Friday, 23 December 2011

Renders of our first Jungle Villa - by FCB Arquitectura

One of the first renders has just been delivered, you'll have to wait to the New Year to see the others...The one above shows the open plan 'living space' which we have designed in such a way so as to essentially 'break boundaries' between what is conventionally 'inside' and 'outside'. With the whole of the open plan kitchen Y lounge area being surrounded by teak and bamboo sliding doors, the idea is that the spaces can be converted, according to their usage, and that guests really feel that their 'Jungle Villa' is part of the lush green jungle that surrounds the retreat.

The outside lateral deck (from where the render/photograph is taken) will of course be complete with a nature plunge pool for those hot sunny days and will be equally as appetizing by night, allowing guests to bathe under the jungle canopy and stars...

Enjoy and as always, Pura Vida!!!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Construction Begins!!!

...Primer dia de construccion, o talvez mejor dicho definirlo como el primer dia del movimiento de la tierra. Todos estamos bien animados, parece que por fin ha llegado el veranito - que la falta de lluvia nos siga ayudando un monton!!!

First day of construction or maybe thats getting ahead of ourselves! Well, let's call it day 1 of having the digger and its expert operator Hirardo up at the project. Work starts at the crack of dawn on the off chance that we still get caught by a stubborn afternoon rainshower (which would mean all digging would stop and shelter would have to be sought - I'm sure you've gathered by now that when it rains here it really does 'tirar boldazos'!

In the end what was previously estimated a costly 18-20 hours work was done on a very productive & speedy 7am-5pm 10 hour day. Let's hope this is a sign of whats to come and its not the only thing that comes in under budget!

The job in hand was essentially moving whats called a 'pedazo de tierra' or a large mound of hard clay earth and then depositing it on the corner of our existing plantel, layer by layer, compacting at each stage so that when the rains do eventually return (hopefully not until atleast May now) there is no danger of a landslide! By the end of the day I'd say iur existing plantel is a good 10 metres bigger which will be great for phase 2 of PuraVidaEcolodge.

Hirardo our 'operario' made it all look very easy but there really was an art to the 'digging and depositing' process, taking into account that the area he was cutting into had the be left flat and solid as it will be our plantel or 'building pad' for our first jungle villa.

By mid afternoon the intense sun was already effectively baking the fresh cut of earth now exposed to the elements, a couple of hours later thedigger had completed its last task of leveling out the 'servidumbre' and access road so that access to the project is that little bit easier and flatter, then it was time to shut down the digger and head for home. The 10 minute ride back down to the sea at sunset time is truly amazing. After the days digging, scraping, beeping and flattening it was so still and quiet, tucans and other colourful macaws flying round in pairs apparently looking for a nice tree in which to rest there wings for the night, meanwhile the air drew lighter and the sky filled with the magical colours of the pacific 'atardecer' or sunset. A perfect finish to a very productive day.

The next day we were all up early and waiting for Roberto, the engineer coming down from San Jose and the contractor to meet us up at the project. They eventually rocked up mid morning all very typical 'mas o menos' time keeping. I guess I should know by now that 'ahorita' (literally translating as 'right now') in context here in Costa Rica, can mean anything from now to the next hour and a half, likewise 8.30am doesnt really mean 8.30am, but rather anytine between 8am and maybe 10am!!!

Anyway, once on site all ran smootly, re-marking where the foundations will go now we had the details of the new ground floor plans. Essentially the size and orientation of the jungle villa won't really change but the ground floor has moved about 2.5metres to the right and the 1st floor between 1 & 1.5metres. All this in an effort to not have as much of the house hanging scarily over the steep jungle canopy. The engineers final verdict was that the quality of the earth where the cut has been made (where the retaining wall will go) and where the plantel begins are sufficiently hard enough, again confirming the 'estudio de suelos' (land study) that we got done a few months ago.

While disappointing that we won't actually be starting construction till January 2nd, it is comforting to hear from all involved that with the re-design and the 'first cut' complete, the construction phase should carry few surprises and complications and if all runs to plan could be complete by mid april.

The next few days will be taken up with chasing Raphael and Jorge, two local carpenters, for their quotes for all the teak and bambu sluding doors as well as a few visits to both Palmar & Cortes where we hope to get the insurance policy forbuilding and pick up the permits!!!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Bamboo inspirations - From Bali to Costa Rica!

Even though they are on completely opposite sides of the world, Bali and Costa Rica have one very important thing in common when it comes to the design and construction of PuraVidaEcolodge. The sub-tropical climate is perfect for the rapid growth of one of the worlds most sustainable construction materials - namely Bamboo.

After speaking with a fantastic project that is going strong in Bali, The Green School really is a wonderful source of inspiration. Environmentalists and designers John and Cynthia Hardy, who lead the initiative, wanted to motivate communities to live sustainably. Part of that effort was to show people how to build with sustainable materials, namely bamboo. They established the Green School, and its affiliates: the Meranggi Foundation, which develops plantations of bamboo plants through presenting bamboo seedlings to local rice farmers. With an incredibly quick growth rate, PT Bambu (the construction arm behind the concept)  promotes the use of bamboo as a primary building material, in an effort to avoid the further depletion of rainforests.

We hope to transport this type of idealogy to our beautiful retreat in Costa Rica. There is no reason why PuraVidaEcolodge and its surrounding communities cannot become a holistic green community with a strong educational mandate that seeks to inspire people to be more curious, more engaged and more passionate about the environment and the planet.

At PuraVidaEcolodge we hope to be able to take advantage of the versatility of this wonderful raw material. With various 'design consultations' with our design team and architects scheduled for the coming weeks, we will be planning what wonderful things we can do. Watch this space!! In the meantime check out the website for some more photos (under the inspirations) page. Fivelements (another exquisitly designed 'holistic retreat' offers some fantastic design inspirations too!

Pura Vida!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Waking up 'a la madrugada' in Costa Rica

Living in 'el pueblito' de Coronado was always going to be an 'off the beaten track' experience. A small dusty village located just off the recently finished CostaNera 'Highway' which don't worry, sounds far uglier & noisier than it actually is. In reality it is the 'main road' which winds from the Panamanian border going all the way up to Jaco and beyond, generally lined on its right side by dense green jungle & the sound of waterfalls and rivers flowing down from the hills and on it's left a wild Pacific ocean, the home of the local fishermen and the occadional surfer.

Chatting to one of Don Justo's (our ever so smiley 'landlord') old amigos at daybreak he proudly shows me his last construction 'project' the oldest 'casita habitable' in the village (essentially a colourfully painted, albeit faded from many decades of sunshine, rickety but very charming wooden house). Don Juan, a well weathered but friendly looking Tico, born in the first quarter of last century told me tales of how our village came to be. Just a stones throw from where 'se desembocan Rio Sierrpe, Rio Terraba y Rio Ojachal' (where the three main rivers meander and eventually spill out into a wild Pacific Ocean), the village started as a fishing hamlet with just three families living near one of the many tributaries of the village. For centuries the men and boys of the village would wait for high tide to be able to drift down stream in dug out canoes, through 'las manglas' (mangroves) known for their extreme bio-diversity and rich fish populations. Their working days would often take them as far as Rio Terraba and beyond the peninsula of land that protects the bay where miles and miles of deserted beach (still to this day) are lined with coconut palms, mystical sounds of the jungle and playful monkeys howling in the distance, who many generations ago were stranded on this Isthmus as it ceased to connect with the mainland.

As the settlement got bigger, self-sufficient villagers started to trade 'tinta y carbon' (dye and coal) the two main products from the saltwater mangroves which embraced the seaward side of the village.

Nowadays, Coronado retains its charm with what is essentially three lines of single story wooden or sometimes concrete block houses scattered along a red clay bumpy track or 'camino'. The village lights normally go off by 8pm with the dogs of the village running wild (depending on how heavy the rains are) until well after midnight. The first (overly eager in my opinion) rooster recognizes daybreak sometimes as early as 3.30am and by 4.30/5am I would say most of the village has awoken and is drinking strong black coffee with their gallo pinto breakfast. I think we are the only bleary eyed bad sleepers in the village - lets see how quickly we adapt!

Depending on the day and what's the PuraVidaEcolodge 'game plan' (in terms of finalizing our construction team, site meetings with architects & engineers, getting quotes and requotes for materials and starting to make logistical plans however much the elements don't seem to be helping). I often find myself on our front 'terraza' (actually Gersan's & Lliana's front porch as they are in Tres Rios 'house-sitting' a Gringos house called Bill). My day stars here, sitting on a larfe pieve of driftwood recently lugged home from Playa Tortuga, sipping hot home-brewed cafe con canela and plenty of sugar, munching on whatever fruit was bought from the passing fruit cart yesterday or picked from one of the many fruit trees behind our house. Todays favourites include papaya and the best pineapple I have ever tasted! Don Juan says, I will have to wait until the dry season is well under way until he brings the 'guanabanas'!!!

That famous word 'Verano' (SUMMER) When will the rains cease and the hot sunshine blast though those heavy looming clouds?!? 'ya casi viene' the young kids walking to school assure me. Heads always turn as the shy locals walk past out house - We are definitely the only Europeans in the village...standing out at first, but this villages 'open door culture' it wont be long until we are Ingles-Tico....

Thursday, 17 November 2011

In Costa Rica at last!

Atlast the building permits are ready!!! 'Felicidades' all round - we are well on the way to being ready to start this very exciting first phase of PuraVidaEcolodge.

After a very productive 'reunion' at the PuraVidaEcolodge site with our talented (and very patient) 'Josefino' architect from FCB ARQUITECTURA along with the 'maestro de obra' from what seems the most likely contractor, all that remains to tie down 100% now is the exact (by both European & Costa Rican standards) location, given that the proposed 'Jungle-Villa' banks on offering guests both stunning panoramic Pacific Ocean views at the same time as dramatically hanging over the jungle canopy.

Throughout the development these two characteristics have been key to the design concept and will hopefully prove integral to the overall success of our first phase.

Ontop of that we need to consider the 'servidumbre', electricty connection and how much we need to 'landscape' the already very dramatic 'topografia'.

Hopefully we can incorporate our multi-levelled design without changing the natural landscape too much - all this will be confirmed along with the house parametres actually being marked out by our 'topografo' in the next few days.

Once we have completed the negotiations and finalized the 'acabados' (finishes) along with a possible re-thinking of foundation structure (essentially making the whole house that little bit lighter) we will be in a position to finalize the contractors contract, pick up the building permits from 'La Muni' and start construction!!!

MAYBE AS EARLY as last week in NOVEMBER!!! Watch this space! In the meantime, check out some basic renders of what will be our first 'Jungle Villa'.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Infrastructure Improvements at PuraVida Ecolodge

Having recently gotton back from Costa Rica, it seems only fair to fill you in with the recent developments of our 'ecoluxury retreat' at PuraVida Ecolodge. Back in June, at the beginning of Costa Rica's extremely beautiful rainy season, myself and the local project manager dedicated a few days with a local team of Costa Rican workers, re-surfacing the access roads to the project, clearing the drains and generally improving access from the recently completed Costa Nera Highway. Now that we have also completed the 'all-weather' bridges (one of them photographed below) it was the logical thing to do in the last sunny days we had before the big rains come...

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More news to follow soon....

Thursday, 14 July 2011

The perfect day trip adventure on Pura Vida Ecolodge's doorstep!!!

Just the other week, we were lucky enough to discover yet another gem in Costa Rica's Southern Pacific. I will let the wonderful photos tell the story (you can check out the full travel feature by travel photographer Joe Lasky - - by clicking on Features & then Pura Vida, Costa Rica!) but I wanted to share a few photos here on the blog, right here, right now...

...just a short drive from the Pura Vida Ecolodge retreat, one arrives at the quiet village of Coronado. There we met Gerzan, our local guide and set off for the Rio Terraba. After an idylic hike through the open plains we eventually arrived at the 'quebrada', where a colourful little wooden boat was awaiting us. This was 'au natural' all the motors to scare off the abundant wildlife. After around an hour or so of thousands of different birds skwarking and howling monkeys swinging from tree to tree we managed to navigate to the middle of the impressive Rio Terraba, just a couple of miles towards the north, this golden coloured river spills out into the Pacific Ocean. Instead, we decided to take the safer option and continued to cross the river, while the tide was high, towards what was promised to be a hidden Utopia. Miles of untouched golden sands...all to ourselves, other than perhaps a couple fo local fishermen! And all the coconuts you can imagine! What a trip, what an experience...all just a stones throw away from PuraVida Ecolodge!!! Pura Vida Gerzan!!!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Our very own waterfall & 'plunge pool' onsite at PuraVidaEcolodge!

After our recent trip to the PuraVidaEcolodge site, much time was spent at the local 'viveros' buying and planting various trees and flowers so as to take advantage of the 'green' riang season that by now, will well be underway in Costa Rica. In fact, we even went so far as to start our own mini 'vivero' or 'tree nursery'.

BUT, the real exciting news, with the help & knowledge of one of our local guys from the team, was the discovery of a beautifully secluded two-tier waterfall, which comes in to its element as soon as the rains come in the wet season (typically May-November). Just a short walk through the stunning rain-forest canopy, literally a few minutes from the proposed location of PuraVidaEcolodge's first Jungle Villa, one can bathe and relax in what will soon be a 'full to the brim' natural water plunge pool. The tranquil sound of falling water and the sheer beauty of the waterfalls location, make this one of our 'Pura Vida' discoveries of the month...! Photos & video to come, once our access path is finished!

Final steps of 'Anteproyecto' underway with our architects & designers...

After months and months of meetings, reunions, presentations and site visits we have decided to go ahead with the exciting Phase 1 of PuraVidaEcolodge with a young Costa Rican firm based in San Jose. While their background is varied and a lot of their recent works are of a more urban & contemporary nature, the relationship we have developed over recent months suggests that a very strong and successful collaboration is on the horizon.

With a strong background and understanding for sustainability and 'ecoluxury' we are confident that they are indeed the correct professionals for this unique and exciting project. After all this, already long-awaited, phase one, hopes to be the first of many.

After our recent site visit in the middle of June, we have since shared some studio time and are currently tying up the 'anteproyecto'...We hope to have the 3rd revision (in 3D software) of the proposed 2-bedroom 'Jungle Villa', complete with open-plan living areas, multi-level decks, balconies, rain showers and various other treats in the next week or so. Watch this space!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The PuraVidaEcolodge Blog goes live!

Please bear with us as all the old posts seem to be a little muddled up as we transferred them from the OLD blog...By all means use the 'Archive' to read 'Old news'!

In the meantime, enjoy our list of partners, suppliers and sites that we really like at PuraVidaEcolodge...Their links are just to the side.

Pura Vida!

The PuraVidaEcolodge website update - 7th May 2011

After many inquiries, the PuraVidaEcolodge website has been updated with a whole load of new inspirations and design ideas for our Phase 1 of development, still scheduled for this coming November.

The anteproyecto & conceptualization are already in progress and we hope to be scheduling some 'design reunions' with our ever so talented Costa Rican team of designers, architects and engineers this coming June.

Keep checking back to the website for more updates...!

PuraVidaEcolodge - A Retreat - A Lifestyle - An Experience

The Happiest People

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF Courtesy of The New York Times

Hmmm. You think it’s a coincidence? Costa Rica is one of the very few countries to have abolished its army, and it’s also arguably the happiest nation on earth.

There are several ways of measuring happiness in countries, all inexact, but this pearl of Central America does stunningly well by whatever system is used. For example, the World Database of Happiness, compiled by a Dutch sociologist on the basis of answers to surveys by Gallup and others, lists Costa Rica in the top spot out of 148 nations.

That’s because Costa Ricans, asked to rate their own happiness on a 10-point scale, average 8.5. Denmark is next at 8.3, the United States ranks 20th at 7.4 and Togo and Tanzania bring up the caboose at 2.6.

$500M Resort Marina Planned - November 14, 2005

By Jennie Bell, Southeastern Correspondent | Reprinted from the Commercial Property News 

Florida Development Team Plans $500M Resort Marina in Costa Rica. At the request of the government of Costa Rica, Miami-born developers Jim Lynskey and Harvey Sasso are embarking on a $500 million resort marina project in the country's southeastern village of Golfito. Lynskey is partnering with Sasso's company, marina specialists Coastal Systems.

The first phase of the development will include an authentic village community with retail and residential components, designed to blend with the surrounding Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve. It will include a total of 22,000 square feet of retail space, with seven boutique shops, two restaurants, a casino, a grocery, health club and yacht club.

The residential component will initially comprise 51 luxury condominiums with prices ranging from $300,000 to $800,000. Those units are already 75 percent sold, primarily to U.S. buyers, noted Phil Perko, president of Digital Capital International Sales Group, the marketing agent for the properties.

The second phase, however, will feature million-dollar town homes and private residences. "We knew that we could sell this first space just with our contacts in the fishing industry," Perko said. "But for the higher-end residences in Phase II, we know we'll have to go to the international market to sell those."

As for the marina, Bahia Escondida will receive two new, custom-built covered piers, for a total of 216 marina slips ranging from 55 to 150 feet and priced between $180,000 and $600,000. In addition, Lynskey and Sasso have also received concession rights at Golfito's existing freight pier.  That pier, originally used by the Chiquita Banana company, can house the new 400-foot, luxury mega-yachts. "There is a strong demand for marina slips because of the influx of boaters from South Florida and California," Perko said. Many are fishermen eager to explore the area, he added, but owners of the oversize yachts, who are limited for locations, are also showing interest.

Chiquita Banana built the Golfito port town in 1920's but subsequently abandoned it 60 years later, Perko observed. And although the Costa Rica government later tried to establish the town as a duty-free trade zone, its remote location and natural barriers of rain forest and water have left it largely undeveloped in the past few years.

Bahia Escondida will break ground in January 2006, with the completion of the marina set for the end of 2006. The village should be completed by fourth quarter 2007.