We’ve landed today at Finca Exotica, and I’m grappling with complete overwhelm. There’s so much to see and share here, and I worry that I can’t possibly accomplish it all in the two days that we’ll stay here. Markus Wehrmeister and Gabriela Naranjo are living my dream, growing organic food to share with the guests who come to stay in open-air cabinas and tiki tents, spreading the word about permaculture and sustainable building and (from the looks of it) having the time of their lives doing it.
Finca Exotica is just down the road from Luna Lodge, at the end of a rocky almost-road that Markus says marks “the beginning of the world.” It takes something to get here, and he believes that filters out the accidental tourists. “The people who come here really want to get in touch with nature,” he says. We’re as close here as we could be, short of a sleeping bag on the beach.
We’re sleeping in an open-air cabina with a cold-water outdoor shower and no electricity. It’s one of five cabinas that Markus, an architect, has built from bamboo and wood scraps, following his self-generated principles of sustainable building: keep the footprint small. use very little concrete and wood and as much bamboo as possible. We fall asleep to the Pacific Ocean’s waves crashing on the beach just below us and a blanket of insect song. Markus tells me that sometimes guests need a couple of days to really start to feel the jungle experience, but I’m already so there. This jungle has grabbed hold of me, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.
Markus bought this land nine years ago, and Gabriela joined him a year later. Over time, they’ve built this place to share the Osa Peninsula’s magnificence and teach their guests the beauty of living with just enough. “On the Osa, the culture encourages the smallest footprint,” he told me. He relishes the challenge of seeing how little material he can use to build his guest rooms. “That’s kind of a fun culture,” he says, “to see how close you can get to just enough.”
Every guest is treated to a tour of the organic farm, with a little bit of permaculture education thrown in for good measure. They see the 120 different kinds of tropical fruits, herbs and roots that are grown here in their natural habitat—and then they see them again at dinner, when Gabriela takes advantage of her natural bounty. Everything here was built by hand, a collection of experiments that Markus admits include some of his mistakes. That perfect imperfection is a big part of this place’s allure.
Today we’ll tour the permaculture garden, swim in the surf and top off the night with a full-moon party in the main lodge. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.B
Barbara Bourne shot Finca Exotica's restaurant, lounge and library last year while it was under construction. The rancho is now a convivial hub. Photo by Barbara Bourne