The scarlet macaws flocked overhead in pairs, squawking boisterously before landing in a nearby palm tree.” I see them! I see them!” Jeremy shouted.
Although his wife, Courtney, had witnessed the birds fly by their room earlier that week, Jeremy missed the sighting. He wasn’t a bird watcher, never considered himself one, but here he was, standing in the Costa Rican jungle, over the moon with excitement about the appearance of a brashly red, blue, and yellow bird.
The couple was our accompaniment on an evening bird walk along the Lapa Rios property with our informative tour guide, Valerie, a graduate of tropical biology studies. Although we consider ourselves avid birders, we were thrilled to witness this world of birding through the eyes of newbies.
Like during this outing, what surprised us most about our time at Lapa Rios was not the connection to nature (the hotel’s coveted location alongside Costa Rica’s greatest primary rainforest assured this), but was how that connection to nature facilitated something quite unexpected: a connection to people.
Although scarlet macaws, toucans, and four species of monkeys are regularly found on the Lapa Rios grounds, there was nothing better than witnessing a new guest see such a creature for the first time.
And we learned each new friend’s preferences as well: Courtney loved toucans. Jeremy loved scarlet macaws. James loved birds of prey. Nicky loved squirrel monkeys.
Given the intimate nature of a 16 room hotel, meals were often gladly shared with new friends, and the tours gave us an opportunity to learn the histories of the people with which we shared our days””our tour guide Guillermo’s teenage years on a local farm; our new friend Jeremy’s experiences in the US army.
All these personal stories were woven together with a shared sense of awe and wonder. The natural world Lapa Rios exposed us to was one we sensed is increasingly threatened in a world of climate change, environmental destruction, and disposable consumption practices.
But at Lapa Rios, it felt we all shared a common worldview: this place was special, and more places like these need to be protected for future generations. Agreeing with this philosophy were the guests: Mary and Carrie, Nicky and James. On staff there was Jacob and Guillermo, Marlon and Alex. There was Eusebio’s gracious nature, Valerie’s attentive eye. The personalities of a place, we quickly learned, are what gives it substance, takes a hotel and makes it feel like home.
And that’s what Lapa Rios had become by the end of our journey””arms extended for hugs, emails exchanged, Facebook friends made.
” We will miss you,” is not a phrase often overheard at a hotel, but as we boarded the transit van back to reality (i.e., the nearby town of Puerto Jimenez), we returned the sentiment.
You may leave Lapa Rios, but like all deeply meaningful experiences connecting us to the natural world, Lapa Rios will never leave us. What Lapa Rios represents is not a place, but a feeling””the feeling you are present, aware, and more than anything, in awe of the world around you. If not for the toucans, macaws, and monkeys, we at least owe it to ourselves to protect places like these for future generations, so that they too may experience such an increasingly fleeting feeling.
” The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
“• Rachel Carson
By: Kaitlin Solimine and Joseph Smolen
Kaitlin and Joseph have been the winners of the Cayuga Collection Internship 2013. They travelled to all the Cayuga Collection Hotels and Lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua and helped us to improve the combination of Luxury and Sustainability that we are trying to achieve at our properties.