The Selva Verde Story
a passion to make a difference
Selva Verde exists today because of one woman's desire to make a difference. As a pioneer in the business of ecotourism, Giovanna Holbrook traveled the world creating unique adventures for avid naturalists. In 1982, Giovanna arranged an ornithological field study in Costa Rica for the National Aviary. At the last minute, accommodations for the explorers fell through and they found themselves without a place to stay. Giovanna raced to Costa Rica to rectify the situation. A full day drive from San Jose, over barely passable dirt roads, found her deep in the county of Sarapiquí – a place that would forever etch itself upon her heart.
The Discovery of Selva Verde
During her stay, Giovanna discovered a large tract of old growth forest that was up for sale was facing an uncertain future and may well have been purchased for logging or agricultural purposes. Never one to shy from a challenge, Giovanna placed a deposit on the property then and there on the spot and embarked on an adventure that continues to this day. Selva Verde's early days were full of excitement. Shortly after purchasing the property, Giovanna discovered squatters staking claim to her land. She enlisted her good friend Dr. Tom Emmel and with the help of a local conservationist, confronted the squatters. After some intense and heated negotiations, a deal was struck. If the squatters agreed to vacate her property, they would be offered jobs once the project was completed.
Over the next several years, Giovanna continued to travel back and forth between the US and Costa Rica as the dream of Selva Verde began to take shape. Soon the original house was hosting visiting researchers and plans were underway to build additional guest rooms and a dining hall. More than 30 years later, Selva Verde is a world renowned eco-lodge committed to advancing the practice of sustainable tourism.
Selva Verde began with one woman's dream of preserving nearly 500 acres of endangered tropical forest and the multitude of species that call it home. Through her unwavering devotion, Selva Verde is now a premier ecotourism destination, protecting the most accessible rainforest in Costa Rica, and attracting nature enthusiasts from around the globe.
Giovanna Holbrook - Video Interview
Photo Gallery - Our Story
Original house - served as guest house for first visitors, c. 1986
Lepidoptery (butterfly) research team at Selva Verde, c. 1986
Original dining room with tables and stools made from salvaged tree trunks, c. 1986
Original guest house and dining room with path to river. c. 1986
Removal the illegal squatters' shacks, c. 1986
Selva Verde's Founders - Juan and Giovanna Holbrook, c. 1986