My Favorite Costa Rican Hotel: Almonds and Corals

by Narelle Webber on Sunday, 19 February 2012

Almonds and Corals Bungalows, (c) used with permission, Almonds and Corals

This place is unreal. One of my favorite eco-lodges and a highlight of all our participants on the ISV Costa Rica Adventure Tour is Almonds and Corals Tent Lodge Camp, situated on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica within the Gandoca- Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge.

What I love about it is three-fold:

NATURE AND CULTURE: Nestled deep in the forest, you sense and hear the variety of wildlife such as howler monkeys that literally wake you up early in the morning with their calls.  I will never forget the first sloth I found only meters above my head in low-lying canopy in this refuge many years ago.  Walk less than three minutes from your room and frolic on a beautiful Caribbean beach lined with coconut palms. Only a five minute walk along the beach is the tiny town of Manzanillo.  Fishing and soccer are two popular local pastimes.  When I’m motivated I love to run the beach or do yoga. Failing that, there’s Frisbee or devouring my latest book in a hammock. Of course the star attraction is the nature reserve itself.  Go early and walk quietly along the trails to look for wildlife.

Caribbean sea at Manzanillo, (c) used with permission, Ana Patricia Quesada

If you really need a bit more action, the happening town of Puerto Viejo has a fun afro-Caribbean reggae vibe and all the necessary conveniences.  Almonds & Corals offers free bikes so you can cycle there and back.  Snorkeling or diving at Punta Uva offers a marine experience when the conditions are right.

SUSTAINABILITY:  The Costa Rica Tourism Board awards up to 5 Green Leaves for their coveted sustainability recognition in the areas of natural, cultural and social resource management. Almonds & Corals has the full 5 Leaves!  From the design of the accommodations and its integration with the environment, to the way they manage their waste, we’re proud to support their business for these reasons alone. If you’re interested, read below some information that Almonds & Corals sent to ISV about sustainability at their accommodations.

THE BUNGALOWS:  It feels like it should be your honeymoon…. Walk on raised wooden boardwalks between the bungalows, illuminated by torches at night, these wooden thatched roof havens have clean and crisp white linens and cooling fans with polished board floors and beds draped in mosquito netting. Have a cool refreshing shower with biodegradable shampoo and soap (compliments of Almonds & Corals) then chill in a hammock and find your place of Zen.  It’s totally chic in its simplicity.

Howler Monkey, Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, (c) used with permission from ISV Photo Competition

Oh, did I mention the howler monkeys are ridiculously loud? Listen here: Don’t bother with alarms here people.  They’ll wake you around 5am, literally “nature calling!”

Learning about Almonds and Corals Sustainability

1.)  Our walk starts at the reception.  This is the only air conditioned place at the hotel until today.  Air conditioning is absolutely necessary to keep the air dry and safe for the computers and documents that we handle here.  The rest of the hotel is built with a natural illumination and ventilation design, reducing in this way the need for air conditioning and additional lights during the day, to save energy.  At the reception as well as in the kitchen, we separate the recyclable materials.  These materials are taken Recicaribe Community Collection Center, where the hotel is a co-owner.

2.)  When you look around, you’ll be able to see how the hotel has been built amongst the secondary forest.  This forest here around you is part of the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, and it is a protected area.  MINAET (The Ministry of Environment, Energy and Telecommunications) allows the hotel to build up to a 40% of the 30,000 square meters of land that Almonds and Corals has inside of the Refuge.  In this moment, the hotel uses only a 15% of construction area.  The other 85% is kept for natural conservation.

The big information board offers interesting information about sustainability.  Please take time to read it.

3.)  While walking to your room, you will notice that all the buildings of the hotel are connected by elevated walkways, to allow the wildlife to pass underneath or over them.  The natural water currents on the ground are not altered by the hotel, because of our construction methods without deep foundations.  All of the Almonds and Corals constructions are elevated from the ground.  Almonds and Corals were built 15 years ago, the forest with its flora and fauna has been preserved as much possible and we have not introduced any exotic species.  The hotel uses neutral colors to be able to blend in to nature.

4.)  Close to room Nª 17 you will find one of our sewage systems.  Almonds and Corals treat the sewer waters with this system before sending them to the forest.  The first tank big and taller captures the solids as they sink to the button. The organic matter is decomposed by anaerobic bacteria.  These bacteria help us to purify the water, and we must be careful with the cleaning chemical products, shampoo and soap.  This is why we offer our biodegradable soap that is better for the bacteria in our septic treatment and for the forest.

The second tank is fed by the first one. Costa Rican regulations say that the second tank is not necessary; we use it anyway to assure ourselves that the water is clean enough when we release it back to the forest.  The second tank is filled up with stones of different sizes, the bigger ones at the button and smaller on top, finishing with small grain size ones at the top.  The water at the surface of the second tank is clean and it leaves the tank by a pipe that takes it to a drainage made out of stones and sand located in the middle of the forest.

5.)  All the water from the kitchen pass through a three sections grease trap that collects all the grease and soap from the water.  The trap needs to be cleaned every two weeks.  The grease that we take out from the trap can be used as fertilizer for plants or trees, or else is bagged and taken to the municipality garbage place.  We can use this grease as fertilizer because we are using biodegradable soap and are not toxic.  The water from the kitchen once free of grease and residues is taken to the drainage of stones and sand to continue with the process.   Finally the water is placed in the final drainage.

6.)  The giant tank up in the tower is a sand filter that cleans the water that we pump up from the well.  This water passes through the sand and once clean, is stored in other tanks.  We add chlorine to get potable water.  The water from our well has a lot of minerals and sometimes the water has an orange or yellowish color.  We don’t drink this water at the hotel.


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