Kids or No Kids? Choosing the Best Vacation for You

July 15, 2016

To bring the kids or go on an adult only vacation? That is the question…

When it comes to deciding whether to make a vacation a fun family trip or relaxing couples retreat, there is much to take into account. Do guests want spend their days on high-energy adventures showing their kids the wonders of a new land? Or sipping sangria in a seaside hammock for two?

Whichever type of vacation our guests prefer; we have a hotel or ecolodge that will bring their dream getaway to fruition. With their unique architecture and lengthy cocktail lists, Kura Design Villas and Jicaro Island Ecolodge are the perfect tropical escapes for those vacationing kid free. Lapa Rios—with its 1000-acre rainforest reserve just waiting to be explored— is a nice middle ground for families with children older than six. And Arenas Del Mar is a family haven with on-site childcare and a kid-friendly pool.

So which type of vacation is best for you?

Family Vacation – The Cayuga Way

A trip to a Cayuga property is a chance to come together as a family and make memories that will last a lifetime. Whether it was laughing at Dad’s epic wipeouts during surf lessons at The Harmony Hotel or learning how to make authentic Costa Rican tortillas at Arenas Del Mar, guests will come home with stories to tell and experiences to cherish.

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Tortilla Lessons at Arenas Del Mar

Travelling to a remote destination also provides a unique opportunity to pique a child’s interest in the world around them. New foods, new plant life, new cities—the opportunities for learning and growth are boundless and our properties’ staff members are goldmines of knowledge just waiting to be tapped. Together, families can learn about the sleeping patterns of the three toed sloth, the magic of Costa Rica’s medicinal plants, and so much more. The only prerequisites are curiosity and a sense of adventure!

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Adventure time at Lapa Rios Photo: Aranxa Esteve

Family vacations are also the perfect time to break away from scheduled extracurriculars and partake in organic play—an important part of childhood development.  Play encourages creativity, promotes physicality, and builds cognitive and emotional strength. At our resorts, play is not only encouraged, it’s celebrated. After all, what better place to build sandcastles than the snowy white beaches of Manuel Antonio? Where better to chase mythical sea creatures than the frothy surf of Santa Teresa? A family vacation the Cayuga Way is a chance to play, learn, and connect.

Learning about our sustainability initiatives! Photo: Aranxa Esteve
Learning about our sustainability initiatives!
Photo: Aranxa Esteve

Couples Vacation- The Cayuga Way

On the other hand, sometimes Mom and Dad need some good old fashioned rest and relaxation. A couples getaway to a Cayuga property is perfect for those looking to unplug, recharge, and spend quality time with their spouse kid-free. Late nights, lazy mornings, an endless supply of freshly brewed local coffee—a couples retreat with Cayuga is a chance to indulge in life’s small pleasures.

honeymoon
Pool time at Kura Design Villas

Guests can reconnect while wandering the fields of Finca Rosa Blanca’s coffee plantation, take a snooze in one of Kura’s gigantic purple hammocks, or enjoy a lakeside sangria after a kayak around Jicaro Island. Our only rule? Guests must shed all stress and responsibility (don’t worry, it won’t be hard!) A couples retreat the Cayuga way is a chance to relax, recharge, and indulge.

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Latitude 10’s Seaside Hammocks are the perfect spot for some R and R. Photo: Aranxa Esteve

Family travel and couples vacations are oranges and apples but — whether guests choose to bring their kids or leave them behind— Cayuga will make their trip the experience of a lifetime.

Goat at Kura

How a goat saved the day at a Luxury Resort in Costa Rica

May 21, 2016

A great example of Marvin and the goat Josefina going the “extra mile” to make sure that our repeat guests at Kura Design Villas in Uvita would have a great vacation.

Adam and Jill came to Kura for their second visit last month.  This time for 10 days as they liked it so much the first time.  Jill has an intolerance to lactose products and brought her own goat milk to add to her morning coffee.  But on day seven she ran out.  Now what?  The local supermarket in Uvita does not offer goat milk.

Kura
Jill and Adam during their second visit to Kura Design Villas. They posted this picture of themselves on Tripadvisor. We hope to have them back soon.

Marvin, one of our maintenance staff members overheard management talk about this challenge and had an idea.  Two years ago he bought a goat for $50 and he and his family are drinking goat’s milk every day at home because it is very healthy.  He offered to bring some for Jill.  Josefina saved the day.  Jill could have her morning coffee with milk and here is what her husband Adam posted on Tripavisor.

“The team at Kura will drop everything to make sure that your vacation is PERFECT. The attention to detail is incredible. The staff is ready to serve you anytime of day. If you have dietary restrictions no problem (my wife can only drink Goat’s milk and they found a friend with a goat so they could get some milk for her).”  Read the complete review here

Kura Employee with goat
Marvin with his goat Josefina that provided the milk for Jill’s morning coffee.  100% natural, organic and local!

How great to have a local staff with access to local ‘down to earth’ resources like Marvin.  His father was a farmer and he has 13 brothers and sisters.  He is 29 years old and has five children. He also was a farmer before starting to work at Kura and has a small Coffee Plantation near Oratoria de Platanares.  Oh, and he tells us that Josefina will eat anything that gets in her way.  She is not easy to take care off.  But in this case, she saved the day!

Kura Design Villas is a Cayuga Hotel.  Find out more about the Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels and Lodges.  

Kura Pool
Pool View from Kura Desgin Villas in Uvita, Costa Rica.  A perfect example on how sustainable tourism and luxury can co-exist in style.  www.kuracostarica.com
Jicaro pool

Ecotourism Definition – Luxury Definition: Are they compatible?

April 21, 2016

Can Ecotourism and Luxury be compatible? We ask ourselves that question a lot and have made it our declared goal to find the perfect balance between Sustainability and Luxury. Not always an easy task and a concept that is often questioned by conservationists and “ultra-luxers” alike.

solar panels next to infinity pool
The Kura Concept combines design, luxury and sustainability. Solar panels to generate electricity just below the infinity pool.  The staff is recruited from the local community.

Let’s look at the Definitions of Ecotourism, Sustainable Tourism and Luxury.
According to Wikipedia, Ecotourism is a form of tourism involving visiting fragile, pristine, and relatively undisturbed natural areas, intended as a low-impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial (mass) tourism. Its purpose may be to educate the traveler, to provide funds for ecological conservation, to directly benefit the economic development of local communities.

Ecotourism typically involves travel to destinations where flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions. Ecotourism is intended to offer tourists insight into the impact of human beings on the environment, and to foster a greater appreciation of our natural habitats.

Lapa Rios Eco Lodge on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica
Guest Room at Lapa Rios Eco Lodge located in the rain forest of the Osa Peninsula next to the Pacific Ocean in Costa Rica.  It is considered a model tourism project.

Often related, but not quite the same thing, Wikipedia defines Sustainable Tourism as: “the concept of visiting a place as a tourist and trying to make only a positive impact on the environment, society and economy.”

According to Wiktictionary, Luxury means very wealthy and comfortable surroundings, something desirable but expensive or something very pleasant but not really needed in life.

So is sustainable luxury an oxymoron? Is it possible to provide a five star hotel or resort experience and at the same time create a positive impact on the environment, society and economy? We are not talking about not doing harm. We are talking about creating a POSITIVE impact. It probably depends on a closer look at both definitions.

Learning to read and write in Nicaragua
Claudia one of the managers teaching Jose Salvador in maintenance how to read and write in the Jicaro Island EcoLodge Reservation Office.  The local community plays a key role in sustainable tourism.

All human activity has some kind of an impact on nature, so the formula here is not “zero impact” but rather “low and positive impact”. By carefully designing the hotel, resort or lodge experience taking into consideration the natural surroundings, we think that creating a low impact is possible. And if operations are run well with sustainability in mind, they can have a very positive impact on the local communities that in turn might improve the impact on the environment. In the past at several of our lodges, we have turned poachers into hotel maintenance staff, gold diggers into nature guides and lumberjacks into restaurant waiters.

Education is the other key element. By building and equipping schools and supporting environmental education through the work of our NGO partner Earth Equilibrium as well as on the job training of our staff to become professionals and pursue a career, we feel that that balance of our impact is definitely positive.

Earth Equilibrium Environmental Education supported by Lapa Rios Eco Lodge and Cayuga Sustainable Hosptiality in Costa Rica.
Earth Equilibrium Environmental Education supported by Lapa Rios Eco Lodge and Cayuga Sustainable Hosptiality in Costa Rica.

It is also important to define luxury. If we are thinking of golden faucets, exotic food shipped in from thousands of miles away, bottled water, helicopter and private jet travel, huge swimming pools in areas with water scarcity, there is a problem.

But if we think of luxury as the chance to observe wildlife in its natural habitat or to explore pristine beaches, learn from foreign cultures and enjoy locally harvested traditional food and drink, then the symbiosis of luxury and sustainability is possible. We live it every day at the various Cayuga Collection Hotels & Lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
If you are interested in learning more about the Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels and Resorts, drop us a note.

Or if you are interested in helping us design a sustainable luxury family vacation, apply here.

active family vacation in costa rica
A family vacation at the Cayuga Collection Hotels in Costa Rica is full of active and fun activities. Television and other electronic devices won’t be missed. We promise.

Are Small Hotels & Lodges still the Backbone of Costa Rica Tourism?

April 20, 2016

Earlier this month, we were interviewed by Ana Baez and her team of consultants about the role that Cayuga and its owners Hans Pfister and Andrea Bonilla have played in development of sustainable tourism in Costa Rica in the past 20 years.  During the interview, the concern about the impact of large branded/all-inclusive hotels came up in the discussion.  As a result, we dug a bit deeper and were able to compile the following information from the Costa Rican Tourism Ministry ICT.

81% of lodging operations in Costa Rica (hotels, resorts, lodges) have less than 60 rooms and average about 19 rooms per hotel.

 

Latitude 10 Resort in Santa Teresa
Latitude 10 is a six room resort in Santa Teresa.  The experience of staying at a small local hotel or lodge cannot be compared to one in a 400 room all inclusive hotel.  Not only in terms of the guest experience, but also in terms of social and environmental impact.

The Costa Rican Tourism Model is unique in the way that visitors most often visit three to four hotels during their stay and therefore getting to know several parts of the country.  This model is often referred to as “democratic” as it spreads the tourism dollar between several players.  The different small hotels, the transport provider between hotels, the attractions and tours in the destination, the restaurants and shops.  This is very different from the mass tourism model that is prominent in destinations such as the Mayan Riviera, the Dominican Republic or the coast of southern Spain.  But it seems like this model has gained ground in Costa Rica.

10% of hotels and resorts in Costa Rica (a total of 48) with more than 100 rooms represent over 44% of all hotel room inventory in the country.

 

All inclusive hotel
Most of the large all-inclusive branded hotels are located in the province of Guanacaste on the northwestern coast of Costa Rica.

This concentration is in sharp contrast to the way that Costa Rica promotes its brand and experience.  Most guests that stay at a large all inclusive or branded hotel will be transported from the airport to the hotel and back and not leave the premises unless it is a tour organized by the hotel.  The contribution to the local economy is not as direct and beneficial for small businesses on the ground.  We have voiced our concern about this model in the past in this blog.

www.arenasdelmar.com
Rodbin, Hedmi, Adrian and Alexis. Local management at Arenas del Mar Resort in Manuel Antonio.  Contrary to most big branded resorts, the smaller hotles and and lodges employ locals also in management positions.

What is even more worrisome is the impact of “residential” tourism.  Visitors from abroad that make it into the statistics of the 2.5 Mio+ tourism arrivals each year, but that do not stay at hotels or lodges but rather rent condos, apartments or houses.  The problem here is that these transactions are not taxed and the staff at those operations are often part of an informal economy where labor regulations, social benefits and taxes are simply ignored.  We might look at this topic in more detail in one of the next blogs.

Lapa Rios Eco Lodge on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica
Guest Room at Lapa Rios Eco Lodge located in the rain forest of the Osa Peninsula.  An example of a local eco lodge that has promoted a sustainable tourism model in Costa Rica for over 20 years.

This month’s opening of the 400+ room Dreams Resort in Guanacaste and the 150+ room Crocs Casino in Jaco might have shifted the balance further towards the big resorts and make it more difficult for smaller hotels and lodges to compete.

There are a lot of great organizations in Costa Rica though, that continue to promote the Costa Rican model of “Small is Beautiful”.  Besides the Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels & Lodges, there are the Greentique Hotels, Enchanting Hotels, Small Distinctive Hotels, Pacuare Lodge and Grupo Islita that have done a great job in creating high quality sustainable tourism experiences.

solar panels next to infinity pool
Kura Design Villas in Uvita is a small locally owned luxury hotel with a strong focus on sustainability.  A great example of sustainable development in the south of Costa Rica.

We would love to hear your feedback and experiences. Send us a note to info@cayugaonline.com.

 

Culinary Experiences

Can Disposable Dishware be Sustainable? 

April 19, 2016

We just got back from a trip up north visiting the United States of America.   It is always interesting to see what sustainability projects seem to gain popularity up north and how it reflects on our guests that visit us here at our sustainable hotels and eco lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

compostable dishware
How Sustainable is disposable dishware that is compostable?

We saw an increased awareness in a few places about the negative impact of plastic water bottles.  We saw people with refillable water bottles and applaud the effort by Rock Resorts to take out plastic bottles out of their hotel rooms.  This is very much in line with our efforts here at the Cayuga Hotels to completely eliminate disposable plastic bottles for any kind of beverages.

However, one thing that shocked us was the increase in disposable dishes everywhere.  We understand that “nobody likes to do the dishes” but this is not the way to go.  While we were not able to find any reliable statistics on how many millions of tons of waste are produced by restaurant outlets, it is obvious that this is not a sustainable development.  The culture of “eating on the go” is not only unhealthy, but also creates mounts of trash.

Fish Tacos at Lapa Rios Eco Lodge in Costa Rica
These fish tacos are always served on a porcelain plate.  Not only do they taste better like that, they are also more sustainable.  Less trash.

And it seems that what is fueling this trend is the same concept that used to (or still is) creating double digit growth numbers to plastic bottle water sales.  In the case of plastic bottles, it is the myth of recycling and I won’t harm the environment if I recycle.  So, now we find more and more disposable cups, plates and containers that are “biodegradable”, made from renewable resources or contain “recycled content”.

So instead of looking for products that have a longer life cycle and can be reused over and over again, we feel good about our “double latte with soy milk” served in a “sustainable” paper cup.  Yes, this is of course better than throwing away stereo foam and plastic cups, but it is not the answer…

breakfast at arenas del mar
It might be a bit more work to set a table like this for breakfast.  But the experience beats that of “fast food” served in paper that later gets thrown away.

At our hotels and eco lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua we highly discourage take out and when we do send food out with guests (i.e. for picnic lunches), we send reusable containers that the guests bring back after use.  Of course that is not quite as convenient and a bit more work, but it is more sustainable.  We are also limiting a revenue stream as takeout can be very popular for certain clients.

Another tough one in sustainable hospitality and management.  It is once again not all that easy to be “green”.  What is your experience with disposable dishware?  Are you already “numb” to your own habits?  Having a hard time finding alternatives?  Buying into the argument that a cup that can be “industrially composted” is not all the bad?

Let us know what you think…  info@cayugaonline.com.

Lapa Rios Wild Waterfall
Less trash and use of natural resources means more chance of a pristine environment like here at Lapa Rios Ecolodge on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica.

 

“Forget Costa Rica – Old news”… Really?

April 18, 2016

On December 27th, the Boston Globe published an article called: Where to go in 2015.  Not to anybody’s surprise, Cuba was the #1 pick and the recommendation was to “go there before the flood gates open”.  They are are probably right on with that recommendation.

Their number three pick (after Myanmar) was Nicaragua.  Here an excerpt of the article about what Nicaragua has to offer.

Jicaro Island Luxury Ecolodge
Local children on their way to school on Lake Nicaragua near Jicaro Island Ecolodge.

“It’s a land of rich biodiversity, with volcanic peaks, rain forests, beaches, and nature reserves. In fact, the country boasts nearly 5 million acres of protected parks and preserves, filled with wildlife, including exotic birds, howler monkeys, turtles, and giant iguanas. Start with a visit to the Spanish colonial town of Granada, with its grand cathedrals and well-preserved historical buildings. Hiking in lush rain forest jungles and smoldering volcanic mountains is nearby. It’s also the jumping off spot for visits to Lake Nicaragua, Central America’s largest freshwater lake, and Ometepe Island, a UNESCO biosphere preserve. The university town of Leon is known for its cafes, shops, and eclectic museums. Surfers and sun lovers will want to check out San Juan del Sur, a funky beach town and fishing village along the Pacific Coast.”

Local woman in Granada, Nicaragua
Local woman in Granada, Nicaragua on her way to the market.

We could not agree more that Nicaragua is an incredible destination and applaud the journalists of the Boston Globe for this recommendation.  We have been operating eco lodges in Nicaragua for over ten years and have a strong affection for the country and its people.

However, we also operate lodges and sustainable hotels in Costa Rica and do not agree with the opening of the section on Nicaragua that reads:  “Forget Costa Rica – old news”.  Costa Rica is a country that is unique and special and always worth a visit.

Osa Peninsula Wildlife Sloth
The wildlife observation opportunities in the rainforest of the Osa Peninsula are a big attraction for visitors to Costa Rica.  Here a three toed sloth near Lapa Rios Eco Lodge.

We agree that there are parts of the country, especially in the Guanacaste area, that have seen an excess of development of all inclusive and branded hotels.  This is not the Costa Rican model that makes a vacation here special.  On the contrary, it is a cookie cutter and mass tourism experience that could happen in any other country.  Most likely, in a few years, the “hot” destination Cuba will be overrun with such all inclusive resorts just like Cancun and the Dominican Republic.

All inclusive hotel
All inclusive branded hotel in the province of Guanacaste on the northwestern coast of Costa Rica.  This hotel could be anywhere in the topics…

See more on this topic in our blogpost:  Has Costa Rica lost its edge in Ecotourism?

So we invite you to check out the areas in Costa Rica that are very hot and special.  The southern Pacific Coast around Uvita was just recently featured in a segment on sustainable hospitality on CNN International with Richard Quest.

The Osa Peninsula is very much “off the beaten path” and offers unique and special wildlife experiences like nowhere else in the world.  And Santa Teresa and Nosara are hip beach towns that have not seen an influx of all inclusive and branded resorts and maintained its beach and surf vibe.

Harmony Hotel in Nosara
Guiones beach is also located in Guanacaste but away from the big developments of branded and all inclusive hotels.  It has maintained its vibe and laid back atmosphere.

The capital of San Jose and the Central Highlands are receiving more visitation than ever with culture, arts and food becoming more prominent tourism attractions.

Our recommendation for 2015:  Do a Costa Rica – Nicaragua combo.  See the best of both countries and decide for yourself what is news and what is not.  Need help with an itinerary suggestion?  Happy new year!!!

waterfall lunch at Lapa Rios
How about a romantic lunch in the rainforest next to a wild waterfall? Part of our Costa Rica – Nicaragua itineraries of the Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels and Lodges.

 

Health Services at Beach hotel in Costa Rica

Health Services for Hotel Employees in Guanacaste

April 17, 2016

It is not unusual for large companies or large hotels to offer their staff the benefit of medical attention.  However, it is very unusual for small companies and even less hotels, resorts or eco lodges to provide those services for their employees in Costa Rica or Nicaragua.

At Harmony Nosara, a Cayuga Collection Hotel since 2005 located at Playa Guiones in Guanacaste, we started the process five years ago.  But it was not until 2013, when a young doctor moved to Nosara and started to work at the local Red Cross.  Her name is Jennifer and she has helped us with many guests that suffered minor injuries while surfing.

Harmony Hotel employee kids
Doctor Jennifer and kids in Nosara.  Her arrival to the community made a big difference.

In 2014, we finished the permitting process and invested about $2,500 in infrastructure, equipment and supplies and were ready to go.  Jennifer became the “medica de empresa” of Harmony and is attending Harmony staff  and their children two times per week now.

We started with blood exams and electrocardiograms and until now have done over 25 PapTests (more than 50% of our female staff).  One important side effect of this program was the awareness that was created about Dengue Fever which can become a threat to communities in the rainy season months.

health infrastructure
The investment in the infrastructure to provide health services is easily offset by the benefits that the program creates.

In the first six months of the program, we attended 264 patients of which 16% were children of staff members.  And here is the big result:

Between January 2014 to May 2014, we had a monthly average of 4.6 staff members that missed work because of health issues.  After we launched the program, the monthly average has dropped to less than 2.

We pay for the drugs and some treatments that the doctor prescribes and so far, the total cost for drugs adds up to $1.200, divided between the more than 250 patients we have taken care of, it’s a $4,80 investment per patient.

health benefits at harmony nosara
Damian from the maintenance department at the Harmony Hotel (on the left).  With the start of the program he started to live a healthier lifestyle and lost more than 20 pounds and feels that he has much more energy.

We were so impressed with those results that we are in the process of implementing this program at the other Cayuga Collection Hotels in Manuel Antonio, Uvita, Osa Peninsula, Santa Teresa and Lake Nicaragua.  We think that even employees of 6 room hotels should have the benefit of access to excellent health service.

If you are interested in learning more about our sustainability initiatives, send us a note to info@cayugaonline.com or visit our website.

10 Sustainability Trends for Eco-Lux Hotels in 2015

April 16, 2016

It is always risky to make predictions for the future, but based on our observations and conversations with guests at our sustainable luxury hotels and lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, we feel very confident that we will see the following trends and developments evolve for 2015.

1.  Off the beaten path beats tourism clusters

Nobody wants to go where everybody else has been already.  Exotic destinations like Nicaragua are going to see a boom in 2015.  There are also destinations like the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica that have been spared from mass tourism and will be very attractive for the discerning traveler looking for something unique and special.

2.  Culinary experiences conquer eco-tourism

For many years culinary experiences have not been a priority for ecotourists.  But today, a solid wine list and locally grown and raised food is a must for anybody trying to attract the high end eco market.  Premium craft beers, bio dynamic wines, responsibly caught seafood, hormone-free poultry and grass-fed beef are just a few examples of how culinary trends have conquered sustainable gastronomy.

Jicaro Island Ecolodge
Fresh and high quality ingredients that are sourced locally are a great base for preparing gourmet meals for guests.

3.  Sustainability actions beyond towel change and efficient light bulbs

We are tired to hear hotels “rave” about their eco-credentials when mentioning energy efficient light bulbs and a program of not changing linens every day.  In order to impress guests and make a true difference in their communities, they will have to go beyond.  How about getting rid of all plastic drink bottles or serving only responsibly caught seafood? How about moving from recycling to “refusing” products and educating clients about consuming local products only.

4.  Personalized interpretation of nature and culture

It is not enough of an experience to just walk through a tropical rain forest, a coffee plantation or a local farmer’s market.  Travelers are hungry for “interpretation” and want to learn.  Highly educated guides at hotels and lodges that will be able to interpret nature and culture to guests will be in high demand.  We see the request for private tours skyrocket at our lodges.

www.laparios.com
It is not very likely that you will be able to observe a Jaguar or Puma on one of the nature hikes, but by going with a well educated guide, you might be able to spot prints or droppings of large cats.

5.  Eco lodge meets Design Hotel: Opposites attract

We find it fascinating how our guests love to have very different experiences within one trip.  Take a rain forest eco lodge where the focus is on putting on rubber boots and getting out to explore the tropical flora and fauna and combine it with a design hotel which is more of a place to “lounge” by the pool and relax.  Many of our guests combine those experiences as they are so different, yet complimentary.

6.  Agro tourism experiences are still hot

Agro tourism has been on the radar of ecotourists for a few years.  The possibility to experience agricultural projects that exist in harmony with nature is a very attractive feature.  The most popular experiences involve wine and beer, but there in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the coffee plantation experience is in strong demand.

www.fincarosablanca.com
While staying at a Plantation Inn, you can pick your own coffee, roast it and then prepare specialty coffee drinks like a barista in the restaurant.

7. The smaller and more intimate, the better…

If there is something that the seasoned eco traveler dislikes, it is crowds.  Therefore they seek out small hotels, inns and lodges of 3 to 16 rooms maximum.  It guarantees personalized service and special attention by management that is often harder to achieve in bigger hotels.  Latitude 10 in Santa Teresa in Costa Rica is a great example of a hotel that feels like staying over with friends, just that your “friend” is Jose Pablo, the General Manager.

8. Kids become drivers for eco experiences

What better place to take your kids than to a national park or a private rain forest reserve. A vacation could become a biology or geography field trip.  We have found though, that often it is the kids that push their parents to take them to those natural places off the beaten path.  We might be underestimating the interest of the internet generation’s interest in real nature experience.  Watch out, Disney…

www.laparios.com
Guided Rainforest Hike with Edwin Villareal at Lapa Rios Eco Lodge on the Osa Peninsula.  Kids absorb the information they learn on those hikes like sponges.

9. Wellness beyond a massage and facial

Many travelers are bored with spas and mainstream wellness offers that are available in the market.  What’s special about a massage in a closed in an air-conditioned room?  We find that guests are exploring the idea of wellness more and more through their nutrition, an exercise routine for body and soul, a connection with their natural surroundings and an appreciation of a sense of place.

10. Savvy guests will start to ask the right kind of questions

The well-traveled and highly educated guest that we welcome at our hotels and lodges is no longer fooled by some kind of an “eco-certification” or a green label.  They know what makes a difference and will ask the right kind of questions.  It forces hoteliers to look more carefully at their supply chains and secondary impacts on the environment and the communities that they operate in.

avoid the use of plastic bottles
It is no longer good enough to just recycle.  We need to avoid creating plastic trash by getting rid of disposable plastic bottles for drinks in hotels and resorts.

Let us know what you think.  Do you agree?  Did we forget something?  Send us a note to info@cayugaonline.com.  Happy New Year 2015 to all of our readers.  

The Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels and Lodges is considered a world leader in sustainable hospitality.  The Cayuga Hotels redefine the symbiosis of luxury and sustainability through the concept of Experience, Learn, Connect and Relax and create legendary and authentic service experiences for guests, sustainable development for the communities where they operate.

working with plants during environmental education
Getting involved in local communities is a key component of sustainable hospitality and can be a great attraction to guests if done correctly.  Another example of “interpretation” of the experience.
Dennis Cummins in Costa Rica

Common knowledge: Fish Starts to Rot from the Head

April 15, 2016

…  or how to have excellent managers and leadership at small sustainable luxury hotels in remote locations.

Our guests at the Cayuga Collection Sustainable Luxury Hotels and Lodges rave about our staff.  They love the efficient and professional service and comments especially on how friendly, authentic and genuine the service experience is.  This is no coincidence.  We spend a lot of time in training and motivation of our staff and team leaders and pay even more attention to training our top level managers.

The saying that “fish starts to rot from the head” is something that we have very present and we make sure that those heads are “fresh and unspoiled”.  Unless we have excellent leadership at the hotels by our managers, there is no world class service delivery and things start to disintegrate.

Cayuga Team after practical culinary training
Cayuga Corporate and Management Team. Top, left to right: Jorge, Howard, Alejandra, Jose Pablo, Ana Maria, Douglas, Monica, Maria Jose, Irene, Marijke, Jose Pablo, Andrea, Alfonso, Eduardo. Bottom left to right: Daniel, Mauricio, Martin, Monica, Andres, Ana Catalina.

Here is an example of how we train and motivate our management staff.  These kind of events happen about four times per year with a different focus each time.  An earlier event this year focused on sustainability and last week it was all about Food & Beverage Management.

We started off by a morning of classroom style training at the Sabores Culinary Training Center in Escazu, San Jose.  The most important topic covered was food safety and hygiene but also techniques, equipment and kitchen vocabulary.  Do you know what “mise-en-place” means?

Food and Beverage Training
Classroom style lecture on Food and Beverage related Topics.  For many of us it felt like going back to university.  Thanks Chef Gustavo for making this part very interactive and fun.

After the practical part (nobody fell asleep), we passed to the more fun part.  How to scale and filet fish, judge the freshness of the seafood that is delivered to our hotels and prepare in a way that brings out the best of those delicate ingredients.  We learned the same about poultry and beef which are other components on our menus.

Culinary Techniques on how to deal with seafood
Practical demonstration on the correct handling of seafood which is a very important part of the culinary offering at the Cayuga Collection Hotels and Resorts.  Very present in this picture, the management team of Kura Design Villas in Uvita.

Doing it ourselves!  The only way that we are able to supervise the production of food in our kitchen is if we understand the processes and know what it takes to prepare a great meal.  Culinary arts are not taught in a classroom setting.

Culinary Training at Sabores, Escazu
Howard, GM of Jicaro Island Ecolodge in Nicaragua and Jorge, GM of Arenas del Mar Beachfront and Rainforest Resort in Manuel Antonio in culinary training preparing a blue cheese Bechamel sauce from scratch.

Day one completed successfully.  After all the theory and practical excercises, we actually got to eat what we cooked.  Fish was as fresh as it gets.  No bad smells recognizable…the heads were all very intact.  Do you recognize any of the managers under those chef hats and hair nets?

Cayuga Hotels love Costa Rica Craft Beers
Fabiana, from Costa Rica Craft Brewing Company during her presentation on Craft Beers to the Cayuga Team.  We love the Segua and Libertas microbrews and are excited about the third brand coming out in January:  Malacrianza a Scotish Ale.

The next day, we met for a session of cost control & strategy and menu planing in the morning and by lunch time, we got to the fun part of the day.  Beer pairing with a great lunch offered by Chef Luis Protti in his house in Barrio Aranjuez and Fabiana from Costa Rica Craft Brewing Company, the makers of Libertas and Segua.

Cayuga Lunch at Luis Protti's house
The team savoring a different kind of lunch in a beautiful setting with beer pairing. Yes, this is considered work at Cayuga.  Learning about food and beverage trends to make sure we offer the best possible culinary experience to our guests.

In the afternoon, we also had sessions on specialty teas and organic coffee presented by local experts before we headed to the final activity of the evening.  A traditional Gala Dinner at the Restaurant of the Hotel Grano de Oro.  Many of our managers who live in rural areas of Costa Rica don’t have access to formal events and we wanted to show them culinary experiences that many of our hotel and lodge guests experience at home where they live.  So we dressed up…

Gala Dinner at the Grano de Oro Hotel
We never dress like this. You are more likely to see us in casual shirts, shorts, flip flops or hiking boots at work. But it was a great event for all of us and a very special dinner prepared by our colleagues at the Grano de Oro Hotel.

Great managers don’t grow on trees, they are formed.  Especially if the corporate philosophy is to work with a 100% local workforce.  Next time you stay at a Cayuga Collection Sustainable Luxury Hotel or Lodge, ask about the training programs that are happening every year and how important that is to the managers professional development and motivation.  We are already planning our next Cayuga Managers’s Get Together for 2015.  Stay tuned…

Is Sustainability no longer “in fashion”?

April 14, 2016

In the past months, we have found that google searches for topics like Ecolodge and Ecotourism have not been as prominent as a few years ago.   So we dug in a bit deeper as we got concerned that sustainability could have been considered just a ” trend” or a ” fad”.

We looked at Google Trends for statistics on searches for topics that we relate with sustainability in general:   Ecotourism, Sustainability, Eco and Sustainable.   We limited our search for the US only as it is the most important feeder market for tourism here in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Searches for Sustainability Related Topics
Development of Searches for Sustainability related topics over the past 10 years.  Significant growth started in 2007.  Note the peak in April 2010.  Projections for 2015 show no significant changes.

Not too surprising, we found that interest in topics related to sustainability started to grow exponentially in 2007 and peaked in April 2010.   However, then things started to level off and even decrease.   The current interest levels are still well above 2007, however, Google predicts zero to negative growth for the next months on those search terms.

So what happened?   Was sustainability really just a trend?   Is it out of fashion?   Did the economic recovery in the US play a role in this?  Have we just accepted that our lifestyles are not sustainable?  Are we sick and tired of hearing about climate change?    So what would it take to put interest sustainability back on track?

www.laparios.com
Puma in the Lapa Rios Ecolodge Private Reserve on the Osa Peninsula.  Definition of Ecotourism: tourism directed toward exotic, often threatened, natural environments, especially to support conservation efforts and observe wildlife.

One thing is for sure, sustainability is a great concept, but not a very sexy word.  Try to use the word sustainable in a promotional campaign.  It does not really work so well.  ” Eco” does much better, but what does it mean?   Eco-what?   We have come across many  projects that call themselves ” Eco Residential” because they planted a few trees around the parking lot, ” Eco Golf Courses” are built  in arid areas of the world and the other day we found  an ” Eco Car Wash” which is ““ no pun intended ““ probably the winner of this green washing trend.

But back to our original question.   Is sustainability only a trend and no longer in fashion?   Maybe in the mainstream media.   But here is what we found on the ground at our Sustainable Luxury Hotels and Eco Lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.  We run certificed  Eco Lodges and are involved in long term  Ecotourism projects.

Restaurant at Jicaro
Diamanda started as a waitress at Jicaro Island Ecolodge in Nicaragua and now is the leader of the food and beverage department.  Sustainable tourism involves training a local staff and offering them opportunities.

Our guests very much appreciate all the efforts we make to be more sustainable every day.   They are becoming more sophisticated and ask the right kind of questions.   More and more they are understanding that it not just about energy efficient buildings and Leed Certification.   The hiring and training of the local staff, the farm and ocean to table culinary concepts, the interpretation of nature and culture by local guides and the connection with the communities where we operate are just a few of the concepts that our guests get to experience every day.

We have been working on making the sustainability industry more sustainable since the mid-90’s when the word sustainability was only used by a few college professors and tree-huggers.   And of course we were very happy when public figures like Al Gore and Sir Richard Branson brought sustainability to attention of the masses as it supported our efforts even more.   But no matter where the trend goes, we will continue every day to make sure that our operations and the communities where we operate are continuing their path to creating a better future for the next generations.   In the end, that is what sustainability is all about.

www.arenasdelmar.com
Getting involved in Sustainability Experiences creates great guest satisfaction.  Planting a tree near Manuel Antonio National Park as part of the sustainability program of Arenas del Mar Beachfront and Rainforest Resort.

We would love to hear your opinion on this.   Do you think that sustainability is just a trend?   Or do you think the eco and green movement are here to stay.   Send us a note to info@cayugaonline.com or visit our Facebook Page and leave a comment.

The Cayuga Collection is made up of eight eco lodges, eco resorts, and sustainable hotels in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.  We strive to create the perfect symbiosis of sustainability and luxury always providing a sense of place taking into account local culture and customs. We are the antithesis of mass tourism.   For more information, visit our website.