Sustainability at Olas Verdes

The boutique hotel shows how Costa Rica’s colonial past paved the way for its conservationalist future

It’s somewhere between the oddly low organic-juice-bar-to-streetlight-ratio and the packs of chickens that freely roam the streets of Nosara that it hits visitors: eating local isn’t a buzzy concept here, it’s a way of life. Long before tourists schlepped to the beaches and mountains of Costa Rica in search of pura vida, Costa Ricans proudly lived close to the land. And nowhere is that tradition more alive than the world’s first LEED-certified boutique surf hotel Olas Verdes.

Costa Rica’s widespread commitment to conservation extends from the halls of congress to remote plot farms and everywhere in-between. It’s become part of the country’s national identity and fostered a sustainable and successful tourism industry that is protective of the very resources that bring in visitors. But what might seem like an incredibly savvy and fruitful case study in nation branding is actually rooted in the country’s colonial past. As Columbus and his crew of gold-crazed conquistadors sailed past Costa Rica they saw no opportunity. Mineral wealth was virtually non-existent and there was little indigenous labor to exploit.

“The Europeans that settled in Costa Rica weren’t very concerned with wealth,” says Luis Pardo, general manager of Olas Verdes. “They were farmers, living off the land.” Pardo grew up on a farm not far from the Guanacaste region. Costa Ricans, he says, have a strong relationship with the land. What you put into the land comes out. It’s one of the many reasons Olas Verdes partnered with local farms to source nearly all of its food.

Accompanied by an ever-expanding on-site garden, the chefs from in-house eatery El Manglar head to the farm daily for fresh ingredients. A short bike ride from the hotel you’ll find rows of organic kale, a wandering maze of sugar cane and rows upon rows of tomatoes so sweet and delicious, you finally understand why they’re officially classified as fruits. Cashew trees overflow with their well-known seeds and their lesser utilized but nonetheless delicious cashew apples. Pacing through rows of diverse organic fruits and vegetables, eating healthy feels like the furthest thing from an obligation—instead it feels like a privilege. And food always tastes better when you gather it yourself.

Sourcing local organic food is just one component of the hotel’s sustainability mission. In addition to trimming the unnecessary waste and energy consumption that plagues the hospitality industry, Olas Verdes is dedicated to investing in the local economy — from the furniture in the rooms to the construction and materials in the room. Employing exclusively local staff, Olas Verdes is committed to lasting development in the community and this dedication is felt in the lodging experience. At Olas Verdes, you’ll feel like a guest in a village and less like a customer at a resort and it makes leaving all the more difficult.

Suites at Olas Verdes start at $135 per night in the Green Season (May to October) and $185 during the High Season (January to April and November to December).

Images by Hans Aschim