Connecting to Nature, Connecting to Humanity

November 17, 2013

At  Lapa Rios Eco Lodge  on the  Osa Peninsula  of Costa Rica:   Connecting to Nature, Connecting to Humanity

The scarlet macaws flocked overhead in pairs, squawking boisterously before landing in a nearby palm tree.” I see them! I see them!” Jeremy shouted.

Although his wife, Courtney, had witnessed the birds fly by their room earlier that week, Jeremy missed the sighting. He wasn”™t a bird watcher, never considered himself one, but here he was, standing in the Costa Rican jungle, over the moon with excitement about the appearance of a brashly red, blue, and yellow bird.

Osa Peninsula Wildlife at Lapa Rios Eco Resort
Scarlet Macaw at Lapa Rios Eco Lodge

The couple was our accompaniment on an evening bird walk along the Lapa Rios property with our informative tour guide, Valerie, a graduate of tropical biology studies. Although we consider ourselves avid birders, we were thrilled to witness this world of birding through the eyes of newbies.

Like during this outing, what surprised us most about our time at Lapa Rios was not the connection to nature (the hotel”™s coveted location alongside Costa Rica’s greatest primary rainforest assured this), but was how that connection to nature facilitated something quite unexpected: a connection to people.

Although scarlet macaws, toucans, and four species of monkeys are regularly found on the Lapa Rios grounds, there was nothing better than witnessing a new guest see such a creature for the first time.

And we learned each new friend’s preferences as well: Courtney loved toucans. Jeremy loved scarlet macaws. James loved birds of prey. Nicky loved squirrel monkeys.

Osa Peninsula Toucan near Lapa Rios Eco Resort
Toucan at Lapa Rios Eco Lodge on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica

Given the intimate nature of a 16 room hotel, meals were often gladly shared with new friends, and the tours gave us an opportunity to learn the histories of the people with which we shared our days””our tour guide Guillermo”™s teenage years on a local farm; our new friend Jeremy”™s experiences in the US army.

All these personal stories were woven together with a shared sense of awe and wonder. The natural world Lapa Rios exposed us to was one we sensed is increasingly threatened in a world of climate change, environmental destruction, and disposable consumption practices.

But at Lapa Rios, it felt we all shared a common worldview: this place was special, and more places like these need to be protected for future generations. Agreeing with this philosophy were the guests: Mary and Carrie, Nicky and James. On staff there was Jacob and Guillermo, Marlon and Alex. There was Eusebio”™s gracious nature, Valerie”™s attentive eye. The personalities of a place, we quickly learned, are what gives it substance, takes a hotel and makes it feel like home.

And that”™s what Lapa Rios had become by the end of our journey””arms extended for hugs, emails exchanged, Facebook friends made.

” We will miss you,” is not a phrase often overheard at a hotel, but as we boarded the transit van back to reality (i.e., the nearby town of Puerto Jimenez), we returned the sentiment.

Guests and Guides connect at Lapa Rios Eco Resort on the Osa Peninsula
Guided Tour at Lapa Rios Eco Lodge in Costa Rica

You may leave Lapa Rios, but like all deeply meaningful experiences connecting us to the natural world, Lapa Rios will never leave us. What Lapa Rios represents is not a place, but a feeling””the feeling you are present, aware, and more than anything, in awe of the world around you. If not for the toucans, macaws, and monkeys, we at least owe it to ourselves to protect places like these for future generations, so that they too may experience such an increasingly fleeting feeling.

 

” The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”  
“•  Rachel Carson

By: Kaitlin Solimine and Joseph Smolen

Kaitlin and Joseph have been the winners of the Cayuga Collection Internship 2013.   They travelled to all the Cayuga Collection Hotels and Lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua and helped us to improve the combination of Luxury and Sustainability that we are trying to achieve at our properties.

A note from the Jungles of the Osa Peninsula and Lapa Rios Eco Lodge from the Cayuga Interns

November 11, 2013

Our Interns Kaitin and Jose have arrived at their final destination to wrap up their  internship.   They started at  Jicaro Island Ecolodge  in Nicaragua and worked their way down through Costa Rica.  Now they are at Lapa Rios Eco Lodge, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Restoring the Balance: A Note From the Jungles of Osa

Arriving at Lapa Rios”™s  jungle perch over the Gulfo Dulce there”™s the sense this is a place that has always been here””that the trees were always as green and majestic, the troops of howler and spider monkeys always swinging from the trees, the scarlet macaws ever flocking through the lush valleys toward the beach.

Lapa Rios Eco Resort from the air

The truth is a great portion of the property on which Lapa Rios sits was once ranch land. The owners, upon developing the area, had one critical vision in mind: to return these pastures to their original state, or as close to it as possible. As such, Lapa Rios has vigorously maintained the primary forest that existed, at the same time re-growing secondary forest (primarily through natural regeneration) as an adequate replacement for what was lost.

In the spirit of the hotel”™s original vision, the ” Plant a Tree” program allows guests direct involvement in this reforestation campaign; guests can choose from a variety of homegrown seedlings, including the ” garlic tree” and the ” blood tree”””both native varieties endemic to the surrounding jungle.

We are excited to plant a tree before we leave, knowing that in a small way our legacy as guests at Lapa Rios will live on in the form of a growing, sustainable forest. This is not just a forest but also a protected home to the monkeys, birds, and other creatures we”™ve come to know and love during our stay here.

 

Lapa Rios forms part of the Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels and Lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

 

A Santa Teresa Beachfront Resort that “isn’t just romantic, it’s downright sexy.”

November 8, 2013

Our Cayuga Collection Interns spent a couple of nights at Latitude 10.  Here is what they had to share with us…

Latitude 10 Exclusive Nature Resort in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

The Romance of Nature

When the rain is falling outside your open-air cabin on the beach, when the waves make the perfect music crashing ashore, when the candles flicker and sputter, you finally get it: there is nothing more romantic than being attuned to the natural world.

And yet this is something Latitude 10 has understood long before the rest of us””the natural world, and the preservation of it, isn”™t just romantic, it”™s downright sexy.

But how could this be? For one, candlelight, a much more sustainable energy source than standard bulb lighting, is softer, more natural, and imbues any room with a sense of intimacy. At the same time, open-air bungalows allow a soft ocean breeze to naturally cool the air around you, rather than the noxious, and indisputably un-sexy feel of a dry, frigid air-conditioned room. Locally-sourced woods, inherently dark, provide a seamless transition to the hotel”™s greatest feature: not a single tree was cut down in the development of the property and therefore the entire hotel is shrouded with monkey and bird-friendly foliage, along with the sumptuous scents of orchids and gingers.

The sum of these factors, which we discovered during out stay, is that Latitude 10 is on to something and has been for quite some while. By blending eco-friendly practices (dim lighting, low energy and water usage, sustainable development) the hotel understands a critical feature long-lost in the tourism industry as a whole””that the most romantic and beautiful settings are those which return us to our natural roots, with the happy side-effect of reducing one”™s environmental impact. This should be stating the obvious, but in a world drawn to the flashiest, most artificial objects, in truth, the most romantic and intimate experience one can have is with the earth itself””a fact not lost at Latitude 10.

Latitude 10 is one of the 8 sustainable luxury hotels and lodges of the Cayuga Collection.   Similar experiences to Latitude 10 can be lived at Lapa Rios Ecolodge and Jicaro Island Ecolodge.

Redefining travel: The impact of visiting a local school on the Granada Isletas in Nicaragua

October 25, 2013

Second blog post by our Cayuga Interns.  Still at Jicaro Island Ecolodge.  This time about redefining travel.  

” When I travel, I want to be moved and I want to be transported and I want to be sent back a different person.” ““ Pico Iyer, travel writer

” What”™s your favorite subject?” we asked the shy girl wearing the Beauty and the Beast t-shirt and tattered navy school-issued uniform pants.

” Matemáticas,” she said, suddenly more confident.

” So then,” we said, egging her on, ” uno yi uno es”¦”

” Dos!” a chorus of young voices replied enthusiastically.

We stood at the entrance to the open-air classroom on the banks of Lake Nicaragua. There were no maps on the wall, no fans recirculating the humid air, nor even light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, but the students who stood before us were ever-eager to learn from the goofy foreigners who had arrived at their school by boat.

Our Jicaro guide, Jorge Luis, introduced us to the school”™s two main teachers who then gave us an introduction to the school, including the number of students here””more than 80″”and the connection to Jicaro Island Eco Lodge, the hotel from which we”™d arrived that morning.

While we talked, a group of students listened in, a few of them introducing themselves with a firm handshake and a smile.  Nearby, several rambunctious boys made ample use of a small concrete platform””a makeshift soccer field, one limp and tattered ball skittering from foot to foot.

Jorge Luis explained what he”™d brought for the school today on behalf of Jicaro. ” This paint was donated by hotel guests so the school can repair and paint old chairs,” he explained, noting that through a fundraising campaign, this school, as well as two others, will one day have a water filtration and solar energy system to provide the 200-plus students with safe drinking water and electricity””necessities forming the basic foundation of any student”™s access to education.

For those of us who have grown up in westernized societies, we live in a world in which travel is something we do regularly, or at least aspire to incorporate into our lives””but what is the difference between a tourist and a traveler and how can we become the latter?

Places like Jicaro Island Ecolodge are providing just that opportunity””a morning journey across Lake Nicaragua (the stunningly majestic Mombacho Volcano shrouded in clouds behind us) is exactly what Pico Iyer was referring to when he wrote that travel requires a kind of physical and personal transportation. The connections provided by programs like Jicaro”™s sustainability programs and social outreach also embody the true spirit of geotourism, the introduction of tourism that doesn”™t hamper a place but buoys it””as a result, we bring back with us from this experience the sense that a true connection has been made.

As we left the school, the most vocal of the schoolboys, Jorge, shook our hands and waved us good-bye when we followed Jorge Luis into the boat.   Our visit had lasted less than an hour, but in that short span we felt as if we were leaving the school much different than how we”™d arrived””what had changed in those brief moments of seeing behind the cloud of ” tourism” and to the heart of ” travel”?

We may not be the engineers who can construct the solar energy panels for the school or run the pipes that will provide fresh drinking water on campus, but the very act of participating in Jicaro”™s tours and supporting the sustainability programs the hotel initiates allows guests to have an active part in this process, one that breaks down old barriers of arms-length tourism and reengages both the traveler and the local in a critical relationship.

Professor Ilan Stevans recently wrote of the act of travel that ” our wandering is meant to lead back toward ourselves. This is the paradox: we set out on adventures to gain deeper access to ourselves; we travel to transcend our own limitations.” We can think of no better place to do this than through the meaningful travel experiences of a place like Jicaro.

 

 

Should you trust Hospitality Awards and TOP Lists for Hotels and Resorts?

October 24, 2013

The influence of hospitality awardsLast week was a great week for us.   Many of our Cayuga Collection Hotels and Lodges in Costa Rica won prestigious awards or made important TOP lists from Conde Nast Traveler (Grano de Oro, Finca Rosa Blanca, Arenas del Mar and Lapa Rios), Travel & Leisure (Arenas del Mar) and Tripadvisor (Kura).   The owners of the different hotels were very proud and asked us to post those awards to the website and the managers shared the great news with the teams at the hotels.

The questions that we ask ourselves are the following:   Do those awards translate into increased reservations?   Do they play an important role in the decision making process of our guests?   Should we apply for more awards and make sure we continuously win awards?

The answers are not easy to come by and possibly some academic research would be helpful.   We might have to reach out to some of our friends at the Hotel School at Cornell University.   Judging from our Google analytics account information, only the Tripadvisor Award for Kura Design Villas had a real measurable impact.   The others have not had much of an influence on website visits and first contact forms.   But possibly, it has a more long term impact.   So what is it that we should look for when receiving awards?   Here a list of things we learned.

  • The big name awards have an impact on credibility.   If a hotel, resort or lodge has won an international award or was featured on a list by CondéNast Traveler, Forbes , Travel & Leisure or National Geographic or a similar world class brand, it is very likely that it will have a positive influence in the decision making process of a potential guest.   Arenas del Mar Beachfront and Rainforest Resort   and Grano de Oro have been featured on Expedia, Tripadvisor, Condé Nast and Travel & Leisure TOP lists (among others) consistently this year.   It is important to have a mention of this on the hotel”™s website.
  • If you win a category, it is a really big deal.   Everybody remembers the winners.   Even second or third place are still good (just like at the Olympics), but from there on downwards, the value is really not that great.   A hotel that has done extremely well is the Nayara Resort in Arenal.   This is not a part of the Cayuga Collection, but we certainly admire the great work the owners and management do at that hotel (and it is backed up by top positions).
  • A link to the hotel”™s website makes a huge impact.   If a magazine or organization publishes a list of awards a recognition, it is crucial to have a link to the hotel”™s website.   Many organizations such as Condé Nast and Travel & Leisure do not provide those links and that is why sometimes it is so hard to measure the impact.   The award that Kura Design Villas won from Tripadvisor created a huge peak in web visits due to the link provided to the hotel”™s website.
  • One time shots are good, but to add real credibility to a brand, it is important to win awards and be on lists over an extended period of time.   Lapa Rios Eco Lodge on the Osa Peninsula is a good example of a small luxury eco resort that has received at least one award or has been consistently in the top 10 lists for over 15 years now.
  • The more sophisticated traveler will not let him or herself be led or misled by awards only.   They are one thing to look for.   Word of mouth through social media or general media exposure (magazines, newspapers, TV,) play an important role as well.   Many newer hotels are not featured in TOP lists, but provide great experiences.   Operations like our Jicaro Island Ecolodge in Nicaragua also typically don”™t make TOP lists because of their relatively small size and remote location in emerging destinations like Nicaragua unless it is more specific such as the top Eco Lodges Award that we have received recently by National Geographic.

One word of caution!   Several times per month, we receive an invitation that we have been nominated for a prestigious boutique hotel award, eco awards or the ” Oscar”™s of the Hospitality Industry” award.   What an honor”¦ until you read that to enter the award selection process, it is necessary to pay between $5,000 and 10,000 per hotel and that a trip to the Award Ceremony in Dubai or London would cost another few thousand dollars”¦   We found that these awards might work in a mass market, but not with the sophisticated traveller that is visiting hotels like the ones that are part of the Cayuga Collection.   We like the concept of Condé Nast of Truth in Travel.   We know there has been changes at the magazine and we hope this is not one of them. They don”™t accept for their journalists to be hosted for free by the hotels. That makes a big difference.

So the conclusion is awards can provide recognition and credibility but guests experiences are still what count. .   I would love to hear your feedback on this.   What do you think of hospitality awards and TOP lists?   What has been your experience?

The Cayuga Interns have arrived at Jicaro Island Eco Lodge near Granada, Nicaragua

October 21, 2013

Remember our call for the “BEST Internship in the world” earlier in the year?  Our interns have arrived at Jicaro Island Ecolodge in Nicaragua.  They will keep us posted with a series of blog posts over the next two to three weeks. It seems like Kaitlin and Joe have settled in well and are getting ready to help us here at Cayuga to find the perfect combination between Luxury and Sustainability.

Not So Far, Yet Worlds Away

Maximillian, our cheery, confident driver, drops us at the Lake Nicaragua docks with a handshake and a smile. From here, Jorge Luis will steer us by boat and the light of a full moon across the flat, black lake. Behind us, Granada”™s discotheques feebly pulse their music and laughter; soon enough, the sound and energy of the mainland is forgotten. We arrive at Jicaro Island Ecolodge just before midnight and even the egrets are asleep, lulled by a sense that here is a place where everything can be forgotten, where we can rest beyond the noise of an over-connected, over-stressed world.   What it is about islands, especially islands in the middle of a lake surrounded by volcanoes, that are so uniquely appealing?

Our first morning, we awake to a raucous chorus of shrill groove-billed Anis, Montezuma”™s Oropendolas, and the requisite howler monkeys cheering from the trees (” Get up!” they shout at daybreak and we petulantly pull the sheets back over our heads). Breakfast is a smorgasbord of fresh watermelon and passion fruit juice, fried plantains, gallo pinto, and locally farmed eggs. The sun is rising, the freshly-brewed coffee is flowing, and we are thinking nothing about the place from which we came or the one to which we will one day inevitably go””time, that slippery bastard, is finally within our grip.

We can imagine no better island on which to be stranded””the Jicaro island fruit liquor served in Jicaro gourd shells, the open-air lakeside spa, the naturally-carved saltwater rock pool. And there”™s even a culture of ” strandedness” here: friendships are made quickly and happily, long conversations struck with staff and guests alike, fresh competitions set over who can snag the largest fish in the afternoon”™s sustainable fishing tour.   Yet unlike the proposition of being stranded on an island, this is one you”™d hate to leave””tomorrow we”™ll explore nearby Mombacho Volcano and we already sense the relief we”™ll feel when the boat directs us back to Jicaro, back to the place we”™ve so quickly come to know for its proximity to a way of life long forgotten in the modern world: slowness, quiet, reliance upon natural principles, an honoring of what the earth has always given us””and can only continue to give if we honor and protect her in the true spirit of this island.

Sustainable Tourism at the Segera Retreat & Lodge in Kenya

October 11, 2013

By Hans Pfister, President of the Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels and Lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

In August 2013, I had the great opportunity to spend four days with Jochen Zeitz at his Segera Retreat in Laikipia, Kenya.   We had been in touch with Jochen for a few years as he had visited us at Lapa Rios Eco Lodge on the Osa Peninsula and offered for us to be a founding member of the Long Run Destination, a collection of leading eco lodges and eco resorts around the world.   Back then, he was still a very successful CEO of the Sports and Fashion brand Puma.   We met again at the Conde Nast World Saver”™s Award and visionaries Ceremony in New York City in the fall of 2012.   Jochen was honored as a visionary for his work on environmental P&L Statements at Puma and we received our second award for poverty relief from Conde Nast after 2010.

The trip to Kenya was an incredible learning experience for me and besides the great wildlife viewing that I was able to do at Segera, it was a great benchmarking trip in terms of sustainable hospitality.   First of all, the wildlife experience I had at Segera was epic.   No words will describe the feeling of being in the bush not more than five meters from four grown male lions or the hood of our Safari vehicle being touched by a curious elephant.   I won”™t go into too much detail, but if you are looking for an authentic wildlife experience in Kenya that is not a ” fenced in” refuge, Segera would be my first choice.

I was lucky to be at Segera with Jochen but also with some other interesting guests.   A couple of professional wildlife and life style photographers from South Africa that were taking pictures for the next version of the retreat”™s website, a young Harvard professor, who did some work with Jochen on sustainability consulting projects, a former German colleague from Puma, who was helping with the financial management of the project and a wonderful couple of very well-travelled guests from Italy that made Segera their final stop after visiting the Seychelles and the Kongo!!!

The service experience was impeccable.   The concept of the perfect ” host” that was always there, always suggesting, always anticipating one”™s needs (even before I was aware of it) was amazing to observe.   Jens Kozany, the resort manager fulfilled this role in a very natural manner and I have been talking to my managers ever since about the need to take on more of a role as a host, rather than manager.

While I was not particularly impressed with the food in Kenya in general as I felt it was lacking the authenticity and creativity of Latin American cuisine, at Segera though, it was all made up for by the freshness of the ingredients that mostly grew or were raised right on the ranch and the passion of the locally trained chef.   I ate the freshest vegetables ever, free range eggs for breakfast, Segera beef for dinner and Segera lamb as a special highlight the night we had dinner with the journalists that flew in from London for a couple of days to do a report on Jochen on CNBC (should be airing this month). I also really liked the fact that almost every meal was served in a distinct setting and location.   The wine cellar is spectacular and well worth splurging a bit.

The efforts of sustainability at the Segera retreat are admirable.   From the water collection and purification system to the sun farm creating its own electricity the technological investment is state of the art.   The work with the local community by supporting education, providing high quality employment and of course protecting some of the greatest wildlife in Africa is equally impressive.   There is a level of opulence and luxury that might not fit with everybody”™s idea of sustainable tourism (most strikingly the Rolls Royce Convertible and the Land Rover Vintage car parked as decoration in one of the villas as part of the décor.   But the enormous overall positive impact of Segera on the community and conservation are much more important than those details.

I learned a lot about attention to details in service and how we can get better in that aspect at our hotels and lodges.   We are already implementing some of those details and it is fun to me to see how inspired some of our staff has been of my Segera stories and ideas.  In summary, the Segera Safari experience and the Cayuga Collection Experience are compatible and complimentary in many ways.   We hope to share many guests in the future.   Thanks to Jochen and the Segera Team for this great experience.

The PERFECT day at Lapa Rios Eco Lodge in the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica

October 7, 2013

Written by Hans Pfister, President of Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality and Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels and Lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

When I travel to the Cayuga Collection Hotels and Eco Lodges, I typically spend my time in meetings with the managers or owners or look at budgets, plans and strategic decisions.   But last week, I had the chance to bring my family along, first to Arenas del Mar Beachfront and Rainforest Resort in Manuel Antonio and then to Lapa Rios Eco Lodge on the Osa Peninsula.   On Saturday, I took the day off and enjoyed the lodge like a regular tourist in a family vacation to the Osa Peninsula.   What a great day I had”¦

Golfo Dulce Osa Peninsula Costa Rica Sunrise
www.laparios.com,

I woke up at 5:20 am, the same time I wake up during the week when the children go to school, but I was greeted by a beautiful sunrise and an array of animal life that is spectacular even in Costa Rica.   The tree in front of our bungalow had become the breakfast buffet for three Toucans and a small family of Titi Monkeys.   About 10 Scarlet Macaws were sitting in the Almond tree that was towering above our bungalow and out in the distance, we could observe two humpback whales in the Golfo Dulce.

I decided to go for a run (after enjoying all the delicious food at Arenas del Mar and Lapa Rios).   The road towards Matapalo is a great rainforest run as you are sure to see monkeys and birds and if you look closely even a sloth or two.   The run takes you along the three beaches below Lapa Rios.   Pan Dulce, which is great for beginners learning to surf, Backwash, and of course Matapalo.   While the beaches don”™t quite offer the white sand and calm waters of the Caribbean Islands, they are wild, untouched, pristine and full of wild life.   Coming back up to the lodge, a drink of cold water from the rainforest spring tastes like glory.   After a cool shower on my bungalow deck, I have my favorite meal at Lapa Rios: breakfast.   Gallo Pinto, Omelet, Cheese, homemade toasts and of course freshly brewed organic Costa Rican Coffee.

After breakfast, I took my family to see the pigs that we have down near the employee area.   They eat the kitchen leftovers and produce biogas for cooking.   Everybody was impressed by how clean and neat the area was and that there were no smells.   The gardening team at Lapa Rios takes a lot of pride in this area which is also the recycling center.   We stopped by Dona Josefa”™s staff kitchen to say hi and saw her preparing lunch for the staff.   Caracolitos (a small shell noodle) with Tuna.   Simple but so good.   Everything that Dona Josefa cooks is just delicious.   She has been feeding our staff since 1999.   Always a pleasure to see her spotless and perfectly organized kitchen with the shining pots hanging from the walls.

Later in the morning, we went for a hike to the waterfall.   How wonderful to be in the primary rainforest.   It reminded me of the time a few months ago when John and Karen Lewis signed the Conservation Easement that would ensure that the Lapa Rios Private Reserve is protected into perpetuity.   I am so proud to be a part of this effort and that the eco lodge is contributing to this wonderful conservation effort.   We want for a swim in the waterfall.   My boys loved climbing up behind the waterfall.   If you have never taken a dip in a tropical rain forest waterfall, please put it on your bucket list.   It is one of the best experiences that you can imagine.   And the best thing, a few minutes after we arrived, Ivan and Roberto show up from the lodge with a tray of fresh fruit and juices.   Wow.   Thanks guys!!!

After hiking back up to lodge, we spent a bit of time at the pool observing iguanas, pearl kites, coatis and agutis before heading to lunch.   Since I was not working, I enjoyed my favorite Costa Rican Micro brewed beer ““ Segua.   Ask for it in any of the Cayuga Collection Hotels. I think it can compete with any of the US microbrews.   We had Hamburgers, Chifrijo, Quesadillas, Salads and Tacos.   Oh, and did I mention that it was a clear sunny day with blue skies?   Not what you normally expect in the rainy season.

After a nap, we headed down to the beach for late afternoon swim at Pan Dulce Beach.   I love to see my kids play at a pristine beach where the only ones that watch us are monkeys and Macaws.   They told me themselves how much they love to be in nature and what a great break this is from the every present ” i-devices” in our day to day lives.   Edwin gave us a ride back up the hill and we got ready for our last dinner at Lapa Rios.   We now offer a la carte dining and I was very happy to see how much the quality and presentation of the food in the restaurant has improved over the past months.   Other guests that I talked to commented on this improvement as well.   We need to work the wine list a bit though.   One of the things that went on my to do list for when I get back to San Jose.

A special thanks to the management team of Marijke, Arnay, Hazel, Estibaliz, Rebecca and your wonderful staff for this perfect day in a rainforest eco lodge on the Osa Peninsula.   I look forward to my next visit although most likely we will be spending a lot of time in the office talking about budgets, sustainability projects and the room upgrades we are working on.

Lapa Rios Eco Lodge Client Comments: It took a little time for us to adjust to being so close to nature

October 4, 2013

When you take the time to read the four volumes of guest comments that have been written by the guests of Lapa Rios Ecolodge on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica in the last 20 years, it is always amazing to see how many guests that had amazing experiences struggled with being so close to nature during the first hours of their stay.  It is not surprising as most of our guests come from big cities where we are removed from nature and the contact with animals and the forest is minimal.   But then, once the “fear” is left behind and curiosity awakes, magic happens.  Read for yourself from this comment that was left by visitors from Los Angeles in late September.

Costa Rica’s Gallo Pinto Recipe from Latitude 10 Resort

September 30, 2013

” ¡Uy! ¡Ese es más tico que el Gallo Pinto!”    (” He”™s more Tico than Gallo Pinto!”)  is an expression Ticos use when referring to someone inextricably Costa Rican, and sure enough, the Gallo Pinto is so engrained in our culture and tradition that it can be found on every person”™s  breakfast  plate throughout our country.

During your visit to  Latitude 10, our talented morning chef Ivette might prepare this delicious base dish with tips learned from the experienced hands of her mother and grandmother before her. In this blog we would like to share them with you!

GALLO PINTO RECIPE

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Serves four people

 Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of boiled whole black beans
  • 2 cups of boiled white rice
  • ½ cup of red bell pepper
  • ½ cup of white onion
  • ¼ cup of coriander
  • Salsa Lizano, salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Chop up the bell pepper and onion into small dices and sauté for one minute with a little vegetable oil

Add the rice and bean grains (no broth), salt, pepper and Lizano and stir gently, making sure not to mash the ingredients

Add a little bean broth, just enough to tinge the rice dark while stirring, without adding liquid to the dish

Chop up the coriander and stir into the rice and beans for a couple minutes until the Gallo Pinto is evenly warm

Serve accompanied by eggs, white Tico cheese, fried plantain and corn tortillas for a complete traditional Costa Rican breakfast!

 Special Tico tips:

  • Prepare the rice and the beans the night before so that breakfast is quick to make in the morning.
  • A trick to making good black beans is to let them boil at low heat, along with big chunks of the non-edible parts of vegetables, such as coriander roots and the seedy core of red bell peppers.

Good luck with your cooking!