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Monteverde, Costa Rica is a small town in Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Located in the Cordillera de Tilarán, roughly a four hour drive from the Central Valley of Costa Rica, Monteverde is considered a major ecotourism destination in Costa Rica. The area is perhaps best known for the Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde and numerous other reserves, which draw considerable numbers of tourists and naturalists interested in mountain and tropical biodiversity.

In Newsweek's 100 Places to Remember Before They Disappear, Monteverde appears as the Americas' #14. It has also been deemed one of the Seven Wonders of Costa Rica by popular vote, and has been called by National Geographic "the jewel in the crown of cloud forest reserves".

This article deals with Monteverde and its surrounding zone. This includes the larger hub of Santa Elena, Cerro Plano, as well as numerous reserves and attractions.
Various pre-Columbian artifacts testify to the longtime occupancy of the Monteverde region by a small population of Clovis Native Americans, who once farmed in villages circa 3000 BC. Between roughly 3300 BC to 2000 BC, the nearby tribes of the Arenal area experienced a population decline. These nearby tribes re-established villages in the region between 2000 BC to 500 BC. Agriculture intensified in the 500 BC to AD 300 period, with chiefdom societies replacing small tribal societies. Intense deforestation accompanied horticulture, and stone foundations dating to this period can be found. Jade objects became prominent characteristics of these villages. From AD 300 to 800, complex chiefdoms supplanted simpler chiefdoms and more intricate villages appear, with cemeteries, public squares, gold-work and inter-tribal trade and conflict. Around 1300, a general decline in population occurred, possibly due to Arenal Volcano's increased activity. 408-409

When the Spanish arrived in 1502, Costa Rica endured two generations of warfare. Nationwide indigenous populations fell from an estimated 400,000 to 80,000 within little more than 50 years. However, unlike Costa Rica's neighbors, Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica did not seem to harbor too much gold for the Spanish (even though gold mining in Costa Rica is a full-time occupation for some), and so the country was less ravished by colonization than other Latin American countries.
Due to the acclaimed rain forests and cloud forests in the greater Monteverde area, Monteverde has become a major part of the Costa Rican tourist trail - despite difficult access. It was recently voted one of the "7 Wonders of Costa Rica" by the Costa Rican newspaper La Nación. Of Monteverde's total 250,000 annual tourists, around 70,000 tourists visit the reserve.

The bulk of Monteverde's rain forest and cloud forest can be found in the Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde, a private nature reserve created in 1972 by scientist George Powell and Quaker Wilford Guindon. The area around the park entrance is the most visited, though camping deep in the reserve is possible with reservations. Nine main trails, which total 13 km, are well-kept and easy to access. The reserve features a large network of less accessible trails and a number of rustic research stations, two of which house 10 persons each, as well as one research station that can house as many as 43 persons, though these can now only be used by researchers.

To the West of the town of Monteverde lies the Bosque Eterno de los Niños conservation area, a project funded by schools and children from all over the world. The Bosque Eterno is the largest preserve in the area with 22,000 hectares (55,500 acres). Most of the Bosque Eterno lands surround the Bosque Nuboso lands to the North, East, and South of the smaller Bosque Noboso preserve. Bajo del Tigre, a small section of the Bosque Eterno de los Niños, is known for birdwatching and night hikes.

Still farther north, past Santa Elena, is the Reserva Santa Elena. This area is visited less frequently by tourists than the Monteverde Reserve, but offers a rustic station and views of Arenal Volcano.
Arguably the main attraction of Monteverde, the massive 10,500 hectare Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde draws 70,000 tourists a year.

It is known as the site with the largest number of orchids in the world, with 34 of its 500 species newly discovered. Over 60 species of amphibians, including the extinct Monteverde-endemic golden toad, have been found in Monteverde. This area is also a stop for 91 species of migratory birds. The famed quetzal resides here seasonally. The mammals of Monteverde include representatives from both North and South America as endemic species. The mammalian fauna of the region includes six species of marsupials, three muskrats, at least 58 bats, three primates, seven edentates, two rabbits, one ground hog, three species of squirrels, one species of spiny mouse, at least 15 species of long-tailed rats and mice (family Muridae); one species of porcupine, one species of agouti, one paca, two canids, five mustelids, four species of procyonids, six species of felines, two species of wild pigs, two species of deer, and one tapir.

July 2007

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