I consider myself lucky that I had the opportunity to travel early in life: first, as a Drexel Co-op living in the UK and traveling across the UK, Ireland, and Europe, and then throughout the States, managing tradeshows. I’ve kept in touch with folks I met along the way, which has presented an opportunity to travel inexpensively with an insider’s perspective. Costa Rica was a long time coming. 

I met Boris in Miami during a security technology conference in 2000. He was there studying hospitality and happened to be my bartender. Boris grew up between San Jose and his father’s resort on the West coast, on the Gulf of Nicoya. It took me 18 years to visit, but the timing was oddly perfect. This, my first experience in Costa Rica, was shaped by a local who loves his country, loves people (deciding on a career in hospitality), and is driven by sharing his respect for Mother Earth with locals and tourists alike. Boris runs the resort now with a staff of 200 people. Who knew this many years later we’d both be in the hospitality industry, with a focus in sustainability? We had a LOT to talk to about.

The secluded beach, possibly with crocodiles.
The secluded beach, possibly with crocodiles.

I was mostly in awe. This is not a Sandal’s resort. Think Dirty Dancing, in the rain forest, a few steps from a perfect white sand beach. “Angie, look over here! Have you ever seen a Macaw?” He pronounced it meh-cow, so I didn’t know what he meant until I saw a pair flying overhead into their nest. Of course I’d seen a Macaw–in a cage in my neighbor’s window. I’d never seen them fly. “And you have to see this private beach—I want to set up wedding ceremonies here.” A boat came to scoop us up, and within a few minutes we were secluded. Not an hour later, our driver came back with lunch, just in time for a couple hiking through to join us. He was from Portland, Oregon and she was from Germany. They met here last year and fell in love, and this oasis is where they knew they’d stay. This is Hotel Punta Leona.

Capuchin Monkey
Capuchin Monkey

The next day, we drove about 90 kilometers (56 miles) south to Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, a national park surrounded by a bustling beach town with restaurants, shops, hostels, and boutique hotels. We walked through the park and saw iguanas, exotic birds, and different species of monkeys. I was determined to find a sloth, but they were tucked away that day beyond the naked eye. When we got back to the beach, we went parasailing and I spotted a sea turtle, which is apparently rare and good luck! I then struck up a conversation with an American lifeguard, Holly, who just happened to be from Valley Forge, PA, about 20 miles from home. Holly was so excited to talk about the Eagles that I didn’t dare mention that I wasn’t a football fan. Holly came down to Costa Rica three years ago and decided she was never going back.

Boris took me to all of his favorite spots. When he said to bring water shoes, I thought, I don’t have those, but I’m sure my sneakers will dry if I need to get them wet. Oops. I opted for no shoes, climbing over slippery, sharp rocks with my winter soft feet. We found sea urchins, and little creatures that suction to your finger when you touch them. We got to another secluded beach and off Boris went into the water, only to come out a few minutes later, “I forgot—they said there were crocodiles here.” What?! We made it back to our hotel, La Mansion, just before a heavy rain—the perfect time for an early evening nap. 

The last couple of days we spent at Hotel Punta Leona, where I got a chance to dine in the restaurants at the resort, and to see more of the sustainability projects in progress. The food and service were amazing! We had Costa Rican dishes with fish, black beans, and plantains, which is totally up my alley. For a snack, we had a local cheese plate and fresh pineapple juice. The breakfast buffet was plentiful with a nice mix of local and American fare. We skipped karaoke for a walk on the beach, but it looked like everyone was having fun. As we walked to the butterfly farm, Boris told me about his collaboration with local students to clean plastic from the waterways, and about the cameras they have placed in the classrooms aimed at the Macaws’ nest. 

I couldn’t help but think about my first ecotour to Central America. About six months after opening my coffeehouse, I traveled to Nicaragua to meet the people growing our coffee. With electricity and clean drinking water, this was a far cry from that experience, yet sustainability is a common theme; the effects of global warming are more tangible in this part of the world. Rain or shine, travelers coming to Hotel Punta Leona will see firsthand how they are making a positive impact. Trust me, you don’t have to rough it in the mountains of Matagalpa to feel like you’re making a responsible vacation choice! (Although I wouldn’t discourage that if you’re up for the challenge.) In both places, connecting with nature and the local community are life changing experiences.

My first business was a founding B-Corporation, a corporate structure that allows businesses to prioritize people and planet along with profit, so inevitably I try to incorporate sustainability into my client’s projects. Sometimes it’s not a priority for them, but sometimes the suggestion is taken with enthusiasm. To have the opportunity to work with like-minded folks is truly a joy. I sat down with Boris and the executive team at Hotel Punta Leona and we talked about their coffee program at the hotel, potential coffee excursions that are within a 90 minute drive, and some other fun ideas. I’m anxious to work with the team to expand their coffee program and other eco-tourism efforts, in the hopes of welcoming more woke Americans. With so much to see at the resort and so much nearby, I’d recommend at least a week at Hotel Punta Leona. I hope to see you there!

For more info, visit hotelpuntaleona.com

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