Sustainable Seafood Initiative at Lapa Rios Lodge

March 29, 2017

Dock to Dish brings the freshest and most sustainable seafood to Lapa Rios, a National Geographic Unique Lodge, on the Osa Peninsula on the south Pacific of Costa Rica.

Last year, several Cayuga Collection Hotels and Lodges joined the Dock to Dish movement, a model that seeks to connect fishermen directly with the chefs and ultimately the consumer.  In the old days, people had to buy and eat whatever the local fishermen were able to catch.  The “supermarket” mentality of always having the same kind of species available has lead to over fishing and is not sustainable.  Dock to Dish offers an alternative.  See the video describing the idea of the program.


We were shocked to learn that a lot of seafood that is sold in Costa Rica’s Supermarkets is imported from Vietnam and China and of questionable quality.  So we knew that working locally and showcasing Dock to Dish as an important project for all of our hotels and lodges.

Randal a.k.a. “Pocho” our local fisherman has caught a variety of fresh fish that our chefs at Lapa Rios turned into some very special dishes.  Whenever we offer those specials, there is only a limited amount of those fish dishes available.  So, when you know it is “Dock to Dish” night at Lapa Rios, you might want to be there early…  Our menu this week was:

Triggerfish croquettes on a bed of arugula with blackberry dressing

Snapper with potatoes and green salad, served with a tropical dressing

Juan Pablo, our local chef has been testing several recipes and preparations.  The fine-scaled triggerfish, a species that is found in abundance and is not usually commercially valuable seems to be the perfect fit for our program.

Arenas del Mar Beachfront & Rain Forest Resort, another Cayuga Collection Hotel, located in Manuel Antonio has been serving Dock to Dish seafood for almost a year.  We are starting implementation for Dock to Dish at the Harmony Hotel in Nosara and Kura Design Villas in the next weeks.  The goal is to have all of Cayuga’s sustainable luxury hotels and lodges set up with the program by the end of the year.  We especially look forward to implementing the program in Lake Nicaragua for Jicaro Island Lodge.



The British Discovery of Costa Rica

March 23, 2017

Tourist arrivals from the United Kingdom to Costa Rica grew by over 50 percent between 2015 and 2016.  The UK is now the most important European market for Costa Rica with 71,392 visitors followed by Germany with 67,939, Spain with 67,453 and France with 61,503.

In general, European tourism has become much more important in the past years with direct flights from Spain, the UK, France and Germany.  In May, there will also be a direct flight between Zurich, Switzerland and San Jose twice a week.

Kura Design Villas in Uvita, just 60 minutes south of Manuel Antonio is very popular with British couples.  Over 50% of our guests in this February were Europeans, most of them from the UK.

At Cayuga, we have enjoyed the increase in visitors from Europe.  They are a great match for our sustainable luxury hotels and lodges.  They enjoy the outdoors, the warm weather, good local food and especially our well trained local guides that help them to understand the Costa Rican Nature and Culture.

But we have also run into some challenges.  Costa Rican are not world renown for being punctual.  We had to train our guides for example, that if a tour with guests from Great Britain starts at 9 am, arriving at 9 am is being late.  Be there at 8:45!

Our revenue generate by tours were up significantly this season at Lapa Rios Lodge and Arenas del Mar Resort.  British Guests are active and like to experience and learn.

We also had to restock our wine cellars with more frequency.  Our British guests are much more likely to order a bottle with lunch and two with dinner than our guests from North America.  Cheers!

And finally, the tea.  Costa Rica is a coffee country and we know how to brew a great cup of Java.  But there is not much expertise on tea.  We had to bring in an intern from the UK to help us understand tea.  It has made a great difference.  Everybody is happy at breakfast now.

And of course, there is a need to relax.  Latitude 10 Resort in Santa Teresa is the perfect place to have a date with a tropical drink and a great book.

We look forward to many more visitors from Great Britain and Europe.

Award winning sustainable hotel management company Cayuga NatGeo Legacy winners.

We did it! Cayuga won the National Geographic World Legacy Awards 2017

March 8, 2017

This award means a lot to all of us at the Cayuga Collection Hotels and Lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.  We have been involved in sustainable hospitality since 1995 and really appreciate this recognition by National Geographic.  A special thank you to all of our staff members, our guests and the owners of the very special hotels and lodges that we manage in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Hans Pfister, Cayuga’s CEO and Co-Founder with fellow finalists the moment he finds out that Cayuga had won the award.  

The World Legacy Award in the category of Earth Changers recognizes cutting-edge leadership in environmentally friendly business practices and green technology, from renewable energy and water conservation to zero-waste systems and carbon-emissions reduction.

All finalists, winners, judges at ITB Berlin in March 2017 during the National Geographic World Legacy Award Ceremony.  

Congratulations to our fellow nominees Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel in Ecuador and ITC Hotels in India.  We were honored to be nominated in the Earth Changers Category alongside you.

Winners from around the world:  Costa Rica / Nicaragua, Santa Fee, TX, Slovenia, Seychelles, Belize with Nat Geo World Legacy chairman Costas Crist.  
Corcovado luxury lodge in Costa Rica award winning NatGeo lodges of the World.

Why is the Cayuga Collection in Costa Rica named after a Lake in upstate New York?

March 4, 2017

Last week, there was an important feature on Cayuga Collection’s Lapa Rios Lodge published on the Associated Press websites; the story was then picked up by media across the globe.  When the journalist interviewed us, she was confused about the name, Cayuga Collection. She knew Cayuga as one of the Finger Lakes located in Upstate New York, USA. The word Cayuga comes from the Cayuga people, which is an Indigenous Iroquois tribe that settled in the area of the Finger Lakes.

So, where is the connection of Cayuga Lake and an Indigenous tribe with a group of sustainable luxury hotels and resorts in Costa Rica, Nicaragua (and soon Panama)? Very simple. The founders of the Cayuga Collection, Andrea Bonilla and Hans Pfister both studied at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York that sits on the shore of Cayuga Lake. They earned their degrees in Hotel Administration there in the 1990s and when it was time to give a name to the company they created in 2003 in Costa Rica, Cayuga came up as an option.

Cayuga’s founders Andrea Bonilla and Hans Pfister with (then) Dean Johnson of the Cornell Hotel School and two students.  They were invited to present Cayuga’s work at the Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series.

Lapa Rios Lodge was the first hotel that Cayuga managed. The owners of Cayuga were involved in management since 1999. Back then, there was no internet or phone available at the lodge. Andrea was the General Manager at the Lodge and Hans was based in San Jose. To communicate business affairs, they wrote word documents on floppy disks and sent them back and forth by car and propeller plane protected by a password; the password back then was Cayuga.

Cayuga’s first client was Lapa Rios Lodge on the Osa Peninsula.  The founders of Cayuga have been involved in the management of the lodge since 1999.

They chose Cayuga as it is easy to pronounce in English, Spanish, and many other languages. It is also a tribute to Cornell and the Hotel School in Ithaca where Hans and Andrea met and became good friends and business partners. Hans grew up in southern Germany and Andrea is born and raised in Costa Rica.

And, they enjoy getting the question about the name Cayuga from guests that are familiar with Cornell and the Upstate New York Geography. A great way to have a conversation about good old college days at our alma mater. One thing we don’t miss though is the weather up there or the floppy disks down here. In fact, the “Guides Hut” at Lapa Rios has Wi-Fi now.


Ecotourism and Education: A real life Story from 25 years ago

February 24, 2017

This is a story about our neighbor Cecilia and her 5 children.  It’s a tale of one mother’s dedication to a mission—providing her children a formal education.  This blog was written by the co-founder of Lapa Rios Lodge, located on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica, Karen Lewis.

Setting: First day of school, a hot, sunny February 1992, bit after 6:30am.  Scenario: Akin to a mother duck stepping down an indistinct forest path, her ducklings strung out behind her.

Through binoculars I could see all 5 children were dressed in their requisite official white shirts and blue pleated skirts/long pants, her tallest, Danny Jiménez, bringing up the rear. Cecilia walked determinedly, proudly yet somewhat anxious. She was late, and could see us with the other 18 children waiting in the truck. (She confessed she hadn’t considered the smaller steps of her younger ones, and the 3+ kms walk meant starting at dawn.)

Can you spot John and Karen Lewis, founders of Lapa Rios in this picture taken in front of the Carbonera School in 1992?

[A bit of history: When John, our high school age children and I first met our neighbors in early 1991, we shared food and our aspirations for Lapa Rios. We asked residents what they dreamed. Immediately every woman answered: Help us build a primary school. Instantly our goal of conservation serving a community was augmented by their greater need: Education. Not only necessary was our ethos for environmental stewardship, we needed to include basic education skills. I’d learned, as an exchange student in the early sixties, when people are able to read they become empowered to make informed decisions. Local mothers wanted their children educated, open to opportunities beyond subsistence farming—then the Osa Peninsula’s best option.

Together with Cecelia, Grace and another mother, we worked with the school superintendent during 1991-‘92 to learn building requisites. Flush toilets—what! no one had flush toilets at home, why the school? Regardless, kids being kids, they wanted to go to school before we could get the buildings beyond blue print form. John and I offered a taxi-truck transport to the primary school in Pto. Jiménez only 16 kms. distant but with few bridges and oft-swollen rivers.] I digress…

Carbonera School.  It was built in 1991 with the help of the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Once at the dirt road, Cecelia briskly lined up her children, took a clean rag off her shoulder and cleaned each child’s bare feet. They proceeded to put on new navy blue socks and black shoes. Cecelia tied several pairs, as tie shoes, even shoes, were a novelty.

I’ll never forget the pride in Cecelia’s eyes. She watched her children climb into the back of the truck onto wooden bench seats, the little ones sitting on laps of older children equally as curious and concerned to what was coming next. Few had been to town, none inside a classroom. I ended up taking Daniel Jiménez’s hand, he being the eldest (14) yet seemingly most afraid. We joined the line for Grade 1…and the door opened to mostly 6-7 year olds. Most all neighbor children finished grade 6 at the Lapa Rios guests’-built Carbonera School (opened March, 1993), one attended the University of Costa Rica.

Danny is still working at Lapa Rios.  For over 20 years now.   He’s a leader of leaders. Though he left formal education too soon (to work the family farm), he continued to learn on his own. He reads, leads by example, uses computers with ease and communicates via the internet, even ordering items for his team. Education for his children is expected. Many early employees at the Lapa Rios had little formal education, though today they play an active role in helping improve their local schools with our guests’ financial support.

Daniel with son
Daniel Jimenez today.  He and his son Jordi are both great fans of the local scoccer team “La Liga”.

When considering where your life has taken you because of your education, help empower people in developing parts of the world by donating either your time, talent or treasures. Without our guests sharing their largess, aka Travelers’ Philanthropy, the Carbonera School would never have been realized. Or several area schools’ new classrooms, water systems, solar panels, improved kitchens, lesson books-uniforms-soccer equipment, etc.

Many Osa Peninsula homes have bi-lingual, colorful children’s books, as do all schools’ libraries. When you choose travel that makes a difference, tuck some goody in your luggage for local children. Make donations for never-ending Lapa Rios school projects (Building for a Future).



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 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

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.