Where to go and what places to visit in Costa Rica?

December 17, 2013

Besides the question on ” When is the best time to go?” that we shared our opinion a couple of weeks ago, the ” Where to go and what places to visit?” is the other question among the TOP 10 that guests ask our reservations agents at the Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels and Resorts.

View from Arenas del Mar Beachfront and Rainforest Resort
Beachview of Manuel Antonio from www.arenasdelmar.com

This is a very subjective topic and everybody has different tastes and interests. But here is what we think is some of the best that Costa Rica has to offer especially if you are looking for sustainable, eco or green travel at the highest levels of hospitality and with a touch of luxury.

Make sure you arrive into San Jose’s Juan Santamaria Airport.   The town of Liberia in the north of Costa Rica has good connections from the US as well, but the northern Guanacaste area has become more of a sun and beach destination in the past year and the ” real” Costa Rica of biodiversity, boutique lodging and authentic experiences is down south”¦

When you arrive, stay two or three nights at Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation and Inn located just 25 minutes from the airport.   This beautiful Coffee Plantation Inn on the foothills of the Poas and Barva Volcanoes is the perfect base to explore cloud forests, waterfalls and volcanoes.   Some might recommend trips to Monteverde and Arenal but if you are short on time, we think that you can skip the high transportation costs and idle time spent in ground transfers.

Barva National Park in the Central Highlands
Cloud Forest Excursion near www.fincarosablanca.com

The claim to fame at Finca Rosa Blanca is the coffee tour that is probably the best in the region, but you can easily arrange day or half day tours to nearby Volcanos (Poas) and Cloud Forests (Barva).   The tour to Barva National Park is probably one of the Central Highlands best kept secret.

Most guest head to the beach from here.   If you are looking for the authentic eco lodge experience, there is no way around the Osa Peninsula and Corcovado National Park.   This is the place to go and the best wildlife in the country by far.   A model eco lodge that offers guests great interpretive rain forest experiences is Lapa Rios.    If you are looking for a more luxurious destination not so far out but still with the best that Costa Rica has to offer in terms of tours and activities to observe the local flora and fauna, we recommend either the Manuel Antonio or Uvita area.   Many of our guests also combine any of the three Cayuga Collection hotels, resorts and lodges the area for the perfect vacation in Costa Rica.

Jaguar in Corcovado National Park near Lapa Rios Ecolodge. Photo by Jaguara.

United Airline’s Hemisphere’s on board magazine featured Lapa Rios Ecolodge and the southern part of Costa Rica as the place to spend the ” perfect three days” in Costa Rica.   On the way back to San Jose, don’t miss a quick visit to the Central Market, the Gold Museum and a meal at the Grano de Oro Restaurant.

If you are more interested in the northern part of the country, we recommend hotels and resorts that are a bit off the beaten Tamarindo and Playa de Coco ” path”.   Look into a stay in Nosara / Guiones or Santa Teresa a bit further south on the Nicoya Peninsula.   And if you are looking for a great experience that not a lot of people have been able to enjoy, visit Nicaragua.   We run a great eco resort on an island in Lake Nicaragua.   By the way, yes, Nicaragua is safe to travel.

Should you need more advice on planning your travels, let us know.   We are happy to direct you in the right direction.   Just drop us a note to info@cayugaonline.com.

Bungalow view from Lapa Rios Eco Lodge near Corcovado National Park
Hammock on eco lodge deck at www.laparios.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.

Sustainable Tourism at the Segera Retreat & Lodge in Kenya

October 11, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Costa Rica’s Playa Santa Teresa

August 1, 2013

The beach outside Latitude 10 Exclusive Beach Resort in Santa Teresa is secluded, and pristine.   Venture five minutes along the beach and reach clear water and white sand beaches where you can swim.

Don’t worry about being surrounded by tourists and locals; Santa Teresa is a hidden gem within Costa Rica.   Once you arrive in Santa Teresa, ranked one of the best beaches in the world, gorgeous scenery, deserted beaches, and friendly people will surround you.

If you are looking for your very own beach, you have to try out the beaches in Santa Teresa.

Make your own cocktail with the bartenders at Jicaro

July 22, 2013

Join the bartenders at Jicaro Island Eco Lodge for a Cocktail Making class and discover the bartender inside of you!

Once you pick a drink to make, gather the ingredients, step behind the bar, and get ready to have some fun!   The bartender will guide you through the steps to make your very own cocktail.

After you are finished you can enjoy it at the bar as you watch other guests prepare their drink, or you can choose to enjoy the drink in the many secluded locations on the island.

A leader in ecotourism, Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality manages luxury and boutique hotels in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Girlfriend Getaway to Latitude 10 Resort in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

July 20, 2013

Ever wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of life and retreat to a relaxing vacation with your girlfriends?   Now is your chance to take advantage.   Get pampered in Costa Rica at some of the most luxurious and peaceful hotels, eco lodges, and eco resorts.   Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality manages 8 hotels in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.   Each of them is unique and provide the perfect setting for some time with the ladies.

One of them is Latitude 10 Resort:   A small 5 casita retreat in Santa Teresa, Latitude 10 is perfect for seeing the beauty of Costa Rica.   With some of the best beaches, surfing, and scenery, you and your friends are definitely going to be able to share some great experiences walking on the beach, enjoying a canopy tour, horseback riding, surfing, and much more.   The spa at Latitude 10 will also help to reduce some of that stress!

Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality is a world leader in sustainable hospitality management.   We manage and market hotels, resorts, eco lodges and Haciendas in Costa Rica and Nicaragua with a focus on high end experiences and sustainability.

The Tropical Beaches of Costa Rica

July 18, 2013

Of the 8 properties of the Cayuga Collection, 5 of them have either direct beach access or easily accessible nearby beaches.

With white sand, clear blue water, and gorgeous scenery, these properties are sure to excite anyone.   Whether you want to swim, relax, or play on the beach, you can find all you need.

Surfing is always an option.   Whether you are an experienced surfer or trying it for the first time, the beaches around the Cayuga Collection properties can cater to your needs.   Test your balance while surfing in Santa Teresa at Latitude 10, near Kura Design Villas in Uvita, along the Nosara shore while at Harmony Hotel, near Corcovado National Park at Lapa Rios or along the large beaches in Manuel Antonio at Arenas Del Mar.

And if you are looking for a more relaxed afternoon lie down on the soft sand beaches and just soak up the sun as you listen to the waves in the distance.

The beaches are full of activities for you to try.   You can go boogie boarding, throw a ball, play beach soccer with the locals, go horseback riding, or take a sunset stroll.

Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality and their properties near the beach will be sure to keep you happy!

Have a green honeymoon in Costa Rica or Nicaragua by staying at any one of Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality’s eight luxury resorts and hotels.

Some lessons learned in Nicaragua

January 9, 2013

We manage an Eco Lodge in Nicaragua.   Jicaro Island on Lake Nicaragua.   It is a truly spectacular place.   Incredible setting with views of the Mombacho Volcano and one of the most tranquil and relaxing places that you can imagine.     The lodge will be three years open today and it has been a great success story in sustainable tourism.   Last year we were featured in almost every important travel and lifestyle magazine, the lodge has just climbed up to the #1 spot on Tripadvisor and guests rave about the experience.   The locally recruited general manager Howard and his young Nicaraguan staff have done magic.

This is not a ” given” though.   We have been working in Nicaragua tourism for over 10 years now and it is a true challenge.   The human resources are very motivated, but the skill level is very low.   There is virtually no experience on how to deal with a luxury traveler and only through our links to the Cayuga Collection Hotels in Costa Rica and a strong effort by our corporate team, have we been able to reach world class service levels.

Nicaragua is probably 20, if not 25, years behind Costa Rica in terms of its tourism industry development and in terms of infrastructure, facilities and know-how, there is still a lot to be done.   For the first time visitor to Nicaragua, the roadside littering is very disturbing (common joke is that the plastic bag is Nicaragua’s national flower).   Cleaning up the trash issues is a big priority in order to become more attractive to foreign tourists.   Furthermore, open communications and explaining to guests in a straightforward manner as to what is going on is also a quality that is often lacking and we spend a lot of time training for.   Things do go wrong sometimes.   It is a Nicaraguan (and general Latin American) trait to just avoid the issue.   That obviously drives European and North American guests crazy.

But I am always impressed by the way that Nicaraguans (especially the ones that work at Jicaro) get things done and impress our guests at the highest levels.

Creativity and Ingenuity:   Since resources are scarce in Nicaragua (it is after Haiti the second poorest country in the Americas), it is amazing to see what creative solutions our staff has come up with to make things work.   This is especially true for the maintenance department.   I think MacGyver (remember that 80’s TV show) was of Nica descent.

Gratitude and humbleness: Nicaraguans tend to be very grateful for opportunities that are given to them to learn and develop as professionals.   They also have a certain humbleness to them that makes them very likable.

We are committed to further develop the concept of sustainable and ecotourism in Nicaragua and are looking for expansion of our activities there in 2013.   Ideally with a beach hotel or lodge that would make the perfect combination with a stay at Jicaro.

A leader in ecotourism, Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality manages luxury and boutique hotels in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

 

 

Isla del Coco: Costa Rica’s ultimate dive destination

November 26, 2012

If you’re into diving, you must come to Isla del Coco. If you’re not into diving yet, get started as soon as possible to enter the most magical world of all: our ocean!

Isla del Coco (a.k.a. Coco’s Island) is located 550 kilometers (340 miles) into the Pacific from Costa Rican shores. Thirty six hours across the deep blue waters of the ocean will take you to a sight unique in beauty, power and evidently bursting with life: the oceanic island bursts out from the great depths of the Pacific, breaking the surface of the water in tall rocky walls that reach up towards the sky covered in dense jungles, a tightly knit net of intertwined vines climbing up humid trunks inhabited by insects and animals of which many are found nowhere else on the planet. Thick creeks of fresh water cascade from high points into the sea, and no matter how high you climb your view will reach only more and more ocean outside the small perimeter of the island.

Historic references to pirate-hidden treasures have led many expeditions to attempt to retrieve the vast amount of gold and jewels said to be buried there, but none were ever successful. In present day this avarice has been forgotten, fortunately to open our eyes to the real treasure of this fantastic island: the unique biodiversity it holds.

Plunge into the liquid paradise of schools of hundreds of Hammerhead sharks in Alcyone, visit the magnificent coral gardens of Manuelita, wrap yourself in the silver cloud of a thousand Big Eye Trevally, meet the Red Lip Batfish in Ulloa, Coco’s strangest-looking endemic creature yet, and have close encounters with Manta Rays, Eagle Rays, Marble Rays, Bottlenose dolphins and more than six species of sharks, including Hammerhead, Silky, Tiger, Galápagos, Silver Tip, Black Tip, Whale sharks and of course the dozens of White Tips hunting like a pack of wolves during your night dives.

Isla del Coco is recommended for divers with several dives of experience, since sometimes strong currents and proximity with big marine animals can make beginners nervous, but in any case, it is a place you must put on your list to visit. Having such a treasure at hand in the world, you must make it a point to come explore!

The photos we share here were taken by Juan Pinto, Lapa Rios’ former manager on his recent trip to Coco’s Island.

 

Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality is a world leader in sustainable hospitality management.   We manage and market hotels, resorts, eco lodges and Haciendas in Costa Rica and Nicaragua with a focus on high end experiences and sustainability.