ONDA CEO Bill Graf shares news about our second ONDA location, opening later this year in Monteverde, Costa Rica.
I couldn’t be more excited to share the news that we’ve bought our second hotel – located in Monteverde, Costa Rica! While we’ve got a long way to go before we’re ready to welcome guests, I think it’s worth reflecting on all the hard work on the part of Team ONDA it took to get where we are.
From day one, we’ve planned for ONDA to grow to 10 locations within Costa Rica. Our first location in Playa Grande was intended to be our proof of concept/sandbox. It’s where we’ve spent the last year watching people interact with the space we’ve created and then tweaking the space and service to optimize the guest experience. Some of the observations, changes, and improvements we’ve made since launch:
- Skip the reception desk – we don’t need it.
- Coffee should be free.
- Add signage. Then add more.
- Automate as much as possible – lighting, music, etc.
- Redundancy is key.
- People will hang clothes anywhere to dry.
- Self-service is not as prevalent in Costa Rica as it is in the U.S.
- Waterless urinals aren’t a good idea at the beach.
- Salt water is corrosive. Really corrosive.
- Keep it simple – complication is the enemy of quality!
This is just the tip of the iceberg, and the learning process is ongoing – I don’t expect we’ll ever break the cycle of observing, tweaking, and measuring. Our Playa Grande location will always be our lab for experimentation and improvement.
Our on-site team made it pretty clear to me a few months after we opened our doors in Playa Grande that I had overstayed my welcome and they were ready for me to leave the nest (i.e., it was time for me to begin looking for our next hotel). This was a daunting task – where to go next? My initial thought was to continue working our way down the coast and try to find a good location in Nosara, Samara, or Santa Teresa. But there was a voice in the back of my head saying to do the opposite. We already have one beach hotel, why open another right away? We should do something completely different in an effort to provide our guests with diversity of experience within the ONDA network.
I had already visited La Fortuna a few times and thought that it would be a logical next step. I had heard good things about Monteverde, but had never been there myself, so I visited in March of 2022 and fell in love with it. Having spent the previous 18 months living at the beach, Monteverde was a breath of fresh air. The region is home to three national parks: Monteverde Reserve, Santa Elena Reserve, and the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, as well as a handful of private reserves and adventure parks. The highlight of my trip was definitely the El Tigre Waterfall tour… and anyone who knows me know that I’m not one for 1) waterfalls or 2) tours. As luck would have it, on this trip I actually stayed at the hostel that we’d end up buying – Pension Santa Elena. It was during that stay that we met the former owners – a couple from the US who had owned and operated the hotel for the last 20 years.
I spent the month of June 2022 living in Monteverde and visiting every hotel I could in the area. Some conversations went well, others didn’t. But there was always this nagging voice in the back of my head that the little hostel I had stayed at a few months back had the perfect soul to become the next ONDA. I reached out to the owner a few times to try to schedule coffee, but our schedules never seemed to line up. Finally, while sitting in a cafe just down the street from Pension Santa Elena, I threw a hail mary. I texted the owner our pitch deck and flat out asked if he’d be interested in selling.
Many conversations later and we find ourselves as the brand new owners of Pension Santa Elena. Our plan is to operate the hotel as-is through the end of April. We’ll then spend the next 6-8 months working to transform this location into the next ONDA, careful to do so in such a way that is respectful of both the history of Pension Santa Elena and the region in which we will operate. The name of the game for this location is “make it cozy. Then add more coziness.” Our hope is that this is the place to be on the rainy days when you don’t want to be out hiking or zip lining. We’re excited to share some preliminary renderings, provided by our amazing architect, Federico Chavarria of C&B Hospitality Consulting, of the direction we’re hoping to take this property.
Sign up for our mailing list if you’d like to be the first to know when ONDA Monteverde is open for bookings. We expect to welcome our first guests by the end of the year.