Monteverde Footprints Tour: Exploring the cloud forest in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is renowned for its natural beauty and rich flora and fauna, with the core of the country’s tourism offer lying beyond its cities, towns and developed coastal zones. Costa Rica offers tourists countless ecotourism possibilities in both exotic seaside locations and mountainous regions. Monteverde, located in the northern part of Puntarenas province, is one such example, a destination well worth adding to any Costa Rica itinerary.
Situated an hour from the Gulf of Nicoya and around three hours from the Central Valley, Monteverde sits in the midst of an important cloud forest and is a fabulous destination for walking and soaking up the atmosphere of the magical mists that shroud the area. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve is the last sizeable pocket of primary cloud forest in Central America and supports six different ecosystems. Tropical montane cloud forests cover only a tiny fraction of the planet’s surface but are biodiversity hotspots. In Monteverde, for example, it is estimated that there are around 3,000 species of plants (including over 400 species of orchids), more than 100 species of mammals and around 400 species of birds (including the elusive resplendent quetzal).
A rich cultural history
Over the years Monteverde has primarily been promoted as an adventure and ecotourism destination. The area certainly offers many interesting options, such as canopy bridges, zipwires and night walks. However, the real beauty of the place lies in its breathtaking surroundings and its rich cultural history, making the “Monteverde Footprints Tour” a great way to experience this popular destination’s unique and authentic side. This tour of Monteverde introduces visitors to the area’s economic, cultural and conservation history, in addition to its stunning natural beauty. The tour is organised through a collaboration between the Monteverde Community Fund and the local Chamber of Tourism. Interestingly, the profits support the community fund’s social and economic projects and educational activities.
The arrival of 12 families of Quakers from the United States in the early 1950s played a significant role in Monteverde’s rich heritage. Fleeing their homeland to avoid being drafted into the Korean War, these families soon established a simple life centred on farming and dairy and cheese production. The half-day “Monteverde Footprints Tour” starts with a visit to the Cheese Factory, the first factory in the village, and continues on to the Monteverde Institute, an important educational centre that pioneered higher education in the area and laid strong foundations for cultural and international exchanges.
Nature conservation and community development
From there, visitors continue towards the famous Children’s Eternal Rainforest, a project funded by donations from school children from all over the world, and the biggest private natural reserve in Costa Rica. After this introduction to the area’s history and fabulous natural heritage, the tour takes visitors to CASEMCOOP, a women’s cooperative where artisans from the region showcase their crafts and skills. The cooperative is particularly important as it helped change the role of women in Monteverde’s society.
The tour ends at the Coffee Center where visitors can learn about and taste the different types of coffee produced in the surrounding hills. Monteverde’s coffee ranks high in Costa Rica due to its unique flavors and preparation methods. Not only does this Monteverde tour provide an interesting introduction to Monteverde’s rich history and cultural heritage, but it also offers a great insight into the work carried out in environment conservation and awareness-raising, as well as social and community development.
The “Monteverde Footprints Tour” is an ideal activity to get to know a different side of this tourist destination, while supporting the local community to advance with its own environmental, social and economic endeavors.
This article was a contribution by Echoes of the Journey, a network of tourism professionals promoting responsible tourism, local development and environmental conservation.
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