Gabriel is a nature lover and adventurer. Since 1993, he’s been “getting lost” in Costa Rica, a country he loves and still enjoys to this day. “At this point, I feel like few people know this country as well as I do.”
And one of these adventures brought him to the area known as the Volcanic Sierra of Guanacaste. Guanacaste province is a very popular area among visitors, but everybody mostly goes to the coast, and the volcanic area attracts much fewer tourists as it is located in the east, but Gabriel lists it in his top five most beautiful, unique and spectacular places in the world.
Rio Perdido is right in the foothills at the bottom of two volcanoes. It is a thermal river, and, as Gabriel explains, it’s not an easy place to find. “We found it with other friends of ours who also enjoy “getting lost,” because this river can’t even be seen from the air since the combinations of the trees inside and over the canyon make for a canopy that is uniform so the river is hidden from the air. It’s extremely hard to see.”
They also discovered ancient pottery and artifacts after the initial development and acquired the land pieces around the river to protect the land. Along with this group of archeologists, they are certain that they belong to the native culture that descended from the Maya up to about 400 years ago, the reason being the thermal river.
This river is very special. Specialists from Costa Rica, Germany and Japan haven taken samples and tested the water, concluding that it’s not only thermal, it’s actually very highly-mineralized thermal water, with minerals that are considered medicinal.
Wellness travel has been growing for years now, having taken a dip after this pandemic, but it is still a very small percentage of the total travel market. Most travelers still think that wellness is somehow related to any vacation you take, not necessarily being the key goal of a wellness getaway, and they are not actively looking for that. Gabriel says they have a different perspective because, “we know there are a lot of people who visit us, proportionally higher than average world travelers, because Rio Perdido has become kind of an organic wellness destination. Still, there is a very high proportion of visitors who are not necessarily looking for that wellness experience.”
But they know from hearing feedback from guests who felt quite rested or stronger, or slept very well, or who arrived with some issues and left without them, that there is a “mystical” way of healing in this area and the Maya descendents are aware of this too. Once this mineral water comes in contact with your skin, it will penetrate your body and can only bring benefits for you and your body. They may not have all the complete, scientific explanations as to why this happens, but everybody understands the results of this experience.
For Gabriel, passive wellness is precisely this: “You may not be looking for a wellness product, you may not be actively searching for a vacation that makes you feel better, but you’re going to get that side effect, whether you’re looking for it or not, and you’re going to really appreciate what is happening to you.”
They also decided to establish their own concrete goals in terms of development and operation, so they could keep their carbon footprint really low. Among them is the program known as Zero Land Movements Policy, which basically says that in their entire development they have to seek to not alter the geology of the place, nor alter the hydrology of the river. For example: not changing the way the water has been floating forever, and most of the trails were made by people or vehicles on existing movements.
Another thing that they established from the very beginning was the creation of a reforestation manual, because they tried bringing plants from outside (all native plants to Costa Rica), but it didn’t work out. After some help from other biologists, ecologists and botanists, they started to work with plants on the property, transplanting some plant species from one place to another and the results were even better. Gabriel said, “We did it in a way that was perfect! And this technique which doesn’t involve purchasing, but actually just using the existing forest has allowed us to create a much greater coverage of the land than when we acquired it. And there is also more wildlife now.”
When they started this international project, they decided to hire locally, against all recommendations, bringing in mentors to help teach. They also discovered that some of their staff was working on the coast far from away home in Bagaces. Over time, they decided to come back, because they saw this opportunity in Rio Perdido. Gabriel also said, “About 90% of our staff is from the immediate area and, after training them, they are absolutely top notch. They are amazing. There is a good education in Bagaces city, so they have learned extremely well. They are healthy. They are close to their families. And it is so nice to mentor them,” because this ends up influencing the relationship and delivery of the experience to the customer.
If you would like to learn more about this lodge, click here