During the 1950s, a group of Quakers left the United States of America (from Alabama to be exact) for Costa Rica after feeling that this Central American country was a better match for their pacifist beliefs because it had recently abolished its military. After an arduous overland odyssey through Mexico and northern Central America, they made their way to the top of the Tilaran Mountains and set up shop.

The Quaker families established small dairy farms and even built a cheese factory but although Monteverde Cheese is a popular brand in Costa Rica, what they are most well known for is the creation of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. They decided to preserve the dripping wet, mossy cloud forests that cover the upper slopes of the Tilaran Mountains once they realized that this incredibly overgrown habitat protected local watersheds. They might have also been swayed by the impressive wildlife in the forest, the Resplendent Quetzal in particular.

This absurdly beautiful bird truly lives up to its name and looks so incredible that it was considered to be sacred by the Mayans (and still is by many modern day Guatemalans). Resplendent Quetzals are similar in size to a large pigeon, the males more extravagant than the females. Male birds sport a long, feathery tail with plumes twice the length of the bird, the upperparts and the chest are an iridescent bluish, golden-green color that changes depending on the angle of the light, and the belly looks like the plushest, deepest red velvet you have ever seen.

Yes, it’s quite a bird and the Monteverde Reserve is one of the best places to see them. While some lucky tourists find them on their own, most see them by taking a guided walk through the reserve. These can be booked right at the entrance and since guides keep track of where the sacred Mayan birds have been hanging out, participants have an excellent chance of seeing one of two. They will also have fun learning about the cloud forest and watching the dozens of wild, hyperactive, insect-like hummingbirds that visit several feeders in the Monteverde Hummingbird Gallery.

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