Catarata Eco-lodge began with only 4 rooms in 1995. There were no telephones, no roads, and not even furniture. The families of the Association as well as the community collected donations of furniture, sheets and silverware to start the operations of the Eco-lodge. They also worked diligently with the local government to build roads, establish phone lines and gain access clean water. In the early stages of its development, there were very few visitors. Not many tourists new about the Eco-lodge. Until one day, two German tourists stumbled upon their business and after their stay, submitted information about Catarata to Lonely Planet. The unexpected recommendation increased their number of visitors and encouraged them to expand further. Today, the Eco-lodge is comprised of 19 comfortable rooms with hot water, private bathrooms and ceiling fans. The water in two of their rooms are powered by solar energy. This is an attempt to save energy and further comply with CST standards to increase their rating. The rooms are surrounded by beautiful gardens, containing a wealth of tropical plant species and scenic landscapes. A large pool is located in the center of the property. There is a magnificent view of the Arenal Volcano and plenty of nearby attractions to explore such as natural thermal springs and spas, hiking trails, caves, a wildlife refuge, waterfalls and rivers.
In this picture Hannia Berrocal , the owner and manager of the Catarata Ecolodge, is giving us a presentation on the crossroads of Ecotourism, Community Development and Sustainable Development as represented by the Eco-lodge. In 2003, Hannia and her husband who were part of the Association from its inception bought the Eco-lodge and are currently the sole owners. The Association is still working in the community on various projects and the Eco-lodge supports their efforts. We are shown here sitting in the dining room of the lodge. There is ample dining space where typical Costa Rican cuisine is served daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Service is quick and the food is exceptionally good. Among their best dishes are the Casado (rice, beans, vegetables, plantains and your choice of meat), Sopa Negra (a black bean broth soap) and Pescado al Ajillo (grilled garlic fish). Restaurant hours are from 7 am to 8 pm. Breakfast is included in lodging. Meals are very affordable and typically range between $2 -$8 US dollars. Free unlimited Wi-Fi internet is also offered in this area. As a community-based Eco-lodge, dining space is frequently donated to local schools and community groups for special events.
The picture to the bottom left is of a Paca Agouti, a solitary nocturnal animal which can be found in Latin America from Mexico to Paraguay and considered to be the second- largest rodent species behind the Capybara . They have coarse brown to black fur on the upper body and white on the underbelly. They live in the rainforests near water and feed on plants and seeds of the forest understory. Paca Agoutis are claimed to be one of the most important herbivores in the rainforest and play an important role in forest dynamics as seed predators and dispersers. They are considered as agricultural pests and therefore killed by farmers. As a result, they are endangered throughout Costa Rica. In an effort to boost their population, the Eco-lodge started a Paca Agouti breeding program to reintroduce the mammals back to the natural environment. Currently, there are four at Catarata with two of them brought from Guanacaste.
Author: Joan Ngo