On January 8th 2009, a shallow Richter 6.2 earthquake rocked the local area. It was centered near Varablanca, on the slopes of Poas Volcano. Though the quake caused significant structural damage to buildings and services throughout the Poas region of Alajuela, the real damage was caused by landslides on the eastern slopes of the mountain.
Fortunately, we at Hotel La Rosa de America were relatively unaffected. Though the quake was powerful, the hotel structure was built quake resistant and we suffered only minimal superficial damage. However it was quite something to see 130,000 litres of swimming pool water still sloshing about 10 min after the quake subsided.
Unfortunately, not all were so lucky. Approximately 2,800 people were left homeless and there were many injured and some dead. The real numbers of dead and missing will not likely be accurately determined due to incomplete census data and as a result of the scope of the landslides.
Four days after the quake, we decided, as a hotel, to offer aid to the newly set up emergency Red Cross (Cruz Roja) stations near the worst affected areas. People were still being rescued when we decided to drive as far as we could to deliver our donations. The staff at the hotel put together 100 individual meals, and about 25 sets of bedding and bags of clothing. We managed to get as far as the town of Poasito, located at about 7,500 feet above sea level. A short distance past Poasito, the road showed significant damage and then it disappeared entirely over a new cliff. Even though tropical, in this area the night time temperatures are very cold for those without proper clothing.
We were quite impressed with the organization of the Cruz Roja. Costa Rica has no military and only a small police force. There are few emergency resources to draw from and virtually no heavy lift/helicopter rescue ability. This clearly compounded the rescue difficulties faced by the Cruz Roja until assistance came from Columbia and the USA. The over 3000 aftershocks (some of which registering a high as 4.8) have not made their job easier or safer either.
Fortunately, the epicenter of the quake was in a relatively unpopulated area of Costa Rica. Just 25 km to the south is located the densely populated Central Valley with over a million inhabitants. From a tourism point of view, the road north from Poasito via Varablanca towards San Carlos suffered catastrophic damage and may never be rebuilt. La Paz Waterfall Gardens is closed indefinitely as is the upper Sarapiqui River. The Sarapiqui sustained a series of huge landslides which plugged up the river causing significant environmental damage and halting river rafting, fishing and snorkeling activities on the River for probably at least a year. Fortunately, the Paquare River was unaffected and rafting operations continue there unabated.
This earthquake occurred virtually under POAS volcano. Fortunately, the volcano is still quiescent and shows no signs of becoming active soon. Poas National Park re-opened to visitors last week. Most other tourist attractions and facilities are back to normal now.
We sincerely hope that the 900 remaining families without shelter find placement within Costa Rica soon and that proper geological studies are done of the Varablanca region to determine proper slope stability in advance of any re-construction efforts. A repeat of this disaster due to lack of planning would be horrible indeed.
Approximately six months ago, we decided to find a worthy cause for La Rosa de America to support. Eventually, after receiving a suggestion from the owner of another local hotel, we decided to begin a book donation program. Achieving high levels of literacy in Costa Rica is very important to the government and by extension, the people. However, in reality, the schools have next to no books nor funding with which to accomplish this task. This results in a very difficult situation for the teachers tasked to educate their pupils.
We ask guests to fill up their reserve “souvenir space” in their baggage with books. Children’s books, school books, English, French or Spanish books, and/or classroom supplies.
To date, we have had a very good response, collecting over 375 books in three languages. We have now donated to two local Alajuela schools and we are hoping to be able to donate a further 350 books by the end of the 2009 high season in April.
If you are interested in supporting this program, please visit our webpage devoted to this project at: http://larosadeamerica.com/social/book-donation-program
We appreciate the thoughtfulness of all who participate in this program.
For 13 busy days this November, we were the hosts to 21 of the best poker playing dealers around. Two LSOP tournament players stayed with us as well. In conjunction with another local hotel, we provided the accommodation for the Latin Series of Poker inaugural event held in Costa Rica. The actual tournament was held at Casino Martino’s, just one kilometer down the road. The LSOP is a new tournament for poker players around the world and will include other exotic stops such as Cancun (Mexico) and Ecuador.
To host this group it was decided that the best way to be fair to all concerned and to provide the best service, was to shut the hotel to other guests for the two week period. Fortunately it was still in the quiet part of the low season. This decision was deemed necessary though because of the special needs of the dealers. Hotel hours were turned upside down and our “quiet” hours and breakfast hours were extended to noon. Being night owls due to their trade, it was completely normal to find a collection of dealers sitting on our reception porch at 3 in the morning having just gotten back from work!!!
It was a great time, and a new and positive experience for the hotel. Everyone enjoyed their stay – both guests and hotel staff! We are looking forward with anticipation to their return probably in May 2009.
After almost three months of searching and too many interviews to remember, we now have a new Massage Therapist and Esthetician.
Karol has newly graduated from a three year program of Massage Therapy and Sports Massage. She has also obtained skills in a variety of other Spa disciplines such as alternative massage, facials (complete with skin analysis and targeted treatments) body wraps, and waxing. Karol is currently completing her training for the delivery of manicures and pedicures and we hope that she will be ready to offer this service some time next March or April.
As an added benefit, she is learning English so as to better interact with the majority of our guests who may not speak Spanish.
We have high hopes for our Day Spa this dry season. We have an new and expanded list of services that we offer and we have maintained the competitive pricing that seemed so popular last year with our guests.
New options include:
- Lymphatic Massage
- Aromatherapy Massage
- Reductive Massage
- Full Facials (Treatment Facials, Facial Analysis and Facial Masks including Caviar!!)
- Body Wraps (Chocolate, Volcanic Mud or Seaweed)
To complete the SPA overhaul, we will be refurbishing the attached bathroom area and the music sound system so that guests can more enjoy their experience.
If you are interested in seeing more details about this, a complete list of Hotel La Rosa de America Spa services or our Spa prices, do visit the Spa Website by clicking here.
All who come to our hotel are welcome to use our spa, provided that, of course the owner is not in there already!!!!Ã‚Â