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Balance del turismo, amenaza de la ecologa en Costa Rica.
Balance of tourism, ecology threatened in Costa Rica.
g El 15 de Mayo 2005/May 15, 2005.
Books / Reports / Directories
Balance of tourism
Balance de turismo
Scanned by Monteverde Institute.
t The State of Water in Monteverde, Costa Rica: A Resource Inventory.
Balance of tourism, ecology threatened in Costa Rica Arthur Frommer Sunday, May 15, 2005 More than most other destinations, the sm all, peaceful Central American nation of Costa Rica has built its travel reputation on protecting rain forests, volcanoes and gorgeous nature preserves. Yet a controversy over one of its pr emier rain forests -mountainous Monteverde in the north -shows how difficult it can be to balance the desire for tourism with a regard for ecology. Nearly 5,000 feet high and 4 miles east of Santa Elena, Monteverde's main claim to fame is its unspoiled Cloud Forest Reserve. Literally in the cl ouds much of the time, its humidity gives rise to towering flora and diverse fauna such as sloths, howler monkeys and the quetzal, a blue-green bird once famously worshiped by ancient Mesoamerican cultures. Growing up around this natural phenomenon is a relatively low-key tourism industry of small inns and hotels, restaurants and attractions such as a coffee plantation, cheese factory, rafting and the famous "canopy tours, on which you zip over the treetops on steel cables or walk among them on hanging bridges. These are run by locals, some foreign expatriates and descendants of American Quakers who moved here in the 1950s. A gentlemen's agreement to keep such growth in balance with nature is being endangered by a group of entrepreneurial local farmers who, in late 2004, asked for permission to drain an unprecedented amount of precious water from the local reservoir -far more than needed for irrigation. The suspicion that they are a front for a large resort is bolstered by the fact that their environmental-impact report proved full of incons istencies. With both the community and nation now on alert, the danger seems to be receding, but it is not yet past. Residents are appealing for support from within Costa Rica and internationally. The incident demonstrates how "sustainable tourism" is not always so easy to sustain in the face of greed and shortsightedness. If you want to enjoy Monteverde for yourself, options include booking through U.S. companies such as Capricorn Leisure (800-426-6544, www. capricornleisure.com), whose itineraries, including airfare, start at $1,402 for eight nights, flying out of San Francisco. Others include Tara Tours (800327-0080, General Tours (800221-2216, www.generaltours.com) and United Vacations, 800-377-1816.) You can also buy your own airfare (at press time, flights from San Fran cisco started at $302), then use several excellent local Costa Rican outfi tters such as Costa Rica Expeditions (011-506257-0766, www. costaricaexpeditions.com) and Destination Costa Rica (800-280-6109, www. destinationcr.com). Another option is to go independently, use lo cal transfer and tour companies and book directly at one of the good-quality lodgings. The best at rock-bottom level is Pension Santa Elena (011506-645-5051, www. pensionsantaelena.com), with dorms costing $5 per person, private rooms with shared bath $7 to $10, $15 to $25 for private bath. In the midrange, Arco Iris (011-506-6455067, http://www.arcoirislodge.com, offers cabins for $45 to $85 and budget rooms for $20 to $55. Even the high-end lodges -with 25 to 100 rooms -are great bargains, with huge suites at less than $200. Our picks include Monteverde Lodge (011-506-257-0766, http://www.monteverdelodge.com; doubles from $99), El Sapo Dorado (011-506-645-5010, http://www.sapodorado.com from $79) and Heliconia (011-506-645-5109, http://www.heliconia.com from $85). There are plenty of inexpensive eating opt ions; among the best are Morpho's (011-506-6455607) and especially the elegant, new Sofia (011-506-6457017), with fancy nouvelle-Latino entrees around $12.