Building in the Wilderness: One Lodge’s Tale
Tucked away on the southwestern tip of the OsaPeninsula, some 10 hours by bus from San José, Luna Lodge is not an obvious destination for tourists. But remoteness is part of its charm. The eco-lodge, at the edge of CorcovadoNational Park on the southern Pacific coast, has become a haven for nature lovers and yoga enthusiasts.
A series of tents, bungalows and hacienda-style rooms accommodate 32 guests, who have access to a pool, a gourmet restaurant, a yoga platform and, of course, vast stretches of virgin forest.
Other entrepreneurs might wonder, “How was this lodge built in the middle of nowhere?” It wasn’t easy, says Lana Wedmore, owner of Luna Lodge.
Wedmore bought a plot of land on the OsaPeninsula in 1994, while she was living and working there. Three years later, she and her boyfriend drove to the peninsula from the U.S. state of Colorado in a 1972 Chevy.
With tools from home, reforested trees and construction materials from Puerto Jiménez, a town about two hours away on the other side of the peninsula, Wedmore started building Luna Lodge.
As money ran low, Wedmore sought a loan from the state-run Banco Nacional in Puerto Jiménez. The bank had never before loaned money in dollars, so Wedmore “invented” her own conditions – a 9.75 percent interest rate and a maturity of seven years, she says.
In 1999, Wedmore suffered a major setback. She was bringing palm leaves in a tractor from Puerto Jiménez to the property to build roofs for the bungalows. Mid-trip, the cart toppled over and about 100 pounds of palm leaves fell on Wedmore’s leg, breaking it in four places.
“(Building the lodge) was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Wedmore says. “But it was still worth it. It was my dream. And now it is a reality.”
After the lodge opened in 2000, Wedmore faced the challenge of attracting customers. A series of flattering magazine articles helped.
In June 2000, the magazine Red Herring ran a piece about Wedmore’s method of connecting to the Internet in the wilderness: She would climb a 500-foot grade to a ridge to capture an Internet signal, while shielding her computer from stick-throwing spider monkeys, she told Red Herring.
Three months later, Luna Lodge was featured in Travel Holiday, then Condé Nast Traveller, then Travel + Leisure, Cooking Light and even Land Rover Lifestyle.
“From there it pretty much went boom, boom, boom,” Wedmore says.
A visit by President Oscar Arias in January 2008 likely didn’t hurt either. Even with such publicity, half of Wedmore’s visitors hear about Luna Lodge through word of mouth, she says. She seems to have cultivated a loyal following, including one woman who has visited the lodge 40 times.
About 80 percent of guests arrive by plane, landing either in Puerto Jiménez or on a small airstrip in Carate, a 15-minute ride from the lodge.
Development may attract business, but Wedmore is trying to keep a lid on surrounding development to preserve natural habitats. She is working with the U.S.-based El Tigre Foundation to raise money to buy forest in the Río Carate valley. The goal of her initiative, dubbed the Costa Rica White Hawk Project, is to prevent major development on land that runs from CorcovadoNational Park to Luna Lodge and continues to the southern end of the peninsula.
Wedmore is also trying to minimize Luna Lodge’s own footprint. The pool is solar-heated, and Wedmore is installing two hydroelectric turbines to eventually power the rest of the lodge, which currently runs on a generator.
She also uses her pigs’ feces to make methane gas, which is then used to cook the staff ’s food. She plans someday to use methane to cook guests’ food, too.
Luna Lodge is not entirely isolated. There is a small Internet café for guests, and Wedmore claims to have the only cell phone within 40 kilometers.
But guests are required to unplug at 10 p.m., when the generator is turned off. “People love it,” Wedmore says.
For more on Luna Lodge, visit www.lunalodge.com or call 8380-5036.
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