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3° STEP: Inspirational Institute

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Finca Exotica is an ecolodge located on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica. More than a hotel, it offers a natural and social immersion experience.
An inspirational institute in the heart of the jungle.

Fincaexotica_restaurant 2


It is difficult to go to the root and ask yourself the real reason why you are doing something.
Every time we say:
“I am this or that”, “I am environmentalist”, “I would like to change the world”, etc., we must ask ourselves why we are doing it.

“You are looking for something for yourself.”

Honesty towards oneself and honesty towards others are ambitious goals. When there is a quarrel between two people, an important thing at the beginning is just asking yourself and understanding what everyone wants. It must be said: “write down what you want.”
Make a nice list and see you the next day.
The meeting the next day will be much more useful and beneficial for everyone.
There have been many steps and adjustments over time, but at the base we realized that there was this idea:

“I want to feel good.”

Everything was always evolving.
The place grew, the owners grew.
The owners evolved, the place evolved based on what they felt.
It is a matter of time to understand that your well-being also depends on the well-being of what you have around you and who you have around you.


All activities, places, facilities, employees aim to create an experience for people:

“We are an Institute of inspiration and not a hotel.”

Anyway they are faced with a whole series of hotel-style routines, like the bureaucratic procedures.
How to overcome this stress?
It is a state of mind, of consciousness of the higher purpose that moves you. Stress comes, some activities to do, movements to do, but when you come back to the Finca and you look at it, you say:

“Ok, that’s why I want to do it.”

Even after 15 years Markus and Gabriela are really grateful for the opportunity they have had in this life to do all this.
Markus feels very privileged to have realized this little madness.
And he is very satisfied with this creative work.

“Everything is still evolving and is a reflection of our personal growth. I feel like I’ve already lived many lives here. We were very different a few years ago.”


Because otherwise tourism would be just an environmental problem
: just think of the fuel consumption for aircraft that move all these people every day. Lived without inspiration, without leaving a seed in them, would be totally useless.
Think of tourists going around asking for food from their country on the other side of the world.
What does it mean?
It is worth while staying at home to watch television, it would be much more eco-friendly!

“Tourism can be an encounter between art of hospitality and the art of travel. So you bring out the best from this experience.”


Costa Rica has Eco-sustainability certification authorities for companies and hotels.
Like the organic farming, some join others do not.
Some may, others cannot.
Some trust in it, others do it only for the image.
Maybe it’s just a label, but it has created an identity, a sort of special club where people begin to want to identify themselves, even if their motivations can only be driven by profit.
Many hotels have begun to make efforts to reach these leaves and this is actually generating positive changes.
Our growth is the growth of Costa Rica, and a Costa Rica carbon neutral represents a step forward for the whole planet.


3° STEP: Green Building



Intrigued by the design and architectural solutions in green building of Finca Exotica, we interviewed Markus, owner and architect of this ecolodge on the edge of Corcovado Park.





The inspiration for design comes from travels around the world and journeys into books.

I’ve seen a lot of designs in tropical realities, but if you’;re an architect you’re looking for something new or different. I’ve built experimental buildings here, I’ve done them for the first time. It’s a pleasure to design and make something new, and also creative structural solutions.

The structures are designed to bring people together. This creates sharing and connection.

I like mixing transitions between inside and outside, to offer a more interesting experience, the passage is not clear, but it’s a slip inside.

The first building is closer to squared modern thinking, but then they changed their way. As they lived and built, they experimented and grew. Recent structures are more vibrational and emotional.

I’m much more focused on how something will be experienced and not on how it looks, taking care of things to receive satisfaction over time from what you care.


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All the furniture is made here by themselves, except for a couple of chairs. They did not like the idea of having 30 identical chairs.

We did the first 12, then we started to change. It was an in process evolution. Everything has an identity, I avoid every kind of design and industrial structure, just some recycled lamps. An environment that is home-made does not have to be precise, something industrial is something that everyone can have. 

The lifestyle here and the philosophy behind it also leads us to a reflection on the internet and technology.

Technology has provided us with very powerful tools, but its effects on human happiness are overrated and misunderstood. As part of the experience of being here, we want people to rest from these tools. Less wifi and more connection.



1. Small footprints. Every human intervention on the planet creates an imbalance. We must float on the ground, avoiding invasive interventions.
2. Reduce the use of cement. It is a heavy material that impacts too much on the environment. Our structures rest on wooden beams. Here we have 4 types of wood and one of these is extremely resistant over time: a wood that resists the climate and immersion in the ground, but destined to return naturally to the earth.
The wood should not rest on the concrete because it absorbs moisture and acidity, and rots. We prefer to rest it on the stone.
3. Reduce the use of wood as much as possible. The following principle is preferred.
4. Use bamboo. It grows easily and we have it on the spot. More sustainable than wood.
5. Ventilation, no dead angles and no cavities. Angles in which the air does not arrive or empty spaces between closed surfaces generate stagnant humidity: this hurts materials and health.
This principle should be respected not only in the tropical climate, but everywhere.



About bamboo
A first prevention system is to choose the right moment to cut the bamboo: better at night, a few days after the full moon and after the dry season.
The logs to cut are marked with a spray by day and cut at night.
The plant cut goes in emergency and a white powder is generated inside.
If you cut it and leave it there a few days and then clean it and store it, the animals and insects are no longer interested in bamboo.

How to protect
In this tropical climate, these materials must be protected from sun and water. The only treatment we do is linseed oil and turpentine.
We must not fall into the trap of wanting to protect with layers and layers of varnishes. In the tropical climate you can not do anything about it: during the year the water saturates all the materials (even if protected) and when the temperatures drop you must give the possibility to the water to exit; if not it remains inside and pushes.
The walls too must breathe, perhaps with mineral substances.
Any other paint, acrylic or other is madness for the wall.

This indian-style roof!
The roofs are made of leaves, what was once a poor material of the locals. It is now used on Eco-Lodge. The larger the roof, the more it must be vertical. It is very expensive and takes a long time.
You must be quick to do the work until the leaf is fresh. It also requires special permits.
The roof takes over the buildings of the Indians.
There is a precise study and a personal architectural interpretation of a traditional form of the place.
To conserve it, a natural fungicide is used, a natural infusion sprayed on the roof 3 times a year: gavillana and black madero.



Markus took part physically in the realization, together with the workers. Few people know how to make roofs like these.
Unfortunately this art is disappearing.
There was also a person with naval experience for knots; they hold most of the bamboo structures using 16 different types of nodes.

From the drawing we passed everything in the autocad and we had the 3D model, so we knew all the precise dimensions.We also created a scale model with drawings, sticks, strips, to have the real impression.



The Ecolodge Finca Exotica has a small hydroelectric plant and a photovoltaic plant.
They are off-grid and charge batteries.
When it rains and there is no sun, there is water.
April and May are a bit more difficult, but they have decided to invest even more on solar.
Batteries are very difficult to handle due to temperatures and other issues that are not eco-friendly.

ll take the old batteries and panels to the laundry and upgrade the rest.

In fact, the panels do not make that much because of the high temperatures. There is the sun, but paradoxically, the efficiency is reduced if you go out of a certain temperature range, and drops 600W, instead of over 1000W.
These technologies are very expensive also because they are imported, but good progress is being made and they are a good compromise.


3°STEP: Visiting the garden


Jodie took us on a tour of the Finca Exotica Ecolodge garden.
A sort of food forest in Permaculture, an edible jungle, with plants and trees that have been planted with a precise intention.
Nothing is left to chance and every plant is compatible and preserves the naturalness of the place.

DSC05847with Felpagialla

More than a garden, plants wind throughout the Finca Exotica.
There are some plants so big that you feel like in Avatar.
Of some plants you can eat the leaves, of others the fruit and of others the root.


Before starting, the kitchen had made us some coconuts to drink with a straw (the straw was not made in plastic!).
The coconut liquid is rich in all the electrolytes that the body needs.
Slightly fizzy. If you found yourself without water, you could use a coconut.

The tour was not only visual!
We had the opportunity to taste fruits and leaves of various plants along the way.
Some plants are native, others have been imported.
One of these is used as a real salad. Instead, many others enrich it by making numerous vitamins and substances such as omega 3, 6, 9.

Among the species also a Cinnamon tree.
An infusion of cinnamon leaves helps against diarrhea.
Coriander (Culantro) is very present. They put it practically in every dish, salty or sweet.
Noni fruit, that smell like a cheese, detox your body.


The structures are all made of bamboo.
It is an exceptional material in architecture and in green building in general.
At the finca they planted non-invasive species suitable for the purpose, so as to have the construction material.
It is not just an edible jungle, but much more.
Around February, cutting an harvesting is done.


Achieving sustainability goals requires careful analysis, a preliminary study and asking many questions.
We must ensure that our needs are matched with the resources available in the surrounding environment, without altering its balance, collaborating with nature.
In this way, even the management and maintenance efforts of the solutions implemented are sustainable, functional, solid, but at the same time low impact, or even better completely biodegradable.

3° STEP: Finca Exotica

To reach the Ecolodge Finca Exotica, we left with a bus from Monteverde to San Jose, changing there for Puerto Jimenez. After a night we took a van called “Colectivo” that left us at the entrance of the Ecolodge Finca Exotica. Two adventurous hours on the van, in the middle of the forest, with the monkeys jumping from one tree to another, wading through the various streams along the way.
Colectivo 2
Before living Puerto Jimenez I sketched a man, sitting in a soda (a typical Costa Rican tavern). He was playing guitar while the strong rain almost muffled its songs.
Suggestion: like photograph, a sketch is more interesting if you draw some living subjects as people or animals. Furthermore the movement is more attractive than static, so try to draw them when they are doing something.
The sketch must talk about your experience or drew something local, typical to become even more interesting.

Sketching during the “colectivo trip” was really difficult. American and German tourists, stayed together with some local; there was a  mother who took her daughter to school and two boys who were leaning out  of the van, having fun watching the jungle rushing past them. An old man was hanging a large strange fruit inside his bag.
Suggestion: notice as much details as possible and sketch them or write a note. More the details are unusual, typical of that country, accidental, more are fascinating.


We immediately fell in love with the Ecolodge FincaExotica.
Design, architecture and integration with nature are fascinating.
There are many facilities and all custom designed.
The restaurant is the most welcoming place, soft lighting with a terrace, overlooking the ocean, from which you have the chance to see one of the most beautiful starry sky.
Dinner is shared with other guests and it is served on a long wooden table, illuminated by soft orange lights. I really appreciate the snacks served one hour before dinner, so you have time to meet the other guest before the meal in a relaxed atmosphere.


Every day yoga classes on a wooden platform overlooking a breathtaking view. I really suggest to go there just to see the sunset. There is also a cabin for massage and stone therapy.
We stayed in one of their bamboo tents (there are cabins too), and are located in various areas. Every place is connected by paths enriched by colorful flowers and wild green.
Bathrooms and showers are external, covered by the same roof made of leaves. The shower does not have hot water simply because you do not need it here. It is a pleasure to freshen up after a long trip into the forest!
Internet is limited to pre-established places and times so you can disconnect for once. I guarantee you will not feel the need … apart from the tons of photos you’ll want to share with the world!



Before the ecolodge Finca Exotica opened up to hospitality, 12 years ago, Gabriela and Markus bought this land and began to take care of the surrounding environment, planting trees and plants, following the impulse of a personal dream.
Later the desire to create a place of retreat in which others could come into contact and experience this link with nature.
The Ecolodge Finca Exotica is an exclusive place, but does not exclude anyone.
Staying in a tent is a compromise to reduce costs and open up to anyone.
Markus likes to say that this place is not like a hotel, rather an inspirational institution, where people can enjoy nature and abandon themselves, to meet a new dimension of being.


2° STEP IN COSTA RICA: Sustainability

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Today we met Richard, the expert in sustainability.

Its role is to improve all departments, following the principles of energy saving, introducing new ideas, favoured by frequent dialogue with each sector.
Implementing  a program to support the environment has always been the main purpose  of the hotel, from the use of local materials to the choice of cooking  only organic food.


We ask Richard:
Something you’re very proud of?
He answers us that Hotel Belmar has been part of Corclima for a long time, a group of companies and entities that aim to become carbon neutral, and their efforts to ensure that the whole town of Monteverde has the chance to pursuing the same goal.


Carbon neutral

“What does it mean to be carbon neutral?”
Being carbon neutral means not producing emissions.
In order to pursue this goal, the Hotel needed to buy a new land, to produce their own food, so they bought and built the Madre Tierra farm two years ago.
Controlling  emissions is a complex calculation; there are 16 different CO2  emissions in the hotel, counting the kitchen, the production of  renewable energy itself, the biodigester, the staff, to give some  examples.
Richard continues to explain to us that each company has its responsibility in terms of “emissions”: it must be measurable and monitored in order to make a picture of their consumption.
Belmar is the first to take an interest about improving the structure and the  quality of life for the hotel and the community.
Just for this reason,  an annual report is prepared on the basis of which changes or  adjustments are planned for existing solutions.


The Hotel has a biodigester, organic crops, high efficiency solar panels, which work well even during not sunny days.
They  are still not satisfied with the batteries for energy conservation,  still very polluting, so at the moment they are checking the news that  the market can give for any changes.


The water you will find at the Hotel comes directly from a source, filtered, and checked every three months.
The  black waters end up in the biodigester, the grey ones are poured into a  dedicated garden where they are filtered through plants and  micro-organisms.


Where ideas come from
Richard continues to explain and respond to our curiosity with a lively and passionate look.
“Which solutions do you expect in the future?”
The  hotel continuously evaluates new solutions. One of them is the  possibility of using rainwater or the one leaving the sinks to drain the  toilet.
Some ideas come from employees of various departments” he says proudly.
Every idea is evaluated and weighed and if they are deemed suitable, they are applied promptly.
For example, “From farm to table”  was an idea of a restaurant employee, as was the planting of coffee  plants in the farm or the use of cotton bags for laundry instead of  plastic ones, the use of waste oil to produce biodiesel and soap: all  these ideas come from different people.



Plastic is a big problem  for everyone, and they are fighting it too, to use this material less and less (you will not find plastic straws in cocktails).
To counter  the use of water bottles, the Hotel has made aluminium bottles, a  material that highly beats plastic in matter of recycling, which can be  purchased directly on site and used every day during your trekking.



The  last stricture built, follows the principles of Permaculture:
reuse of  water and rainwater collection, construction of terracing against soil  erosion, use of local materials derived from responsibly managed  forests, the supply of natural bath products.
The more the experience  and the research in an environmental sphere continues, the more each  structure is consciously realized, looking for concrete solutions to  real problems.


The  rooms are decorated with numerous plants, the design is simple, with  the attention for refined details and the use of wood as a construction  material makes the hotel a elegant place, completely losing the aura of  pomposity that many, so called, “luxury” residences reveal.
Beauty is visible leaning from the terrace, when the sunset falls on the Cloud Forest and few birds cut the sky hovering in mysterious directions.


2° STEPS: Monteverde

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Hotel Belmar kindly hosted Felpa Gialla and me, for some days in Monteverde.
The hotel is located only two kilometres far from the centre of Sant’Elena so it is easily within walking distance. If you arrive at sunset time you will probably fall in love with the amazing panorama of the Cloudy Forest.


The Hotel Belmar is the only Carbon Neutral hotel in Costa Rica, but we hope that many places will follow their example.
In their website you will find and accurate pdf about sustainable tourism, conservation program, and what the hotel is doing to take care about nature and Monteverde community.
It is a perfect place to learn about sustainability.



Thirty two years ago
there was just one hotel in Monteverde, Belmar became the second.
It is born by a vision of Belmar family, who came in Costa Rica after ten years lived in Austria. They immediately understand that Monteverde could have become a perfect place to attract tourism.


Starting with a small piece of land, they grew up year after year.
Always integrating in the environment, regenerating the forest, and following their slogan: Art of Nature.
From the beginning, they invested on locals, to sustain and make the community and the relations grow stronger.

The rules were: everything must have a low impact on the environment and their fortune was to become Monteverde fortune. It was a difficult choice, because sustainable decisions are often expensive, but they have a positive impact in the whole context from the environment to the communities.

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In Hotel Belmar Richard is the guy who works full-time on sustainability. He monitors, checks that everything is efficient, proposes new solutions, and studies a lot to be up to date. Two years ago Hotel Belmar finally received the carbon neutral certification, thanks to the new investment on the farm.