Meet The Jaguar's Jungle!
Location: Costa Rica
We caught up with Leo, owner of The Jaguar's Jungle Hostel in Costa Rica!
When did you open The Jaguar's Jungle and what inspired you to do so?
I grew up on the 130 acre property that is the Jaguar's Jungle today. It used to be a run down family home that was hard to get to. I traveled all around the world during my teenage years and stayed at a lot of different hostels and hotels. When I came back to Costa Rica on my sailboat that I had sailed from Mexico, I began bringing people to the property, and everyone always had such a good time. I enjoy showing people how beautiful and special this area is as the last coastal primary rainforest that exists. The business started as a hostel that accommodated people with simple mattresses on the floor. Now, it has turned into a boutique hostel and lodge with a gourmet restaurant and tours.
What do you love most about The Jaguar's Jungle?
I love meeting the adventurers that the place attracts. The marine and land biodiversity here is incredible. I am still discovering new species and natural phenomenon that I have never seen.
What has been the most rewarding part of opening The Jaguar's Jungle?
Being able to connect people to nature and appreciate the importance of protecting the environment and biodiversity.
What has been your biggest challenge and how have you overcome this?
The biggest challenge has been the lack of supplies and materials in the area. We boat in all of our food, furniture, building supplies, gas, etc. which is difficult to coordinate, especially when you don't have WiFi or cell service. We have recently overcome our lack of cellphone coverage by rigging a series of antennae and boosters brought from the U.S that send us a few bars of signal which has allowed us to begin using Tab. We have some of our own small boats for transport but we have also built strong relationships with the boat captains in the area that help us out.
Food orders are difficult because we have to shop long distance and we can't be there to pick out the items they send us. We also can't return anything because then we will be left without any other options. We have learned to coordinate food orders to last us for long periods of time and we grow a lot of our own vegetables to be self sufficient.
Tell us about your team...
Staffing the Jaguar's Jungle can be difficult because many people aren't willing to live in such a remote location for long periods at a time. Despite that, we have been incredibly lucky to find our amazing chef Fernando, who previously working on a private yacht out of California. We hire local young people for other positions such as gardening, cleaning, and maintenance, and we also have a popular volunteer program. Volunteers come from all over the world to help us out in exchange for a bed and food in our little paradise. My partner is our director of marketing and builds our websites and marketing materials. She also manages interior design and works with the chef to manage the restaurant. Our staff have diverse sets of skills that you need to run a business in an environment such as this one.
What's next for The Jaguar's Jungle?
At The Jaguar's Jungle, we are constantly remodelling and improving facilities. We have just completed our first luxury cabina and now we are working on installing solar hot water heaters and more batteries for electricity.
We have also just opened a new hostel in Drake Bay called Drake Bay Backpackers in partnership with the Corcovado Foundation. The hostel focuses on promoting rural community tourism and environmental education.
How has Tab helped The Jaguar's Jungle?
Being able to accept credit cards is huge for us because we are so remote. The nearest ATM is an 1.5 boat ride plus a 30 minute drive away. So many people come to the area unprepared for that and now clients don't have to worry that they didn't bring enough cash to do the amazing activities we offer.
Why is Costa Rica a great place to visit?
Costa Rica is home to 2.5% of the world's biodiversity and the Osa Peninsula is home to half of Costa Rica's biodiversity. Costa Rica is one of the most happy countries in the world due to their "pura vida" attitude and probably due to their success in ecotourism development and environmental conservation. Costa Rica has some of the strictest environmental laws in the Americas and many scenes in the films Blue Planet and Planet Earth are filmed here. The Osa Peninsula will particularly astound you with its marine and rainforest life.
Are there any trends / changes that you've noticed in tourism?
From our perspective, many people are looking to spend less money on their accommodation and more money on tours and experiences. But that could be due to the nature of our location.
What would your advice be for anyone thinking about starting their own hostel?
Hostels do not make money. In order to survive as a hostel you also have to be a bar/ restaurant/ tour agency or offer some other unique service. More and more competition means you have to put effort into giving people a fun and unique experience, not just offering a cheap bed.