Colin Brownlee - Co-Founder of Banana Azul
Colin (left) with Banana Azul Gardner and friend, Rick Hibbitts
A lot of people ask me why I chose Puerto Viejo as the place to open a hotel. I had traveled all around Costa Rica looking for a good spot and what attracted me most to Puerto Viejo was how many different cultures there were here. The indigenous Bri Bri, people of Jamaican descent, people of Spanish descent (the Costa Ricans), and the ex-pats (mostly from Europe and North or South America) all comprise the population of Puerto Viejo. There is a bohemian quality to this place that makes it unique and a great place to live. The only other place I liked as much as here was Samara on the Pacific side but it was just too hot all the time to live there.
When I initially came to this area looking to buy property, everyone told me the places to be were Playa Chaquita and Punta Uva. I really liked Playa Chaquita but I wasn’t having luck finding a suitable property for what I had in mind. After numerous trips to Puerto Viejo, I met a Canadian guy in a bar in town who was looking to sell his property in Playa Negra. From everything I’d been told, Playa Negra wasn’t exactly a hot spot to build a hotel. The property was a cow field and you couldn’t see the beach from so much tree growth. Honestly, there was nothing attractive about it except that it was beachfront property, close to town and the price was perfect. I needed to make a decision in that moment as I was leaving the following day as well as the person selling the property. Being an atheist, I decided to forgo my previous notions and asked for a spiritual sign. Within a few minutes two blue morpho butterflies flew across the property. I took it as the sign! We headed to the lawyers office and signed the paperwork. Still, to this day, whenever I see morpho butterflies, I stop what I’m doing and take notice.
This is something I found hard to carry over into life in Canada. The simple notion that it’s ok to slow down and take notice. Three years ago, in 2010, I went back to Toronto to return to my old job in advertising and marketing. By all North American standards, it was a good life. For me though, it never felt fulfilling. It wasn’t until I returned to Costa Rica that I realized I felt much more fulfilled, as you don’t have to be rich to get the penthouse! For me, the glass is always half full here. I had stopped feeling content with life in Canada; my job wasn’t inspiring me anymore. Here it’s the opposite, every day I wake up eager and excited to start the day. I feel inspired here.
If you are interested in reading about how I came up with the concept of Banana Azul, here is a link to a great interview I had with International Living.