“If you preserve it, they will come” seems to be the story of Monteverde.
However, during a recent visit to this world-renowned conservation area, we discovered an intrinsic side to Monteverde that has remained concealed under the flashier facets of conservation, cloud forests, and an amazing variety of wildlife.
This is not meant to diminish Monteverde’s well-deserved fame, which has greatly influenced local economic, social and cultural development. Nor should we forget that over half a century ago, Quakers from the United States’ South adopted these lands as their own, thus creating a vast positive influence in what is today Monteverde. Nor should we leave out the ideals of peace with man and respectful coexistence with nature, which the Quakers persistently employed when creating a new place in which to live in accordance with their principles, beliefs that have resulted in the wonderful oasis of sustainability and harmony that Monteverde has become. Here, we will share with you another of Monteverde’s qualities: its Costa Rican soul.
The first Costa Rican families in the area arrived at the beginning of last century. At that time, Monteverde was nearly inaccessible. However, settlers arrived to plant Costa Rica’s signature crop: coffee. Like most Costa Ricans at that time, they slowly began planting sugar cane, beans, corn, and plantains in addition to coffee. A few cattle ranchers came in. Subsistence agriculture took hold.
The Quakers arrived and protected large tracts of forest in order to preserve their source of water. Shortly thereafter, “technical tourists” arrived: biologists and foreign students attracted by the abundant, unique wildlife. These adventurers let the world know about Monteverde’s riches. From this newfound fame, restaurants and lodging popped up for visitors. With the tourism boom, many Costa Rican families who lived near the Monteverde Reserve moved to outlying areas in order to continue their agricultural traditions.
The second half of the twentieth century brought many changes to Monteverde. The first electric power plant, the first car, first telephone systems, and first homemade cheese and ice cream factories arrived. Then creature comforts like refrigerators, milking machines, coffee grinders showed up, brought by the Quakers. As more and more foreign visitors extolled the virtues of the area, an embryonic version of sustainable development grew along with the Costa Rican families and their customs.
Within this mosaic grew the Monteverde we know today. Hacienda homes started offering non-traditional lodging with a familial warmth that distanced them from traditional hotels. Gravel roads have held off pavement for fear that easy access might provoke uncontrolled development, as it has elsewhere in Costa Rica. Locally run rainforest preserves protect the environment and give the area its well-earned fame. Finally, a deep-seated conservationist culture is prevalent. As a local hotelier told me, “Monteverde is an icon in preserving resources in Costa Rica. Recycling and ecological tourism are concepts that have existed here for years and never needed special campaigns for them to exist and prevail… here the certificate for sustainability that the government awards has always existed, and it’s not measured by leafs but rather by amount of conservationist consciousness.”
But Monteverde doesn’t stop there. Because of the Costa Rican families who wished to keep their traditions alive, there is a type of rural agricultural tourism that stoically preserves the flavor of yesterday. Old farms seem to be lost in time, with their original infrastructure intact. Tourists can thus garner a vivid cultural experience here. The Bella Tica Coffee Tour teaches visitors all about coffee and more, which offers Costa Rican farmers the chance to make a little extra money on top of their agricultural activities, and all of which offer visitors the chance to connect with our deepest roots.
Finca La Bella Tica Tour
You’ll find the true essence of Costa Rica in the San Luis Valley, located nine kilometers (six miles) from Santa Elena. The Salazars have settled on property they rent together with an association of twenty other families who live off subsistence farming. Mr. Salazar and his family have two hectares of land (five acres), which include a beautiful coffee plantation, bananas, avocados, onion, basil, lemons and oranges. Mr. Salazar has opened his farm and work up to tourists. Students from the University of Georgia have a research near Finca La Bella. Although the tour is short, Mr. Salazar’s enjoyable explanations and instructions show he is a true expert on coffee. In fact, visitors will also pick coffee beans. There is a small coffee-processing plant on site. You can also enjoy a cup of coffee and homemade pastries, prepared by Mr. Salazar’s wife, Ersy. The tour also offers its own brand of coffee, La Bella Tica, which is packaged in paper made from coffee rinds, as well as its own delicious banana jelly, made by Mrs. Salazar. Contact Info: (506) 2-645-7315 | firstname.lastname@example.org
By Aída Araya