How we do Sustainability – The Cayuga Way!

We strive to create the perfect symbiosis of Sustainability and Luxury for our guests in our Hotels, Resorts and Lodges in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama.  Sometimes we get asked what we understand by “being sustainable”.  Here a quick summary of our actions and initiatives that we think have a big impact on protecting the environment and really make a difference in the positive socio-economic development to the communities where we operate.

We have been practicing sustainable hospitality since the mid-1990s long before it was a “trend”.   In this blog, we will not talk about energy efficiency, solar water heating, biodegradable cleaning products, hanging up towels or not changing sheets, wastewater treatment plants nor recycling.  For us, all of these are “basics” that we have been doing for almost two decades. We are trying to push the envelope towards what we call Sustainability 2.1.

Here some example of what we do at all of our hotels, resorts and lodges. 

What we are most proud of, is our focus on local.  We hire and train locals.  We offer attractive and well-paid employment opportunities in remote areas.  We put them onto career paths and make managers out of room attendants or construction workers.  And local staff means everybody in the team.  Not just gardeners and maintenance workers.  Managers, guides, chefs, concierge, reservations staff – everybody.  Not always easy, but this is what we believe is the right thing to do. Oh, and they get to keep their job all year around.  Unlike many other hotels and resorts, we don’t fire out staff in the low season.

Senda Team

Next time you are in a “fancy” restaurant in the tropics, check their seafood menu.  It is very likely that you will find imported salmon.  Why?  In our opinion that makes no sense.  Frozen fish flown in?   We believe that all food should be locally sourced, and the offering should be local dishes with a gourmet twist.  We grow some of our own vegetables, herbs and fruits.  We are members of “Dock to Dish”where we try to connect local fishermen directly with our chefs, to source abundant, seasonal and sustainable seafood.  It is all about fresh, local and delicious.

Food With Philosophy
The focus of our culinary strategy is fresh, local, healthy and delicious.

If you work for a big company in a city, having a company doctor might be a nice benefit, but not a big deal.  But if you live in a remote beach area where the next big town has a population of about 3,000 inhabitants, having access to quality medical services is a “huge” deal.  We implemented free or highly subsidized doctor visits for our staff and their families with great success.  Not only do we have healthier and happier employees, but the overall quality of medical attention in the areas where we operate has improved as the doctor there now has a stable income.

We are passionate about not using plastic bottles or plastic straws for drinks.  Passionate and borderline obsessed.  Why?  Look at our Oceans – this is where it all ends up.  We did a beach cleanup as part of our corporate retreat last year and it changed the way we look at and consume plastic.  You won’t find a plastic water bottle, nor a plastic straw in our hotels.  Not even in the transfers, tours or the minibar.  Not always easy to do, but who says that being sustainable is always easy.  Remember that recycling is actually the last option. You make a real difference when you refuse – reduce – reuse.

We have not used plastic straws in our operation for almost 8 years and you won’t find a plastic water bottle at Cayuga.

It is possible to live without Air Conditioning in the tropics.  Maybe even better and more enjoyable.  Some of our hotels and lodges don’t have A/C.  On purpose.  Some have it, but there is the option to not use it and just go with cross ventilation, ceiling fans and enjoying the sounds of the rain forest and the ocean.  It is your choice, but we strongly encourage you to live without A/C on your next tropical vacation.  You might not want to go back…

Look at this beachfront casita at Isla Palenque in Panama.

You won’t find manicured or exotic gardens in our hotels and lodges.  Our properties are private nature reserves, or we are located close to National Parks.  We plant local species that attract wildlife and easily adapt to the soil and climatic conditions where we operate.  We stay away from plants that are introduced from other parts of the world.  We have seen many hotels start off with amazing gardens only to realize that it is almost impossible to maintain them during dry season.  It is our goal to only use water from our treatment plants for irrigation and not use a drop of drinking water in our gardens.  We are not quite there yet but getting closer and closer.

The surroundings at Kura Design Villas.

We also encourage staff members to engage in our volunteer programs, such as beach and national park cleanups, assistance at animal refugee and recycling centers, and environmental education programs with local schools.  During low season we invite local students to our properties, and teach them about sustainability, conservation and hospitality.  We believe it’s a great platform to showcase the opportunities of sustainable tourism in rural communities and inspire future leaders. We also provide training during general staff meetings, so they can bring sustainable practices to their own homes, neighbors and families. It’s all about spreading the seed…

Kura Hotel Staff

And if you want to see all of this and more for yourself, then we invite you to go on one of our back of the house sustainability tours.  All areas of our hotels and lodges are open to our guests.  We have nothing to hide.  You go into our kitchens, check out our laundry, the employee area, our gardens, our offices and even the wastewater treatment plants.  And if you ever wonder if a hotel or resort that you are thinking about staying at is sustainable, certification is one way (not always the best).  Just ask a few line level employees about what they know about sustainable practices at the hotel.  You will find out soon how much they actually “walk the talk”.  Interested in learning more?  Find our here if a Cayuga Collection Hotel is the right experience for you.

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Hans Pfister

Co-owner & President