Travel to Latin America in 2017:  PEOPLE OVER POLITICS

February 17, 2017

We are living a strange and fraught moment in history, which has presented a new set of challenges for travelers. A journalist from the United States who recently stayed at Jicaro Island Lodge while researching a story on Nicaragua posed a question that challenged us at the Cayuga Collection: How am I perceived in Latin America as a tourist from the United States these days?

It is a fair question. In the US media, there has been a lot of harsh rhetoric targeting Mexicans. As a result, it is no surprise people traveling to Latin America wonder if they may encounter a backlash. Are we safe? Are we welcome? These are basic questions people ask themselves before deciding on a destination.

We love visitors from all over the world.  We have a passion for food that many of our guests share with us.  Let us prepare something fresh and local for you here at Latitude 10 in Santa Teresa.  

Inspired by this uncertainty that potential visitors may feel, we put our thinking caps on and did some soul-searching at Cayuga. We are happy to report that you are not only safe at our hotels & lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, you are more than welcome. We are big believers in building bridges between people and cultures, which seems more pertinent now than ever before. With so much talk about walls, separation and division across the globe, on our patch of the planet we are all about bringing people together – and bringing them closer to nature.

Our housekeeping team at Arenas del Mar Beachfront and Rain Forest Resort in Manuel Antonio.

For the most part, Latin Americans can distinguish between the people and their governments very well. In Nicaragua and Costa Rica, you won’t be personally blamed for your president’s rants. We know how to spot people with good hearts and right intentions. Of course, commonsense advice on respect applies. Make sure you act like a visitor. A little humility goes a long way when traveling in a culture other than your own. Here are some guidelines to follow.

Don’t assume everybody speaks fluent English. If they do, show your appreciation.

Say the magic word. A “gracias” and a smile will take you far in Latin America, and right to people’s hearts.

Always ask permission, whether it is to take a photo of someone or touch their handicrafts.

Don’t dwell on politics. Instead, talk about soccer, food, cold beer and fun things to do in the area.

We are also happy to share that Costa Rica is one of the world’s most peaceful and tolerant countries, a stable democracy that has no military and stands as a global leader in sustainability. At the Cayuga Collection properties, you will know right away why that is so.

Our people are our power. This is where we draw our good energy and the great impressions that our guests walk away. For the staff at Cayuga, it matters not where you come from. If they come with the right attitude and an open mind and heart, we give our all to guests.

 

Lapa Ros

Cayuga Collection sweeps TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards

February 13, 2017

There are few things more rewarding than being chosen by your own guests as one of the best.

At the Cayuga Collection, we are thrilled that six of our properties won 2017 Travelers’ Choice awards by TripAdvisor, a great honor for us as hoteliers. What makes the win special is that these awards are based on reviews and opinion by millions of travelers. It is real, unbiased and right from the travelers’ hearts.

A special thanks to all of our guests that have left raving reviews on their experiences at the Cayuga Collection Hotels.

One of our properties, Arenas Del Mar Beachfront and Rainforest Resort, won the award in no fewer than five categories, which has placed it in the top one per cent of performing properties worldwide. Another, Jicaro Island Lodge, was voted #2 in the Top 10 Small Hotels – Nicaragua category. There is more to brag about, but instead of doing so we will continue our work behind the curtains.

What leaves us beaming with pride at Cayuga and is worth sharing is that we are part of the TripAdvisor GreenLeaders Program with the majority of our properties (soon it will be all of them; one is in the process of applying).

Lapa rios
The Cayuga experience is not only about luxury hospitality.  A lot of focus is placed on experiences, learning, connecting with locals and sustainable practices.

This program showcases eco-friendly hotels and B&Bs, from budget to luxury, that are all committed to green practices like recycling, local and organic food, and electric car charging stations. Six of our properties have achieved the coveted Platinum status, which is the highest of the four badge levels given by TripAdvisor.

Each of the TripAdvisor GreenLeaders properties is highlighted on the website with a green leaf, which helps guests who care about booking a hotel that is eco-friendly. It is also another way to feel good about the hotel choice you do make. (According to a 2014 TripAdvisor study, eco-friendly choices make 78 per cent of global travelers feel more positive about their trip.)

In actual terms, what that means is that these Cayuga Collection properties have the highest overall level of participation in environmentally friendly activities. According to TripAdvisor, those include: having linen and towel re-use plans, tacking energy usage on a regular basis, recycling, using energy efficient light-bulbs, educating staff and guests on green practices and properly treat waste water (either using an on-site or municipal sewage system).

What this means to us at Cayuga is that we continue to be recognized for the work we do as leaders and innovators in sustainability and luxury hospitality. We truly walk the talk. Anybody can say that, of course, but when you pass the tough criteria that TripAdvisor imposes, and you remain at the highest level, you know you are doing something right.

One of the highest scoring hotels in Costa Rica on Tripadvisor is Kura Design Villas in Uvita.  No wonder with such a view from the pool…

Lapa Rios Lodge on the Osa Peninsula, Latitude 10 Resort in Santa Teresa, Grano de Oro in San Jose and Finca Rosa Blanca in Santa Barbara de Heredia and Kura Design Villas in Uvita are the other Cayuga Collection Hotels and Lodges that scored very high on the Traveler’s Choice Awards this year.

Costa Rica – so much Biodiversity in such a Small Country

February 6, 2017

Costa Rica is considered to be a “world champion” in biodiversity.  Especially considering that it is such a small country.  It covers 51.100 km2 or 0.03% of the world’s and surface.  Costa Rica is home to almost half a million plants and animals which represents about 5% of the world’s biodiversity.  It is considered one of the world’s top 20 countries richest in biodiversity.  Here is a preview of this amazing flora and fauna.

Scarlet Macaws in Puerto Jimenez, Osa Peninsula, near Lapa Rios Lodge.

 

A toucan near in the Arenas del Mar Resort Reserve near Manuel Antonio National Park.

 

A Humpback Whale in Marino Ballena National Park near Kura Design Villas, Uvita.

 

Watch carefully.  Much of the wildlife is not spotted easily unless you are with an expert local guide.

 

Sloths are present in most of Costa Rica.  This picture is taken on the Nicoya Peninsula near Latitude 10 Resort, Santa Teresa.

 

Seeing baby sea turles be born and fight their way to the Ocean is a great wildlife experience.  We can often observe this in Guanacaste near the Harmony Hotel in Nosara.

At the Cayuga Collection, we deeply care about the conservation of this natural paradise.  By visiting our sustainable luxury hotels and lodges in Costa Rica, you contribute to our conservation efforts.

8 Surefire Ways to Love – or Hate – your Cayuga Collection Stay

January 28, 2017

Though it’s great to think in positives, sometimes in life we need to be clear on what we don’t want in order to get down to what our heart desires. With travel experiences, this counts even more, as disappointment can loom large when expectations don’t live up.

So to help you choose your vacation wisely, we’ve come up with a list of very important reasons NOT to book a Cayuga Collection Hotel or Lodge. If you recognize yourself in any of these, you may want to look elsewhere. Otherwise, you’ve come to the right place.

Swim-up bars and all-you-can eat buffets are your idea of a perfect culinary experience.

Our idea of the perfect culinary experience is a little different. The restaurants at all our hotels serve freshly prepared meals showcasing local seasonal ingredients and even when “fast” and no-frills, the food is prepared with a lot of TLC.

You have no tolerance for wildlife and wilderness encounters.

All our sustainable luxury hotels & lodges come with creepy-crawlies and wildlife aplenty, so you’ll need to come with an open mind and get out of your comfort zone–and once you do, the rewards you reap are immense.

You don’t like to work up a little sweat while on holiday.

At Cayuga Collection hotels in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, we provide a myriad ways to stay active, be it walking to your room, going on a hike, rappelling down a waterfall or playing at the beach. Though they can, our guests don’t spend their vacation lazing by the pool.

You like your hotel staff to bow and wear a subservient smile.

At Cayuga, you get to know our local staff and sometimes even strike a friendship. It’s the pura vida way. We don’t put on a show; it’s all real-deal, including those smiles.

You love your water in a plastic bottle and plastic straws in your drink.

At Cayuga, we passed on plastic back in 2014. In fact, we eliminated the use of plastic bottles and straws at all of our properties. We only have one earth we all live on. Plus bamboo straws are cool.

You are a deal hunter and the price you nabbed is more important than the experience.

We love deals too, but our ultimate goal is to offer guests unique authentic experiences that have a positive effect on both the people and the environment. We walk the talk and don’t compromise on quality.

Shopping is the most important part of your holiday.

While our hotels, resorts and lodges do have shops with local handicrafts and edible treats, the souvenirs our guests take home can’t be paid in any currency–it’s the memories that stay with them forever.

You are looking to eat what you eat at home.

Forget about imported cheeses and ingredients flown in from across the world. At Cayuga, we strongly believe in food that is locally produced and organic and our restaurants serve only responsibly caught seafood, grass-fed beef, hormone-free chicken and lots of fresh fruits and veggies.

Are you still interested in visiting a Cayuga Collection Hotel or Lodge?  Send us a note to [email protected] to request a reservation or itinerary.

Sustainable Travel International partners with Cayuga Collection

January 24, 2017

Sustainable Travel International is a global NGO dedicated to help travelers make healthier decisions that create positive environmental and social impacts in destinations around the world. Nowadays tourism industry has the responsibility to become a contributing influence to address crucial worldwide threats like degradation of ecosystems, misuse of natural resources, loss of cultural heritage and gender inequality.

We believe that a key factor about sustainable hospitality is to provide opportunities for our guests to positively impact the people, environment and communities where we operate. At our hotels and lodges, guests can experience and learn about efficient and sustainable operations, cultural traditions from our local staff, support local supply chains, work with local schools and organizations, and even volunteer in nearby protected areas.

At Cayuga, we align with Sustainable Travel International’s belief that travel and tourism can protect the world’s natural and cultural riches and create economic growth simultaneously. We recently partnered with them to offer our community complimentary access to Travel Better – a new online learning module to become a more sustainable traveler. All Travel Better members gain access to special benefits, tips and advice to help make more sustainable travel decisions.

We are proud to offer all Travel Better members a 10% off your room rate at our hotels, resorts & lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Come and find out how the Cayuga Collection provides our guests a unique “Travel Done Differently” experience. The offer is valid until December 31st 2017. You can send your booking requests to [email protected].

Learn more about Sustainable Travel International or become a Travel Better member here. You have the opportunity to join Travel Better for free before the program’s global launch in March 2017.

 

Sustainable Luxury Hotels in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Is Panama next?

January 16, 2017

Last week we explored the options to add Cayuga’s first sustainable luxury lodge in Panama.  We are still in the planning and feasibility stages, but the location is just perfect for what the Cayuga Way of traveling is all about.  A lush tropical island with white sand beaches located in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Travel to and from the island involves some logistics.  Planes, boats, land transfers.  But it is worth the journey.  No doubt about it.

When we engage in new hospitality projects, we typically bring along our strategic partners in development.  In this case Vida Design Studio Master planners and Sphera Sustainability Consulting and Project Management.  We have worked on them on several other projects before and our values are totally aligned.  It is great to work with such partners.

We spent almost four full days exploring the island and scouting the best locations for future guest experiences.  There is a lot of potential here.

One of the key factors when developing a new project is to make sure that there is a good chemistry with the owners.   The location and physical factors of the potential hotel or lodge locations are important.  But if we feel that we don’t align with the owners, we pass on even the greatest opportunities.  In the case of this island in Panama, we are on the right track.

Not a common hurdle to overcome.  Recovering the drone that crashed into the palm tree.

Sometimes we run into obstacles.  In this case, we almost lost our drone that Vida uses to scout the building sites from above.  It crashed into a palm tree near the beach.  But with the help of some very agile locals, we were able to recover it the next day.

The idea of the workshop is to come up with a conceptual masterplan for the lodge.  We are getting close.  Luxury beachfront lodge in the planning here…

Stay tuned to learn more about our advances with this project.  We would love to have a Panamanian member of the Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels & Lodges in 2017.

 

 

Meeting like-minded travelers on vacation

January 8, 2017

Sometimes the best vacation memories include meeting other travelers, sharing on-the-road experiences and having the time, head and heart space for new encounters. We see this happen all the time with our guests at our sustainable luxury hotels & lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

According to a recent article in Skift Magazine about 2017 Mega Trends in the Hospitality Industry, the concept of “bringing people together” is bound to take off as a big trend. City hotels are turning lobbies into bars and restaurants and hotel chains are designing specific areas where travelers can hang out and meet.

Santa Teresa Resort
Latitude 10 in Santa Teresa used to be a private beach home and is therefore set up for social interactions. Guests enjoy their private “casitas” but come together for meals in the main lodge to share experiences and stories.

We find that guests at our hotels, resorts and lodges connect best, deepest and strongest when they share activities or get to know each other on tours. This is true for all kinds of travelers.

We have days filled with honeymoon couples sharing stories of their “wedding stress” at the bar at Latitude 10 in Santa Teresa. At Playitas beach of Arenas del Mar in Manuel Antonio, we have mothers bonding in the shade of palm trees while their little ones play in the sand caressed by the gentle waves of the Pacific Ocean. We have had two Nobel Prize winners meet each other casually by the pool at Lapa Rios Rainforest Lodge on the Osa Peninsula (physics and economics, if we remember right).

rain forest reserve
A lot of bonding happens on tours. At Lapa Rios Lodge on the Osa Peninsula, it is not uncommon to see guests have lunch together after meeting on a morning excursion in the the rain forest reserve.

We have adventure travelers bonding on the boat ride from Granada to Jicaro Island Lodge over why now is the time to visit Nicaragua before it is too late. New friendships are forged during cooking and cocktail-making lessons at Kura Design Villas in Uvita, just south of Manuel Antonio. Our guests connect in the ocean while waiting to surf the perfect wave at Guiones beach in front of the Harmony Hotel.

rafting costa rica near manuel antonio
Water sport adventures such as rafting or surfing are also a great bonding experience for guests. Many guests of Kura Design Villas or Arenas del Mar Resort opt for a rafting trip during their vacation.

Our concept of “Experience – Learn – Connect – Relax” encourages guests to leave their comfort zone, explore new things and share with others. In many cases that can be our staff but of course it is also about connecting with fellow travelers.

A guest recently told me that what impressed her most about her stay with us was how connected she felt to other guests. Perhaps because we are so focused on sustainability and doing the right thing, that attracts a certain kind of guest so bonding gets easier. That’s one explanation.

What do you think? Have you been to places where you really connected with others? We would love to hear from you. Comment below or send us a note to [email protected].

tortilla-making-class-at-arenas

honeymoon ideas costa rica

Honeymoon Ideas for the New Year

January 2, 2017

This is the time of the year, when many couples plan their honeymoon.  Here some pointers for some very special honeymoon ideas for the new year in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.  All of them are a great symbiosis of luxury and sustainability.  What else could you ask for?

If you are looking for the sexiest hotel in Costa Rica, you have found it right here.  Kura Design Hotel, just south of Manuel Antonio.   Who says that a honeymoon can’t be “guilt free” and sustainable?

Contemporary Design in Costa Rica
Tropical contemporary design.  Locally harvested, internationally inspired fresh food.  Stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.  Nature adventures.  An infinity pool to die for…  Ready for your honeymoon?

If you love nature, wildlife, the outdoors, rain forests, pristine beaches and the idea of a typical resort honeymoon drives you crazy, then this is for you.  A National Geographic Unique Lodge on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica.

Ecotourism in Costa Rica
Did you know that Scarlet Macaws  choose their partner and mate for life?  Lapa Rios Lodge is named after those beautiful birds and the perfect place for an active honeymoon in a pristine nature environment.

If the idea of a small island in a tropical lake attracts you and you want to go off the beaten track to a country where none of your friends have been on their honeymoon, then this is for you.  Jicaro Island Lodge in Lake Nicaragua.

Nicaragua honeymoon ideas
The dinner on the floating deck will be one of the highlight of your honeymoon at Jicaro Lodge.  The waiter will arrive in a row boat to serve your multi-course meal.

If you always wanted to go to Costa Rica, but you were concerned about finding a luxury resort at the beach that can cater to your “gluten free” restrictions, then Arenas del Mar is for you.  This Manuel Antonio Beachfront and Rain Forest Resort allows you to enjoy a care-free and safe honeymoon.

Gluten Free Costa Rica
The chefs at Arenas del Mar Resort have developed an expertise in catering to guests that are intolerant to Gluten.   Many Celiacs have thanked us for this, as it made their vacation  not only special but possible.  And most importantly, everybody else, who is not gluten intolerant, also really enjoys the local fresh seafood-centered menu.

If you have always had dreams of a honeymoon in a beachfront location that has easy access to world class surfing and spectacular outdoor showers, then this is for you.  Located in the hip beach town of Santa Teresa on the Nicoya Peninsula.

d
A surfing honeymoon.  Consider Latitude 10 resort in Santa Teresa.  Just 5 open air bungalows.  You will feel like you are staying with friends at the beach.  The “anti-resort” honeymoon experience in Costa Rica.

Can’t make up your mind yet?  We have created a mini-guide for a honeymoon to our five star sustainable luxury retreats in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.  Download the guide here.

If you need help in planning your honeymoon, send us a note here so all you need to worry about is the book you are going to bring…

Relax in Costa Rica

 

Change means Opportunity – to a Happy New Year 2017

December 29, 2016

Dear friends of Cayuga,

Many think the world is out of “whack” right now.  And yes, the last year was full of surprises and turbulence.   But we are eternal optimists at Cayuga and believe that there is opportunity in all change.  Embracing change is one of our core values.  It is not always easy.  But we will continue to work on what is in our control to make sure that our communities are a better place to live, our staff has opportunities to grow, to conserve the amazing flora and fauna of Costa Rica and Nicaragua and to create exceptional and guilt free vacation experiences to our guests at the Cayuga Collection Hotels and Lodges.

We hope we all have more time for face to face conversations (turning off the screens for a while), time to think and contemplate (instead of constantly catching up) and time to dream, time to listen and time to sit and smell the flowers.

We wish you all a year full of simple pleasures, mindfulness, happiness, love and health.

Feliz Año Nuevo 2017,

The Cayuga Collection

How can we help other Hotels in Costa Rica become more sustainable?

December 19, 2016

At Cayuga, we continue to work hard to become world wide leaders in sustainable luxury tourism.  And we are optimists and think that generally, things are well.  But once in a while we come across things that worry us and we ask ourselves “How can we help change things on a country or regional level?”

Last week we traveled the northwestern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica to start the master planning process for a potential new ecotourism lodging project.  A group of investors that own a spectacular piece of real estate (see picture above) is looking to develop a hotel.   At Cayuga, we offer solutions for developers that want to move away from traditional hospitality models that are exclusively focused on profit maximization and create projects that meet the triple bottom line criteria of Community – Conservation – Profitability.

During this trip, we were reminded, that unfortunately, there are hotels and resorts that do not seem to care at all about sustainable practices at all.  We realize that not all hotels will be as focused on sustainable practices as the ones that we manage in the Cayuga Collection.  But there are good practices in tourism and hospitality that could certainly help mitigate impacts.  Here are some observations, that if changed, would have a big overall impact.

We spent one morning in a meeting room at an all inclusive hotel near the development site. Plastic bottles for water is a big “no” for us.  But on top of this, the water was imported from Nicaragua. Why?

We find it hard to believe that many hotels, especially international brands, still use small disposable shampoo bottles in their bathrooms.  It is so easy to install refillable dispensers.  Hopefully the products are locally produced, organic and biodegradable.

At lunch, we found "Marlin in Green Sauce" on the buffet menu.  Marlin is an endangered species and should not be commercially fished.  Why?  
At lunch, we found “Marlin in Green Sauce” on the buffet menu.  Marlin is an endangered species and should not be commercially fished and served.  There are more sustainable seafood options.  Why?

We know that our hotel and lodge operations at Cayuga are not perfect.  Sustainability is never at 100%.  It is a process. We just finished our action plan for 2017 called Sustainability 2.1 where we have over 100 points that we know we have to fix, improve or change.  But it is about the effort and caring.  Maybe this blog helps motivate more hotel owners, managers and staff to push for changes in their organization.

Guanacaste has had serious water shortages. In our opinion, usage of water should be controlled very carefully. Watering lawns (and cement sidewalks) with fresh water during the hottest part of the day is not a good sustainable practice.
The usage of water needs to be controlled very carefully. Watering lawns (and cement sidewalks) with fresh water in Guanacaste during the hottest part of the day is not a good sustainable practice.

Through our observations at hotels, lodges and resorts, we believe that there is a strong co-relationship between being a sustainable operation and the quality of guest service.  An employee that cares about his or her surroundings also will care about they way they treat other human beings.

F
Feeding wild animals on a regular basis is also a big issue.  Hotels have to be more assertive in teaching guests and employees the negative consequences of feeding wild animals.

What can we do at Cayuga or as a country to help other operations become more sustainable?  We would love to hear your opinions or comments on this topic.  Send us a note or comment below.