Our private reserve is an important buffer zone or transition area to the International Park La Amistad. Selva Bananito Ecolodge has achieved world wide recognition as an example for Costa Rica ecotourism.
In September of 2008, Selva Bananito Eco Lodge was named one of the eight best eco lodges in Costa Rica. We have the smallest carbon footprint in the country among similar operations in the tourism sector.
Costa Rica Ecotourism's call for sustainability as the essence of its goal is exemplified by Selva Bananito's watershed conservation, our commitment to being a source of income for local communities, and our aim to protect the natural resources that we manage.
We have 7 spacious standard rooms and 4 even more spacious superior rooms. Each one of our cabins has solar heated warm water and a tastefully appointed, tiled and rather ample restroom and shower area.
Each of our spacious cabins has a full size and a queen size bed (standard rooms) or two queen size beds (superior rooms). All of the rooms are separated from each other by at least 30 feet from any other cabin, with "natural walls" of exotic heliconia plants in between them for a secluded, intimate and refined atmosphere.
Selva Bananito Lodge is built on our family farm, of which only one third is actually used for farming. Our father, Rudi Stein, who has farmed in Latin America since the 1950's, purchased the land for farming and wood exploitation in 1974. In the early years of his land tenure, he obtained a government permit to do selective logging on the forested portions of his land. This permit went mostly unused, and in 1994 our family decided to declare the untouched two thirds of the farm (850 hectares or 2,000 acres) a private, biological reserve and built the lodge as an alternative source of income. This was a moral, not an economic decision, since it is unlikely that the income from the lodge will ever approximate the commercial value of the protected wood.
The cabins stand on a ridge flanked by two streams. On one side of the ridge you will see the Bananito River and its valley, where the farm's pastures, plantations, and reforested areas are (great birdwatching here!). On the other side your eyes will fall upon the beautiful Cerro Muchilla and the Amistad Biosphere, which our borders touch.
We realize that our very existence in this environment affects it, but we try to minimize our impact in a variety of ways. Rather than building the cabins closer to, or in the forest, we purposefully erected them in an area that had already been altered by human activity. Eighty percent of the hardwood used to build the cabins was obtained from "second class" wood discarded by loggers from trees already cut for other purposes. As much as twenty percent of a tree is classified as "second class" and is normally left to waste. We wish to set an example for how to maximize the use of a tree once it is cut down, because using trees efficiently is one way to reduce deforestation.
Each cabin stands on stilts, in traditional Caribbean style. This type of architecture reduces moisture inside the buildings and improves the view and ventilation. Furthermore, far fewer insects and other critters find their way inside. Even so, you may want to inspect your shoes for unwanted guests before putting them on!
Many hotels and lodges in Costa Rica use the charming palm roofing inspired by traditional Indian architecture. The excessive use of suita palm for roofing, however, has contributed to its endangerment. Furthermore, this type of roofing requires regular spraying with pesticides to keep insects out (whether hotel operators admit to it or not). We therefore opted for thick tar paper roofing or synthetic roofing instead.
Without the use of electricity we hope to create a quiet and relaxing environment for our guests and ourselves, very much in tune with the surroundings. If you need to recharge any batteries, however, we may be able to arrange it for you through the farm management.
The main office is located in the building opposite the entrance to the cabins. Here you may leave valuables for safekeeping.
If you follow the main road downhill, you will find our rancho, which has a dining area, bar, and small library upstairs, and kitchen and personnel facilities downstairs. Meals are served at the rancho. Please advise us of any dietary restrictions as soon as is convenient.
The farmed portions of the land have a history worth telling: they were originally leased from the government in the 1920's by employees of a U.S.A.-based banana company. They harvested the primary forest along portions of the Bananito River valley while the company established mid-scale banana plantations in the nearby coastal region. A combination of factors, including a big recession in 1929, massive floods, and banana diseases, drove the company out in the 1920's and the land was left to fallow.
When our father purchased the land in 1974, the former banana fields had reverted to secondary forest. He cleared the brush from this secondary growth and established a sustainable, integrated crop system combining plantain, cocoa, and dwarf coconut, all interspersed with the native tree known locally as laurel (Cordia alliodora). At first this system worked well because the plantains produced good crops. After the third year, however, the plantain succumbed to a serious fungal disease (sigatoca) and was eliminated. By the time the cocoa plants reached maturity, it became clear that the hybrid which Rudi Stein's bank had required him to plant as part of the loan contract was of far inferior quality than traditional, local varieties. In the meantime, the dwarf coconuts developed a serious root disease that felled the majority of the plants, and the remainders were not worth harvesting because of poor market prices. Later, the farm produced organic bananas, which are also no longer grown on the farm due to poor market prices.
After many years of trying out other farming alternatives, the farm is today home to a reforestation project and cattle breeding program intended to produce dual-purpose breeds, i.e., cattle as useful for milk production as for beef production. Soon a moderate-sized oil palm plantation will be established. You will have a chance to learn more about the farm on our guided tour.