Populations declined in the fourteenth century, possibly due to a volcanic eruption, and again fell during the sixteenth century following the arrival of the Spanish.
In 1949, four pacifist Quakers from Alabama were jailed for refusing to fight in the Korean War. Once released, they sought a country where they could embrace their peaceful beliefs and continue to cultivate their dairy farms. Costa Rica had abolished its army the year before and had underdeveloped mountainsides that were perfect for their trade. This being the case, several Quaker families packed up their belongings and moved to Monteverde in 1950 and began to farm and live in peace. These families – along with some of the area’s native Costa Ricans – would go along to establish the community of Monteverde and some of its famed cloud forest reserves.
Visitors can expect a variety of healthy and appetizing food options in Monteverde. There are both national and international fares – including Italian, Chilean, and Asian styled menus – and an emphasis on buying locally grown produce. Restaurants exist for every budget and every occasion, and many are vegetarian. Additionally, there is a farmers market that runs from 6:30 AM to 12:00 PM every Saturday. Here, visitors will surely enjoy mingling with the local farmers and sampling their fresh produce and baked goods.
A number of non-profit, environmentally minded organizations are based in Monteverde. Visitors can interact with these NGOs on a variety of levels – including studying local flora and fauna in their laboratories or simply walking through their cloud forest trails – and in doing so will learn a great deal about tropical ecosystems and the preservation practices that are aimed to keep them in place.
The Monteverde Conservation League (MCL) is involved in organizing educational opportunities, reforestation projects, scientific research, and sustainable development practices. Through land acquisition, they have helped to create the largest private nature reserve in Costa Rica – the Children’s Eternal Rainforest (Bosque Eterno de los Niños or BEN), which spans some 54,000 acres (22,500 ha) of primary and secondary rainforest. Trips can be made to their visitors’ center and children’s nature center, rainforest trails, or biological stations.
The Monteverde Institute (MVI) is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to advancing knowledge on the sustainable management of resources through programs that link international study and community development. The MVI collaborates with schools and universities from around the world to host academic programs that address local and global issues of sustainability. A sampling of course titles includes “Sustainable Futures,” “Globalization and Health Field School,” and “Global-Local Challenges to Sustainability,” as well as more traditional Spanish language courses. Visitors are invited enroll in one of their classes or apply for a volunteer position or internship. These positions are available throughout the year and span a wide range of duties.
CASEM, the Cooperativa de Artesanas de Santa Elena y Monteverde, is a non-profit artisan cooperative dedicated to enhancing the economic and social well-being of local women artists. The CASEM store and workshop – which is situated within the heart of Monteverde – is a showcase for locally produced handicrafts, including decorative wall hangings, ceramics, clothes, bags, jewelry, toys and wood carvings. Travelers can visit the workshop to purchase souvenirs or simply watch the women at work.
Costa Rica celebrates its Independence Day on September 15—the day the country declared its independence from Spain in 1821. Today, it is honored throughout Costa Rica with fun and colorful festivals. Local communities organize elaborate parades and flag raisings, and students don costumes to dance, sing and play instruments in the streets. If you happen to be in Monteverde on September 15, plan on watching the celebration in Santa Elena – it is not to be missed!
The Monteverde Friends School is a bilingual, multinational school serving preschool through high school students. Founded over 50 years ago by Monteverde’s original Quaker settlers, today it hosts small, multi-age classes and seeks volunteers to help out in a variety of capacities. Much of their need is in tutoring or teaching classes, which, quite understandably, is easier if you live full-time in Monteverde. However, they do have specific one-time tasks, including ground maintenance and fund-raising events.