Costa Rica eco lodge in a private reserve

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Responsible tourism: Costa Rica eco lodge in a private reserve

Environment

Our Costa Rica eco lodge / ecotourism project is located near the small rural town of La Alfombra. Our commitment to protecting the environment is reflected in a number of initiatives. Out of our 110 hectar (280 acre) property, 90 hectares are primary and secondary rainforest, which we protect. The balance is pasture, where we have some cows and horses. This year we have been approved to participate in a conservation program whereby its 84 hectares of natural forest are protected for the mitigation of greenhouse gases, the protection of the water resources and the preservation of the biodiversity and ecosystem. We are also beginning a program to reforest 3 hectares of pasture. Portions of the pasture have already been reforested with cedro, a fast growing relative of mahogany. On the some of the steep pasture slopes we have planted cana india which readily grows from cuttings and helps stabilize the soil to prevent erosion. We have also planted about 5000 shade coffee plants with fruit and poro trees intermingled to provide shade as well as habitat for some species of birds. Hummingbirds particularly like the flowers of the poro trees. We offer low-impact tourism activities such as; birding, walking, and hiking. Our trails through the rainforest and farm were built with minimum impact to the surroundings. Our mission is to conserve our forest and the wildlife living here. We are located in the Path of the Tapir Biological Corridor, which was developed by a conservation group called ASANA, friends of nature. This biological corridor of forests allows habitat for the movement of wildlife.

Our electrical power is produced by a renewable energy source, the river Magnolia, which runs through our property. A 12 kW hydro electric system provides all of the electricity to the Lodge and is distributed to the various buildings by buried cable. There are no overhead power or telephone lines, which can be harmful to the wildlife.

To minimize our electrical consumption, we have built a solar dryer for drying our bed and table linens. It also houses our organic garden. Produce that we donít grow in our garden, we purchase from local farmers and from the weekly feria (farmerís market) in San Isidro.

Four years ago we started a recycling program for the town which has been very successful. Once a week we pick up the recycling and take it to a recycling centre near San Isidro del General, about 20 km away. As the town does not have any garbage collection, the recycling program has helped in reducing the amount of garbage (especially plastic) burned or brought into town, which is difficult for most as they do not have transportation. Most of the Costa Ricans in the area are farmers with modest income. They are extremely good at re-purposing food and beverage packaging and have taught us many things about reducing our garbage. Our organic waste is composted for later use in our gardens.

Community

Our staff have all been hired locally bringing income to families in La Alfombra and San Cristobel and also providing them with training and work close to home. We buy from the local pulperias (small grocery stores) and fruit and vegetable stands as much as possible.

During peak construction when we had 20 experienced construction workers from other parts of Costa Rica living on site and 20 local workers, all of the food was purchased from the pulperia in La Alfombra. Many of the local inexperienced construction workers received on the job training and moved up from labourers to operators. Their experience helped them find new jobs more easily and with higher pay after their work finished here.

Our Costa Rica eco lodge has helped the local public school on their science project by donations to help them attend the science fair in San Jose. A group from the school monitored the birds in the area for a few years and were able to find 158 species of birds living here. They won first prize! We keep a copy of their report at the Lodge.

Reviews of Costa Rica eco lodge in a private reserve

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 08 May 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Swimming in the infinity pool at sunset, with an amazing view over the mountains and forest.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Be prepared for luxury and relaxation, but also take your walking shoes with
you - there are plenty of beautiful hiking trails in the area and lots of
opportunities for birdwatching.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes - the lodge is completely eco friendly, run on hydro electric energy from the local river and also using filtered water from local sources. The owners of the lodge also have their own reforestation project.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Incredible - the lodge and its views over the mountains and forest were breathtaking and we had the most relaxing time. We will definitely be staying at the lodge again if we are ever back in Costa Rica.

Reviewed on 12 Jan 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


After our third day, the other guests left and no one was coming in until Saturday, very unusual for the peak season... so my wife and I had the whole place to ourselves. John and Maureen let us change rooms and move to the main house where we had an even better view. It was like house-sitting for a friend on 280 acre reserve.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Oh, many... "Mono Congo" is literally in the edge of the jungle, very private. It is a little damper there, so keep your clothes packed, inside a plastic bag is perfect, rather than hang them in the closet. I would opt for El Cielo as my top room choice- incredible views and we had a hawk outside our window several mornings hanging out.

The "zip line" tour was sort of uneventful, maybe better for kids who would get a rush out of the zip lines themselves. We didn't see much local wildlife, however, the horseback tour to Nauyaca Water Falls was well worth it. the guides were excellent, the horses are given every other day off, we saw brilliant and beautiful Macaws, tons of white faced monkeys, a Toucan, and we ate 2 meals that were simple, but excellent at a local restaurant on the way into the mountains, so I would do that tour again.

This vacation is ideal if your life is overly busy and you just want to RELAX... it is taxing to trek in to do tourist-y stuff because of the road, but this place is gorgeous! Stay there! The meals are excellent, the staff is great, John and Maureen are fantastic hosts. There are many trails to hike, a waterfall, grotto (natural swimming area), a natural waterslide. We just relaxed like the dead, read a ton, enjoyed the Infinity pool and the hundreds of acres of forest.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


YES! They create all their own electricity with a small hydro-turbine... virtually ALL the work done on this coffee plantation is by the owners and locals. They have many LONG TERM employees because they treat them very well, from what I saw and understood. The owners have a respect for nature and life that translates into how they treat the forest and the people who work with them.

They are also re-foresting pasture land. Most of everything we ate was grown there except a few things they get from local farmers. I was really impressed by how the people who worked for them were treated, and how many people they employed through the hotel/house and the plantation.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Fantastic. My wife and I will go again someday, we hope. It was a wonderful trip.

Reviewed on 23 Jul 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


There were many memorable moments.. the drive into Rio Magnolia..the beautiful sunrises and sunsets from our private balcony outside the bedroom..swimming in the infinity pool..the many bird species seen around the lodge..the welcome and care of the owners to ensure that our holiday was a success, a great one..the attention, friendliness of all the staff..the excellent meals..the sound of howler monkeys in the surrounding forest..the peace and quiet of the area..

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Make sure that you hire a good quality SUV/4by4 to negotiate the track from the highway to the lodge and not the cheap little Japanese jobs .Make full use of the tours arranged by the owners and seek their advice. Be very careful when using credit cards in the Dominical area..and everywhere in fact.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


very much so as the owners really set out to do all of these projects ..They bought and preserved a large tract of forest and at great cost and effort created the lodge which has its own water generated electricity. They planted coffee plants, trees and grow much of the produce for the lodge. They employ only local men and women and they have a great rapport with the community.. They are also heavily involved in so many projects in the locality..A very commendable ideology..superb.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


A fabulous situation , beautiful rooms, great service all round... We spent two weeks there and enjoyed every moment .Great thanks to the owners and their parents.

Read the operator's response here:

Patrick and Jane,
It was wonderful to have you as our guests and hope you will return one day! Maureen and John

Reviewed on 18 Oct 2011 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


We loved every aspect of this accommdation, including the adventurous ride from San Jose, the lovely property and delicious food. Excursions are fun and the hosts - delightful. I loved walking through the rain forest with my daughter, taking photos, and relaxing with a paperback. We dream of returning soon.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Give yourself lots of time at the accommodation- the longer you spend, the more you will benefit from the natural beauty,
great food and positive feelings.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


The lodge is closely connected to the local village, providing jobs and many other benefits. A true ecolodge.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


My daughter and I rank this accommodation as our best holiday ever.

Reviewed on 13 Jul 2011 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


This was a totally relaxing, getaway holiday. You really need a 4X4 vehicle to get to the accommodation but Maureen had a driver meet us and we parked at his house and he drove us in. We ate yummy food, swam in the refreshing pool, went for several walks (John is happy to go with you)and just rested and read. We were only there for 4 days and went out once to Manuel Antonio park with 2 other guests. We took a guided tour with Gama and we highly recommend him. I think I would have seen 2 animals without his sightings. John and Maureen are wonderful hosts and if you are looking for this kind of restful holiday this place is perfect.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


You need a 4X4 if you want to drive up to the Lodge yourself. Try to get there in daylight. Maureen sent a great map and organized Elesier to meet us at the local store to guide us in safely. Don't book here if you are looking for nightlife - but if you enjoy rest, hiking, swimming and conversation with fellow guests and your hosts this is a great spot. We saw a storm, felt the earth move (no pun intended)and just enjoyed the atmosphere. Take hiking boots - they provide bottled water and even did our laundry. You should be a dog lover!!!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


The lodge was staffed by local families, water bottles are refilled, great local food, laundry is hung out to dry, soap and shampoo is in refillable containers, no wrapping on soap, fans (no AC) and they have their own power plant. The other guests went on that hike and said it was really interesting.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Excellent - it surprised my husband how much he enjoyed it.

Reviewed on 29 Jun 2011 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


So many great memories; huge, sumptuous meals on the balcony over-looking the forest, a hot hike followed by swimming under a beautiful waterfall, zip-lining through the tree canopy , seeing a live volcano and generally being surrounded by nature in all its glory.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Buy sun cream before you get there! Pack for days by the pool/beach, treks through rough jungle trails and torrential rain (dependent on season). Be prepared for a lot of utterly delicious food at the lodge- you will need to walk it off or get loose clothes!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


All the staff we met were from the local village, they seemed to enjoy working there. Food is locally sourced. The lodge has its own electricity supply from a hydro plant and they purify their own drinking water - no bottled water. The hosts have a keen eye on their impact on the local environment

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Fantastic - the hosts were utterly friendly, welcoming and entertaining. They seem to have thought of everything, and nothing was too much trouble. The trip can be as active or relaxing as you want, but whatever you do, you are surrounded by nature, stunning country and friendly people.

Reviewed on 15 Feb 2011 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


This accommodation is a paradise. We woke to see Toucans on our balcony and a sloth in the trees just beyond. Breakfast with the hummingbirds was a daily joy. This is that rare place that combines luxury with responsible eco-tourism. The meals were feasts of fabulously fresh produce direct from local farms and our hosts Maureen and John Paterson were warm, welcoming and great company. The staff were incredible - friendly, professional and an absolute delight.


2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Stay longer than you think as there is so much to do. We stayed for 9 days and enjoyed every minute. This accommodation is a perfect base for day trips like snorkelling, zip lining, horse riding (we did all these and had a ball). It's also an easy car ride to the beaches at Dominical and the quirky village there. We also made a day trip to Manuel Antonio National Park. There's also fishing and hiking tours. We could have stayed longer!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Absolutely. Apart from the direct benefits of creating employment, the tours we went on were well run and superbly organised by local people and our guides were knowledgeable and insightful. There was a real respect and understanding of the environment. The lodge is an excellent example of what can be achieved as it sits in harmony with it's landscape e.g. it generates hydro power for electricity.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Outstanding. If you are visiting Costa Rica do yourself a favour and stay here. It's sublime. This place has to be Costa Rica's best kept secret.

Reviewed on 21 Aug 2010 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The beauty of the accommodation and the fantastic hospitality offered by Maureen and John. From start to last, the standards were exemplary. Waking up to the sounds of the rain forest and walking in the beautiful grounds of the lodge. Both John and Maureen are very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna and the local area. They are happy to arrange trips, which have all been thoroughly researched and meet their high standards. Maureen's cooking is brilliant and the local staff are friendly and helpful.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


There is a first class team of local staff, who have all trained with John and Maureen. They seem incredibly happy to be working at such a wonderful concern. The environmental standards are outstanding and the conversion of what was originally a run down farm into this eco-lodge, is quite staggering.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Absolutely fantastic. We would highly recommend a visit and would love to go back there ourselves.

Reviewed on 14 Dec 2010 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The location and hospitality. The location was beautiful and relaxing. The hospitality couldn't have been better.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Book as much time as possible. You'll need more to really explore the area and relax at the same time.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes, absolutely. All the employees of the place we stayed were local, area residents.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


It was one of the best vacation.

Reviewed on 18 Nov 2010 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the wide variety of plants, birds and animals we saw at the lodge and in the surrounding area. We will never forget the warmth and sincerity of the welcome from our hosts and the atmosphere they create in their lovely eco-lodge home.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Make sure, when visiting in the wet season, that you take waterproof lightweight coats and Wellingtons, or arrange to borrow Wellingtons from Maureen and John. We took leather walking boots that took up a lot of room in our suitcase but did not wear then once because they were inappropriate for the conditions at this time of year!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Most certainly it benefited local people as all the staff who work at the lodge live in nearby villages. When necessary, local tradesmen are also employed, for example, to help maintain the long drive into the property. The lodge is superbly organised to make use of natural water sources for consumption and energy production. Maureen and John make sure they grow as much organic products as they can in their own grounds and also purchase locally produced vegetables and food.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


It was perfect for the time of year in Costa Rica. The ecolodge was a real 'home from home' and we have never been anywhere else so deserving of this description. Maureen and John are excellent hosts who made us feel like part of the family. We will miss them. The only reason we have not ticked the five stars option is that we think we would have got more out of exploring the local area if we had visited in the dry season. We would also have used the beautiful swimming pool every day!

Read the operator's response here:

We were very lucky to be blessed with such gracious guests as the Camplins. Betty and Jim remained positive and good natured throughout the worst storm Costa Rica has seen in 13 years. With floods and landslides closing most of the major arteries throughout the country, they made the best of what their visit and it was a real pleasure to get to know them while we all kept out of the rain.

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