To make a structure look interesting using simple materials and doing as little damage to the environment as possible is not easy. When architect Jorge Gracia took the job of creating a high-end property in Baja for the Grupo Habita, he was initially concerned by the uncompromising looking dirt and rock the resort was to be placed on.
“Per usual, in Mexico we’re given a limited budget. The challenge is always to be as creative as possible while still getting the job done. We’ve got a history of making ideas into realities,” Gracia says.
As eco destinations have spread throughout the U.S., they are also slowly, but surely making their way to Latin America.
Endemico is the first property of its kind in the Valle de Guadelupe—Baja’s wine country. There are plenty of places to stay in Baja, but few as contemporary and cool looking as this one. Scattered on the hillside among the region’s looming boulders overlooking the vineyards, the 20 luxury cabins, each with private decks, offer unobstructed views of the valley—they’re the definition of clean modern pods.
The all-metal roofs are cantilevered six feet. And the ceiling is packed with 11 inches of insulation, all designed to maintain optimal coolness in summer and warmth during winter. The chic and eco-friendly cabins are built on pilings, so as not to disturb the earth, the frames are steel, and the wood is re-claimed from the United States.
“The lofts are call ‘Eco’ mostly due to their budgetary restrictions. But this concept can work anywhere in the world. It’s a matter of how to place stuff with regard to nature—integrating building into the environment. To me, sustainable means a non-conflict design,” Gracia says.
A few hundred miles south, in a remote but not isolated stretch of Costa Rica’s rain forest, Rancho Pacifica stretches out across 250 acres. They call it Zen-Modern. With lots of open spaces, screened-in walls and modern furnishing, the colors are neutral–unique to Costa Rica—and used in order to accent the vibrant greens and blues of the ocean and rainforest views.
The adult-only property identifies itself as “Green to the Core”; which began when the resort was designed and built. The buildings are all made from sustainable materials with minimal impact on the area.
Bordering a rushing stream and waterfall, and residing over two miles away from the village of Utiva and the Marina Ballena National Marine Park, the five-star resort recently won the Traveler’s Choice Award by Trip Advisor for 2012.
More than a few celebs have found their way to Rancho Pacifica--Al Gore, Anderson Cooper, and Sheryl Crow to name a few.
Rates at the hotel range from $380 to $700 USD during high season and $350 to $600 during low.
When it comes true ‘Eco’ travel, the Canopy Tower and lodging is the real deal. Located in the Soberania National Park, outside of Panama City, Panama. It was originally built as a US military radar station. Starting with the bear bones and later redesigning it in order to fit the 12 rooms, the resort was completed in 1999.
Though basic in layout and furnishings, views of the rainforest outweigh all expectations for most birding and nature enthusiasts.
Canopy Tower was featured in the TV documentary, "Panama: Paradise Found?" produced by the National Audubon Society and TBS and hosted by Mariel Hemingway. The property has five levels that offer different views of the forest around it.
A 30-foot high geotangent dome covers the top floor-- this is used as the main dining area and is completely surrounded by panoramic windows. The floors below house the 12 two-person bedrooms, all featuring large windows and a full bathroom.
At the mezzanine level, there are rooms that look out onto views of the lower levels of the forest canopy. And finally, the ground floor houses an exhibit about the environment and surrounding forest, and the animals that live in it.
“In the past few years I’ve seen an ongoing movement of all resorts near the rural areas to call themselves ‘Eco’, mainly because customers who frequent these type of venues are attracted to this three letters the way bees are attracted to flowers,” said CTO of Canopy Lodge Daniel Arias Barakat. “I believe that we are much more than that. Apart from low energy consumption lights and appliances, the recycling of our trash, training and employing locals, giving back to the community, and using locally grown organic food, we strive to teach the wonders of the natural world to all our visitors.”
The next lodge, which is still "in the works", will be completely off the grid. Drawing its electrical energy needs from the sun, using filtered river and rain water for all the water needs, growing the majority of their own organic vegetables and fruit, and using recycled or farmed raw materials such tetra pak for its roof,” says Daniel Arias, owner of Canopy Tower.
Rates at the Canopy Tower range from $135 to $259 USD depending on the season and room type.
Rebekah Sager is a writer/editor for Fox News Latino. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebekah_sager