A Unique Adventure Experience: Rural Hospitality
Santa Juanas biodiversity was under threat from a variety of human-related factors, including illegal logging and poaching, unsustainable methods of farming and fishing, the spread of the agricultural frontier, and pollution.
With little access to infrastructure and markets, local communities often engage in the activities listed above as a matter of survival. However, these activities have devastating effects on ecosystems; the decline in local populations of wild animals is increasing and dramatic. With no other options, even communities that are aware of the importance of their surroundings ecosystems may not have other options for food or earning income. For this reason, ecotourism is an important tool for providing the basic human needs without destroying the local environment.
Once a dormant community, Santa Juana is now a vibrant little town. The community was disappearing, young people were migrating looking for economic opportunities and the school barely had any students. That is no longer the case.
The creation of the Santa Juana Rural Tourism Program is now changing everything. We are amazed at the incredible response so far to the new Santa Juana Lodge, represented by Greentqiue Hotels and operated by members of the local community of Santa Juana. So far we have hosted travel agents and customers from around the world at the lodge and Santa Juana Rural Mountain Adventure Tour. Their comments through forums, including Trip Advisor, convey the enjoyment and authenticity of rural hospitality, truly connecting with and about the rural culture of Costa Rica. Known as a popular vacation destination, Costa Rica offers its visitors both natural beauty and cultural experiences, and now the lodge of Santa Juana can participate and generate more awareness to support our conservation programs and employment opportunities.
The rural mountain vacation is a window back in time, off the beaten path for the true adventurist…including specialized groups. It’s an enlightening travel experience that also benefits Greentique Hotels Carbon Offset initiatives, offering Tree Adoption Certificates to all our guests. So for travelers interested in nature in a serene and authentic farm village setting, without the external distractions of mass tourism, we offer the ideal balance of comfort in harmony with nature, and the good nature of your hosts. It means enhancing the guest immersion into the people and rural culture discovering reasons for the “Pura Vida” positive attitude of Ticos. Guest reviews highlight the traditional meals, prepared with local ingredients and family recipes, served in the rancho El Mirador, overlooking the panoramic Pacific coastline of Manuel Antonio National Park…describing it all as, ” heaven on earth”!
We look forward to sharing more of our programs of exceptional Costa Rica experiences while respecting the very nature we are committed to help protect and enhancing with the community while still respecting the way of life of Santa Juana, Costa Rica.
Scarlett Macaw’s (Lapas) Permits Almost Ready!!
What was originally supposed to take 3 to 4 weeks for the pending Scarlet Macaw Release Program approval has finally passed through the red tape of MINAE, our Ministry of Natural Resources. This will enable the volunteer Committee de las Lapas de Santa Juana to participate in a Ninety-Day Release Program for the first 10 young Scarlet Macaws (Lapas). This is the first phase of the re-introduction of this endangered species back into the region where they once flourished. We managed to donate a small parcel for the project and construction materials and labor for specially designed “release” cage. Also an experienced Veterinarian will work for a discounted fee for her monthly visits. What was not anticipated is the news from the University of Costa Rica that they can’t provide the particular blood tests required to receive the Macaws. Unfortunately the community is not prepared to now pay for blood tests available in Miami for $1200!
The first action last week was with Jet Set Vacations, inviting their client’s to make a donation of $5 per passenger to their Santa Juana visit. We also wanted to share this report with you, the donors of Global Giving, to see if there was interest to support this conservation project with the community of Santa Juana for the re-introduction of the first 10 Scarlet Macaws.
We know your support will help make a difference for an important community project in sustainable tourism.
Santa Juana, Costa Rica
With all the popular feedback requesting that the Santa Juana Rural Mountain Adventure include overnight accommodations, the decision was made with the community to build a comfortable village lodge on the highest hilltop overlooking Manuel Antonio National Park. With a set of plans and building permits, a team was created of local workers, and contractors from the town of Quepos, to construct the new lodge. So for the first time the destination can now hosts up to 6 families as guests, between four spacious Cabins and a two-bedroom house with a nightly rate including meals in the new rancho, El Mirador. So far 5 contracts have been signed for Yoga Retreats, Swiss and German birdwatcher groups, and for individual couples and families. Included is the regular tour to visit the school, sugar cane mill with its giant oxen, guided jungle trails, waterfalls, Tilapia ponds, and options to ride Severino’s farm horses that he cares for along with his massive oxen. Dona Julia is now in charge of Lodge Housekeeping, and shares with Roxana the responsibility of cooking the amazing Campesino meals for the tours and new menu for the Lodge guests.
Greentique Hotel management company has developed a new website, http://santajuanalodge.com and Facebook, offering local activities and a Coffee tour of the famous plantations of Los Santos. We truly look forward to creating more reasons to visit and discover the rural culture and genuine hospitality with exceptional Costa Rica experiences provided by the community who share their way of life and pride for their community of Santa Juana.
Month away from Lapa Release Program!
After much research and lots of support from Alejandra Monge, director of the Corcovado Foundation, and Tey Arce, her counterpart from Titi Alliance, we are about ready to launch our pilot program for the re-introduction of three pairs of Scarlet Macaws (Lapas) in Santa Juana. The community has created its own committee to care for the lapas, including Allan Jimenez who will be in charge of preparing the “Jaula”, their temporary cage located next door to where he and his family live, who will look after the six new members to the community. Jimmy Mata, our staff biologist from Si Como No’s Wildlife Refuge and Nature Park in Manuel Antonio, will be responsible for the lab reports of blood samples and general behavior patterns as the Lapas become adapted to their new environment. They were raised as chicks at the facilities of Don Alesandro Puma, near the capital of San Jose. If this pilot program works, and the Lapas adapt to what was originally their natural habitat, before they were hunted for their feathers, meat, and value for collectors, Sr. Palma will have several more young pairs ready by next Spring! Based upon the study done by the National University of San Jose’s Biology department, the area has at least 17 species of native trees that the Lapas include in their natural diet. If the pilot is successful, and the reintroduction, over a 90-day period succeeds with the birds choosing to stay in the area, this will generate more natural attractions besides restoring these colorful Lapas, or Scarlet Macaws, to their natural habitat. Also the employment of two members of the village, who will have the responsibility, as well as employment, for caring and sharing their knowledge about these magnificent animals who live, paired for life, for up to 80 years!
Santa Juana Community is nestled on the luscious jungle terraces of Fila Chonta, overlooking the Central Pacific Coastline of Costa Rica.
Although the Costa Rican educational system has reached 95% of its population, the truth is that this remote community, as with so many other rural communities in the country, faces enormous budget limitations. The scarcity of their resources, the seclusion to provide qualified teachers, and the fact that there are only 5 students in total in the elementary school in Santa Juana, make the situation even more challenging.
Our project has included two initiatives to supply the many needs that these students have. One example was this last April when we hosted a pilot Yoga Program of North Americans to Santa Juana to enjoy both the tranquil village atmosphere and hospitality, as well the Spa and Yoga meditation platforms beside the Rio Rodeo, surrounded by the Oasis Gardens that are cared for by members of the community employed by Greentique Hotel’s rural tourism programs.
Our allies at Greentique Hotels had asked the tour operator of Leaning Journeys, by Perillo Travel in New Jersey, to invite the tour participants to bring along school supplies for the primary school of Santa Juana. Andres, whose the head of the school committee, provided a list of art supplies needed, along with new dictionaries and other items, and what evolved was a connection between the school, our tour package programs with travel agents and their clients, and the students, their teacher and entire community of Santa Juana who enjoy sharing their school initiatives with visitors from North America and beyond who will now continue to bring valuable donations for education and in turn take back valuable memories of their experiences with the local community and natural attractions shared in the guided tour program offerings.
It’s quite encouraging to see how, by just fulfilling part of the list of school supplies that possibly can fit in each visitor’s suitcase, how much is gained in both public relations as well as for the young students who benefit from the art supplies, dictionaries and other items on the school’s “Wish List”.
The donated supplies have been great teaching tools; focusing on environmental themes where students learn from their teacher, share their artwork with their parents, and where visitors receive a unique travel experience that is priceless. Members of Greentique Hotels, explained how happy the children were to get all these new supplies. One of them was Ariel Jimenez, age 7, who was so proud to show everyone his artwork, depicting various birds flying over the landscape of Santa Juana, that he displayed his work in front of his house for all the neighbors to see.
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