A Love Letter to Costa Rica

A man and a woman walking away from the camera down a sandy path in the middle of the jungle. They are wearing bathing suits and both carrying surfboards.

From Sendero with intention

I wasn’t looking for love. My family came to Costa Rica when our son was 10 months old. We had recently moved out of New York City and, like many at this stage of life, we were trying to figure out what raising a family was all about. We had been looking forward to getting away for a little while with our son, and we arrived in Nosara, Costa Rica, for what we thought would be a relatively short sabbatical. I was swept off my feet by the daily connection to nature. The collective energy of all its living parts. The sense of community. In that short amount of time, everything felt better.

A luxurious pool that has dark blue water, terracotta colored edges, and has many rectangular alcoves. The pool deck is dark brown wooden paneling and has potted plants resting all over it. The pool is also surrounded by small palm trees, palm fronds, and other small plants.

As most love stories go, there was something propelling us closer that was out of my control. This just happened to take the form of a global pandemic. Covid first hit halfway through our trip, and as they were starting to close the borders worldwide, we had to choose—go “home” or stay. We chose to stay. We loved the life we were living here. We quickly found our own meaning of pura vida, personified by the community’s respect for the environment, optimistic outlook and the camaraderie we saw while the world was falling apart. I wanted to keep raising our family here, and I started thinking about how to make a living in Costa Rica and call it home.

It’s funny how tough situations can develop some of the strongest bonds. I met one of my business partners, Sarah, in the early days of the pandemic on the beach in Nosara. We’d bump into each other most mornings on the way to surf, and we became fast friends. One morning our casual surf check was sprinkled with talk of, “What if we did a project together?” and “What if it is an office project?”

/senˈdeɾo/ noun: path, trail, track

Fifteen months later, we opened Øutpost, a members-only coworking space and the first of its kind in Nosara. It was a lot of work, fast decision-making and huge risk-taking. We couldn’t have done it without the incredible Costa Rican team we assembled. What started as a working relationship with that team quickly grew into a lifetime friendship, with deep professional respect for each other—no egos, and a lot of fun and learning during our meetings, which most of the time ended at the local bar discussing finishes. As the end of the construction of Øutpost was getting closer, we all wanted to keep working together, building more fun, bold projects. That is how my passion for and twelve years of experience in hospitality kicked in.

We found a perfect property for a hotel and knew that was our next project, our next giveback to the community. When we started the process of due diligence, we kept finding more and more challenges, but we were so in love with the property that nothing could stop us. And then the real challenge came: finding a name for the hotel. We knew we wanted a name rooted in Costa Rica’s culture and language, and as one of our co-founders, Brandon, was walking down the hotel’s path that leads directly to the beach, he came up with the name—sendero, meaning path. The name Sendero holds great significance for our hotel, representing not only the physical path that leads from the jungle to the beach but also the journey of self-discovery and connection to nature that, as part of our values, we hope to transmit to our guests.

There’s a tree in the middle of our restaurant, for example. We went back and forth a lot about getting rid of that tree—we were like, “Guys, we could pull the permit in time and make it happen.” One day when we looked up, we noticed birds’ nests, with eggs inside them. The tree was right in the middle of the flow of where you had to bring your luggage through and it was this big debate, but Sarah was pregnant at the time and when we saw those eggs and nests, the debate was solved. We all agreed: It’s been here longer than us. It stays.

Sendero was imagined as a neighborhood hotel, a place where as soon as you step in you feel that you belong; it is a place where locals, “long-termers” and visitors merge naturally. Conversations range from the upcoming swell to the Costa Rican artist featured in the gallery that month.

Sendero was conceived to be easy, headache-less and grounded. Hospitality and nature combined. Walkability is key for us—it’s only a two-minute barefoot walk from your room to surf, and a five-minute bike ride to most of the local restaurants, gyms, spas and bars in the area.

Surfing is an incredible part of the local community of Playa Guiones, the world-renowned beach of Nosara where Sendero stands. A lot of times when you drop into surf towns you have to figure out your surf intel: where you’re going to get a board, where to go surf, what times to go surf. We have that all here. Costa Rica often lures travelers in for longer than they intended because you immediately feel like you’re part of the community as soon as you land. That feeling is at the heart of what Sendero offers. We focused on integration into the Nosara community and in return, we welcome the community to be a part of Sendero—our surf school, yoga studio, restaurant and more are all open to the community, creating a true neighborhood hotel. As much as possible was sourced from within Costa Rica, including our staff and amenities. Sendero’s surf school, Chorotegas, was here as part of the previous property, and it’s been owned and operated by the same local, Tanallo Garcia, for years. Our art gallery is all Costa Rican artists. Konstantina Stamatiadis, who curates the gallery and the art within the property, is on a mission to elevate Costa Rican art on a global level, and we’re thrilled to be a small part of that journey through our hotel. Sendero guests have responded to the art throughout the hotel, welcoming pieces into their own homes around the globe, continuing the lifting up and celebrating of Costa Rica. Even more, most of the amenities are actually run by the community, not by us—we’re just hoping to create another path to bring these things together.

It’s funny how tough situations can develop some of the strongest bonds

Costa Ricans have a deep connection and appreciation for nature that is seen in the country’s commitment to sustainability, ecotourism and lifestyles that bring nature into your life in a seamless way. Ninety-nine percent of the country’s energy comes from hydroelectricity. A quarter of the entire country is protected land. I was taught how to prioritize sustainability when evaluating a development project. Sendero Co-Founder, Roberto, lives and breathes sustainability like many Costa Ricans and that has truly made the real difference in bringing Sendero to fruition.

Inside view of a hotel room that opens to an outdoor patio. There is a glass wall and door with black frames that separate the room from the patio. On the patio there is a day bed and outdoor shower.

It’s constantly humbling to be in a country that values an innate sense of responsibility for one’s neighbor and judges progress by lifting the entire community up versus just focusing on the self. When I talk about things that Costa Rica exhales, it’s this embedded sense of tranquility. They’ve completely abolished their army. It’s the best karma of any country—instead of investing in the army, they invest in marching bands. People aren’t on alert, they’re not ready to fight. It was the first country in Central America to approve gay marriage. They have universal healthcare and 99% literacy rates. There’s a lot of progressive legislation. And the crime rate is low. Then there’s the country’s huge focus on health and wellness—and that comes across in the everyday life of those that live here.

Costa Rica continues to teach my family and me the importance of helping others, the responsibility we have to the planet, and that it is not the destination or the adventure that’s most important, but instead who we walk down the path with, and how make our way that matters most. By staying true to these values, we hope that Sendero personifies everything Costa Rica is, gives and teaches. We strive to preserve and positively impact what we’re madly in love with—Costa Rica.

Thank you, Costa Rica, for all you are.

Stefanie Tannenbaum,
CEO & Co-Founder

Small building surrounded by trees has gloass windows in front showcasing a row of colored surfboards. There is a purple surfboard out front laying across two planks and there is a large tree growing through the roof of the building. To the right of the surfboard room is a hotel check-in table.

On Surfing…

I own Chorotegas Surf School. Some of my students call me “Number One” for some reason. I was born and raised here in Nosara, and I have been surfing here for 26 years. This place is special. It’s beautiful. And it has a rich culture and history. Surfing is a big part of life in Nosara, and being able to teach my students is the most special thing to me. Chorotegas are the original native people of this area—the people who have lived here since a long time ago. I like to think that we carry on the Chorotegas way by living life with nature, with culture, pura vida. Chorotegas Surf is located in the new and beautiful Sendero hotel, as close to the water as you can get. Sendero means path, and the Chorotegas used to walk the path to move from place to place. Now, we walk the path to get to the surf, and to be one with the water and Mother Nature. I like to think that all of us have a connection to Mother Nature, and as surf instructors, we can read the water. This is how we teach: by feeling the water, and seeing it move around us and under us. It’s a dance. If you fight the ocean, you can’t win. You have to move with the water. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never surfed before, or if you have been surfing for years; teaching my students is my passion. We can give you the tools to improve your skill level and knowledge of the water. Using video review, we can help show you exactly what you can change to step up your surfing. We are so excited to have you here in Nosara, and to be able to share our nature, our culture and our pura vida.
— Tanallo Garcia

On Sustainability…

Did you know that in certain parts of Costa Rica, you can literally go to jail for cutting down a tree? There is extreme protection and respect for nature and they’ve focused a lot of time and energy on sustainability. Sendero has respect for the trees that were there before us—we simply built around the trees instead of removing them. Our signature Jungle Rooms are all facing the nature preserve behind us. We took a risk with only having outdoor showers for these rooms that quickly bring you out of your air-conditioned room and into nature, but it has been one of our biggest hits because guests get to experience a unique Costa Rican experience in the jungle. We recycle our water four times. We use all the water on the property. The last bit of water goes for irrigation. We are 60 percent covered with our solar panels for electricity and we have all high-efficiency fixtures. We used local materials such as bathroom tiles, concrete, and rapidly renewable wood. We reused materials with repurposed brick and clay tiles, and we continue to focus on low-carbon footprint materials whenever possible.

Orange-colored iced cocktail sitting at the edge of the pool. There is an orange straw and dried grapefruit slice in the drink and an orange and white striped towel next to it.

On Simplicity…

Life in Nosara is a balance—time moves slow. People’s greatest asset is a unit of time; you find more of it at Sendero. There is more space for spontaneity— flow and rhythm that’s different, not programmed, serendipitous. Our design speaks to that—traditional architecture, vernacular, hacienda style, brick to stay cool, wood beams, arches, and local materials like wood, stone, bricks and terracotta. Our chef-owned restaurant, Talise, is 100 percent committed to the mindful sourcing of ingredients. The team works with local fishermen, butchers and farmers to create the daily menu. It is as farm- and ocean- to-table as it could be. Our chef is obsessed over it. The menu changes every day because you do not know if it was a good or bad fishing day. You don’t know when you’re going to get fish or shrimp or a specific vegetable. He’s really worked with the land around us to create that menu every day.

On Tranquility…

As the founders of Sendero, we left behind the fast-paced cities and the stress of corporate “success” to find balance in the lush jungles, cascading waterfalls and sandy beaches of Costa Rica. It was the warmth of the people, the vibrant culture, the connection to nature and the sense of community that ultimately made us fall in love with this beautiful country. There is this embedded sense of tranquility. Like a metaphor, the color palette of Sendero is a soft, neutral one, with a splash of earth tones from the clay pots and tiles that doesn’t compete with the nature around the buildings. Also the arches in the hallways and terraces and round edges in the walls are inviting and keep you in a calm state. It is a nice peaceful feeling. Sendero integrates local architecture with nature to create a relationship with the jungle and the ocean. A place of serenity and tranquility for surfers close to the ocean.

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