By Katie James
When Kirk Ulbricht and a few friends from high school first discovered a beautiful piece of land for sale on the coast of the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica, it was love at first sight. A section of rain forest and sandy beach sans jet-skis or hot dog stands seemed the perfect place to build a fort; something wild, something bamboo, something in the fashion of the Swiss Family Robinson.
Above: A view of the ocean from the property.
And as boys will be boys, Ulbricht and his friends were still young enough to appreciate the inherent adventure that comes with owning property that is home to four types of monkey and 850 species of birds. They pooled their money and bought the land.
Flash forward to 1992. Ulbricht, who is by now the sole owner and skilled in the ways of building and craftmanship, erects the first of four homes made of sustainable materials and completely off the grid (everything is solar powered, including the internet connection). Ulbricht and his wife, Lyn, name the home Casa Bambu.
Above: Casa Linda is one of four bamboo houses on the property.
When I talked with Lyn Ulbricht, who lives half of the year in Austin, Texas, I could sense her love for the place. She made note of the rural dirt road used to access the homes and the somewhat challenging aspects of solar power, but then launched into talk of the delightful wildlife; monkeys, dolphins, the rare scarlett macaw, and even an occasional puma.
Above: The kitchen at Casa Bambu.
Casa Bambu, along with three other homes on the pristine, protected land are constructed with bamboo, one of the fastest growing plants in the world (I've heard people say you can see it grow), so to say its sustainable is an understatement.
Above: Custom netted beds are used throughout the property.
The homes are built high off the ground and have half walls so that the rooms are open to the sounds of the jungle. No air conditioning or TV's, but the air off the ocean cools the spaces nicely and you fall asleep to the sound of waves crashing on the beach.
Above: The upstairs porch at Casa Bambu is perfect for spotting monkeys!
When visiting Casa Bambu or any of the four structures, you will have access to plenty of amenities: cleaning staff, internet, kayaks, linens and towels, boogie boards, beach chairs, outdoor barbeque, outdoor shower, hammocks, and perhaps most enticing—two gifted cooks who, rumor has it, can take any number of ingredients at hand and dream up something delicious. By the way, that fruit there, on the table, that's from the yard.
Above: Manager, William, lives on the property.
William, Leda, and Vicki are there to greet you and help you with anything you might need. William manages the homes and is for hire to happily take you on a rainforest hike and provide information on visits to the nearby Corcovado Park. Leda and Vicki enjoy whipping up dinner for you and your guests. All three are self-employed and not hired by the Ulbrichts, a fact that struck me as particularly sensible and very appropriate.
Under Guest Comments for Casa Bambu, there are many superlatives as well as phrases such as best vacation I ever had, and thank you, thank you, thank you.
Above: The dining room at Casa Bambu. Note the bamboo columns and exposed ceilings.
In my mind, a good vacation has to have more than mani-pedi's and room service. While I love a good spa treatment as much as anyone, I like to feel intellectually as well as physically enriched. It absolutely thrills me to think that I could leave Casa Bambu having seen a real, live, not-behind-bars puma or macaw. I would love to fall asleep to the sound of the ocean, awake to the call of the Howler Monkey, grab a mango from a tree in the yard, and hit the beach with my binoculars. National Geographic, here I come.
A quote from the website:
"The Osa Peninsula contains a nearly intact fauna, including jaguars, tapirs, white-lipped peccaries, curassows, macaws, and other sensitive species. The diversity of wildlife is astonishing."
Professor David Wilcove
Above: The private path to the beach.
I've officially bookmarked Casa Bambu, both on my computer and in my head, as the place to go if i ever find out I have months to live. Some people say you should live every day like it's your last. They do have a point.