Even before carbon footprint and sustainability became household words, Virginia Cronin, entrepreneur and mother from a Cleveland, Ohio, suburb had felt that one of the great strides anyone can make is to move towards greater energy independence.
In that spirit – her children being out of the house and her being tired of cold and grey skies – Cronin and her then husband decided to start a new life in the tropics and create a model project of sustainability that could serve as an inspiration for others.
Convinced that sustainability and a comfortable lifestyle in pleasant surroundings do not have to be mutually exclusive, Cronin used the Internet for initial research and – after much trepidation – decided that Panama seemed to fit the bill.
She learned why that small central American country till recently more known to Americans for Noriega, Panama hats and the Canal has become a popular retirement haven for Americans that is about to catch up with neighbor Costa Rica as an eco-travel destination favored by nature lovers internationally.
After much Googling, Cronin decided the green hills of the Boquete district in western Panama, bordering on Costa Rica, looked promising: pleasant climate year round, welcoming locals and reasonable cost of living. On her second visit to Panama, Cronin and her then husband found suitable acreage near the Boquete hot springs.
Despite obstacles (she did not speak Spanish and had no experience) they prevailed, developed a plan, and began construction on one of the most ambitious private clean energy projects in the region.
Soon they discovered that things can take a lot longer than anticipated, especially in a foreign country where you don’t know the language. Yet, today, against all odds, seven years later, Cronin’s dream has become a reality.
Rancho de Caldera Eco-Project overlooks the green hills of western Panama with ample bird song and impressive sunrises.
Thanks to hydro-, solar- and wind power, Cronin’s Rancho operates off-the-grid year round. In fact, local rumor has it her clean power supply is more reliable than the grid of the village nearby.
Besides a main building housing residences and Madre Tierra gourmet restaurant under the care of gourmet Chef Craig Miller from Oregon and meeting spaces for workshops and Yoga classes, the recently Green Globe certified Rancho de Caldera features a solar powered chlorine-free swimming pool and eleven fully furnished and equipped terraced rooms and suites to accommodate guests.
Organic green houses made of local bamboo are supplying fresh herbs and greens for Chef Craig’s fine dining creations. Even though in the tropics and far from home, Rancho residents and visitors do not miss out on popular edibles they have come to love. Madre Tierra’s loyal lunch and dinner guests from far and wide appreciate Chef Craig’s creations. As one lady guest from Florida put it: “Far fetched as it may sound, for some of the best French fries in the world, it seems you have to go to a remote eco-resort in the green hills of Panama.” Chef Craig smiles.
The world’s largest travel community, TripAdvisor, seems to agree and recently awarded their “Certificate of Excellence” to Rancho de Caldera eco resort and Madre Tierra restaurant.
Rancho de Caldera is online at http://www.ranchodecaldera.com .