San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Arenal Report

Along the foothills of the volcano, near lakeArenal, unique petroglyphs cover a cliff wall along a lovely river canyon. It is called El Farallon, and is rarely visited by locals, let alone tourists.

Safeguarding this monument and preserving the tropical dry forests that surround it have fallen to the López Monge family, who own the finca where these treasures are found.

Until now, they received payments for preserving their forest and reforesting pastureland from Costa Rica’s Forestry Fund (FONAFIFO). But as Roberta Ward Smiley recounts in her blog at, the payments have ceased and the family has been forced to offer a 100-acre portion of their forest for sale. Developers have reportedly already shown interest.

Aside from having trees that sequester huge quantities of CO2, the property also uses only solar energy and is off the grid.

Any development would radically change the finca’s carbon footprint. Roberta and husband Dan Smiley have thus added El Farallan to their Global Giving projects (, to raise money for the family and help protect their land. The goal is to pay them $60 per hectare (based on 48 hectares) per year.

Another way to support the family is for intrepid tourists to visit the finca and pay a member of the López family to guide them to the cliffs. The finca is difficult to find, but I can tell you how to reach El Farallon confidently, to enjoy the historic Maleku- Indian-inscribed cliffs, the beautiful terrain, and the pleasure of helping the López family maintain their lands and lifestyle.

–Alex Murray

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