Mirador da Ventana where the trail ended, on calm days, revealing the vastness of the eastern mountain range, the Arenal volcano and even the contours of the Caribbean Sea.

On the way, we passed under a curious gang of spider monkeys that jumped from branch to branch on one of its abundant arboreal routes.

We came across red-crested mariquitas that followed our steps for tens of meters on end, the reason why the ticos treat the species by Friend of the Hombre.

arrived at such window final destination, as expected, the panorama boils down to fog. Conversation starts, Juan Ramón is surprised by our interest in ancestral settlers.

Explain to us everything you can about the Quakers, including the preponderance they had in their beloved profession.

From Watershed Property to Monteverde Conservationism

From 1960 onwards, encouraged by the presence of English-speaking residents and by the biological richness of the Serra de Tilaran and Costa Rica, biologists and other scientists flocked to Monteverde, hoping to see rare, exotic or simply sought after, cases of quetzal and golden toad.

Years later, biology students and conservationists settled in Monteverde.

The couple realized how quickly, despite the establishment of the Watershed Property, the surrounding forest disappeared.

Harriett and George started raising money from the USA, in partnership with a scientific research organization in San José and even with the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Their aim was to buy what was left of the forest, before the settlers could cut it down.

This and other efforts resulted in a new reserve of 328 hectares.

The Powells and Quaker turned conservationist Wolf Guindon were keen to sensitize and involve the Quaker community and other government and private actors.

When they did, the reserve increased substantially. Today, the Bosque Nuboso Biological Reserve that we walked along is much more extensive.


With about 22.500 hectares, the vastness they managed to protect was named Bosque Eterno de Los Niños.

It is, no more and no less, than the vast untouched rainforest that forced us to circle Lake Arenal.

Article written with the support of:


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