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History & Culture

There is much evidence of the presence of pre-Columbian native groups inhabiting Monteverde, but little is known about the culture or even identity of these native groups. To most Monteverde residents, the history of Monteverde starts with the arrival of Creole populations in the area in the first three decades of the twentieth century. These first inhabitants arrived in small numbers to practice subsistence farming and agriculture and were in one way or another linked to more wealthy employees of the Guacimal gold mines. Many also settled the nearby lower, warmer valley of San Luis.

1950s and onwards

What is now considered Monteverde (which is in fact only the section of town that is closest to the Monteverde Reserve) was founded by a group of Quakers who came mostly from Alabama in the 1950s. It was their strong pacifist values that led them to defy the American draft during the Korean War and settle in Costa Rica, a country that had recently abolished its army. The Quakers were also joined by non-Quakers from Alabama, who were also pacifists and conscientious objectors. The newcomers started dairy farms, learning from the locals but also bringing many innovations and teaching the locals.

Local artisan Marcelo Oliveira developing pottery according to Monteverde cultureFurthermore, their initiative to preserve the watershed and set aside a portion of the land as a nature preserve would forever change Monteverde. This preserve became the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and inspired an era of conservation in the area.

Protection of Costa Rican culture at the Hotel Belmar

As part of our commitment to environmental and socio-cultural well-being, Hotel Belmar has allocated a space in its facilities to host monthly cultural exhibitions of Chorotega indigenous art. This program is curated by local artisan Marcelo Oliveira, who has extensive experience in developing pottery that is 100% handcrafted through solely natural techniques. Mr. Oliveira shares valuable comprehensive information on this practice and will also be selling some of his pieces to visitors who wish to obtain a sample of indigenous Costa Rican art.


Together, the protected natural areas of Monteverde constitute an area of over 28,000 hectares, or 69,000 acres, and make up one of largest networks of private preserves in Central America, protecting some of the world’s most fragile ecosystems. The following are some of the major ones.


Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve
In 1972, seeing the threat posed to the forests in Monteverde, the scientist George Powell and his wife joined resident Wilford Guidon to establish a natural preserve. The Tropical Science Center was receptive to these efforts and accepted institutional responsibility for the foundation, possession, and administration of the future reserve. When it was founded, the reserve had only 328 hectares (810 acres), but an administrative agreement in 1975 incorporated the hydrographic reserve Bosque Eterno S.A., which had 554 hectares (1,368 acres) and was founded in the mid 60s by members of the Quaker community.

After the creation of the reserve, the Tropical Science Center continued searching for the economic and human resources needed to protect, expand, and consolidate the reserve. Today it extends more than 10,500 hectares (25,946 acres).

The Children’s Eternal Rainforest
The Monteverde Conservation League is a non–profit organization devoted to the conservation of tropical forests. Its mission is to preserve and rehabilitate tropical ecosystems and their biodiversity. Founded in Monteverde in 1986 to accomplish this mission, it immediately started a campaign of land purchase that would soon lead to the establishment of the largest private preserve in Central America: the Children’s Eternal Rainforest.

In 1987, a group of children in Sweden, concerned about the loss of tropical forest covers, asked themselves what could be done to save the forest. They developed activities, raised money, and sent funds to the Monteverde Conservation League to purchase and protect land near Monteverde. That land is now a part of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, whose name was inspired by this story.

Since its development, the Children’s Eternal Rainforest has caught the attention of people around the world, especially children and teachers, due to its very special founding story. It has since expanded with the generous donations of many people around the world.

Santa Elena Reserve
The Santa Elena Reserve has a unique philosophy. Its goal is to protect the cloud forest AND to provide funds for the Santa Elena Public High School so that it can offer quality education with a strong environmental focus to local youth. Educating the residents of Monteverde, they believe, will ensure the well-being of the cloud forest in the long run.

The Santa Elena Preserve comprises an area of 310 hectares, or 765 acres, but plans are underway to raise funds to buy and restore adjacent farmlands for future inclusion into the Santa Elena Reserve.

Conservation efforts in the area are concentrating on establishing forest corridors radiating from the central conservation area down the lower altitudes, as many of the forest fauna, such as the resplendent quetzal, American pumas, jaguars, ocelots, and red brocket deer require large territories in which to forage and breed.

Curi-Cancha Wildlife Refuge
Located in the heart of the Monteverde community, Curi-Cancha offers a system of all natural trails that go through Premontane and Lower Montane primary and secondary cloud forest, two of the most critical life zones for the reproduction and survival of emblematic and endangered species such as the resplendent quetzal and the three-wattled bellbird. It also provides the habitat for three species of monkeys and other mammals, including two-toed sloths, agoutis, coatis, and pumas, as well as 185 species of birds.

With a limited number of visitors per day for a more private and intimate approach to nature, Curi-Cancha offers a great opportunity to enjoy the essence of the Monteverde Cloud Forest.


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