A word from the founder Ursula Schmid
After having managed a hotel in a well-known tourist region in Switzerland for 10 years, we started to look for a region where tourism was only just starting. Our vision was big: an environmentally conscious and future oriented beach hotel, in an excellent location with a family ambience, in the medium to upper price range and where price, quality and performance were in good proportion to one another. We wanted to create a relaxed and cheerful atmosphere where the guests as well as the employees would feel totally happy. In 1991 we found in Costa Rica the place where we wanted to make our dream come true.
In 1992 we moved with our two children aged 7 and 10 and our dog “Max” to Tamarindo. In those days, life in the village was very simple. There was no television, garbage collection or banks. In the entire village there were only three telephones, which by law had to be public telephones. Cows, horses, pigs and chickens moved about freely. There was almost an unlimited freedom for humans and animals.
Our life adapted to the circumstances: instead of playing with a Nintendo, our son built tree houses and started carving wooden toys with the assistance of the construction workers. We gave our daughter a horse, so that she would not suffer so much from the separation from her friends. My husband spent most of the time with architects, engineers and construction specialists testing his patience. Meanwhile I was dedicating myself to the learning of our new language. I was walking around our rented house with a teacher, writing down the Spanish words for chair, table, book, etc.
For my husband and me, the construction was the main challenge. We were hoteliers and we had no experience in construction. However, being genuine Swiss people, the good quality and the stability of the construction were essential for us. In some parts, the foundations were made 3 times deeper than required. Here in Guanacaste almost no construction machines were available. The only machines were two cement mixers and an excavator for the excavation of the swimming pool. Four carpenters in different parts of the country made our furniture. We went to visit them regularly to see how the works were progressing. Our wish to obtain a quality construction and the lack of machines were the main reasons why the construction took 3 years and turned our life into an adventure, at times.
- These were very intense, instructive and often extremely difficult times, but our whole crew, sometimes up to 70 workers, stuck by us through thick and thin and gave us an excellent opportunity to get to know and appreciate from up close, the kindness of the Costa Rican people.
- After the first bungalows had been completed, we started to rent them out. The guests took photos and filmed the construction, recommended us to their friends and came back during the following years. Thanks to this, we already had regular customers when we officially opened the hotel in 1995. Being hoteliers, we again felt we were in our familiar realm and took pleasure in developing the hotel business. Very soon, we had many regular customers, an excellent occupancy, and were completely happy. Due to the education of our children, we returned to Switzerland in 1998. My husband and I maintained daily contact with the hotel and traveled to Tamarindo in turns. In between our stays in Tamarindo, we left the hotel each time during 6 to 8 weeks in the care of our 55 employees under the supervision of Vinicio Hidalgo, who had started working for us during the construction days and whom we trusted completely. Nowadays, the management consists of the most ideal way for us, of three great people who give us their advice and who support us with their tireless efforts.
- During the time of construction, we rented a house nearby. We were the first tenants and the house had been unoccupied for only 6 months. In the hollow walls of the building an innumerable amount of insects nested. Coming across many insects of all shapes, colors and sizes encouraged our fascination for this country’s wildlife.
- It is not surprising that Costa Rica is a country with a huge variety of species per square kilometer and that Costa Rican institutions have been presented with internationally significant awards for their endeavors to preserve, protect and learn more about this biodiversity. In 1994 the “Instituto de la Biodiversidad” (INBio) received the award for the “Preservation of Biology”, given by the Society for the Preservation of the United States. In 1995 Spain’s highly respected science award “Premio Principe de Asturias en Investigación Científica y Técnica” was also awarded.
- Our love for animals in general, the respect for this small country which has placed 25% of its total area under protection, as well as our growing understanding for the relationship between plants, insects, animals and humans lead us to decide not to apply chemicals in our garden. We support the message that “we did not inherit the planet from our parents but we are borrowing it from our children” and we are making the effort to treat the environment with adequate care.
- In our rented house, there was no television or air conditioning and instead of windows there were mosquito screens. Because of this, we enjoyed the balmy evenings and nights of Guanacaste and in the mornings we woke up to the singing of the birds, the howl of the monkeys, the cockcrow and roaring of the sea. Again and again we became aware of the pleasantness and richness of Costa Rican nature and how restful a natural way of living can be. It was our intention to transmit this experience to our guests. We opted for an architectural style that would allow the sea breeze to pass freely through the rooms, with sufficient ventilation and sliding doors that permitted the room to be as open to nature as possible.
- As we by force did not have a television, we had the opportunity to experience how relaxing it is not to daily consume the often negative information, but instead spend time having valuable conversations, reading interesting books, observing and enjoying nature. An extraordinarily high number of guests who were staying with us during the time of construction confirmed that they felt the same way. Therefore, the question “With or without television? never became a topic. Thanks to the outward circumstances and suggestions and in cooperation with our first guests, we chose to exclude televisions whilst this became part of our philosophy.
- We also took a conscious decision regarding regulation and prohibition signs. In order for each guest to be able to relax “in his / her own way” we have made sure to keep the amount of signs throughout the hotel as low as possible.
- In Switzerland, we lived at an altitude of 1,800 meters, where during spring time, after the thaw of snow, every head of lettuce practically needs to be “pampered” so that it reaches an acceptable size in the summer. This is probably one of the main reasons why the abundant and fertile nature of Costa Rica amazed us so much. We left the trees on our property and built below or beside them. Within our farm, located 17 kilometers inland, we began to reforest in order to return to nature more wood than we have made use of for the hotel.
- The people of Costa Rica can and should feel proud of their beautiful and politically stable country. The majority of our 61 employees come from nearby villages. While conversing with anyone of them you may learn quite a lot about their country and its people. Furthermore, you will notice without doubt how the generosity, cheerfulness and optimistic attitude of the “Ticos” trickles through to you. This can be very pleasant and contagious indeed. Someone expressed it in our guest book in the following way: “Because of the Swiss leadership we had decided on Hotel Capitán Suizo and because of the endearing Ticos we will come back”. For whatever reason you have decided to come and stay at our hotel, we very much appreciate that you are here and we wish you a restful and unforgettable stay!
- Ursula Schmid and family