Poco a Poco is no ecolodge. Nor does it claim to be. Located directly off of the main paved road in Santa Elena in the Monteverde region is a cozy family- style hotel that, as its name implies, has little by little become more environmentally conscious. Calling itself “a nature-friendly hotel,” Poco a Poco offers the luxuries and comfort of similar hotels of its class while striving wholeheartedly towards a mission of sustainability.
The most charming aspects of Poco a Poco are found in its creative and impeccable attention to detail. It seems that at every turn, in every crevice and piece of furniture is some species of tropical creature, which gives the hotel an almost whimsical air. Most prominent is the turtle, the hotel’s symbol, carved in wood or stone. Presumably, like its mascot, the hotel has slowly and steadily converted more of its practices to those that tread more lightly on the earth.
Part of its mission is to share environmentally friendly practices with visitors. Signs encouraging guests to conserve energy, water and towels are found at every light switch, shower and faucet. All of the hotel hand and body soaps are biodegradable. Prominently placed receptacles collect glass, paper, and plastic for recycling. Moreover, Poco a Poco features something most hotels of its kind have yet to include – a compost bin for biodegradable waste like banana peels and leftover food.
The restaurant and bar display a collection of carved wooden art as a backdrop to delightful international cuisine and gracious staff. Diners can enjoy ornate and creatively presented dishes from delicately seasoned grilled corvina to a classic U.S.-style hamburger with fries. Delicious desserts, including flan and famous Monteverde ice cream, are served with designs of flowers drizzled in passion fruit sauce.
The hotel’s 32 cozy yellow rooms are equipped with TV, DVD and coffee maker. A soothing end to the bumpy road to Monteverde, the hotel features an outdoor covered pool and Jacuzzi heated by gas, which does not emit harmful chlorofluorocarbons.
A gray-water system feeds the small but lush landscape of tropical plants, labeled in Spanish and English. The short trail, benches and fountain on the way to the pool are wheelchair accessible. Other amenities include wireless Internet, international calls, laundry, massage, a safe box, a mini basketball court and on-site DVD rentals.
Poco a Poco’s dedication to service is unsurpassed. Reservations specialist Lilliana Araya goes out of her way to ensure guests make the most of their stay in Monteverde.
She helps visitors choose from the myriad attractions in Monteverde, including zipline canopy tours, hanging bridges, frog and snake exhibits, butterfly gardens, cheese factory tours and hiking in the nearby Monteverde and Santa Elena cloud forest reserves.
Owner Diego Quesada, a graduate of the University of Costa Rica in ecotourism, brings together the priorities of comfort and service with environmental consciousness. Founded in 2001, Poco a Poco began a process of environmental initiatives two years ago. Manager Guido Montero said he expects certification by the Sustainable Tourism program of the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT) in November.
Poco a Poco is poised to accommodate the influx of upscale tourists that will surely accompany the proposed addition of six more kilometers of paved road to Monteverde next year. Yet the hotel shows that many steps can be taken to limit environmental degradation due to development.
Just across the street from Poco a Poco, construction is underway for a large, unsightly mall, Centro Comercial de Monteverde.
Flying in the face of the conservationist values and naturalist soul of Monteverde, the mall could prove to be a testament to consumer culture and destructive development – the very things ecotourists come to the region to get away from. Area environmentalists say the deforestation that the project created is already resulting in large amounts of erosion. Every rainstorm washes away topsoil and floods the street with thousands of gallons of polluted run-off.
Facing a climate of rapid change and unchecked development that could potentially ruin Monteverde, Poco a Poco sets an example for hotels of similar size and caliber, showing that even conventional hotels have the responsibility and capability to strive toward higher environmental standards and conservation.
Getting There, Rates, Info
Driving from San José, take theInter-American Highway north
and turn right just before the LagartoRiver bridge at Km 134. The last 35 km to Santa Elena is up a steep, unpaved but scenic road. Once you reach the paved road in Monteverde, take a right at the first intersection and drive three blocks past the Frog Pond. Follow the signs to Poco a Poco. It is the first hotel on the right.
By bus, Transmonteverde (2222-3854) departs San José from Ca. 12, Av. 9/11, at 6:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. (about five hours).
Rooms run $70 to $82 for a single, $80 to $92 for doubles and $90 to $102 for triples.
For information and reservations, visit www.hotelpocoapoco.com, call 2645-6000 or e-mail [email protected].