One of the advantages of staying at the Hotel Green is that your eyes don’t sting when you get out of the swimming pool. In the absence of chlorine, a natural, biodegradable substitute is used to keep the water clean. That’s how they do things at what some say is the first eco-hotel in Jacó, a bustling beach town on the central Pacific.
As more and more hotels jump on the eco-bandwagon to offset guest guilt about holidaying in today’s economically stretched and supposedly globally warming climate, we have learned, however, to be skeptical about such claims.
So, exactly how green is it? Having been open for only five months, the Hotel Green is still waiting for its first leaf (the eco-hotel industry’s equivalent of a star rating) and official approval as a full-fledged eco-hotel.
In the meantime, a biodegradable picture frame awaits you in the hotel’s welcome pack, natural soaps and shampoos await you in the shower and last, but not least, a laminated sheet of eco-friendly instructions remind you to turn off lights and air-conditioning when leaving the rooms. “It is a difficult time to open a hotel, especially an eco-hotel, but next year we are planning, among other things, to change light bulbs to energy-saving lamps, run the hotel from solar panels, build a greenhouse to produce organic fruits and vegetables, have a compost heap and participate in green-minded programs,” said owner Emilio Zuñiga, who also runs Il Viaggio Tours with his partner, Stephanie Sheehy.
Situated far enough away from the bright lights of the main drag to remind you that there is more to Jacó than vice and buffalo wings, yet close enough to the beach to get change from ¢1,000 in the taxi, Hotel Green is in a rural area, book-ended by a Pentecostal church and a farm.
Each of the hotel’s six rooms offers two double beds and all are clean and tastefully decorated.
One of the advantages of staying at the Hotel Green is that the receptionist will help you organize tours via Il Viaggio.
The Essence of the Central Pacific Coast Tour is one such example. It includes a small-scale community fishing tour, a guided walk through a national park and a trip to a mock Costa Rican village where arts and crafts are sold. The eight-hour tour costs $110 per person and includes lunch.
The day starts with a simple breakfast on the hotel patio, before a bilingual tour guide whisks visitors off to the popular CararaNational Park in an air-conditioned, four-wheel drive vehicle. After a guided walk through the tropical transitional forest known for its wealth of birds, visitors are driven to Playa Tárcoles where they are handed over to fishermen belonging to Por La Mar, a consortium made up of local fishermen who share with each other the profits of their fishing efforts while working to protect the beach from industrial fishing.
After a ceviche snack, visitors are taken on a behind-the-scenes tour of the local fishing industry, where they can meet the people responsible for gutting the fish, untangling the fishing lines and making the nets. Visitors then may help launch one of the pangas (traditional Costa Rican fishing boats) and head out to sea with fishermen Daniel Morales and Marcos Hernández who cast the nets and set the visitors up with their own fishing lines to dangle overboard.
After more than an hour at sea, the neophyte and professional fishermen head back to dry land and to Santa Lucía, a mock traditional Costa Rican village that has its own church, bar and shops where arts and crafts are sold.
A stop at the famous TárcolesRiver concludes the tour and enables visitors to catch a glimpse of the many crocodiles that inhabit the river and its banks.
While the hotel still has some way to go before achieving “green” status, its tours provide a real opportunity to see a special side of Costa Rica and, for this reason alone, it is well worth the stay.
Getting There, Rates, Info
Hotel Green, about 80 miles and a 3-hour drive from San José, is just off the main highway that runs to Jacó, on the central Pacific coast. From May 1 to Oct. 30 rates are: one person, $45; two people, $65; three, $85; four, $105. High season rates from Nov. 1 to April 30 increase by $10. During Easter week and the last week of December, prices increase by $15.
For more information, call 2643-6274, or visit www.hotelgreencr.com.