The Symbiosis of Luxury and Sustainability in Hospitality: Our Daily Challenges

We often get asked about what makes Cayuga different from other hospitality management companies or boutique hotel operators.  One thing for sure is the passion for customer service and developing local staff members of Cayuga’s founders and owners, Andrea and Hans.  But what really makes us unique is our mission to achieve the ultimate symbiosis of sustainability and luxury.  Many companies across the world do luxury hospitality well.  Some are great at sustainability.  But we know very few which are able to pull off the perfect synergy between the two.

At all of our hotels, we offer a complimentary back of the house tour to give our guests a behind-the-scenes look at our sustainable operations.  Nothing is off-limits.  We are a fully transparent organization.  When we take guests on this tour, more often than not they’re beyond impressed by the efforts that go into becoming a truly sustainable hotel while still providing world-class luxury experiences.  In fact, the tours can become a real vacation highlight, leaving many of our guests wondering why only a few high-end hotels embrace sustainability…

So why don’t all luxury hotels and hospitality brands implement sustainable operations?  Most likely, because it is hard.  Kermit the Frog always said: “It is not easy being green.”  And he was right.  Here are just a few of the struggles we face from the day-to-day implementation of our sustainable philosophy at our hotels and lodges in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama

We banned plastic bottles and straws over ten years ago from our hotels.  But how do you deal with this issue on tours or transfers? 

We have found that guests really like our stainless steel water bottles. We ask them to bring their own, purchase one in our stores or just lend them one for the duration of their stay.

For bathroom amenities to make it into our hotels, they need to be locally produced, organic, biodegradable and naturally, high quality.  And of course, the presentation needs to be in dispensers to avoid plastic waste.  That can be a lot to ask, especially in our more remote locations. 

Small plastic amenity bottles would not feel right at our hotels and lodges. We have had great feedback from guests when we offer high-quality products in larger refillable containers.

In our experience, there are a handful of luxury travelers out there that expect to eat the same food during their vacations that they would typically enjoy at home.  And to cater to them, there are plenty of luxury hotels in the tropics that serve imported salmon, duck, blueberries, asparagus, pears, etc. This is not the Cayuga Way. We are all about local, fresh and healthy cuisine.

We support Dock to Dish and Farm to Table programs in all of our locations. Fresh and healthy is a new kind of luxury.

At many luxury hotels around the world, you might have been greeted and attended to by expats, perhaps a General Manager from Switzerland in the Maldives, an Executive Chef from France or a Reservations Manager from the UK.  At Cayuga, when it comes to “local employment”, we walk the talk.  Our teams, including top management, are entirely local and we always offer career paths for line-level employees to work their way up the ranks. 

The top management team at Arenas del Mar in Manuel Antonio. Rodbin (on the left) was worked on the construction of the hotel, stayed on and worked his way up to Operations Manager.

Our hotels and lodges are located in areas where nature takes center stage.  We often tell our guests that we are just “visitors” and do our best to live in harmony with the animals around us.  But sometimes, animals like raccoons arrive with “bad habits” and break into guests’ luggage, their minibars or our restaurants.  Instead of pest control, we implemented a “pest patrol”, relocating those animals to nearby national parks or reserves. 

Landscaping and beautiful plants are an important part of our guest’s experience when at our hotels.  We avoid using freshwater for plant irrigation and rather use the water from our treatment plants.  But in the first place, we try to plant only native species that can resist the periods of low rainfall. These plants also attract more wildlife for our guests to observe. 

The gardens at Aguas Claras, the newest member of the Cayuga Collection in Puerto Viejo.

If you would like to learn more about our efforts to support our local communities and preserve and restore the environments in which our hotels operate, send a note to or visit one of the Cayuga Collection hotels and lodges for a firsthand look. 

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Hans Pfister

Co-owner & President