The Cayuga Collection – Costa Rica, Panama, and Nicaragua

written by BVC January 31, 2023

The Cayuga Collection

sustainable luxury and premium facilities


Providing an environmentally-friendly customer experience with five-star amenities

There may be many hotel brands that claim to keep environmental concerns at the top of their customer agenda, however, few actually deliver on this promise. For the Cayuga Collection, a hotel management company that prides itself on sustainable luxury, offering holidayers amenities designed with the environment in mind is built into its green business model.

The company manages a portfolio of 8 award-winning 5-star hotels in some of the most breathtaking corners of Costa Rica, Panama, and Nicaragua while protecting and preserving the local communities and ecosystems.

From the lush rainforests to the pristine beaches, each of their properties offers an unparalleled immersive experience in nature, culture, and luxury.

Whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, the Cayuga Collection has a hotel that will suit your needs.

The company promises guests the most extraordinary experiences of their life, and they experience the beauty and wonder of Central America while staying in one of the Cayuga Collection’s responsibly managed and eco-friendly hotels.

“Cayuga Collection manages eight independently owned hotels, resorts, and lodges in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama,” says Hans.

“The hotels’ eight different owners hire us to manage their hotels, so the focus of each hotel is very different. However, what they have in common is they’re all small, between eight and thirty-seven rooms, all are in the luxury segment, and all have a solid focus on sustainability.”

Hans founded Cayuga Collection in 2003 after an unlikely visit to Costa Rica in the nineties.

“I grew up in southern Germany and studied hotel management in upstate New York at Cornell University. I fell in love with a Costa Rican and followed her to Costa Rica. I fell in love with the country and its beauty on my first visit. I thought to myself; I could put my hospitality skills to work here.”

On a sustainability project for a large US chain hotel in the country in 1995, Hans was appalled at the use of single-use plastics, which planted a seed in his mind about eco-friendly hospitality.

“I wanted to ensure this country stays pristine and doesn’t get trashed by the wrong kind of tourism. Soon, I was drawn into luxury hospitality through an American couple that had a luxury lodge and was looking for management.

“I saw it as an opportunity to combine their focus on luxury and my focus on sustainability in a remote place.”

Out of that encounter emerged the Cayuga Collection.

“No other management company we know of does what we do,” Hans says. “Most manage their hotels, while we have eight owners with small hotels. We’re applying the same business model Hyatt or Hilton or four seasons would use for larger hotels.”

The Cayuga Collection - Costa Rica, Panama, and NicaraguaCayuga Collection focuses on small remote hotels that fit its business model, and after twenty years, they have perfected the business model.

“People like our brand of hospitality which brings a perfect balance and symbiosis between luxury and sustainability,” Hans adds. “We provide luxury hospitality without harming the environment or exploiting the local communities.

Cayuga Collection achieves this balance by utilizing simple sustainability strategies that blend with the environment and local communities.

“We start with the basics,” Hans explains.

“Small hotels, small footprint, in harmony with nature. In some of our hotels, trees were not cut down during construction, and you’ll find them growing through roofs or within the restaurant.

“We also design our hotels to have a harmonious relationship with the wildlife, including marine wildlife. For example, we don’t have lighting towards the beach, so the turtles aren’t affected if they come nesting.”

At an operational level, Cayuga Collection has achieved sustainability by removing small shampoo bottles and single-use utensils and utilizing linen towels and energy-efficient structure designs.

While the environment plays a crucial role in the company’s sustainability approach, its centerpiece is its community focus.

“The first important part of our sustainability strategy is people,” says Hans.

“If you don’t involve people – local communities, employees, and guests – in your sustainability effort, it will eventually fail. Without buy-in from everybody involved, it will be challenging to maintain the effort.”

Cayuga Collection’s emphasis on leveraging local human resources runs deep into its operations. Unlike most similar hotels that bring ex-pats to head up most departments, the company works at filling all its positions with locals.

“From the beginning, we wanted to work with local people, from gardeners and maids to chefs, general managers, operations managers, and food and beverage managers,” shares Hans.

“Wherever we operate, we work with a local workforce, which motivates staff because anyone can rise to whatever position they aspire to. For example, a young woman walked into one of our lodges at 17, and at 27, she was the general manager. Another was a construction worker when the hotel was built 15 years ago and is now the operations manager.”

This unique approach to staffing has helped Cayuga Collection demonstrate that it is possible to work with locals and that luxury tourism doesn’t mean you have to bring in ex-pats.

The hotel management company extends this employee-centric model by retaining its staff through low seasons, bucking the trend where most hotels fire most staff during low season and rehire them at high season.

“We provide year-round employment,” explains Hans. “There are some challenges with this, but also some benefits of not having to retrain, cultivating loyalty among long-time employees, and boosting overall employee retention.”

The second piece of the company’s sustainability puzzle is a focus on local sourcing.

“We strongly focus on everything related to the local, including local employment, local architecture, local design, local ingredients, and local beverages wherever possible. We try to keep things as local as possible while continuing to ensure our sustainability efforts revolve around local communities.”

The company’s local focus includes utilizing local building materials, architectural influences, and the prevailing design sense.

“Sometimes you go to a boutique hotel here in Central America, and you’re greeted by doors from Morocco and Buddha statues from Bali. Although this practice is fashionable, you won’t find that at a Cayuga property.

We try to use local materials and focus on local design aesthetics. The same goes for our furniture and fittings. Some of our properties produce furniture from fallen trees on the island.”

The Cayuga Collection - Costa Rica, Panama, and Nicaragua

“In other cases, we’ve repurposed old buildings to become a Caribbean-style hotel, providing an authentic experience that guests enjoy.”

These sustainability efforts align well with the company’s focus on outward-facing activities that allow guests to interact with the environment and local communities.

“Our guides take guests out on nature walks and hikes,” Hans says. “These excursions can focus on birds, national parks, night walks, hiking, or interpretation-focused rainforest exploration.

“We’ve incorporated culinary or cultural tours in the last few years. Instead of only seeing monkeys, toucans, and anteaters, guests can visit the local cheesemaker, experience coffee growing, or visit a local spice farm.”

“We want our guests to get out and explore the area and experience all it offers outside of the resort’s amenities.”

As the global tourism industry rises from the Covid-19 slump, Cayuga Collection has rebounded quickly, although Hans admits the company had almost hit rock bottom at the height of the pandemic.

“Like other tourism businesses, we had some tough months of being closed, having zero income, and having to let go of many of our long-time employees. But we came out of it with much learning, and we were lucky that tourism rebounded quickly, especially in this part of the world.”

“For the last 18 months, we’ve been breaking record after record regarding visitation, occupancy, and sales at our hotels. We’ve been able to bring back most of our people and invest in the properties. It’s been a very positive period for us, and the outlook into the future is very positive.”

“Another interesting experience was the realization that our investment in local people and communities paid off in those difficult times because they stood with us and stayed loyal. We helped them, and they helped us, and we now have tight-knit teams doing an amazing job.”

These experiences have solidified the company’s belief in how it conducts business, with Hans confident that the formula they use will carry the company to greater heights.

“We want to continue that symbiosis of luxury and sustainability. We plan to up our game in terms of luxury through upgrades, physical training, and culinary offerings without compromising our focus on sustainability.”

“We’d also like to grow and maybe add a few new properties in different locations. However, we’re very selective to ensure it’s the right property and owners. We must ensure we share the same values with the owners regarding people, sustainability, and community.

“We’re in no hurry to grow, but we know our model can positively impact wherever we are.”

Click The Cover To View Or Download The Brochure


The Cayuga Collection

What: A hotel management company that prides itself on sustainable luxury

Where: The Caribbean region in Costa Rica, Panama, and Nicaragua



Bionest –

AquaEco Solutions –

January 2023 issue cover of Business View Caribbean
January 2023

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