A Mother & Daughter’s Dream Come True: Our Boutique Hotel on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast

Many people dream of a second career that takes them beyond corporate meeting rooms and stressful business travel.  Here is the story of a mother who was able to live her dream of opening a boutique hotel with her adult daughter in a tropical beach setting. 


Elizabeth with baby Elena in Puerto Viejo.

Elizabeth Steinvorth and her daughter Elena dreamt about opening a boutique hotel on the beach for years.  In late 2018, this dream became a reality.  Read the full story of how Elizabeth fell in love with Puerto Viejo and how Elena grew up surfing the warm waters of the Costa Rican Caribbean coast here.  

We conducted an interview with the owners of Hotel Aguas Claras in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica about their experience of working together.

Here is what Elizabeth said about working with Elena, her daughter. 

“When I first saw Elena when she was born, I thought… ‘my beautiful baby is now the beginning of my new life’, and it sure was!  She was tiny, delicate and cried a lot!! Such a huge unknown responsibility in my life…. All I had done until almost my thirtieth birthday had been doing and creating all kinds of things, traveling, learning, dancing, painting, playing the piano, working and of course lots of boyfriends and just being very independent and free.”

“Our trips to the beaches Puerto Viejo changed our lives.   My children Elena and Franco learned to surf, made friends there and it started to become our second home.  And since then, 33 years ago, we love, share and became part of the Caribbean community.”

“Elena left to Europe when she was 18 and started a new life in Berlin, and of course I visited her once or twice a year and we had the best times together, sharing friends, countries in Europe, Asia and what not!  She became an independent woman, responsible and very loving, friendly and most of all open-minded.”

“Then we had the idea of a boutique hotel.   I had no idea what we were getting into!  Soo much work! Not easy for me alone for almost 2 years, but always supported by Elena with whom I shared all I was doing and receiving all her feedback while she finished her studies than in New York.”

“When she came back to Costa Rica, and the construction was going full steam, we had to deal with each other 24/7.  Elena was the dreamer and even a bit crazy in her ideas of decoration.  We worked nonstop and forgot to talk about ourselves and our lives…. it was all about the hotel, construction, decoration and logistics.”


Elizabeth and Elena at the inauguration of the Aguas Claras Hotel.

“This was sometimes hard.  We had different points of view.  We had to make an effort to reconnect spend some fun time together and talk about our lives, of how much we respect and love each other and then all started to flow again.  It felt a bit like when you make up with your boyfriend.”

“So finally, at the end of 4 years, Elena’s and my life project was finished.  The Boutique Hotel Aguas Claras.  A real work of art and a testimony to the love between a mother and a daughter.”

Here is what Elena said about working with Elizabeth, her mother. 

“One of my favorite past times was to look at my mother’s photographs while she was growing up in her teenage years in Costa Rica and Europe. To look at the way she dressed, the type of people she would hang out with, her smile and the way she carried herself was always so fascinating to me. I think the reason I moved to Europe, and my open perspective on life and how it is surrounded by art and nature and music has a lot to do with the love I have for my mother and my wanting to follow her steps and her philosophy. “

Hotel Aguas Claras owner stories


Mother and Daughter.

“Having this Hotel Project with my Mother has been the most rewarding and beautiful experience in my life. She is such an amazing artist and visionary and such a strong woman, and I learn things from her every day. People ask us if it is difficult for us to work as a mother and daughter, and while it was sometimes stressful, it really was a great experience.   We have a somewhat peculiar way of working together.”

Construction of Hotel Aguas Claras by mother and daughter team


Elena and Elizabeth at the construction site of their boutique hotel in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.

“We usually call each other and kind of jump from personal subjects or love gossip to all of a sudden things like “Did you call the manager to tell him about my artist friend Natasha who is coming to deliver the mosaic mirror in the lobby at 3pm”? – and then we just go straight into a long conversation of things we envision for the Hotel, mainly creative ideas.”

“I tend to explode with ideas and every time I went to the hotel construction, I saw things that I wanted to change.  My mother then tells me “Elena you have to write everything down”. She loves notes and writing things down and always gets things done in the very moment, she is an overachiever and she has the most amazing memory.”


Elizabeth with her grown-up kids Elena and Franco traveling the world.

“Me on the other hand, I love to dream about ideas and tend to take a bit longer, I know it drives her a bit crazy so I’m changing my habits, and also learning on the way. I remember when I first arrived from New York and she had already finished the interiors of the first houses, which are amazing, so classic Caribbean/Victorian but with an eclectic touch and all the colors just match perfectly. I told her about my vision for the Papaya Restaurant and the Pavlovas Sweets and she was a bit scared of it being too “modern”, that it wouldn’t match what she had already created.”

“She still to this very day tells me how worried she was, but she trusted me and let me express my creativity and somehow both our worlds blended just fine. I think Aguas Claras is really a mix of both our personalities and this experience of seeing it materialized in real life has been really surreal and special. It really feels great to work with her not only as my mother but also as someone I can look up to and who is in a different stage of life.“

“I think people that are from different generations are great to team up in work atmospheres, many are scared of this but to my experience you can always learn from each other and complement one another on different subjects and interests of how the world works now and how there are techniques that are used from the past that are still great and remain through the ages. I see our work more as a collaborative relationship that is really very exciting.”

Victorian house part of Hotel Aguas Claras Caribbean of Costa Rica


Restoration of the Caribbean Style Victorian Houses at Aguas Claras.

See what Elizabeth and Elena have created at www.hotelaguasclaras.com in Playa Chiquita, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.  Come visit.  Elizabeth and Elena love sharing their stories with their guests. 

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Hans Pfister

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