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Boutiques, Bioswales, and Balance | November 2023

A Restorative Perspective on Infrastructure
Airlift Continues Healthy Historic Climb
A Welcome to New Team Members
We 💜 Tama | Diamante Boutique and Agua Salada
The More Things Change… | The Tamarindo Almanac

A Restorative Perspective on Infrastructure | Water Management

Working with our friends at Green Roots Consultancy, we’ve continued to refine the way that we think about Senderos from the ground up, and a big part of that is infrastructure. 

Common thinking when looking at infrastructure is a begrudging “try to do as little harm as possible”, but with our friends at Green Roots, we’ve begun to implement the latest learnings on how infrastructure can be a restorative and ecologically positive force on the land. 

We explore how thoughtful restorative design can improve two key aspects of infrastructure — water management and roadways — in this article.

“As Little Harm As Possible”, the Old Perspective of Infrastructure 

In modern development, there are certain non-negotiable aspects of infrastructure. Irrigation and stormwater management, electrical and internet connections, plumbing and clean water, road and roadways. 

Two areas of Senderos that have recently undergone some transformative work are the roadways (with the opening up of the main road through the project), as well as stormwater management, water treatment, and irrigation. 

Prior to the past century, there was little consideration for the natural impact on how developers approached infrastructure. And even in the past few decades with a cultural shift toward ecological literacy and consciousness, infrastructure has been a bit of a sore spot. 

No matter how thoughtfully done, many developers view the infrastructure work as a necessary evil, a vital part of transforming the landscape for human habitation, but one that is disruptive to the environment even at its best. To this end, much innovation in this field has become focused on reducing the damage and footprint of infrastructure, rather than maximizing the good that can be done. 

But our friends at the Green Roots Consultancy pose a different question: what if, more than just reducing the damage done by human infrastructure, we could use it to provide a restorative effect that was beneficial to the ecosystem? 

They weren’t the first to ask these questions, but they are on the cutting edge with other minds in the ecologically conscious development world, as even a decade ago some of the techniques, thinking, and tools we now use to reinforce natural systems simply didn’t exist. 

In one of the world’s most extensively studied industries, that’s a blink of an eye, so let’s take a look at some of the methods being put into place in Senderos and other leading-edge projects around the world.

Saving the Nutrients in the Water Cycle

In the oft-repeated words of our friends at Green Roots, “in nature there is no waste,” and while we take that to heart throughout all of our processes, it is particularly noticeable in the most active of the natural cycles — the water cycle. 

Water is vital to plants and animals in its own right, and in nature, it also acts as a carrier for important nutrients, which are constantly cycled through ecosystems through standing water, rain, creeks, rivers, evapotranspiration, and groundwater. 

Human intervention — the need for clean, potable water, as well as using water for cleaning and indoor plumbing — requires water purification and wastewater treatment plants, but by themselves, these additions to the water cycle aren’t inherently disruptive.

What can be disruptive is how wastewater is treated, and how that treated water is used. Currently, the typical treatment method of wastewater is called “activated sludge”, which uses microorganisms to naturally break down organic matter from black and gray water, leaving behind an incredibly high density of two nutrients — nitrogen and phosphorous.  

This sounds nice, but if you just dump this nutrient-rich water somewhere, it creates a feeding frenzy for algae, which can quickly take over and suffocate the plants and animals living in the area. If you’ve ever seen a green pond on a golf course, chances are you’re looking at the result of the activated sludge method without follow-up.  

However, this water is still clean and is still packed with nutrients, so there are methods you can use to balance out or make use of this potentially disruptive resource, which is what we’ve begun to implement with the Green Roots team.

Aerating this nutrient-dense water allows naturally occurring bacteria to consume some of these excess chemicals and replace them, bringing balance back to the body of water — which is often cleverly done through the use of fountains, water features, and man-made waterfalls. 

Another method is to add more nutrients like carbon and potassium, which turns previously problematic water into a source of pre-fertilized “gold water” that can be used for the irrigation of plants. It’s a win-win providing water and nutrients to plants at the same time without needing to use potable, purified water that is suitable for human consumption.

Humans spend less time and effort producing potable water, plants get a source of fertilizer without any intervention other than water, and wastewater is effectively cycled back into the system, making it just another part of the water cycle.

In many ways, it seems like a simple shift, and in theory, it is. But that’s just one example of how you can guide the water cycle in a restorative way, and the results can make a difference. 

“In Senderos, they’ve implemented the most sophisticated and advanced system in the area, on par with the top resorts in the region. Not only does it clean the treated water to the highest possible level of purity, but also produces materials that can be later incorporated into the gardens as an excellent fertilizer. 

The result is a much smaller environmental footprint, which puts that community at the highest level of sustainability — one which not only exceeds the requirements of the government but also ensures that it will be a very long time before the system needs to be updated.”

— Omar Sancho, OCC Property Management

Addressing the Guanacaste Terrain and Weather

Another example is stormwater and irrigation management. One of the main ideas of restorative development is that finding sustainable solutions isn’t just an oft-expensive marketing tactic — it’s a way to use and preserve your resources more efficiently and intelligently.

Anyone who’s driven through Guanacaste during the green season can tell you that stormwater left to its own devices can be a disruptive force. And if you don’t consider the flow of water when you’re adding new homes and changes to the landscape, the results can be disastrous. 

In nature, water cycles naturally find the most efficient route down through the mountainous terrain over the course of thousands of years of iteration. But if you plan correctly, you can lay out an efficient path for water the first time, and turn green season rains into a beneficial source of water and nutrients.


Drainage pipes and irrigation channels are a key part of this, but an oft-overlooked element of the path water takes down a mountain are the same paths we take up a mountain: roads. 

Roads Are For More Than Just Cars

Within Senderos, as well as many upcoming projects, the same roads that get us from place to place also provide important utilities like potable water, plumbing, electricity, and internet. But despite this incredible importance, certain aspects of road design can be neglected.

When you come across a badly flooded road in Costa Rica or a place where water rushes across the roadway and makes it impassible, this is usually a result of one of two things.

The first possibility is that the road and overall development plan weren’t planned with existing waterways and known rainfall in mind. In this case, construction disrupts the natural flow of water, which seeks the most direct route down a slope, even if that includes rushing across a road, or straight across someone’s property. 

The second possibility is that, even if it was drawn to avoid all existing waterways, the engineers neglected that any road naturally becomes a path for water, especially on a mountainside site like Senderos, and did not design the road itself accordingly.

You can see why you often come across flooded roads in Costa Rica, and this isn’t just a problem from a human perspective of trying to pass roads. Diversions of natural waterways can also flood out or erode entire habitats if they’re not dealt with correctly.

Each of these problems has a solution, but the challenge comes in addressing them in a restorative and sustainable way at the beginning, rather than building and building until these problems overflow — literally.

On-Site Case Study: Much-Needed Stormwater Renovations

One case study of 1) how forward-thinking these plans have to be and 2) how disruptive these problems are, can be found right here on-site at Senderos. 

Any new development plan in Costa Rica has to go through a number of approvals from various regional and national environmental ministries, including MINAE (El Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía), SETENA (La Secretaría Técnica Nacional Ambiental), and MOPT (El Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes). 

The initial developers of the land that now makes up Senderos did follow this approval process at the time, and the initial plan was approved by environmental experts at the time. But it became clear to our team over the past two years (as construction restarted in earnest) that the stormwater infrastructure in Senderos at the time had not been built to handle the volume of water required, causing flooding of roadways and nearby farms that would only get worse.

Any time that there is a risk that runoff, fertilizer, and other contaminants could make their way into our protected Tamarindo estuary, we take action. We quickly worked with experts to determine the actual volume of stormwater Senderos will have to deal with as it reaches completion, and proposed an adjusted plan to MOPT. 

Even with a quick response, an approved plan by all authorities, and a skilled infrastructure team, tearing up and replacing undersized pipes throughout Phase 1 was a messy process. 

The result — keeping roads safe from flooding, and keeping rainwater cleaner than it has ever been as it feeds the Estuary — is something we’ll fiercely defend, but the process shows just how much disruption stormwater can cause if left uncontrolled, and how much of a headache it can be for the community to fix these problems.

Fortunately, stormwater management has become a cornerstone consideration in the drawing of new developments in Costa Rica, especially on slopes as you find on the coast of Guanacaste. In the next section, we’ll go into some of the many tools in the restorative infrastructure toolbox.

From the Toolbox of Restorative Infrastructure

In newer projects, like Phases 2, 3, and 4 in Senderos, updated plans leave green spaces and waterways open to allow rain to accumulate and flow to a safe location. 

These natural stormwater pathways can be widened, deepened, reinforced, and monitored to clear blockages so that they are as effective as possible, and in modern development, you’ll see this method used quite commonly. 

You’ll also see action taken to ensure that roadways are drivable and safe. Increasing the size of drainage pipes built underground, adding trenches on the side of the road, and providing gutters to divert water safely down the mountain are common, tried-and-true ideas. 

What is relatively new, however, are the tools to do this in a way that has a light footprint, and uses natural materials that are already suited to the environment. 

Geotextile

The first of these tools is geotextile, a biodegradable building material that can provide structure to slopes. 

Using geotextile, engineers can take an active role in shaping the landscape (and the flow of water) by smoothing steep slopes where water can reach dangerous speeds, steering roads away from known water paths, and designing intentional throughways for water. This is all done without leaving a noticeable trace once the geotextile degrades. 

The key reason this biodegradation doesn’t eventually cause structural problems is that geotextiles also feed and support the growth of plant life. By the time a geotextile has finally degraded, robust plants have laid down their roots, preserving the new, adjusted structure of the slope. 

So in the long term, geotextiles allow us to guide and shape the natural topography, then allow nature to take over, which is far less invasive than pouring concrete.

The reason for using natural interventions like geotextile over the traditional method of poured concrete isn’t purely because a natural embankment of rich plant life looks and feels better than a wall of concrete. This is certainly a factor, as is the fact that you don’t have to spend man hours maintaining a natural embankment, along with the fact that soil and plant life provide shade and heat sinks. 

But most importantly, from a functional perspective, soil and plant life add the ability to slow, absorb, and store rainwater naturally, which is incredibly helpful when controlling the flow of water down a slope. This is especially apparent through the second tool we’re reviewing today — bioswales. 

Bioswales

Bioswales are essentially big culverts on the side of the road, which in theory is nothing necessarily new. But being able to create these bioswales with geotextile, and then fill them with robust plants changes the game. 

A concrete culvert is a delivery system that steers water away from homes and roads to where it can drain safely. A bioswale does all of this too, but adds the benefits of soil and plants working all day, every day, to slow water, absorb it, and convert it into cool, lush greenery. 

Constructing bioswales out of geotextile also allows water to penetrate through the bottom of the bioswale and into groundwater, making them more resistant to repeated rainfall, and the plant life within them adds natural cooling, beauty, and shade to the side of the road. 

When done right, you may not even notice that you’re driving past a bioswale. It’ll just look like another beautiful piece of landscape design, but below the surface, it’s a sustainable, longer-lasting, lower-maintenance, and more effective method of rainwater management that also captures heat and carbon, produces fresh air, and provides a food source to plants and animals.

And those kinds of win-win-win situations are what can make sustainability a natural choice for developers, rather than a complicated moral or philosophical trade-off.

A Complicated Process, But Worth It

In theory, these two restorative infrastructure processes for water management are somewhat simple. You can simply add an extra step to recycled water to use for fertilization. 

Or, you can use careful planning to plot ideal roads and drainage systems, then use geotextile to make lasting, natural changes. Throw in bioswales and you have an all-around better alternative to pouring concrete. 

However, the actual execution requires a careful touch, modern tools and techniques, plenty of data, and complex modeling processes.

With this in mind, it’s easy to understand why these kinds of steps aren’t more commonplace. It’s not necessarily a time, money, or resource gap, it’s a knowledge and skills gap. These are comparatively new techniques and tactics when it comes to the world of development and homebuilding after all. 

But with Costa Rica as a leader in global sustainability, and with Guanacaste as a rising global destination, we think it’s important to do our part in showing that sustainability and a restorative perspective can be foundational concepts in luxury development. 

If you’d like to learn more about sustainability and restorative development in Senderos, you can explore our sustainability homepage here.

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Overall, 2023 Airlift Numbers at LIR Continue Healthy Historic Climb, But Post-Pandemic Boom Returning to Normal

For this month’s newsletter, we added some extra data from Liberia International Airport (LIR) courtesy of the Costa Rica Department of Aviation. Looking at the historical arrivals and departures (airlift) over almost a decade, Guanacaste, Costa Rica continues its steady increase in popularity as a destination. With more than two years of data in the books since the pandemic, 2023 appears to have been yet another very strong year.

However, overall 2023 airlift at LIR received a boost by record-setting airlift in the early months (Jan, Feb, Mar & April) and appears to have come back down to just above 2022 numbers for the second and third quarters.

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A Welcome to New Senderos Team Members

Eva Villalobos

Eva Patricia Villalobos, known by her friends as Eva, joins the team as a Procurement Manager, bringing with her a wealth of experience in just about every industry Costa Rica has to offer. Most recently, she’s worked in purchasing management within the hospitality industry, but has also worked in casinos, advertising, electromechanics, and automation, and even as a flight scheduler!

Raised partly in Guanacaste and partly in San José, Eva laughingly calls herself “not quite from any one part of Costa Rica”, though she fits right at home in Tamarindo with her love of sunsets on the beach, dancing, CrossFit, photography, hiking on trails, discovering new places, and riding her bike!

“For me, being here represents a challenge, it is not easy in many ways, from work functions, managing people, and social change to living in another city. Personally, it excites me, because it tests who I am, and makes you grow as an individual, as a boss, as a colleague, or even as a neighbor.”

Angélica Guitierrez

Angélica Gutiérrez joins the team as a customer advocate and brings with her more than 20 years of experience in the hotel, vacation rental, concierge, ecotourism, and events industries — all focusing on customer experience.

Angelica sees her work with Senderos in Tamarindo as a continuation of that journey and is excited to join a project that is developed by both preserving nature and being inspired by it, with beautiful views of the sea and the valley so close to Tamarindo beach. And that makes sense since, in her spare time, she enjoys nature, hiking, open water swimming, or discovering new spots either alone or with her dog. 

“While working on the project I have been able to perceive how much tranquility and privacy exists. Just a few meters away you can access one of the best places in the world and enjoy a thousand things… it’s great. In addition, being in the project I see that there is a great work team with high standards in service and quality and it makes me feel happy to be part of it.”

Luis Arias

Luis joins the team as a Product Development Manager, drawing from more than a decade of experience in construction operations. For Luis, stepping into this new role is both a personal adventure and one that he’s taking as part of the Senderos team, and expects an exciting, improved trend in the following months. 

In his spare time, Luis loves cooking, whether that’s for himself or others, and he also loves traveling the world to see new places and expand his horizons with unique experiences.

Yohel Bolaños

Yohel Bolaños joins the team as an Infrastructure Project Manager, expanding that team as Phase 3 and Phase 4 of Senderos continue in earnest. After 4 years in a high-pressure, constantly-connected role in luxury real estate, Yohel decided to shift gears to spend more time with his wife and family, eventually ending up as part of the Senderos team where he can continue to help create luxury homes but still has time for his dogs. 

In his spare time, Yohel is a passionate downhill and enduro bike racer, where he both rides casually and competitively. 

“Senderos is for me the greatest project in Tamarindo. Increíble houses, the best view in town, great team, and most importantly, great leaders.. that push you harder to make this happen but working together in a way I’ve never experienced.”

Valeria Hernandez

Valeria Hernandez joins the Senderos team as a Product Marketing Manager, drawing from over 7 years of experience as a marketing project manager for local and international brands all around Costa Rica. 

In her spare time, you can find Valeria all over the region, whether she’s horseback riding, discovering new fun places on the weekend, going to the beach with her dogs, playing tennis, making jewelry, or painting.

I’m very excited to work in Senderos because is a new challenge for me and my career, I think this is an amazing project with a lot of potential, and so far it’s been a nurturing and exciting experience.”

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We 💜 Tama | Diamante Boutique and Agua Salada

Tamarindo has rugged roots, and a bit of an outlaw spirit that has persisted as a part of local culture since the very first people who lived here. 

But in the past two, as Tamarindo has grown into far more than just a bohemian surf village, it’s added several shops and restaurants that add a little more refinement and elegance to complement the wild side of life in Tama. 

We’re spotlighting two today — Diamante Boutique and Agua Salada.

Diamante Boutique

Diamante Boutique opened in 2004, with a vision of an exclusive store for modern and elegant women, with the goal of offering small-run designs and feminine styles of the highest quality that allowed each customer to express their individuality. The product lines range from casual and carefree to sophisticated and refined, maintaining a style of luxury even against the playful and lively spirit of Tamarindo. 

With a number of local and international brands, you can find different bikini lines, dresses, casual clothes, dinners, luxury jewelry, sunglasses, sandals, wallets, and more in Diamante Boutique. 

Agua Salada 

One of the best contrasts you’ll encounter in Tamarindo is the comfort of getting into elegant evening attire after a rugged day out among the trails, forests, or waves, and for a beautiful night out in the fresh air under the stars it’s hard to beat Agua Salada. 

Located on the beach close to the estuary, Agua Salada has an entirely open-air restaurant, with an outdoor courtyard lit with lantern light under the trees and stars. With a small, specialized menu, each item at Agua Salada is brought in fresh and earns its place on the plate, complemented by a wide range of cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages. 

And the ambiance — whether you’re taking a step out to the sand to watch the waves or simply sitting out under the courtyard lanterns — is hard to beat.

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The More Things Change… | The Tamarindo Almanac 

For a town as lively as Tamarindo, and a town that’s growing rapidly on top of that, it seems a bit odd to talk about the sense of stability here. But there is, in fact, a strong sense of stability not just in Tamarindo, but throughout Costa Rica, and that stability provides a sense of balance to the sense of adventure and magic that comes with living here. 

As a culture, Ticos prioritize steadiness and stability as fundamental to life. Where else could a national motto of pura vida come from, other than a sincere and intrinsic appreciation for the way that things are? There’s certainly innovation happening all around in Costa Rica, but progress always comes with careful consideration of how it will affect the existing community, the existing natural world, and the people who live there. 

You can see this codified into law and supported by policy and spending. Perhaps most well-known is Costa Rica’s strict environmental regulations, which protect the valuable natural ecosystems found throughout the country. Building and zoning are carefully monitored and reviewed to preserve the value of communities and public spaces. National tourism boards promote local providers and support culturally and community-conscious forms of travel throughout the country. 

You can also see that stability in the Costa Rican lifestyle. The Nicoya Peninsula is a Blue Zone, where multigenerational families and tight-knit communities provide stability for everything from raising children to providing centenarian great-great-grandparents an active role in the community as elders and advisors. And traditions are a big part of life throughout the country, whether you’re national, cultural, or religious holidays and events. 

Even the climate, weather, and seasons are relatively stable here. Temperatures vary little even from the dry season to the rainy season, and sunset only shifts about 30 minutes in either direction during the year. Really, the only surprises come in whether or not it’ll rain, and for half of the year in Guanacaste, the answer to that question is no. 

For people who live here and visit here, that stability of life provides a sense of calm and security, where you generally know what to expect from the day ahead of you. For those who come and go from the country, it also creates a sense of familiarity and continuity, like even if you’ve missed some time, you can pick quickly back up where you left off.

We live in a world where things move fast, they change quickly, and life can feel increasingly volatile. That’s why having a sense of stability like the one we have in the slightly slower-moving land of Costa Rica can be comforting, and it’s the reason why an increasing number of high-performance professionals and highly capable individuals are choosing to move here. When life is uncertain, you can be sure that the fruit will be fresh in the morning, and that the ocean is always warm and waiting after the end of a long day.

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