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.

tortilla-1 (1)
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!

IMG_5769
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.

IMG_4326 (1)
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.

Has Costa Rica lost it’s edge in Eco Tourism?

April 10, 2016

It is not unusual to come across an article when a travel writer points out that Costa Rica has seen its best days and has become a mass tourism destination and lost its edge as an eco-tourism or sustainable tourism destination. We don’t quite agree. Costa Rica continues to be a world leader in sustainable and eco-tourism.  Today more than ever.

www.laparios.com
Guided Rainforest Hike with Edwin Villareal at Lapa Rios Eco Lodge on the Osa Peninsula

There is no point in denying that there has been a strong influx of all-inclusive and branded resorts in Guanacaste and an increased arrival of tourists looking for a sun and beach vacation through the Liberia Airport.  We have voiced our concerns about this topic in a previous blog and continue to monitor this development carefully.  We are not happy to see developments such as 900 room Spanish-owned all inclusive resorts here in Costa Rica as we feel that it is not the essence of what Costa Rica is about.

Costa Rica, like any other developing country, is battling its brown environmental issues of water treatment, solid waste management and air pollution.  Not an easy task, but progress is being made and the efforts to clean the streets, rivers and air in the more densely populated areas of the country show steady progress.

www.harmonynosara.com
Waste water treatment plant at the Harmony Hotel in Nosara

Tourist arrivals to the Juan Santamaria Airport in San Jose (gateway to central and southern Costa Rica) have actually decreased in the past years, while arrivals to Liberia have been on a sharp rise. Mostly due to charters full of tourists looking for sun and fun. It appears that Costa Rica is developing parallel models of tourism; one of sun and beach tourism and one of eco-tourism. And all of this within the same small country. This is not unusual in tourism destinations and can be observed all over the world in places like Thailand, Spain, Italy and Mexico.

We don’t blame the travel writer that comes to Costa Rica for a repeat visit after having been here in the 1990’s and sees that things have changed.   We have seen those changes as well.  More hotels, vacation homes, restaurants and more visitors.  The same would be true – and maybe even more so than here in Costa Rica – on a return visit 20 years later to Machu Pichu in Peru, Chiang Mai in Thailand or Bali in Indonesia. Several visitors have commented to us that what bothers them most are so many International Franchises in the San Jose area (McDonalds, Taco Bell, Applebee’s, Marriott, Holiday Inn, Century 21, etc.)

But despite this, fact is that you can still have incredible nature experiences in remote and pristine areas of the country.  The Ticos are as friendly and open to visitors as ever, wildlife is abundant ““ maybe even more abundant than 20 years ago due to increased conservation efforts and awareness.  There are few places in the world where you can experience the variety of rain forest, beach and aquatic tours, adventures and activities than in the Manuel Antonio, Dominical and Uvita area of the Central Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.

www.arenasdelmar.com
Adventures and Tours on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast

The Osa Peninsula and the Golfo Dulce in Southern Costa Rica is one of the most special and unique eco systems of the world and one of the best eco-tourism destinations on the planet.  The tiny peninsula is home to 2.5 percent of the world’s biodiversity.  According to National Geographic, the Corcovado National Park  is one of the world’s most biologically intense places in the world.   The Golfo Dulce is one of the world’s few tropical fjords.

At Cayuga we are optimistic about the future.  Costa Rica just elected a new president and we hope that the focus of economic development (including tourism) will be on quality and not quantity.  During the last two decades, Costa Rica has transformed itself from one of the world’s most rapidly deforesting countries to one of the foremost pioneers in land and forest protection. Today, 52% of the country is forested; 26% of its land and 3% of oceans are in a system of protected areas.

Lapa Rios Eco Resort from the air
Lapa Rios Eco Lodge on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica

In 1997, Costa Rica became the first country to initiate a payment plan for environmental services (PES program) and to adopt the terminology of environmental services. Natural resource accounting was undertaken as early as 1991 in Costa Rica.  In 2007 Costa Rica made the pledge to be carbon neutral by 2021. In 2014, according to the Ministry of the Environment 81 percent of this carbon neutrality goal has been achieved.

All Cayuga Collection Hotels and Lodges strive to help Costa Rica maintain its leadership role in sustainable and eco-tourism by continuously innovating and improving our sustainable practices and focusing on the things that make us so unique.  Just a few examples below. For more information visit www.cayugacollection.com.

  • Interpretation:   We have the best nature guides that can decipher the different eco systems in the country and add incredible value to a hike through a rain forest.
  • Focus on a local staff:  We hire locals. We train them and give them the opportunity to grow.
  • Local products:  We support the local and organic agriculture in Costa Rica. We buy local grass fed beef, hormone free chicken and responsibly caught seafood.
  • We support the schools in the communities that we operate and invest in the development of a countrywide environmental education system.

Things are far from perfect.  Not in Costa Rica, nor at the Cayuga Collection Hotels and Lodges.  But we have been working towards sustainability for over 20 years now and we have made great progress on the one hand and at the same time realized how much still needs to be done.  We have seen the challenges and the success stories.  We have seen the victories and the setbacks. There is still a long way to go.

www.cayugaonline.com
Conde Nast World Saver Award Ceremony in New York City. Cayuga wins its second World Saver Award.

But we also know that we are still leading the pack and are an inspiration for others. And by the way, this is not a competition. We will all win in this. We would love all tourism destinations and hospitality groups in the world to be as sustainable as possible and have invited other hospitality professionals around the world to visit us. At Cayuga, we have been working for over 15 years to make sure that our neighbor to the North, Nicaragua is going down the right track and opened two highly successful ecolodges.

Comments?  Questions?  We would love to hear from you.  Send us a note to hans@cayugaonline.com.

Not your typical travel blog…

February 15, 2016

Since launching our Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality blog we have been able to write and share our point of view on many topics within the hotel industry of Costa Rica/Nicaragua, and trends we’re seeing within the tourism industry at large.

Marino Ballena
The coastline of the Marino Ballena Park,. Finding inspiration for our hospitality blog comes from the natural beauty of Costa Rica

Our posts have covered topics such as: Travel and the Zika Virus, the best time to travel to Costa Rica or Nicaragua, sustainability certification exposed, Cayuga’s connection to Matt Damon, and many posts on the valuable pillars of sustainability.

  1. The Zika Virus: If I lived in the US or Europe, would I travel to Costa Rica right now?
  2. Don’t kill yourself working so hard
  3. Should I trust TripAdvisor’s Sustainability Initiative? 
  4. When is the best time to visit Costa Rica?
  5. Sustainability is so much more than energy efficiency
  6. A spaceflight to Mars starts in Costa Rica
  7. To the rescue of the Costa Rican Tourism Model
  8. Luxury and Sustainability – An Oxymoron in Hospitality?

Running a network of independently owned eco-lodges gives us a unique viewpoint and we’re excited to share what we’re seeing at Cayuga. Sign up for the Cayuga Newsletter in the sidebar to keep up to date with all our latest posts, or if you’re a travel agent signup for our agency newsletter for exclusive tools that will help your clients plan and book their trips.

Let us know what sort of topics you would like covered by leaving a comment below.

Whale Watching at Lapa Rios

Whales in Uvita Costa Rica

July 15, 2015

Of all the wildlife in Costa Rica, seeing a whale is perhaps the most exhilarating experience. Luckily, Costa Rica is home to an estimated 25 whale and dolphin species which migrate, mate and live in the coastal waters of both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea.  As a breeding ground for many whale species, Costa Rica is one of the best places in the world for whale watching thanks to its warm waters and protected inlets.

The best time to visit for whale-watching is mid-July to October and December to March as the whales migrate and bread along the coastlines. Both Southern hemisphere humpbacks traveling from Antarctica and Northern hemisphere humpbacks travelling from Alaska pass by Costa Rica. As you can see, the Humpback whales are one of the farthest migrating animals on Earth.

whale tail

Famed for the Humpbacks who spend more than eight months in the waters off Uvita, Kura Design Villas is by far, one of the best places to see whales. The Ballena National Marine Park, visible from Kura’s patio, offers the longest Humpback whale season in the world. This national park, fittingly named after the whales that commonly visit and the whale tail shaped sandbar, is a natural oasis full of pristine beaches and teaming with wildlife such as whales, dolphins, sea turtles, birds and tropical fish.

Humpback whales are easier to spot thanks to their distinctive hump and black dorsal fin. These whales also prefer to spend much of their time on the surface and near the shore and can grow from 12 – 16 meters in length.

Although the humpback whale is seen most often, this area is home to pseudo-orcas, pilot whales, spotted dolphins, spinner dolphins, bottle-nose dolphins and common dolphins. During your stay at Kura Design Villas you may want to take a day trip to maximize your whale watching experience and enjoy the surrounding scenery.  Half day whale watching or snorkeling tours are offered, depending on the season. Visit Caño Island Biological Reserve, the perfect paradise for diving and snorkeling. Here you have the opportunity to see turtles, dolphins, sting rays, moray eels, barracudas, tuna snapper, parrot fish, puffers and more. Deeper diving off the island may present white-tipped reef shark, silky shark, bull shark, with occasional whale shark and the amazing humpback whale. This all day tour includes a picnic lunch and an optional guided hike on the island.

If you chose to travel a little farther down the coast, Drake Bay, is another common breading ground for whales thanks to the calm waters in this area.  If you’re lucky, you’ll see a mom playing with her new baby splashing in the water near the shoreline as she teaches her young how to breach, dive and feed.

If you’re closer to Harmony Hotel, on the Nicoya Peninsula, there are also good places to go whale watching. The Tambor and Pochote beaches are places where humpback whales are most commonly seen.  While whale-watching tours are not common in these areas, snorkeling and scuba diving are the best options for spotting marine wildlife. Sightings in this area include humpback whales, bottle-nose dolphins, spinner dolphins, common dolphins and sea turtles.

Isla-del-Cano_1-450x225snorkelling

If you love animals and the ocean, then going whale watching in Costa Rica will be an activity you definitely shouldn’t miss out on. It’s an amazing experience to see these impressive creatures and reminds us just how much we need to protect our nature and earth.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology & Costa Rica’s Cayuga Hotels Tropical Birding Expedition

September 18, 2014

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Cayuga Collection Hotels and Lodges in Costa Rica invite you to join them on a 10-day Tropical Birding Expedition, Nov. 10 ““ 20, 2014

This Tropical Birding Expedition will guide guests through some of the most diverse and plentiful bird habitats in the Costa Rica, while providing avid birders the opportunity to enjoy eco-luxury amenities at a variety of award winning, sustainable properties. Additionally, guests will experience both primary and re-generating rainforests and a coffee plantation, many differing ecosystems hosting a myriad of Central American species. As a bonus, North American migrants will have arrived, better informing the need for neo-tropical forest conservation.

Eco Lodge view
View from Lapa Rios Eco Lodge on the Osa Peninsula, the third stop of the Tropical Birding Expedition in Costa Rica.

Included in the expedition are visits to Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort near San Jose, Arenas Del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort in Manuel Antonio, and the famed Lapa Rios Ecolodge on the southern tip of the Osa Peninsula. Guests have the opportunity to sign up for the full 10-day tour, or arrange schedules to join the avitourism activities at any of these properties.  Below, you find some of the highlighted activities at each location.

www.fincarosablanca.com
Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation & Inn in the Central Highlands of Costa Rica is the first stop of the Tropical Birding Expedition organized by Cayuga and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort near San Jose:   November 10th through 12th, 2014

–                   Presentation on Costarican Bird Diversity by Cornell Experts

–                   Early bird expedition in the Central Highlands.

–                   Cornell e-Bird presentation.

–                   Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Tour

–                   Networking opportunity with local sustainability and birding experts.

Information or Reservations

guided birding at arenas del mar in manuel antiono
Ersel is the resident guide at Arenas del Mar Resort in Manuel Antonio and will join forces with the experts from Cornell to create some very special birding moments for our participants.

Arenas del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort in Manuel Antonio:   November 12th through 15th, 2014

–                   Guided birding drive from the Central Highlands to the Central Pacific Coast.

–                   Birding excursion to the coastal mountains to observe higher altitude birds.

–                   Excursion along the shores of the Pacific coast of to observe shore birds.

–                   Visit to Manuel Antonio National Park with resident guides.

–                   Cornell e-bird presentation.

–                   Presentation on Costarican Bird Diversity by Cornell Experts

Information or Reservations

Lapa Rios Eco Lodge
The Scarlet Macaw is very commonly seen at and around Lapa Rios Eco Lodge on the Osa Peninsula.  This colorful bird is just one species of 360 that have been recorded around the eco lodge.

Lapa Rios Eco Lodge on the Osa Peninsula:   November 15th through 19th, 2014

–                   Guided birding drive from the Central Pacific Coast to the Osa Peninsula.

–                   Presentation on Costarican Bird Diversity by Cornell Experts

–          Golfo Dulce Birding excursion to find the Endemic Mangrove Hummingbird.

–                   Cornell e-bird presentation.

–                   Full day birding in the vicinity of Corcovado National Park.

–                   Treetop birding tour using the infrastructure of a nearby Canopy Tour.

–                   Cornell Expert Training Sessions for local guides.

Information or Reservations

Open Air Ocean Breezes at www.arenasdelmar.com in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.
Open Air Ocean Breeze Suite at Arenas del Mar Resort in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.  On this birding expedition, we will be staying at some of the most luxurious hotels and lodges in Costa Rica.

All participants in the program or part of the program qualify for a 35 per cent reduced room cost at each property.   All transportation and birding events are either free of charged at ” cost” for land or water based transportation.  Reservations.

The area near the hotels and lodges offer a wide range of bird species, including the scarlet macaw, laughing falcon, dozens of tanagers, toucans, and colorful hummingbird species. To help maintain the natural habitats and migration of these birds, each of the Cayuga Collection properties have taken steps to enhance conservation efforts.

 

Birding in Costa Rica

At Finca Rosa Blanca, the tree-shaded organic coffee plantation is a natural draw for birds seeking insects, fruit and shelter. Thanks to the many native trees planted on site, the shade trees in turn provide nutrients and nitrogen to the coffee plants.

Arenas Del Mar uses only native plant species throughout the property to attract bird life found in the Central Pacific zone including the common black hawks, trogons and toucan varieties.

Bird Watching in Costa Rica

 

John and Karen Lewis, the visionary founders of Lapa Rios Ecolodge and Reserve, signed a conservation easement benefiting permanent biodiversity protection to more than 900 acres of tropical rainforest. In addition to almost all Costa Rican animal species, reptiles, amphibians, etc., more than 360 bird species have been recorded. For a bird list, visit http://www.laparios.com/birders_paradise.html.

Joining from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology will be husband-and-wife team Ben Freeman and Alexa Class Freeman.

About Ben Freeman

Birds have fascinated Ben Freeman for as long as he can remember”” in fact, his first memory is of staring up at a flock of soaring American White Pelicans. Following an undergraduate degree in biology, Ben was drawn to the incredible biodiversity of the tropics where he worked as a bird guide and researcher in Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia. He is now a graduate student at Cornell University, where he conducts research investigating tropical bird ecology.

About Alexa Class Freeman

Alexa Class Freeman is a PhD biologist who has studied birds throughout the world for the past decade, including over a year spent in Costa Rica where she climbed dead trees and vacuumed ants in the name of science. She is also an artist, and is especially captivated by bird behavior and how birds adapt to seasonal changes in the environment. Alexa is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology where she works to educate the public about the conservation biology of birds.

birds of costa rica

About Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality

Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality develops and manages hotels, lodges and other tourism related projects in Central America commit to the four Ps of sustainability ““ people, planet, profit and place. It offers solutions and expertise to tourism operators looking to enhance their performance in an environmentally, socially responsible manner. Cayuga provides expert responsible travel advice, including full itinerary suggestions for families, adventurers and honeymooners.

 

 

Update from Hotel Grano de Oro’s Social Project Casa Luz

September 8, 2014

An update from Casa Luz.  An incredible charity project that has been started by the owners of the Cayuga Collection Hotel Grano de Oro in San Jose.

The mission of Casa Luz is to break the inter generational cycle of abuse and sexual exploitation of children in Costa Rica. This is accomplished by providing a safe, loving, Christian environment for at risk young mothers (age 15+) and their children. This environment provides the resources necessary to allow these families healthy and successful reintegration into society.

Casa Luz
Children at Casa Luz

As you are aware, we began construction of 8 single family apartments in July 2013. The process was not without delays and frustrations but with patience and perseverance we now have beautiful new homes for our Casa Luz families as they move out of Stage 1 to begin integration back into the community.

We are thankful for all the financial and physical assistance we received in order to make this dream a reality:

In January 2014 we received a work team from RockPointe Church in Calgary. They were a group of able bodied enthusiastic young people. The plan was they would come and do some landscaping in front of the new building. Of course with the delays, this work could not be done, so they agreed to change the plan and became painters. It was a grueling job of sanding and priming cement walls and dry walled ceilings. They were amazing and accomplished an incredible amount of work in a short period of time.

Casa Luz
Casa Luz Construction of New Building

Our second group arrived in Feb. but with a different purpose. In order to accommodate the children from Casa Luz and the new apartments, we needed to expand our daycare/preschool facility. Again the group was from RockPointe Church and included 3 members who were returning to Casa Luz for the second time. The transformation of two of our existing apartments into a calm colorful childlike space was miraculous to say the least. Their commitment and accomplishment amazed all the young moms and staff in Casa Luz. Walls came down, doorways were moved, plumbing and electrical relocated, cupboards installed and finally all was painted in soft pastel colors”¦all in one week’s time!

As March arrived we began to feel like the apartments would never be finished. Our third group was sent by Samaritan’s Purse Canada. They came prepared to paint but did so much more. They painted the remaining apartments, installed the kitchen cabinets, ceiling fans, and bathroom hardware AND painted the entire exterior of the building! The process of transforming homes from the mess they encountered upon arrival inspired them to do great things!

Casa Luz
New Kitchen at Casa Luz

During the time they spent with us, we had many conversations about the plan for the rest of the property and the dream of grass for the kids to play on. They experienced firsthand the dirt and dust that blew constantly into the apartments and saw the need for the large unused area beside the new building to be finished in some manner. The day before they left we were given the amazing news that the church that a number of them belonged to in Three Hills, Alberta, had agreed to pay for the entire area to be grassed and an underground watering system to be installed in order to water at night to help lower the cost of keeping the grass green and child friendly during the long, hot and dry summers.

Casa Luz
Finished new apartments at Casa Luz

As of the end of May, we have 3 families living in the new apartments. They are still in disbelief that they are living independently in a place they could never have dreamed of having. The transition has gone smoothly. Two of the mothers are working and the third has a new baby.   This is a new challenge for the staff and ourselves as we define the roll we will all play in the lives of these families, to ensure they continue to grow spiritually and as mothers.

Casa Luz
New apartments in action at Casa Luz

We continue to be blessed by all of you in so many ways. Your financial assistance, donations of items like handmade quilts (RockPointe ladies). clothing, craft and card making supplies and your continued prayers are very much appreciated. Thanks Margret for the amazing aprons the girls received for Mother’s Day. Blessings to all of you from all of us at Casa Luz!

Contact Casa Luz at  http://www.hotelgranodeoro.com/our_social_project.html.

Casa Luz
Casa Luz

After beating Uruguay in the World Cup: Costa Rica is Soccer Crazy

June 17, 2014

Every four years, the world meets for the most important soccer tournament, the World Cup.  This year, the tournament is played in Brazil and Costa Rica has qualified to take part this this tournament after being absent in the last World Cup in South Africa in 2010. In the group phase, Costa Rica (the national team is called:  “La Selecion Nacional” or in short “Sele”) plays against three former World Champions:  Italy, England and Uruguay.  Needless to say that Costa Rica is the big underdog.

www.arenasdelmar.com
GOOOOOL. Costa Rica winning. Big party at the beach at Arenas del Mar Beachfront and Rainforest Resort in Manuel Antonio.  

Last Saturday, the action began for Costa Rica.  The “Sele” played Uruguay and after trailing 0:1 in the first half, they turned the game around to win 3:1.  A big surprise to the whole soccer world and a great party here in Costa Rica.  All of a sudden, Costa Rica is getting a lot of press coverage.  On Friday this week, Costa Rica will face Italy and has the chance to make history.

www.arenasdelmar.com
Free Face paint for all guests at Arenas del Mar.  Professionally applied by Priscilla of the Las Brisas Spa.

Most of the guests that visit us this time of the year are North Americans and while soccer is gaining in popularity (The US Soccer Team beat Ghana in its first game 2:1), the big sports in the US and Canada are still Football, Baseball, Basketball and Hockey.  But once here in Costa Rica, many North American guests get “infected” by the soccer feever that is currently lived in the whole country.

Manuel Antonio Beachfront Soccer
Everybody going with Costa Rica. Soccer fun at the beachfront restaurant Playitas

Talking about the soccer world cup results and Costa Rica’s National Team’s chances to move to the next round are the number one topics of conversation among the staff at the Cayuga Collection Hotels these days.  So how do we live soccer in our hotels, where in most cases we are located in remote  rainforest and beach locations and no TV’s are available in the guest rooms?

www.arenasdelmar.com
Celebrating Costa Rica’s win at the Playitas Beachfront Restaurant of Arenas del Mar in Manuel Antonio.  Costa Rica wins 3:1 against Uruguay.

Television sets are available only in the rooms of Arenas del Mar Resort in Manuel Antonio and the Hotel Grano de Oro in San Jose.  In Arenas del Mar, we have set up a large screed Televion at the beachfront restaurant Playitas and the first game of Costa Rica was ONE BIG PARTY.

www.arenasdelmar.com
Rodbin, Hedmi, Adrian and Alexis. Happy to see Costa Rica win.

In the case of the eco lodges or smaller boutique hotels like Lapa Rios, Latitude 10, Kura, Finca Rosa Blanca and Harmony, there are no TV sets in the hotel areas in order not to disturb guests that are looking for peace and quiet.  However, guests that are looking to connect with the locals, are welcome to join the employees for soccer transmissions in the employee areas or accompany the staff to local bars and restaruants.  A great way to live the party like locals.

www.arenasdelmar.com
Passion for Soccer among our female staff. Estibaliz, Priscilla and Hannia.

So what about Nicaragua?  Historically, Nicaragua has been a Baseball Nation.  However, the Costa Rican player that scored the second goal against Uruguay is of Nicaraguan descent so that the soccer feever has also arrived in Nicaragua.  If you plan to stay at Jicaro Island Ecolodge in the next few days, we will be happy to take you to a local bar in Granada to experience the excitement of the world cup.

 

What is the meaning of “Pura Vida” in Costa Rica?

March 11, 2014

If you come to visit us in Costa Rica and have some interaction with the locals (a.k.a. Ticos), you will soon notice that two words just keep on coming up:   Pura Vida.   What does that mean and why is it used all the time by everybody?

Pure Life?  

Pura Vida
A great example of Pura Vida at Lapa Rios Eco Lodge

The expression has been around for over 50 years and there are different stories of the origin of the expression.   Some say from the early interaction of foreign surfing pioneers on the Costa Rican coasts and locals and others say from a Mexican television series.   Maybe both”¦

In everyday life, it is used in ways such as:   Hello;  How are you?;   Goodbye;   I understand;   Take it Easy;   All is good;   enjoy life and many more.   It is probably the most important two words that you need to know when on a Costa Rican Vacation.

But more than just expressions in everyday life, Pura Vida really stands for what makes Costa Rica different and unique.   It describes the way of the life of the Ticos and Ticas.   That friendly laid back curious attitude they have towards life.   All is just Pura Vida here.   All is good ““ even when not everything is good.   That is the interesting part.

If you are readying this and have no idea what this is all about”¦ time to come visit here and live and feel Pura Vida.   If you have been to Costa Rica before, this probably wants to make you come back to Pura Vida country.

At the Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels and Lodges, we try to live the Pura Vida every day through our unique concept of Experience, Learn, Connect and Relax.   We want our guests to have Pura Vida Experiences such as waking up to the noise of the howler monkeys in the rain forest near Corcovado National Park or the Nicoya Peninsula.   We want them to learn how to catch a wave or understand how organic coffee is grown here.   We want them to connect with our staff, the local culture and local food and of course find time to relax and let go.

Pura Vida is used in advertising today
Pura Vida

And once you have learned the Pura Vida way, we will take you north of the border to Nicaragua where you can then learn all about ” Va Pue’ ”

Do you want to share a Pura Vida story with us?  Send us a mail to info@cayugaonline.com or post it on our Facebook Page.

 

Where to have dinner in San Jose, Costa Rica?

February 8, 2014

Many of our guests at the Cayuga Collection Sustainable Luxury Hotels and Resorts ask us about restaurant recommendations in San Jose.   After spending a few days at the beach or in the rainforest, they often have an overnight stay in San Jose and want to go out to a nice dinner.   Here some ideas of the places where we go and have meals.

Product C provides fish to Cayuga Collection
Fresh and responsibly caught fish from Product C

Often, we get asked for ” typical” restaurants.   This is probably the hardest one to recommend as we don’t want to send you to a tourist trap.   So, the best option here would be Tiquicia, which is located up in the mountains of Escazu.   It is a popular spot for locals, especially couples enjoying the spectacular views of the city lights at night.   Another option in the mountains of Escazu is Plaza Espana, which is a small restaurant in an old colonial house serving Spanish Tapas and great wines.   And finally there is La Casona de Lali, which is a very informal restaurant in the center of Escazu.   If you are not looking for a formal experience, this might be the place. They are also open for lunch.

Dining Room at Grano de Oro Restaruant
Dining Room at Grano de Oro Restaurant www.hotelgranodeoro.com

If you are looking for a more fine dining experience to celebrate a special occasion, the best choice by far is the Restaurant at the Grano de Oro Hotel (if you stay there for that night, even better).   It is the only restaurant in Costa Rica that has been awarded a prize by Wine Spectator and the place to go for the locals that want to truly treat themselves to something special.

The best place to have seafood is Product C, which is located in the modern development of Avenida Escazu where many other restaurants, bars, shops and cinemas are located.   Besides running the restaurant there, Produce C is our supplier of responsibly caught seafood and we work side by side to make sure that the seafood served at the Cayuga Collection Hotels and Lodges is the best and freshest, but also taking into account the preservation of our marine resources.

Organically Grown Greens at Finca Rosa Blanca
Organically Grown Greens at Finca Rosa Blanca www.fincarosablanca.com

If you are staying nearby the airport and don’t want to take the ride all the way into town, we recommend you have dinner at the Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation.   You can stay there overnight as well.   This small Inn is located about 20 minutes from the International Airport and easily accessible from all the hotels near the airport by taxi.   The restaurant El Tirgre Vestido serves Latin Fusion cuisine cooked with fresh ingredients that bring alive traditional Costa Rican and Central American dishes.

Let us know if you have any other recommendations.   We would love to hear from you at info@cayugaonline.com.

The Cayuga Collection consists of  eight eco lodges, eco resorts, and sustainable hotels  in different regions of Costa Rica and Nicaragua.  All of them specialize in creating the symbiosis of sustainability and luxury always providing a sense of place taking into account local culture and customs.

 

How Does a Child of the 60’s land in Organic Coffee in Costa Rica

February 3, 2014

By: Glenn Jampol, Co-owner,  Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation and Inn,  Santa Barbara de Heredia,  Costa Rica

I’m a coffee guy and I am still not entirely clear how I landed here; in this job with this love for a Latin American cultural iconic product that I never really knew much about. And okay I’ll admit it, I went to the University of California at Berkeley in the 1960’s and as you can imagine, many of my hippy friends at that time were involved either directly or indirectly with ” agriculture” and unfortunately, it was usually a familiar plant that doesn’t mingle well with the legal system.   In one way or another at that time, we all felt some need to create a renewed and more authentic relationship with the earth, because we had helplessly watched the explosive growth of multi-national companies and increasingly felt isolated without direct connections with our dear Mother Nature. Our confidence had been numbed and we became cynical about whether we were buying safe and healthy foods to eat, or if we were being protected from harmful chemicals when we consumed processed foods at the store.

www.fincarosablanca.com
www.fincarosablanca.com

In 1985 we jumped in -head to toe -and bought 8 acres of property on which we dreamed of building a family home on what had earlier been a Motocross field, adorned with a mess of grass moguls and mud holes which had replaced the earlier coffee plantation which now lay decimated. All that was left were 10 or 12 giant fig trees, called an Higuerón, interspersed throughout the farm, which were the only witnesses or reminders of the bygone era of the giant, tree shaded abundant coffee fields. In 1989, after a lot of culture shock, learning the ropes of permitting and a heaping dose of idealism and optimism combined into a tonic of dreams, we opened Finca Rosa Blanca Country Inn. In 2006, we renamed the hotel to   Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort

We purchased the current coffee farm in 2003 because the coffee economy had succumbed to a glut of coffee and the prices nosedived to an   extremely depressed level and the farmers could no longer afford to even to pick their coffee, let alone fertilize it, in order to maintain its health and potential.   As a result, many salivating developers were eagerly buying these beautifully located and productive coffee farms at very cheap prices and later converting them into boring, modular and totally unattractive urbanizations of low cost housing and creating a new suburbia, which had an affect not only on the culture and agricultural history of the community, but also on the aesthetics of the surrounding areas.   I remember that Bill Vaughn once wrote that”¦ “Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them”   I resolved with very little self-resistance to plunge into this challenge with the mission of renewing the coffee- this important cultural icon of the area that I had grown to love and called my home. I guess one could say I felt drawn to the earth, to the proliferation of the exquisite gourmet coffee that had for generations been growing and thriving and pleasing the pallets of so many across the globe.

I recollect standing in the middle our soon to be newly acquired and striking coffee field, and remarking to Teresa, my wife and partner, that this sojourn might be one of the most beautiful nature based experiences in my lifetime; to just stand there and admire those striking and yet oddly humble coffee plants surrounded by their cohorts, the native nitrogen producing Poró trees, resplendent in their myriad outstretched branches and glowing with their ferociously orange flower cones, and like some kind of woodsy peacock, regaling their feathers to all who care to admire them.   When this cathartic experience had succumbed to reality I experienced a brief moment of maturity, and realized that we actually knew nothing at all about coffee. Like a Zen koan, I was suddenly overcome with the inevitability of the most basic quandary: how were we going to financially sustain a coffee field with no prior experience. In retrospect I now can appreciate the great proclamation by the recently late and great Pete Seeger, ” Do you know the difference between education and experience? Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don’t.”

www.fincarosablanca.com
www.fincarosablanca.com

We went back to our roots, (so to speak), and realized that our strengths lie in the development and innovation of methods for responsible practices -whether it is in tourism or now, in agriculture.   We began the very cumbersome homework of training, learning, analyzing, and speaking to our hotel workers who were all from the local area and whose families had for the most part spent their whole lives working in and around coffee. We were inspired by their confidence and devotion to coffee- their culture- which for them was indeed a noble crop and more than worthy of our attention. It was also implicit that if we were going to involve ourselves in an agricultural business, much like our work in responsible tourism, it had to be done responsibly, sustainably and consequently, organically.

ORGANIC AND SUSTAINABLE COFFEE:  THE SYMBIOSIS WITH THE ENVIRONMENT THAT SURROUNDS AND NURTURES IT  

Aside from the fact that every day I can walk through my coffee fields and feel confident that all the coffee I’m producing on these marvelous rolling knolls, dotted with the green foliage and its red berries, has a rhyme and reason -there’s a certain joy to knowing that I have been fomenting the balance of the ecology in an area that had previously been based on high production, yield oriented agricultural products.   We decided that we wanted to share this model of agriculture with our guests at the hotel, and embarked on a journey that some have called ” eco-agrotourism“, which incorporates all the best practices of a sustainable tourism entity with the same good agricultural practices which earned us the prestigious Sustainable Standard Setters Award from Rainforest Alliance in 2010.

An organic coffee field can be distinguished quite easily from a conventional coffee field both visually and topographically.   To begin with, an organic coffee field is almost certainly covered by a lush undergrowth in the lanes between the coffee plants, which is a direct result of two practices; First, because an organic coffee farm does not use any kind of toxic herbicides or pesticides, the ground is fertile everywhere throughout the coffee field, not just under the plant’s roots, and in addition, due to the fact that a shade grown, organic coffee field   depends on the symbiosis between the plants and its friendly neighboring trees, the falling leaves and other natural organic debris act as a efficient byproduct of fertilizer and nitrogen for the ever demanding coffee plants.

One of the most rewarding treasurers in these mountainous areas of Costa Rica can be found in a shade grown coffee fields and is the result of lush reserves of endemic plant life inspiring and encouraging the arrival and residence of migratory and perennial birds. I have become quite the binocular laden nerd in the last many years, spotting woodpeckers, oropendolas, tanagers, parrots, mott-motts and the like with the same relish as a teenage boy observes a muscle car on the highway.

www.fincarosablanca.com
www.fincarosablanca.com

More exciting still, is that coffee has been emerging as not only as a delicious beverage, but also as a medicinal” wonderfood”   with studies recently showing that coffee may reduce maladies such as   dementia and Alzheimer’s, type two diabetes, some kinds of liver damage, endometriosis as well as having apparently some beneficial attributes for human skin.   It would seem logical then, that by understanding the potential beneficial effects on the human body, we would consider that with the four or more cups daily that coffee lovers like myself imbibe without hesitation, that this magical dark and aromatic elixir is being religiously absorbed into our bodies over 100 times a month, and thus would hopefully be free of carcinogenic or dangerous chemicals. What a dilemma if we discovered that all of these medicinal attributes would be offset by the seemingly perilous circadian habit of drinking coffee that may have been contaminated through the addition and absorption of herbicides, pesticides and other potentially toxic chemicals found in a conventional coffee plantation.   Whether or not this has been scientifically proven, it seems to me, is rather irrelevant; by using common sense one would have to infer that if a chemical can chemically denude the ground of all its undergrowth and the defenseless plants and microbes that exist close by, that the berries would consequently have a pretty good chance of drawing those same chemicals into its beans. And we, the unwitting coffee lushes would thus be, day-to-day, drinking down these same substances.

An organic shade grown coffee plantation is a natural agar dish for a robust ecology where are the factors for sustainability are taken into consideration as much as the quality of the product that would result from this kind of farming.   Counter-erosion, water protection, reforestation and green technology are all factors that are used but also are considered in some degree in almost all the organic and sustainable coffee farms around the world.   The symbiosis that is created between the nitrogen rich trees, the coffee, with its long-standing and friendly allies, Poró, Banana, Plantains, and other native and nitrogen rich trees found in Costa Rica allows for a chain of life that surely supplements not only the ecological footprint of the farm but also enriches the aesthetic beauty for the visitor, the laborer and for that matter the owner.

Finca Rosa Blanca forms part of the Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels and Lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.