THE TOP TEN ECO-LODGES IN THE WORLD

Selva Bananito Lodge: Dreamtime and Fireflies in Central America

German Expatriate Rudi Stein began homesteading this remote 2000-acre properly near Porto Limón and Cahuita National Park, on the eastern coast of Costa Rica, in the 1970s. But when he wanted to start logging some of the rainforest that abuts the Bananito River, his kids intervened.

"We wanted to help my dad find an alternative to logging, so we built the lodge instead of letting him cut trees," says Rudi's daughter, Sofia, who owns and runs Selva Bananito with her brother, Jürgen. "The cabins are made out of abandoned mahogany logs that we dragged out of the woods using water buffaloes."

The hotel, which consists of 11 cabins and a main building-all built on stilts-has serious ecobona fides: It uses oil lamps and candles instead of electric lights, relies on solar-heated water, recycles gray water via water lilies and hyacinths, according to native methods, and stocks organic soaps and shampoos made by a local cooperative. Additionally, the Stein family donates 10 percent of the lodge's income to a nonprofit conservation foundation.

But don't get bogged down in the green litany: The lodge borders the 2.5-million-acre La Amistad Biosphere Reserve, the largest protected ecosystem in Central America, providing ample exploratory elbow room. Adrenaline junkies can rappel down 100-foot waterfalls and learn how to climb giant ceiba trees using ascenders and harnesses, while the less adventurous can hang out-binocs in hand - on the lodge's 100-foot viewing platform and scan the mahogany canopy toucans, crested hawk eagles, and red-lored parrots.

As the day winds down, guest soak up the evening light from the hammocks crisscrossing their casita decks. "At night, there are so many fireflies blinking on and off" Sofia says, "that visitors say our place seems like eternal Christmas"

 

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