500m West and 350m South of Cafe de Paris
Playa Guiones, Nosara
Provincia de Guanacaste, Costa Rica 50206
Olas Verdes HotelNosara, Costa Rica
Life Can Wait, Pura Vida Can’t
The Olas Verdes Hotel was built with sustainability in mind from the ground up—literally. Sitting at the edge of the Ostional Wildlife Refuge in an undeveloped lot, the owners—some who owned a business in Nosara for over 10 years and others who had been taking their families to surf there for just as long—knew they had a huge responsibility to develop their dream with the utmost consideration for the environment.
Two years after breaking ground in November 2013, the Olas Verdes Hotel opened as the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum hotel in Costa Rica and the first LEED certified surf hotel in the world. In addition to retaining 90% of the existing trees on the property, the hotel features rooftop solar, solar hot water, rainwater storage, native landscaping, recycled glass mosaics, and wastewater treatment systems with greywater recycling for irrigation. Not only that, but each of the five buildings on the property represents a different part of Costa Rica with unique color palettes and decor from each of the respective regions so you can learn about the country’s various cultures and landscapes.
As for the surf, take a five-minute stroll through the wildlife refuge straight from your room to the four-mile beach break known as Playa Guiones where swell is common year-round and waves are on tap for all abilities. Bring your own surfboard or rent a Firewire Timbertek model from Safari Surf School on-site. Yoga sessions on their recycled plastic yoga deck are a great way to unwind—that, or a cocktail and an authentic Tico dish from the lovely ladies at the organic farm-to-table restaurant and poolside bar, El Manglar.
Olas Verdes Hotel and Safari Surf School were certified together and conduct several initiatives that complement each other. View Safari Surf’s profile for the complete picture.
Sustainability ManagementSection Performance - 76%
The saltwater pool is shaped like two breaking waves not only as an ode to the hotel’s name, “Green Waves”, but also to navigate around the large Jobo trees that would have been removed otherwise. All of the roofing and overhangs were custom trimmed and positioned to go around the trees on the property while tree aeration wells allowed for the buildings’ footprints to sit close to the trees without suffocating their root systems. These initiatives altogether saved over 90% of the existing trees on the property. Exclusive use of native landscaping on the project has provided far more vegetation and wildlife habitat than what was previously on the property to offset building footprints.View Criteria
As a LEED Platinum hotel, Olas Verdes earned recognition for its unique sustainable design and construction features, the coolest of which is probably the two recycled glass mosaics of Playa Guiones on their walls. Olas Verdes and Safari Surf worked with the ladies at the Nosara Recycling Center and two local artists to determine which colors they wanted to use and what brands of alcohol matched their color palette. After saving 55-gallon drums of each color for several months at a time for each mural, the local artists were able to delicately build the mosaic of Playa Guiones over the course of one month. Notable mentions also include a recycled plastic restaurant and yoga deck as well as all the locally sourced wood and carpentry services for the furniture, doors, cabinets, roofs, and everything in between. All countertops used recycled glass and the Palmex fake palms on the overhangs are made from recycled plastic as well.View Criteria
Olas Verdes prides itself on equipping its employees with the right tools and knowledge to succeed at the hotel and be stewards of their community. Water conservation is a huge issue in Nosara and the staff takes it very seriously, which is why Ravenala Landscaping, who did the native landscaping plan, trained them on how to use the recycled greywater irrigation zones efficiently. Safari and Olas Verdes have trained their staff and the El Manglar restaurant staff on how to sort and measure waste, recyclables, and compostables. Poderco, the solar installer, trained the office staff on how to use The Energy Detective (TED) energy meter software to monitor their energy use versus guest occupancy and how it correlates with the rooftop solar production and battery storage in the Outback Power Optics software. To top it off, the team has been trained by the local TortuGuiones Turtle Conservation Organization on how to identify nesting sites and notify TortuGuiones for conservation purposes.View Criteria
- 1.7.3: Sustainable Design and Construction - Mitigating Building Impacts
- 1.7.2: Sustainable Design and Construction - Reclaimed Materials
- 1.3: Staff Training on Sustainability
Social and Economic Impacts ManagementSection Performance - 86%
Rather than hire someone to manage their restaurant, the owners helped two women from Nosara, Alicia (waitress and bartender) and Maritza (chef), form their own business as a microfinance initiative. Although the two long-time employees had never owned a restaurant, they ran with it and made it their own—first by creating an identity, El Manglar, which represents the mangroves in the wildlife refuge just steps away from the hotel. After arranging their kitchen with energy-efficient appliances and learning how to properly sort their waste, recyclables, and compostables, the next step was to infuse local culture into the dining experience. The owners covered tuition for advanced hospitality, business management, and culinary courses specifically for Costa Rican cuisine. El Manglar has since focused on sourcing from the local organic farm as much as possible through curated menu creation centered around "Tico" dishes and has run a successful and responsible restaurant for over two years now.View Criteria
In addition to hosting the Nosara Community Watch concert benefit at the hotel with Safari Surf School, the two businesses supported widespread relief efforts after Tropical Storm Nate devastated homes and businesses near the Nosara River last October. Olas Verdes and Safari Surf assessed the damage and decided to donate 4% of the hotel’s sales for October, November, and December as well as raise over $10,000 via GoFundMe to rebuild their employee’s homes that were swept away or destroyed in the flooding. Olas Verdes has also attended a conference with leading scientists exploring the research behind Blue Zone communities and educating guests about Nosara as a Blue Zone (hotspot for centenarians: i.e. 100-year old life expectancy).View Criteria
Together with paying for their staff’s English classes and French classes to the front desk staff, Olas Verdes supports local education initiatives primarily through their Pack for a Purpose partnership, which encourages guests to bring school supplies and clothes in their luggage to donate to the local Las Delicias elementary school in Garza. The hotel also hosts several site visits for sustainable tourism studies and other relevant majors in at universities in Costa Rica and abroad year-after-year.View Criteria
The town of Nosara has most basic services for its citizens and businesses, but a lot of these are stretched thin or not very developed. Olas Verdes takes great pride in enhancing basic services where possible. First and foremost with water conservation (the town is in a 5-year drought), where maintenance crews are diligently checking usage and leaks daily, surf instructors measure water usage on a submeter from their own hose, and as a result, the hotel remains consistently low on the local municipality’s list of consumers in their monthly web reports (ASADA). The 14,000 liters of rainwater storage during the rainy season and greywater recycling for irrigation also help! The grid is Nosara is also not always reliable, so Olas Verdes invested in rooftop solar and solar thermal hot water with a battery bank to be able to provide power during power outages and reduce stress on peak grid demands. Lastly, complimentary hotel beach cruisers are offered for guests to get around town to reduce the need for an ATV or rental car on the dusty roads.View Criteria
Luis Pardo, the General Manager, is the only non-native Tico at Olas Verdes (born in Peru, moved to Costa Rica as a kid)—everyone is Costa Rican and most have lived in Nosara their whole lives. The hotel prides itself on a nearly 50/50 ratio of male to female employees and a combined average wage of 40% above minimum wage with free organic lunches at El Manglar, free yoga classes, and use of Safari Surf surfboards. Furthermore, the hotel organized a political forum amongst the staff to discuss candidates, legislation, and other issues affecting their communities and the future of Costa Rica before local and national elections.View Criteria
- 2.4.1-.5: Support Local Entrepreneurs - F&B and Agricultural Products
- 2.1.3: Community Development - Health & Safety
- 2.1.2: Community Development - Education
- 2.8: Enhancement of Basic Services
- 2.2: Local Employment; 2.6: Equitable Hiring; 2.7: Fair Wages
Cultural Heritage Impacts ManagementSection Performance - 80%
To encompass all of the hotel’s initiatives, a sustainability tour of the property was created so the staff could lead guests along a simple path from one end of the property to the other hitting key points on the way before finishing at the bar. Now, university groups from around Costa Rica and abroad come to see the tour and use the hotel as a case study in their research. For cultural interpretation, there is some passive information about the geographic themes for each building and associated cultures, but the staff also represent the local culture for different occasions by wearing traditional costumes or hats on specific holidays such as independence day and 25th of July. The hotel also has donated to and received training from the Asociación Zonas Azules, which is an NGO dedicated to preserving cultural traditions.View Criteria
The local architect, Donald Loria, and local contractor, Guanacaste Builders, ensured the building design was congruent with the surroundings and that it blended naturally with the wildlife refuge. Olas Verdes offers 17 suites across five buildings, each representing a different region of Costa Rica featuring distinct color palettes and authentic decor from local artisans in their respective province. In fact, when you look at the property from an aerial view, the lots are supposed to follow the geographic points of a map of Costa Rica in a clockwise pattern. The GM and interior designers personally traveled to different regions of the country to buy the decor and handicrafts directly from the artisans to prevent exploitation from middlemen.View Criteria
- 3.4: Interpretation
- 3.5.2-.3: Incorporation Culture - Design & Decor
Environmental Impacts ManagementSection Performance - 92%
A combination of rooftop solar panels, solar hot water systems, and battery storage installed by Poderco meet nearly 30% of the hotel’s annual energy demand with renewable energy. Energy efficient appliances, HVAC system, Big Ass Fans®, and a combination of CFL and LED lighting along with timers for outdoor lights and motion sensors for the guest suites and bathrooms further minimize grid-energy use. This, along with an energy monitoring and HVAC control system, makes Olas Verdes 40% more efficient than the baseline building performance rating based on the ASHRAE standard, which is the highest level of energy efficiency for the LEED v3 requirements. That said, Olas Verdes has purchased renewable energy credits (RECs) through 3Degrees to offset any other potential grid emissions for the next three years since Costa Rica’s grid is primarily powered by renewables (nearly 100% for the last three years).View Criteria
Water conservation was of the utmost priority for the owners since Nosara is in a five-year drought, which is why Olas Verdes installed 14,000 liters of underground rainwater storage even though it only rains four to six months of the year in Nosara—every drop counts. Each “Casita” uses ultra low-flow water fixtures and all of the property’s greywater is treated in a chemical-free and aerobic wastewater treatment system. The water is then recycled for irrigating all of the native vegetation that was diligently sourced from around the Guanacaste Province and beyond by Ravenala Landscaping for six months before installation. As a result, the property seamlessly blends with the Ostional Wildlife Refuge in its backyard and provides additional habitat for Howler Monkeys, various types of birds, and other fauna who frequent the hotel grounds.View Criteria
With three separate businesses, the hotel, Safari Surf School, and El Manglar restaurant, there are a lot of points for waste and recycling collection on the property. To streamline this, three-bin collection areas made from recycled plastic in Costa Rica are never too far whether your relaxing by the pool, chilling in your room, or on your way to the beach with a cold one from the bar. All of the businesses sort and then take their recyclables, compostables, and grease (biodiesel) to a central collection area where it is weighed before being taken by the Nosara Recycling Center or to local farms for composted food waste. As a result, the whole property is averaging close to 80% waste diversion rates.View Criteria
Backing up next to the Ostional Wildlife Refuge just 200 meters from the beach has its rewards but also comes with great responsibility. Olas Verdes knows this and tries to limit the use of any toxic materials or other forms of pollution. The wave-shaped saltwater pool minimizes the need for chlorine and landscaping uses nontoxic fertilizers and herbicides. Permeable surfaces used all over the property combined with best practice rated stormwater management designs and erosion control on the stream banks mitigate erosion and sedimentation issues. All lights are pointed downward and are on motion sensors or timers and there is no noise pollution from the property at night (the pool pump room emits 44 dB's which is less than the sound of the ocean you hear while in bed). Lastly, the hotel staff participates in road, stream, and beach cleanups once a month and report their findings to the Blue Flag coordinator for the community (eco-friendly beach designation).View Criteria
- 4.2.1 -.5: Energy Management and Renewable Energy & 4.4.1: Emissions
- 4.3.1 - 4.3.7: Water Management & 4.4.2: Wastewater Treatment
- 4.4.3: Waste Management
- 4.4.6: Other Pollutants & 4.5.4: Coastal Conservation
Commitment to a Sustainable Future
We take great pride in our culture as Costa Ricans as well as the culture of sustainability and community we have built here at Olas Verdes together, which has been a seamless fit with the STOKE program. As the first STOKE Certified hotel in Central America, we are honored to hold this title as recognition of our sustainability management practices in tandem with our status as the first LEED Platinum hotel in Central America. Thank you to the incredible and passionate team at Olas Verdes and to the owners whose dream for the property and commitment to sustainability is what led us here.
STOKE has been part of OV since before we broke ground and it’s been a lot of work to get to this point, but we’re only just beginning and we’re excited to see our relationship with STOKE and Safari Surf School continue to evolve into new best practices.
- Continue to train our staff to learn new sustainability skills and inspire them to take action locally outside of the hotel and stewards in the region.
- Find a way to capture travel emissions data from our guests from various booking mediums.
- Facilitate the creation of a local carbon offsetting project in Nosara (perhaps blue carbon).
- Continue to work with local stakeholders to develop a zoning plan for the region for responsible development and conservation easements.
- Enhance passive interpretation about the wildlife refuge and our culture.
- Develop a comprehensive socioeconomic impact reporting system to quantify our impacts on the community in more than dollars and cents.
- Start tracking rainwater usage, add more rainwater storage, and treat greywater for reuse in the laundry machines.
- Enhance yard waste composting and begin tracking these volumes more accurately.
Thanks for following our journey and taking an interest in the community and environment of Nosara. We hope to see you soon at Playa Guiones.
Luis Pardo, General Manager