Staying at El Lugar Resort, Costa Rica: Where Tradition Meets Sustainable Luxury

Costa Rica has several well-known sustainable resorts and wellness centers, but the country’s newest addition, El Lugar Resort, seems to be pushing the initiative to another level. 

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Located in Sarapiqui, near La Selva Biological Station, just two hours away from San JoseEl Lugar Resort was created with a vision of protecting the surrounding environment without sacrificing the guest experience. From its construction through to its hospitality, the sustainability aspects of this resort are impressive…but that’s just one of the many reasons we loved our recent stay here. 

Over the years, we’ve stayed at many sustainable eco-resorts in Costa Rica, but our recent stay at El Lugar took us by surprise. This massive project offers so much more than meets the eye! So, let’s dive straight in! 

About El Lugar Resort

El Lugar project began in 2017 with a vision curated by Gary Douglas to turn a 1,200-acre property in Sarapiqui into a natural sanctuary. The multi-year project has been anything but a quick development, and it shows. 

Designed to embrace and nurture the surrounding tropical rainforest and abundant wildlife, the project was about establishing a resort that seamlessly combined modern comforts with an unwavering commitment to preserving and enhancing the landscape. 

The eco-resort finally opened its doors to guests in late 2023 and today consists of 95 casitas (stand-alone rooms), a pool, and a pool bar. A beautiful restaurant and bar, as well as a conference centre with meeting space, are in the works and are slated to open in late 2024. The property is also a working ranch with over 100 horses and a big herd of cows that graze in the fields across the vast property.

Pushing the standards of what it means to be “eco-friendly”, El Lugar promises to offer the perfect escape from the city. 

We found it to be a great place to unwind in nature while experiencing Costa Rica’s culture and history.

El Lugar Resort from above
El Lugar Resort from above

Sustainability at El Lugar Eco Resort

The very foundations of El Lugar, Costa Rica, are built around sustainability. In fact, El Lugar’s ambitious goal is to become the most sustainable resort in the world, so you know they take it very seriously. 

To Gary and his team on the ground, that means building slowly and organically, working with the land as much as possible. It meant making the most eco-conscious choices along the way when it comes to the construction and operations of the resort, but never at the expense of guests’ comfort. 

“We’ve taken a different approach to creating El Lugar”, tells us Liam Bramley, head of Technology and Innovation at E Lugar. “We want the guests to blast the AC, have a 20-minute hot shower or run that bath without worrying about the impact it has on the environment, so we’ve done the heavy lifting for them by implementing the most innovative solutions to reduce their carbon footprint.” 

Their goal is net zero operation, which is a hefty endeavour, even in Costa Rica.

The entire development and construction of the resort was based on respecting the environment, and every decision was carefully assessed in terms of its impact. 

Here are just a few of the initiatives that impressed us during our El Lugar Sustainability Tour: 

  • No trees were cut in the construction of the resort, and no land was levelled off 
  • Buildings were designed to take advantage of the natural elements, like wind and sun, to increase energy efficiency and allow for natural airflow and cooling 
  • Lightweight construction was used throughout the resort – a rarity in Costa Rica, with all buildings built on pylons rather than cement foundations, allowing for the natural drainage of rainwater and further reducing the carbon footprint of the project
  • A natural sewage system was put in place using plants and flowers instead of chemicals
  • Thermodynamic solar panels and battery systems were installed to run the electricity off-grid
  • Parts of the property were replanted and “rewilded,” including more than 600 trees of 73 different species
  • Wildlife is protected on the land with a lot of wildlife, including monkeys, birds, tapirs, ocelots, sloths, lizards and tree frogs, already returning to the area. 
  • Room cleaning is only conducted upon request to reduce washing and cleaning products
  • The onsite restaurant is committed to sourcing locally and reducing food waste with a carefully put-together menu 

The Rooms

Despite its vastness and size, with 95 casitas, El Lugar Eco Resort managed to retain that small hacienda-style feel. The stand-alone casitas are dotted around the property and organized into barrios (neighbourhoods), so it never feels like there are more than a dozen other people staying on the property with you. 

Inconspicuous on the outside, the casitas are designed and furnished with so much thought and effort. 

“We wanted the rooms to look like they’ve been here for 100 years old”, tells us Claudia, the El Lugar Resort Manager. The traditional Costa Rican Hacienda style served as inspiration for the decor.

They just don’t build furniture like they used to, so instead of building, El Lugar repurposed, revived and recycles old classics. Vintage antique pieces fill the rooms, bringing the elements of timeless beauty. The decor is opulent, with plenty of dark timber elements, cream-coloured textiles and splashes of royal blue and deep red. 

The ensuite bathrooms are spacious and utilize the natural breeze with plenty of windows for airflow. The casitas with a freestanding bathtub offer an extra element of luxury. 

Our room, the Casita Suite, was a stand-out with a wrap-around veranda and a private plunge pool overlooking the landscape. 

Our Casita at El Lugar Resort
Our Casita at El Lugar Resort
Costa Rica Sarapiqui El Lugar resort room 00926
Inside our Casita Suite at El Lugar

Facilities & Amenities

The outdoor swimming pool is one of the standout aspects. Designed as an infinity pool overlooking the lush green hills and trees surrounding the buildings, it is the perfect spot to watch the sunset. 

The poolside bar offers a good selection of simple traditional dishes and plenty of cocktails. It’s a great spot to grab breakfast (can confirm that gallo pinto is on point), a snack or an easy lunch during the day. 

The restaurant (slated to open in 2025) promises to offer a more refined dining experience with organic plates filled with goodness from the land. The wine selection is promising and is ever-growing. 

In-room dining is on offer and is not the tacky affair you might be used to. Our private in-room dinner was beautifully set up with white linens, candles and fresh flowers – a perfect setting for a romantic meal. 

El lugar costa rica
El Lugar Resort

Costa Rica Sarapiqui El Lugar resort pool 0522

Burger at the pool side bar
Burger at the pool side bar

Note: During our visit and for the next 6-12 months, dining options were limited to the pool bar and in-room only, with a small menu of local favourites on offer. If you are planning to stay for longer than 1-2 nights, we recommend venturing out to the town just outside the resort for a meal or two, as we found the dining menu to be a bit limited. 

The day spa offers deep tissue, Swedish and relaxation massages. The airy, private room is open every day to guests looking to relax in the hands of wellness professionals. In-room massage is also available, with the therapists able to bring the tranquillity of a spa right into your room. We would not hesitate to recommend this setup. 


As we discovered during our visit, a stay at El Lugar is not about filling your itinerary with activities. It’s about slow mornings with a cup of tea (or coffee) on the veranda, lazy afternoons in the pool, and deep conversations over a glass of wine at dinner. 

But those who want to experience the area will find enough to fill their days while at El Lugar. 

The most popular activity on site is horseback riding. With beautifully cared-for horses, plenty of trails, and different options for beginners through experienced riders, it’s the best way to learn about the ranch and explore its vast landscape.

Horseback riding at El Lugar resort
Horseback riding at El Lugar resort

The area is famous for its rich biodiversity, owing to its tropical rainforest environment. Sarapiquí, in particular, is home to numerous species of plants, birds, mammals, insects, and amphibians. It’s a haven for nature lovers and birdwatchers.

We also really enjoyed our early morning bird-watching walk. With over 120 species recorded on the property and over 1/3 of all birds in Costa Rica found in this region, every day has an opportunity to offer something different. The highlight for us was seeing so many toucans. They are quite rare in Guanacaste, where we spend the majority of our time in Costa Rica, so seeing multiple species was a real treat!

Bird watching at El Lugar
Bird watching at El Lugar
Toucan at El Lugar
Toucan at El Lugar

READ NEXT: 15 Costa Rica Animals to Spot on Your Visit

Outside of the resort, there are plenty of other activities on offer. The Sarapiquí River flows through the region, offering opportunities for whitewater rafting, kayakingand wildlife spotting along its banks. The river is surrounded by dense forest, providing a picturesque backdrop for adventure seekers. There are also canopy tours and several nature reserves and national parks in the area, including Braulio Carrillo National Park and La Selva Biological Station. 

Guided tours outside of the resort can be easily arranged with the help of the on-site concierge. The nature guides at the resort come with decades of experience guiding in Costa Rica and come with a plethora of knowledge about the native flora and fauna in the region. 

Serene morning mist
Serene morning mist

How Long to Stay 

El Lugar makes for a perfect stop on any itinerary in Costa Rica, offering a unique insight into Costa Rican culture and a chance to experience some unique activities in Sarapiqui area. 

We’d recommend a 1-2 night stop here en route to the Caribbean Coast or in combination with another beach destination. If you have more time, consider extending your stay to 3-4 nights to enjoy the slow pace living and soak in the surrounding nature. 

READ NEXT: Best Things To Do In Costa Rica: The 2023 Ultimate Guide


Disclaimer: Big thanks to El Lugar for hosting us during our time at El Lugar Resort. As always, all opinions expressed in this article are our own, no matter who is footing the bill. 

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