top of page

190 Developing a Retreat Lodge in Costa Rica

190 Developing a Retreat Lodge in Costa Rica
190 Developing a Retreat Lodge in Costa Rica

Podcast Transcription

[Richard Bexon]
Good morning, Jason. And Kim, how you doing? Good morning, Richard.

Good to see you. Good to see you guys. Morning, Kim.

Morning. Back from Peru. I hear Kim.

[Kim Ocana]
I am just back from Peru. Yes. Happy to be back in Costa Rica.

[Richard Bexon]
Well, I don't know with the heat that we have here at the moment. I you know, I was up in Guanacaste last week on Tuesday. And I mean, it's Costa Rica is pretty warm at the moment.

[Jason Ocana]
Yes, it's been getting hot quick here in the mornings, you know, it gets up very quick.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah. Well, I mean, here in the Central Valley, kind of the clouds have started to come in. It was an hour now yesterday kind of came back and you can see the clouds kind of starting to form.

So hopefully, probably mid April, we'll start to get a bit of rain here in the Central Valley. And then probably you guys up there in May and June like normal. So but well, I mean, I just want to kind of, you know, the first question I always like to ask is just kind of just get people's viewpoint on what's happening.

You know, things seem to have slowed down a little bit in Western markets. I mean, they've steadied a little bit. I mean, what do you guys see happening here in Costa Rica?

[Jason Ocana]
Yes, I agree. There has been a bit of a slowdown in the Western markets, North American, US and Canadian markets have definitely, I think, seen a little bit of a pullback. And I think we're starting to finally see some of that affect the some of the outlier markets in the areas down here.

Playa Grande in particular is still I think, booming. Yes, it is. It's not.

Yeah, it has not been affected by this. But once you kind of get on the some of those outskirts, maybe in some of like the Matapalo and again, the Huacas areas, I'm starting to see some stuff come across my like email chains, showing me that, oh, hey, look, here's the same property again, with another price reduction, we're starting to see multiple price reductions in some of these properties and, you know, some of the outside areas, but again, your hot markets, such as like a Playa Grande are still doing pretty good, still strong.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah, I mean, it's exactly what I'm seeing, you know, I mean, it's just kind of, you know, there's a bit of a contraction as it always is, you know, around the Tamarindo, you know, Playa Grande, Conchao, Flamingo areas, I mean, the core areas are still very strong prices are still good. Just maybe where, you know, as you said, they're Villarreal, Huacas, you know, those areas, you know, are kind of you've start to see a price reduction. So the prices were probably a little too high anyway, to be honest with you guys.

I mean, you probably, I know that we've chatted about it quite a few times, but yeah. Well, guys, again, I had you on on episode 170, which must have been about 20 weeks ago. I can't believe it was that long ago.

But I mean, refresh listeners, you know, kind of about your journey so far and what the next month looks look like for you guys.

[Kim Ocana]
Yeah, so we are almost complete with our build of our healing center, Ananda Lodge in Playa Grande. Our family moved to Costa Rica at the end of August 2023. So we've been here just about six months or so acclimating our children, we have two children, a boy and a girl 11 and 12.

So they're acclimating really well to the culture, the environment, the school, the community that we're in, it's really great to see them experience life in a whole new way that's surrounded by nature and really good people. And our build is going really well. So we are still on schedule to complete our build at the end of April with an opening at the end of May beginning of June for our boutique healing center.

[Richard Bexon]
Wow, wow. Well, I mean, I'm, you know, I have intricate knowledge of this because we are project managing your build for you. But I mean, you guys have added some additions on as well, you know, you've got a maloca, you know, you've got a couple of additional units there.

But I mean, give people an idea of kind of what it was that you were building there as well. Like how many rooms kind of like, you know, as you said, it's a healing center, give us a little bit more kind of a bit of an idea. So for the listeners who haven't listened to episode 170 have an idea of kind of what it is.

[Jason Ocana]
Yeah, so our goal in creating this healing centers to create a very small, well curated intimate experience. So we started off with our first phase, our main lodge, which is eight units total. So it's a two story lodge for four units, each of those being like a small hotel junior suite, if you will.

We are also building a large rancho area that will have a pool area. We're building a very nice pool that sits kind of perched right up on our on the hillside. We also have our maloca, which is essentially a big palapa is what they're called here locally.

Yep. That's where our medicine ceremonies will take place as well as any other group gatherings for group sound baths or yoga classes. We are also building a another massage hut we're calling it but that'll be used primarily for people who would like to have a massage but also one on one sound healings which Kimberly does a great job at.

Then we also have done in a phase 1.5 we went ahead and moved forward with what we initially shot thought at the beginning of this build was going to be our phase two. We started that phase immediately we quickly found out during the build that it was better to just go ahead and do everything at once. One of the big concerns was just access as we as we build our pool area, we're going to be cutting off the main vein of how the guys for the construction crews have been able to get a lot of the large materials up there.

So we decided it was best for us to go ahead and build that immediately. So we're doing three other casitas as well as a two bedroom one bath host house that we're calling that will be for our healers that we bring up because when we're doing our our ayahuasca ceremonies primarily, those healers will be coming up for two months at a time. So they need a, you know, a little bit more of a homey feel rather than just feel like they're camping out in a hotel room, so to speak.

[Richard Bexon]
Sure. Well, I mean, look, I mean, it's been great to see it kind of evolve. And I like that you guys, you know, your phase two became phase 1.5. Because I agree, like kind of ripping off the bandaid of just getting all construction done. I think while from a investment point of view, you know, I mean, it's, it's definitely, you know, it's, it's feels like you just keep going deeper and deeper. But I think, you know, in the long run, you know, not having to close down at all or not, not having to be able to do like ceremonies while you guys do that, because construction, as you guys are very aware, is very messy here in Costa Rica. And, you know, I mean, if you guys have put plants in and stuff, it would just get destroyed.

You've seen the how can these construction crews are so so yeah, I think that's that's smart. I mean, what have been some of the challenges you guys have had so far? And what's just been like, really easy where you were like, this is way too easy.

[Kim Ocana]
I would say some of the challenges that I've experienced in having a vision of wanting to be sustainable is the budget and being sustainable. It's it can tend to be much more expensive, really being completely sustainable. So I've had to make some trade off decisions of what is sustainable on the spectrum.

And what still aligns with the vision yet is in the budget. Some things that have been easier, I would say are, because we have such a clear vision of the experience that we want to provide and the high level of integrity, there have been some really beautiful organic partnerships that have come through in supporting local, the local community, one being with the individual locally that is going to build all of our beds, our headboards, our dining tables that came really natural and easy, and it supports local.

The other is our landscape architect, having a really clear vision of not just wanting to have nice plants, but having a vision of having the entire land be a medicinal garden, a garden that regenerates the land that brings specific species of birds and plants that are local to Guanacaste that are also medicinal, that has just seemed to flow really easy. So I think the clear that we've gotten in our vision of the highest integrity of healing, these partnerships have come in, we are just about to sign a partnership with the School of Natural Cookery that focuses on quiet cooking close to center, which is about intuitive listening and energetics through food. And that as well just has come as a beautiful manifestation of a really clear vision.

[Richard Bexon]
I mean, what about from, you know, the construction side? I mean, what has been the challenges or what's just been easier for you guys than you thought it would be? Well, not that construction's ever easy, unfortunately.

[Jason Ocana]
Yeah, it like everything, it comes in waves. You know, we have had some holdups, some holdups with some of the design process or redesign process. As, as you get deeper and deeper into the build, you may see that, hmm, what I thought was going to work this way, we quickly realized that, man, maybe this isn't the right route to go.

And so there have been some amendments in from the original design plan. And so working with the construction companies and contractors to A, find a solution, and B, also be able to keep us on the timeline that we want to be on. That's definitely been somewhat of a challenge.

There's been some times where, you know, hey, we've got to put in a little bit of extra time at the property today so that we can really hash out what needs to be done for A, B, C, this phase of the project so that we can move forward on it with confidence and know that we're going to get a finished product that we're happy with.

[Kim Ocana]
And to that, I would also add something that we we've taken for granted living in North America is just access to amenities and fixtures being one of them. So having a much smaller pool to pull from and some of those fixtures costing a lot more money and needing to outsource them going outside of the Guanacaste area to acquire those fixtures and have them still be with the theme that matters to us. And then managing water throughout the construction process.

That has been something very fluid, no pun on words, but ebbing and flowing with when water is shut off, only having access to water for a set period of time every day and having to plan pouring concrete around the management of water has been something new that we would never have experienced in building in North America.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you know, I think a lot in the in the Western world, we take water for granted, you know, you just turn on your tap and it comes out.

I mean, and here in Costa Rica, we have an excess of water. What we don't have is great water infrastructure, unfortunately, you see. And, you know, while we've the water infrastructure never catches up to where the construction, like the development is, and it's private money that has to develop it, you know, I mean, these are sad as don't have money because water is somewhat affordable here.

Like it's not, you know, aggressively expensive. So the money that the water associations get for this, I mean, it's really just kind of run there, you know, run the administration of it. Whereas when it comes to infrastructure work, you know, they have to rely on private individuals and donations in order to do that.

So, you know, I mean, that's the beauty of Costa Rica of like, if it was really easy, and all that infrastructure was there would be developing everywhere, you know, and I think you guys know, it's like, it's not for the light hearted. I mean, it really isn't like, you know, if you're looking for something easy, I mean, this is not easy. By any means, it's fun.

And I'm sure that you guys in a couple of years, we'll sit back with a glass of wine and laugh about it. You know, it's not always fun when you're in.

[Jason Ocana]
Oh, yes, there's there's definitely been some uncomfortable evenings where we're sitting around maybe having a glass of wine kind of pulling our hair out going what we get ourselves into. But then yeah, that it all seems to it all seems to go out with it with with the tide and we've been able to successfully find solutions and you know, with especially with the help of your team and the help of the contractors that we've partnered with. We've been very fortunate in that aspect that we have a we've surrounded ourselves with such a strong team that yeah, while one moment we may be a bit worried that we're able to find that solution and move forward and feel comfortable again, I guess if you if you call it comfortable.

[Kim Ocana]
I think to like, for me, it's been a journey of learning the embodiment of Pura Vida. It's not just something that is said it is learning the essence of tranquilo and how to work with the rhythm of how work is done. Work is done much different here.

It's very much relationship based where in North America, it's contract based and you get it done. And that's not how we found it to work here, which is really beautiful, but can also but up against deadlines and how do you work with the system in the way it is and still feel the essence of Pura Vida when all of the workers live the essence of Pura Vida too. So that has been a journey, a beautiful journey of really learning how to embody the essence of Costa Rica.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah, you know, I mean, I'm just chatting in the in the podcast beforehand of like, Costa Rica's number one asset is its people in that culture and that Pura Vida aspect and like you have to understand that when you do anything here, like again, you have to kind of just surf that wave because it comes and goes. And if that was to change, Costa Rica wouldn't be the same. I mean, you know, Costa Rica is a beautiful country, is a beautiful country, but Panama is as well.

And so is Colombia and so is Ecuador, etc. But the people here, you know, once you've been here and you contrast that you just really understand of like, it's that culture and the people here that do really make this country unique.

[Jason Ocana]
Yeah, absolutely. When I first started coming down here, over 20 years ago, I came down here for the waves. Obviously, that was what I was here for on a surf trip.

But I really fell in love with the people and the culture. And that's ultimately what has been drawing me back over this time.

[Richard Bexon]
That just doesn't align in, you know, deadlines sometimes and getting yeah. But anyway, anyway, I mean, what advice would you have for anyone looking to do something similar in Costa Rica? Because I'm sure there's quite a few people looking to do something by a hotel, you know, or something similar.

I mean, what would be your advice for them guys?

[Kim Ocana]
Number one, partner with Investing Costa Rica. And honestly, truly, because there's no MLS here. So there's no multiple listing system that is up to date that will let you know with certainty that a property is for sale.

So when you're searching for a property, raw land, commercial, residential, it is a mixed bag. And what says it's still for sale online could have sold six months ago, that was part of our experience. And so having trusted advisors that know what to look for in properties, I mean, understanding the water situation and what a water letter means when you invest, because you can get a piece of land.

And if it doesn't have a water letter, you just have a piece of land and you have no water. So really finding an advisor or partnership to help you navigate this, first and foremost, was the best decision that we made.

[Jason Ocana]
Yeah, I agree there. And as well, as you move past the initial purchase, if you're buying something that's existing, it maybe needs a little bit of work or buying a hotel that needs some some help operationally, or even just building from the ground up. Having a team that has relationships locally is, is huge, because again, like we're just saying, so much of the work down here is relationship based.

And so when we land here this past August, I don't have relationships with multiple contractors or any of the local, either construction purveyors, or food and beverage purveyors, or linen purveyors, I don't have those contacts yet. And you, it takes time to build that. So it by partnering with someone who's been down here for some time and has those relationships and is able to share those relationships, and it may make those introductions for you.

Really just, you know, takes off so much time in the process and a lot, a lot of headache for us as the investor.

[Kim Ocana]
Yeah. And I would say, take your time. Vacationing here is very different than living here.

Time slows down here, which is very beautiful, but it can be a real jolt to the nervous system when you're used to coming from North America, Canada, Europe, and you think that this is what you want. And then you get here and you realize that tranquilo is a thing. You think you're going to do all of your shopping on Saturday and Sunday and places aren't open because they are really respecting the Pura Vida lifestyle.

So I think just taking your time and being in an area for three months before you invest or investing and coming down multiple times because it is an adjustment. It was a big adjustment for me for the past six months to really, it looked good. It sounded good.

It is good, but there's been a big transition that's had to happen inside of me to align with the culture here. So just taking your time, everything in my experience in the US has a sense of urgency. And so really recognizing that internal sense of urgency and sitting back before you make a big, big decision.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah, I agree. I agree. I was just actually chatting with a lawyer, Marco, who you guys know, and he was like, Rich, we just closed a deal the other day for a beach bungalow.

And the person had never seen it before, never been to Costa Rica. And I was like, dude, that's crazy, man. Like, we just had a client.

They'd been to Costa Rica multiple times actually invested in our treehouse project. And they took a whole villa. But he was like, I'll take a whole villa.

And I was like, dude, you need to come down and see like where it's at. He knew the area and everything. But I'm like, I will not give it to you unless you come and see.

So he had to fly into country. I went down with him, showed it to him explained everything. And I was like, now you can if you want to, like, if you don't, I completely understand.

But like, come on, man. Like, this is not a country just to jump into the deep end.

[Kim Ocana]
Yeah, and it's not as easy in the US to, to, to undo that.

[Richard Bexon]
Correct.

[Kim Ocana]
You know, yeah, there is no undoing.

[Richard Bexon]
Unfortunately, here, you'll spend more money on it. And you probably would do jumping in the deep end. Just get it done.

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I mean, look, you guys have been here now six months.

I mean, what are the businesses or the the services that you guys are like, wow, we're really missing these? Any that a lot of the stuff people say is like, I mean, which is crazy, like Whole Foods or, you know, those kind of style, you know, places? I mean, is there anything that you guys would would love to have had that you had at home down here?

[Kim Ocana]
Please no Whole Foods or Walmarts. I, I value the drive that it takes to get to the Walmart if I really want to go where the price smart. I would love in five grand day, they're building a lot of residential, I would love to see some little cafes, some more juice bars, I love around here that there's apothecaries and botanicas.

So some more of that in five grand day. I would love to see more. I would love to also see individuals that felt really passionate about water conservation solutions and helping the infrastructure here, as you mentioned, empowering the local community of how to work with the influx of people and building in a way that is sustainable for the local community.

So I would love to see education for the local community, because as prices in increase for all of us, it increases for the local community, too. And so if they're sharing their land with us, their rich history, how do we help them move along on this continuum of evolution and development and rapid influx of the West?

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah, I mean, you know, it's, it's, while Costa Ricans have done well, there are always that sense that underlying current that things are getting a little too expensive. I mean, I was hiking with some guys today, and they went to Japan, and they were like, guys, it was cheap, Japan compared to Costa Rica. I mean, I remember 20 years ago, going to Europe was expensive coming here from Costa Rica.

Now, Europe's cheap compared to Costa Rica. Yeah, yeah.

[Kim Ocana]
So we've been helping with farming solutions that are organic. So I would love to see more in influence and support and organic farming would be.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah, yeah. No, I look, I mean, I think that that's probably the one thing that, you know, especially Claggett-Andes is missing is just a little more of those little commercial areas, you know, and it doesn't need to be anything major. We're not talking strip malls here, you know, kind of those more organic orientated things.

And, you know, even like, you know, kind of like, God, how do you call it? We have a thing here where there's like, not food trucks. I mean, you guys have got that now down at the beach club down there.

Yeah. But you know, like those stools where people can set up their own food stools. And, you know, that's a little bit more kind of local, maybe, you know, with like the farmers, you know, market twice a week where, you know, local people are coming in, and they can just grab a, you know, like you'd grab a workspace and we work, you can grab one of these stools and have your business there.

And anyone can kind of just come and go like it's very community based.

[Kim Ocana]
Yes.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah. So well, my last question, which I love to ask everyone, guys, if you inherited $500,000 and had to invest in business or business or real estate in Costa Rica, what would you invest it in?

[Jason Ocana]
I think going back to water and water solutions, and figuring out how to be the most sustainable with the current water situation that we that we're dealing with here in the black on the Matapalo area as a whole. Yeah, I think if anybody can put some focus into that and find a good solution, whether it's through, you know, reverse osmosis, or even working with some of I mean, we've, we have a whole ocean by us, you know, desalination program. Yeah, yeah, I think water solutions is probably at the top of the list of things that need to be done in the area.

[Kim Ocana]
I yeah, I wholeheartedly agree with that. And I would continue investing in healing and sacred reciprocity for those that have deep ancestral practices with medicines and are bringing them to the West. How do we make that more accessible?

So part of our work with Ananda Lodge is being a bridge being a bridge between mainly Peru and Costa Rica and bringing very wise indigenous healers to the West so they can be accessible to people and honoring that and how do we honor the people of this land and support them and this huge renaissance of healing and reconnecting with the land?

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah, oh, I mean, jumping into Jason's desalination plant there. I mean, it 100% I mean, Reserva Conchao has one, it just costs $15 million. You know, I mean, Hasina Penea has one, you know, $15 million, just, it's a great solution.

It's just very expensive at this moment in time. And that can change. I mean, I was talking with some clients the other day about taking, you know, moisture out of the air.

You know, there are panels that do that, and etc, you know, for water, but I mean, that's not really a mass, you know, really, like, it's not going to solve that solution. I mean, it's it comes down to the government here really putting the infrastructure in the IEA, which is the government organization to put that infrastructure in place, because there is water all over this country, like an excess of water. It's just the infrastructure is terrible.

And, you know, Kim, on your point, I've always wondered, though, you know, I mean, there have got to be some tribes here in Costa Rica that have that have worked with some of you know, because I mean, you guys have quite a bit of, you know, tribe is maybe not the word, but like indigenous, you know, communities in that area as well. I know further down south in Acquia, the northern parts of Costa Rica, not so much, but like, especially the southern areas. I mean, there are indigenous communities down there that are just completely cut off as well.

You know, it takes days to kind of hike in. So yeah, we'll have to get you down there, Kim.

[Kim Ocana]
Yeah, for sure. And I mean, cacao is such a rich medicine that grows here and bringing those farmers to the forefront, respecting the medicine. Cacao is mass produced now, but really understanding where it comes from and how it's cultivated.

And yeah, I'll, I'll take you up on the trip down somewhere in the jungle in Acquia.

[Richard Bexon]
I would love to love to. Well, guys, I really appreciate you taking the time as always to jump on the podcast and give us kind of a bit of an update of where you are. And hopefully in the in 20 weeks time, you guys will be open and rocking and rolling.

And it'll be great to kind of chat about the your journey through that stage as well.

[Kim Ocana]
Most definitely.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah, thanks for having us on. Not at all, guys. You have a great weekend.

[Kim Ocana]
You too. Pura Vida.

Let's Get in Touch!

We chatted with Kim and Jason Ocana, who are developing the Ananda Retreat Lodge in Playa Grande, Guanacaste, about their experiences in the construction and operational set-up of their retreat lodge.

Free Consultation: https://meetings.hubspot.com/jake806/crconsult
Contact us: info@investingcostarica.com
Website: www.investingcostarica.com

bottom of page