While traveling separately nearly a decade ago, Americans John Johnson and Susan Short—he from New York, she from Miami—each fell in love with the Nosara region of Costa Rica, a picturesque surfers’ paradise set on the country’s northwest coast, and both found themselves returning frequently to the relaxed town. Several years later, their paths crossed—and the rest, of course, is history (let’s just say babies are now involved). To honor the place where they met and fell in love, and to give something back to the community, the couple purchased a small local hotel and set about turning it into a shining example of sustainable tourism.
Just a short walk from the wide Playa Guiones beach and the Pacific Ocean, the 24-room Harmony Hotel proves that you don’t have to sacrifice style when going green. The vibe is a cool mix of Brazilian modern and 1970s-surfer chic, with rustic bungalows, a casual open-air restaurant, and relaxed service accented by amenities like free Wi-Fi and custom bath products from Red Flower (in glass bottles, of course). Many guests come purely for the relaxing atmosphere (the place is ideal for a low-key romantic getaway or solo soul-searching), but anyone interested in conservation and eco- matters will also find plenty to learn and see, as the hotel meets the highest levels of the Certificate of Sustainable Tourism set forth by the Costa Rican government.
Everything from the landscape design, water purification systems, and recycling to the food and décor here has been created with sustainability in mind. Solar panels help provide renewable energy (and heat hot water), while wastewater is purified for use in the tropical gardens, along with organic pesticides and compost. The hotel’s recycling center takes care of 85 percent of the property’s own waste, as well as recycling brought in from other hotels and businesses, and they are working with the local community to create a main waste management center. Guests are welcome to join the staff on beach clean-up duty and may also sign-up to volunteer with a number of local organizations. Finally, fresh local and organic vegetables, fruits, and seafood are served in the main restaurant and juice bar, with many of the ingredients coming from the on-site gardens.
Indigenous ingredients are also a key part of the Healing Center, a small complex outfitted with rooms for yoga, meditation and spa services. Nestled among palm and fruit trees—many of which are frequented by howler monkeys—the spa offers skin treatments like Banana Bliss, in which the body is loofahed, covered in coconut oil and a banana mask, and wrapped in warm banana leaves. Papaya, honey, aloe, cucumber, and sesame oil also make frequent appearances, while massage styles range from Ayurvedic, deep tissue, and hot stone to Psychosomatic, which treats the body from the feet to the sinuses using a variety of hands-on techniques and the reading of meditative texts. www.harmonynosara.com