Fifteen years ago a lone Dutch surfer arrived at the end of the road on Costa Rica’s Burica Peninsula and found his utopia, a small family ranch set just a few kilometers down the road from the Gringo surfing Mecca, Pavones.
When he learned the ranch was for sale, he became determined to own it. The young surfer began soliciting investments from childhood friends back home in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. In what seemed like a half-baked teenage scheme, he convinced 24 of his semi-broke windsurfing buddies to chip in. They bought the property and built a hotel, Rancho Burica, using the profits from guests to manage and keep up their vacation home.
“They’re a funny group of guys,” says Jord Fortmann-Bol, a cousin of one of the owners, who now manages the hotel along with his wife. “This is their little paradise.”
And with 25 owners all with different opinions – and a rule that any change must be unanimously approved – it is a paradise well-preserved. Jord says little has changed at the jungle encampment, but its nature-loving guests don’t seem to be complaining.
“This is definitely glamping,” declared one guest, combining the words glamour and camping, in reference to the hotel’s simple but cozy accommodations. Considering the jungle elements, the rooms are remarkably clean with comfortable beds and spotless bathrooms.
Backpackers can get a dorm bed for $15 a night in the hotel’s yurt-like rancho in the center of the property. The rancho resembles a giant tent with a high-pitched ceiling and a circular sleeping area. The building was part of the original property and when the hotel was first built served as a bar. According to Jord it’s the best place to sleep because of the ocean breeze that comes in through the screened windows.
Each of Rancho Burica’s six other cabinas offer something unique. The jungle house, named for its proximity to the forest behind it, is adorned in bright red string lights and has a hammock on the porch to kick back and listen to the jungle sounds.
Just up from the jungle house is the boathouse, the hotel’s only completely open-air room. Mosquito nets dangle over the beds, but the nearby ocean – which soothes guests to sleep at night – keeps the bugs away.
On the other side of the property is the hotel’s newest building with bigger rooms designed to fit small families. Though simple, these rooms are decorated like rustic cabins with wood paneled walls and light fixtures made of plaid fabric and sticks.
More than likely, though, guests at Rancho Burica will want to spend as little time in their room as possible. The hotel’s property is stunning, laden with some of Costa Rica’s most vibrant foliage, including cactus, robles, hollitas and sweet smelling ylang ylang, all of which can be viewed from a newly constructed triangular deck that a few guests built into the tops of a few palm trees. The platform can only be reached by a narrow palm trunk ladder, and the climb to the top is a little bit terrifying. But the view is well worth it.
Meals are served in the hotel’s open-air kitchen where everyone, including guests and staff, sit together to eat. Like most things at Rancho Burica, dining is casual and the times are approximate. Guests know its time for dinner from the sound of a conch shell horn that Jord blows when the food is ready. On the night we stayed, savory tuna steaks were served up with pesto sauce and fresh salad.
After dinner guests stuck around to sip on Panamanian beer brought across the very close southern border. At the end of Costa Rica’s last road south, Rancho Burica marks the beginning of the wild and remote Burica Peninsula, which Costa Rica shares with Panama.
Despite its remoteness, there is plenty to do. Jord and his wife, Femke Bol-Fortmann (the reverse of Jord’s name because “you can do anything in the Netherlands these days”), are both avid surfers happy to take guests out near the hotel or to Pavones’ famous left-breaking wave, the wave that brought the original owners to Punta Burica to begin with.
Although all of the owners have come to surf that wave, never in the history of Rancho Burica have all 25 of the hotel’s owners been there at the same time. Some rarely make it out and some have never been at all, but several weeks ago, for the hotel’s 15-year anniversary, 16 of the owners showed up.
Femke explained that for the owners much has changed. No longer the carefree windsurfers ready to throw away their last dime for a piece of paradise, many of the owners have families and responsibilities. Some simply can’t make it to Rancho Burica anymore. But for anybody’s who has the desire and a 4X4 vehicle, we certainly recommend that you do.