Running to the Moon – Who can keep up with Maria Jose, Cayuga’s Director of Operations? 

In early December, Maria Jose Castro participated in the Monteverde MoonRun Monteverde Marathon, a 40km rail run race through the cloud forest and mountains of Costa Rica’s Monteverde highlands.  The picture above shows her crossing Rio Chiquito, just before starting a 1,000 meter ascend back into the cloud forest.  Of the many races Maria Jose has completed, this is her favorite so far as it allows her to see places and enjoy views that are normally not accessible to regular tourists in the area.

Maria Jose has completed “regular” marathon races every year without fail since 2015.  But trail running is her new thing.  At the moment, she’s training for the February Costa Rica Coastal Challenge, a multi-stage race which will take her from Quepos to Drake Bay along the coast of the Central and South Pacific of the country over the space of a week, traversing mountains, forests and rivers along the way.

Arenal Lake
Turn a corner, come out of the forest and there it is. A view of Arenal Lake and Volcano from an angle typically not enjoyed by tourists.

Before her running career, Maria Jose was a very successful competitive swimmer.  She would train 10 times a week during her high school years, including sessions at 3:30 am before class.  Her strength was the 200, 400 and 800m freestyle, winning several national championships in each. Maria Jose also qualified as a finalist in several regional competitions, and in 1996, she won the Central American/Mexican Championship in the 200m freestyle.

Her most important lessons learned along the way? Eat well, rest well after workouts or competitions, care about what you do, achieve goals, and  most importantly, do things with passion and conviction, and never cease to enjoy them.

National Swimming Records
Maria Jose held several National Swimming Records over the years.

When Maria Jose isn’t running Costa Rican trails, she’s managing the 450+ strong Cayuga Collection team, spread across nine hotels and lodges in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama.  It’s certainly not an easy task, but she’s quick to admit that some of the skills and philosophies developed as a high-performance athlete have sure come in handy in the professional world.

Maria Jose ended up in the hospitality industry by “luck”.  Starting off in Product Design, a career she felt wasn’t quite for her, so she switched to Hotel Administration, only to find that most of her fellow students had chosen the career because they didn’t know what to study or wanted to live near the beach and surf.

She started to work at the Cayuga Collection’s Harmony Hotel in 2006 and became part of the Cayuga Corporate team in 2009.  She found her calling at Cayuga, wholeheartedly embracing the group’s mission to define the perfect symbiosis between Sustainability and Luxury in hospitality.  “In all the years I’ve worked with Cayuga,” says Maria Jose, “there hasn’t been a single day where it’s been hard to get up and work – what we do at Cayuga is definitely my passion.”

Cayuga Week
Maria Jose (middle) with Cayuga Collection’s Co-founders Andrea Bonilla and Hans Pfister at Cayuga Week.

A regular “MoonRunner”, Maria Jose is particularly pleased that we’ve just opened a new Cayuga Collection hotel in Monteverde.  After her race this year – which she completed in 6 hours and 44 minutes – Senda Monteverde Hotel provided her with the perfect place to recover and recharge.  And of course, the whole team was very proud to take care of their boss.

Senda Monteverde
Senda Monteverde is the latest edition to the Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels and Lodges.

Here’s the good news – you don’t need to be a runner to experience Monteverde to the fullest.  Whether you’re visiting to “recover and recharge”, or in search of some wild cloud forest thrills, Senda Monteverde Hotel is the perfect base. Drop us a note for our special opening rates or contact us at – adventure awaits!


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Andrea Bonilla

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