BARAHONA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC—What was once a family retreat for the Schiffino family, Casa Bonita Lodge is making its mark as one of the most sustainable destinations in the Caribbean. Set on 160 acres of unspoiled land in the Dominican Republic’s Barahuco Mountains, the lodge is partially powered by a 6.5-kilowatt hydroelectric generator situated on the Riosito River. The generator meets 30 percent of the 14-villa lodge’s electricity needs. According to Sandra Beltran, vice president of sales and marketing for Prohotel International, the company that manages the lodge, the goal is to upgrade the hydro plant so that it supplies 100 percent of the property’s electricity.
It is only in the last five years that Casa Bonita Lodge has taken shape as a hotel destination. The hotel is owned and run by a brother and sister, third-generation members of the Schiffino family, who grew up going to the family’s former vacation home each summer. Renovations on the lodge were completed last year.
Through the lodge itself, its restaurant and its spa, a strong commitment to sustainability is clear. Wood in the lodge’s structure is from trees that had to be felled on the property. Some of the furniture in the lodge was made from those same trees. Only natural elements such as palm wood and coralline stone were used during the renovation. Each room displays works by conservation photographer Eladio Fernandez. LED lighting helps to conserve energy. Organic waste is composted.
For its restaurant, Casa Bonita sources vegetables, seasonal fruits and herbs from the lodge’s own orchard and organic garden. All produce is sourced locally and fishermen from the town of Barahuco catch the fresh fish daily. Fresh cheese and jams are made in the local communities.
Located in the Bahoruco forest, Tanama Eco Spa’s signature treatment is performed in the Riosito River. The spa’s products are all locally sourced and feature ingredients such as organic fruits, vegetables, herbs and native stones, without the addition of chemicals or pesticides.
Almost all of the lodge’s 43 employees come from the local community. The lodge owners are committed to building up the local community and are assisting with housing projects and helping to provide running water to those who do not have it.
On a monthly basis, employees work with local kids as part of a beachfront cleanup project. As a reward for their work, children are given surfboards. Guests can take part in community efforts to transform the small local shops that sell jewelry made from the Dominican Republic’s indigenous stone, Larimar. Working with the locals, guests can participate in the upkeep, spending an afternoon painting and refurbishing storefronts, while also learning how the native Larimar is worked.
Adjacent to Biosphere Reserve
Casa Bonita Tropical Lodge is adjacent to Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo Biosphere Reserve, the only UNESCO Biosphere reserve in the Dominican Republic. Offering guests excursions to the natural wonder, the hotel works to build awareness and celebrate the region’s astounding biodiversity.
Casa Bonita’s Canopy Tour allows guests to go on a 1,000-meter journey between 10 strategically located platforms within the tropical forest that surrounds Casa Bonita. The Canopy Tour was built by a Costa Rican company that specializes in zip lines.
Go to Casa Bonita Tropical Lodge.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at email@example.com.