ITSA Ecotourism Turtle Conservation Project

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ITSA Ecotourism Project: Feasibility Study

ITSA Ecotourism Project: Feasibility Study

3014 Bluff St., Unit 101 Boulder, Colorado 80301 200 Exchange St. #1413 Providence, Rhode Island 02903 usa. 617.901.9702

Km 12.8 Carretera Masaya Managua, Nicaragua usa. 303.449.9155 nic. 505.2279.8062

Š Copyright 2018 Gettliffe Architecture: All Rights Reserved

Introduction & Invitation This Feasibility Study booklet is intended as an entry point and resource to discover the ITSA Ecotourism Project, providing background information on the site and region in Part I, and revealing a vision for the project through Conceptual Design in Part II. The ITSA Ecotourism Project will be located in direct proximity to the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor, a protected wildlife area that experiences the rare biological phenomenon of sea turtle Arribadas – mass nestings. Additionally, the Project is located along the new Constanera (coastal) highway, running north along the coast from the Costa Rican border south of El Ostional, providing ease of access from the site to the communities of Tortuga and El Ostional, the city of San Juan del Sur, to the region’s beautiful beaches, and to the abundance of recreational, ecotourism, and agritourism activities in the area. Part I provides primary and secondary research: on the site, surrounding communities, local attractions, regional infrastructure, construction resources, tourism profile, nearby ecotourism destinations, future projects in the region, relevant business incentives and development regulations, and prominent regional “actors” (organizations & businesses involved in community progress). Additionally, maps and a list of sources and references for further reading are provided. Part II offers a vision of the ITSA Ecotourism Project complete with conceptual illustrations. The Programming and Conceptual Design define the Project as a visitor center, café, discovery center/museum, ecotourism base of operations, and guest ecolodge. The facilities will offer amenities and an immersive learning experience within the envelope of sustainability -- economically and socially beneficial to local communities, and in balance with nature. We invite you to explore the potential of the ITSA site and surrounding region, and to join us in imagining the ITSA Ecotourism Project as a catalyst for community-based ecotourism, and a model of ecologically conscious development, in protection of endangered sea turtles and the native ecosystem.

PART ONE: Resource Inventory

1. Site Analysis .................................................... p.12 I. About ITSA II. Location III. Climate & Environment V. Wildlife VI. Casa Hacienda La Flor

2. Features of Tortuga ..................................... p.16 I. The Village II. Economy III. Culture

3. Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor .......... p.18 p. 12

p. 16

I. The Sea Turtle Life Cycle II. The Arribada III. Diversity of Ecosystems IV. Political Complexity V. Conservation Approaches VI. The Tourist Experience

4. Features of El Ostional ........................... p.24 I. The Town II. Economy III. Future Growth

5. Local Attractions ............................................. p.26

p. 18

I. Ruta del Sur Bosques y Tortugas II. San Juan del Sur III. Surrounding Beaches IV. Recreation

p. 24

p. 26

6. Transportation ........................................... p.32 I. Local Government Road Projects II. Getting to ITSA III. Regional Airports IV. Regional Ports

7. Utilities ........................................................ p.34 p. 34

p. 36

I. Water II. Electricity III. Sanitation IV. Waste & Recycling Management

8. Construction Resources ..................... p.36 I. Material Suppliers II. Regional Architecture III. Alternative Materials

9. Tourism Profile ....................................... p.38 I. Statistics

10. Nearby Ecotourism Destinations ...... p.40

p. 38

I. Morgan’s Rock Hacienda & Ecolodge II. Casa Maderas III. Playa Hermosa Ecolodge IV. Rancho Chilamata Eco Guest Ranch V. Homestays & Community-Based Tourism VI. Other Accommodations

11. Future Projects..........................................p.44 I. Playa Hermosa Development II. La Santa Maria Apartments III. San Juan del Sur Primary Hospital p. 40

p. 44

12. Incentives & Regulations ....................... p.46 I. International Ecotourism Society (TIES) Principles II. Disclaimer III. Law 306: Incentive Law for the Tourism Industry IV. Buffer Zones V. Biodiversity Conservation Zone VI. Zone of Regulated Ecotourism VII. Terrestrial Buffer Zone VIII. Sustainable Tourism Management Program

p. 46

13. List of Regional Actors ............................ p.56 14. Maps ..................................................................... p.58 15. References p. 56

p. 58

p. 58

..................................................... p.60

PART TWO: The Vision 2. Conceptual Design

1. Programming .................................................. p.68

I. Programming Description II. Relationship Diagram

I. Initial Concept II. Materials III. The Visitor Center IV. The Ecolodge

p. 68

p. 72

...................................... p.72

PART ONE: Resource Inventory

One: Site Analysis I. About ITSA ITSA (Italianic Inversiones Sociedad Anónima) was formed by partners from the USA and Nicaragua, including the Adan Calderón Cooperativa based in Tortuga, Nicaragua. ITSA was formed in 2006. The Adan Calderón Cooperativa was formed in 1982.

II. Location ITSA owns 100 manzanas (174 acres) of land, located on the South Pacific Coast of Nicaragua, in the hills above the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor, a wildlife reserve and refuge for nesting endangered sea turtles. The ITSA site is within close walking distance from the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor (750m) and the village of Tortuga (4 km). The town of El Ostional, a fishing community, is 5.5km South. The ITSA site is located off the San Juan del Sur/El Ostional Carretera (Highway

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224), which links to east-west highways at San Juan del Sur (Highways 16 and 72). Construction on a new Costanera (coastal) highway from El Naranjo(Rivas) to Las Salinas (Managua) will begin in 2017, with an anticipated date of completion in 2022. It will be 130km in length. The ITSA site is within a 30km radius of several other popular Pacific Coast beaches, including Playa El Coco, Playa Hermosa, and Playa Maderas. It is 21km from the celebrated port city of San Juan del Sur, and 15km from the Costa Rican border.

III. Climate & Environment Regional temperatures range from 26°C-35°C (79°F-95°F). The climate is marked by two seasons: rainy and dry. During the rainy season from May to October, the average rainfall is 1500mm (59 inches).

Winds come from the northeast yearround, originating over the freshwater Cocibolca Lake (aka Lake Nicaragua) and crossing over 20km of mountains. The ITSA site features native vegetation and wildlife. The hilltop provides panoramic views of the coast to the west (specifically Playa La Flor) and the mountains to the east. The site also features hiking trails and a “mirador” (lookout) structure. The mirador offers panoramic views, and is visited by tourists during guided tours. Of ITSA’s 100 manzanas, dry tropical forest covers the majority. Dry tropical forest is a unique, and threatened, ecosystem. Only 10% of the historical range of this biome remains worldwide. These forests are dominated by thorny and rubbery species. Trees and plants will shed their leaves during the dry season, and dramatically bloom in April and May.

The forest on ITSA’s land features the Madero Negro Tree, Acacia Tree (Cornizuelo), Saman Tree (Genizaro), Elephant Ear (Guanacaste), Ceiba Tree (Ceibo), Sandbox Tree (Jabillo), West Indian Elm (Guasimo), and Strawberry Tree (Madroño). The Strawberry Tree/Madroño is Nicaragua’s national tree. About 10% of ITSA’s property was reforested in 2007, in the southern tip of the land area, to transition back to native forest from land used for cattle grazing. Reforestation is especially crucial in areas defined by a topography of steep or moderately steep slopes, to aid in the prevention of erosion. The southern portion of ITSA’s property is neighbored

by an active cattle ranch. There is a potential archealogical site located between the ITSA property and the village of Tortuga. Artifacts have been found in an area believed to be a historical indigenous cemetery.

V. Wildlife There is a high level of biodiversity throughout Nicaragua. More than 1,400 animal species have been defined in the country – and there are estimates of another 5,000 species yet to be classified. Nicaragua currently contains 78 protected areas, covering more than 22,000 square kilometers (8,500 miles). However, the

level of management in these areas can vary greatly. Nicaragua hosts a number of vulnerable, endangered, and critically endangered species. On ITSA’s property, and throughout the region, small mammals, birds, and reptiles stand out as the most visible wildlife. A hike might produce sightings of Cara Blanca monkeys (Whiteheaded Capuchin), Mono Congo (Howler) monkeys, Oso Perezoso (Sloths), Deer, Foxes, or even an Ocelot. Green Iguana and other small reptiles make their home in the forest, as well as several species of Parrot, and birds such as Toucans and Urracas (Blue-Tailed Magpie).

VI. Casa Hacienda La Flor The Casa Hacienda La Flor, a historic structure and local landmark on the coastal road directly across from Playa La Flor, was renovated by ITSA, and is owned by the Adan Calderón Cooperativa. The Casa Hacienda received an award for architectural preservation. It is a 130 year old structure. The hacienda serves as an ecotourist homestay, and a “Casita de queso” (cheese house) for the cooperative. Cheese is produced here for the community.

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Two: Features of Tortuga I. The Village

II. Economy

The village of Tortuga is located 4km off of the coastal highway and the ITSA site. The road to Tortuga branches off from the coastal highway at the Casa Hacienda La Flor. The village is located near the path of the La Flor River.

Tortuga villagers farm and ranch in the immediate vicinity of Tortuga, fish along the coast, or commute to San Juan del Sur. In addition to agricultural workers, the community includes construction workers, teachers, and professionals. Some Tortuga community members are rangers at the Rufugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor, caring for the turtle population. Some members of the community speak English.

Tortuga has been an established community for over 150 years. About 800 people live in the community. The central village contains evangelical and Catholic churches, a community center, a pre-school and elementary school, a community sports center, several grocery and convenience stores, a technology education center, and a community cemetery. A medical clinic in the village was recently built with foreign financing, and will acquire permits before opening.

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The Cooperativa Jose Adan CalderĂłn, comprised of 11 Tortuga families, owns 500 manzanas (865 acres) and operates as an agricultural, cattle ranching, and rural tourism cooperative. Agricultural production includes corn, sorghum, and wheat, mainly for community members. 300 head of cattle provide meat and dairy. Cooperativa partners sell cheese at El Ostional, El Coco, and along the coastal highway.

For the past several years, the community has also offered rural tourism homestays. They were aided by INTUR (the governmental body that regulates tourism in Nicaragua) and the NGO Paso PacĂ­fico. There are 4 homestays within the village, as well as a homestay based in the historic Casa Hacienda La Flor down the road. The homestays provide basic accommodations, and encourage tourists to integrate into the daily lives of the campesinos (rural farmers). They can participate in herding, milking, and cheese production. Guests are currently charged 7 USD per night.

III. Culture Tortuga has maintained an agricultural way of life for over 150 years, weathering extreme cultural and economic duress caused by colonialism and revolution. More often than not, locals get around

town by bicycle, motorcycle, and horse, rather than car – or you might see several villagers carpooling together in the back of a pickup truck. Catholicism is deeply embedded into local traditions. There are festivals, with processions, folkloric dance, and art, during Semana Santa (Holy Week) -- the last week of Lent culminating with Easter Sunday. The community of Tortuga also celebrates San Jose de la Montaùa on March 19th, a festival in honor of Saint Joseph.

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Three: Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor I. The Sea Turtle Life Cycle Sea turtles can live as long as 100 years or more, and their reproduction is a correspondingly lengthy cycle. Female turtles return to the beach where they were born to lay “clutches” of eggs. “Hatchling” baby turtles emerge weeks later and head directly to the sea, where they will spend up to 10 years drifting in open water, foraging and growing. This period is sometimes referred to as “the lost years” since it is difficult to track their movements. After this period the juvenile turtles return to coastal waters, where they continue to mature. Sexual maturity is reached at 10-50 years, depending on the species. Female turtles will lay eggs every 2-4 years. The Olive Ridley Project estimates that, in a natural setting, only 1 in 1,000 hatchling turtles survive to adulthood. Threats resulting from human activity drastically reduce this number. Human threats include fishing industry bycatch, ingestion of trash and debris, the direct harvesting of turtle eggs and adult turtle meat, the poaching of juveniles for the pet trade, environmental contamination from oils and chemicals, boat strikes, destruction or modification

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of foraging areas and nesting grounds, disturbance caused by increased human activity on beaches, global warming, and disorientation caused by light pollution. Sea turtles are considered “flagship species” for conservation because of their importance for the overall health of marine ecosystems.

II. The Arribada La Flor is one of seven beaches in Central America that experiences turtle “arribadas.” During these nighttime events up to 40,000 female Olive Ridley turtles arrive on the beach en masse to lay their eggs. The laying season is from July to February. Depending on the phase of the season, visitors may witness a nesting arribada, or hatchings where thousands of baby turtles crawl out of the sand to return to the sea. Four species of turtle are known to nest at Playa La Flor and its surrounding beaches, such as Playas Brasilón, El Coco, Ostional and Bahía Ánima. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has designated all four species as threatened. The Olive Ridley (Tortuga Parlama, Lepidochelys olivaceae), the most common species at Playa La Flor and the species responsible for arribada events, is listed as “vulnerable.” The Pacific Green Turtle (Tortuga Verde, Chelonian mydas) is listed as “endangered.” Both the Hawksbill Turtle (Tortuga de Carey, Eretmochelys imbricata) and Leatherback (Tortuga Caná,

Dermochelys coriacea) are listed as “critically endangered” and nearing extinction.

III. Diversity of Ecosystems While Playa La Flor represents a central focus point for the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor, because of the arribada phenomenon and the importance of the Olive Ridley turtle as a flagship species, the 7.2 sq kms of beaches represent only 18% of the total area of the refuge. In fact the refuge contains four distinct ecosystems within its borders and within the similarly protected “buffer zones” that surround the refuge: Tropical Forests, Tropical Dry Forests, Mangrove Swamps, and Transitional Coastal Marine Areas.

boundary to the north, and the Ostional River to the south. The La Flor River crosses the central part of the refuge, meeting the ocean at Playa La Flor. The rivers create estuaries that attract a multitude of wildlife. Playa La Flor features tidal pools, rock formations, and nesting sea birds, in addition to its arribada events. Protections in place for the refuge encompass a huge variety of species, from sea creatures as small as a sea sponge that live in the tidal pools of the beaches, to species as large as the Blue Whale, which migrates through the open waters of the conservation zone. Monkeys, birds, reptiles (including the American Crocodile), and numerous rare and endangered plant species make their home within the borders of the refuge.

The Escameca River is a natural geographic

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communities of Tortuga and El Ostional. Turtle egg poaching is a complicated issue in Nicaragua. Historically, turtle eggs have served as an important food source, and to this day some Nicaraguans perceive turtle eggs as more nutritious than chicken eggs. For many coastal communities, eggs have served as a valuable and sometimes essential piece of the local economy, particularly for individuals without steady sources of income or their own land for agricultural development. Poached eggs are sold in major urban markets across Nicaragua.

IV. Operational Complexity While La Flor has been under various levels of protection and systems of management for decades, it was designated a Protected Area of SINAP, in accordance with Nicaraguan Law No. 217, in January of 2014. The protected area occupies a total of 7,349 hectares (~18,160 acres), of which 525.68 ha are terrestial and 6,824.02 ha are marine. Additionally, Law No. 217 includes the designation of a conservation “buffer zone” around protected areas. Buffer zones are subject to additional regulations in accordance with conservation goals. Surrounding Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor is an additional 17,300.27 hectares (~42,750 acres) of buffer zones. Management is complex

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of the protected area and distributed across

governmental (national and local) and NGO entities. MARENA (Nicaragua’s Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources) employs rangers that patrol the 800 square meters of beach at Playa La Flor. Additionally, there is an armed military presence. The MARENA rangers and Nicaraguan Army soldiers are housed in a simple structure at the entrance of Playa La Flor. The remainder of the area, while ostensibly protected under private ownership and its designation as a reserve, lies outside direct MARENA and military guardianship. Beaches south of the core arribada beach tend to attract solitary nesters, specifically the endangered Pacific Green, and critically endangered Hawksbill and Leatherback turtles. These areas are co-managed by the NGO Paso Pacífico in partnership with the

Interviews conducted by the NGO Paso Pacífico in 2009, and by researchers Madrigal-Ballestro and Jurado in 2012, exposed abiding tensions between local communities and MARENA rangers. Some locals voiced skepticism, alleging that MARENA rangers personally profit from both tourism-based income and their own illegal harvesting of eggs. Meanwhile, MARENA rangers may view locals with suspicion, believing they must restrict community access to the beaches in order to protect the turtles. Historically, it may be this exclusion of local communities from conservation efforts that has fed into tensions. Efforts by MARENA, Paso Pacífico, and other key actors in the region have sought to alleviate these tensions through increased education, cooperation, and employment opportunities. In the 2016 governmental document “Plan for the Protection and Management of the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor,” the stated

priority of the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor is to conserve the abundant natural resources of flora and fauna existing there, and to promote the integration and involvement of the local communities in the refuge’s protection, conservation and management. Local communities are seen as key actors in the sustainable development of the refuge, with the aim of developing economic activities with sustainable practices so that participants may enjoy biological and ecological wealth in the short, medium, and long-term.

V. Conservation Approaches While preliminary research has suggested some success from community-based, and financially-incentivized, approaches to conservation at Playa La Flor and in the region, further scientific studies are needed to fully understand what impacts have been made on the local sea turtle population. One approach used at Playa La Flor is the removal of “at-risk” egg clutches to local hatcheries. Sea turtle nests that are located and identified as particularly atrisk (e.g. nests in the banks of the estuary at Playa La Flor which could be washed away by currents, or clutches laid early in arribada events which may subsequently be destroyed by other turtles) are removed and safeguarded outside the reserve. In Ostional, an all-female cooperative runs the community hatchery. Another hatchery is located at Playa El Coco. Hatcheries are run by NGOs, local communities, and local

businesses, and operate in coordination with MARENA. Upon hatching, the baby turtles are released to the sea. The NGO Paso Pacífico employs locals as rangers, introducing a new source of revenue for communities. The rangers are trained in non-confrontational approaches to interaction with poachers and have had success with determent rates – not least because the rangers often personally know the poachers. Paso Pacífico has used various financial incentives in their programs, including publicly awarded monetary bonuses when rangers meet conservation goals, and direct payments for nests located and protected. In the region, MARENA, NGOs and local businesses have spearheaded education campaigns and community events in an effort to increase motivation, trust, and cooperation to achieve conservation goals.

VI. The Tourist Experience Visitors access the core arribada beach of Rufugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor through a road off the coastal highway. There is a $7 USD admission fee paid to the MARENA rangers. INTUR estimates that the refuge collects $33,000-$51,000 USD per year from admission fees. Visitors are advised to keep distance from the turtles and to use only red colored light for photography. Under the same guidelines as above, camping is allowed on the beach for $17 USD per tent. On, the Rufugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor ranks in the Top Ten attractions in the area of San Juan del Sur, and shows an average rating of 4.5/5 stars by those who have visited.

Four: Features of El Ostional I. The Town The coastal town of El Ostional is located 5.5km South from the ITSA site, and 10km North of the Costa Rican border. It is traditionally a fishing village. The health center in Ostional serves the communities of Ostional, Tortuga, San Antonio, Montecristo, Pochote, and Ceylon. The town also includes primary and secondary schools, 3 beachfront restaurants and bars, and 7 convenience stores. The 2015 Moon Guide recommends El Ostional’s beach as exceptionally tranquil, and good for swimming. Buses run between San Jan del Sur and El Ostional a few times per day.

II. Economy Historically, El Ostional’s economy has been based on fishing. Many species of

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fish can be found in Nicaragua’s Pacific Coast waters, but snapper, lobster, and shellfish have served as the more common species for harvest in El Ostional. Before the harvesting of turtle eggs (outside of the refuge) was made illegal by the Nicaraguan government in 2005, the collection and sale of eggs was an important component of Ostional’s economy. Two independent research studies have focused specifically on the community of El Ostional and the collection of sea turtle eggs. Various initiatives have sought a balance between the socio-economic reality, and environmental conservation goals, for the community of El Ostional. In 2008, the National Institute of Development Information reported that 29.9% and 11.6% of the population in the area is listed as “Poor” and “Extremely Poor” respectively. Illegal egg harvesting has continued despite the ban, in large part

because of the lack of other economic opportunities. From 1993 to 2005, a MARENA-approved egg collection system was managed by the NGO Cocibolca Foundation which distributed a percentage of eggs from the La Flor arribada events to El Ostional and Tortuga locals, for their personal consumption and sale. A current program, managed by El Ostional locals and the NGO Paso Pacifico, called the PPP (Performance-Based Payment Program), pays locals for the identification and protection of nests. Originally the PPP matched black market prices per egg, but the approach has been modified so that a flat rate is paid per nest, with the intention to encourage the protection of nests for the sake of conservation and less for financial gain. While initial research has indicated some success from the PPP, further research and data is needed. In the 2012 study conducted by MadrigalBallestro and Jurado, 180 households from El Ostional were interviewed. At that

time this number relfected the majority of the town’s population. 41% of those anonymously interviewed acknowledged being egg harvesters, with 59% as nonharvesters. 39% of the non-harvester group had never harvested eggs, while 61% had quit harvesting in the prior five years, mainly due to the governmentinitiated bans. More recent studies are needed to reflect 2017 percentages. El Ostional’s current economy reflects the growth of the ecotourism industry. The town supports local ecotourism-based cooperatives such as COOPETUR which offer guided tours (including “Oceanic Safaris”), snorkeling, horseback riding, hiking, fishing, homestays, and artisanal wares. There are 17 homestays or lodges in the community, which contain 2-5 rooms. Additionally, the community hosts marine-

life scientific researchers. The cooperative Pablo Rene is dedicated to tourism and fishing.

It will be 130km in length. A new customs station, at the Nicaraguan/Costa Rican border, will be constructed on the road.

El Ostional maintains close ties to the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor, with some locals working as rangers for Paso Pacífico,

With completion of this project, El Ostional will be the first town encountered by those travelling by auto from Costa Rica, providing further opportunity for future growth.

There are two prominent women-run cooperatives in the community. One harvests pearls, while another runs a turtle egg hatchery in coordination with MARENA and Paso Pacifico.

III. Future Growth Construction on a new Costanera (coastal) highway from El Naranjo (Rivas) to Las Salinas (Managua) will begin in 2017, with an anticipated date of completion in 2022.

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Five: Local Attractions I. Ruta del Sur: Bosques y Tortugas The Ruta del Sur Bosques y Tortugas (The Southern Route, Forests & Turtles) is a program developed by the Nicaraguan government in conjunction with local cooperatives and NGOs. It promotes a route of community-based tourism, rural tourism, and ecotourism attractions in the region, including hiking, visiting the La Flor refuge, snorkeling, panga trips, horseback riding, and other guided tours. From the Turtles & Trees website: The whole of the route offers tourists an opportunity to experience rural life, nature conservation, and local culture in a safe, authentic, relaxed, and quiet environment with people who will welcome you with a broad smile. The Adan Calderon cooperative is included on the Ruta del Sur. Cooperative members offer guided hikes, such as the “Sendero 360” (360 Trail) which

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visits the mirador structure on ITSA’s property and the Casa Hacienda La Flor.

II. San Juan del Sur Located 21km north of the ITSA site, San Juan del Sur is a 165-year-old port city and popular international tourist destination set on a crescent-shaped bay. Historically a fishing village, in recent years the local economy has largely shifted toward tourism. Mochileros (backpackers) abound, and use the city as a base to explore surrounding beaches and activities. The local population is about 15,500 people. Restaurants and Night Life: Recent years have brought an influx of new businesses to San Juan del Sur, including microbrewery bars and international cuisine. Trendy and gourmet spots intermix with old standbys like “Iguana’s,” and “El Timon,” within the easily walkable city.

Historic Architecture: San Juan del Sur was famously part of the transit route for California gold rushers during the 1850’s, and a hub for Cornelius Vanderbilt Ocean Lines. Colorful Victorian architecture survives from this period. The saffron colored Iglesia Catolica de San Juan Bautista serves as a city landmark. It is located by the city’s central park, a community green space. Jesús de la Misericordia (aka “el Cristo”): This 134 meter high statue is located on mountainside overlooking San Juan del Sur from the northern end of the bay. It is accessible to the public and offers one of the best overlooks of the bay. The base of the colossal statue contains a chapel. Shopping: The Plaza del Arte is a covered market where street vendors from as far as Guatemala and Argentina offer artisanal wares for sale. The Mercado Central is a municipal market with everyday items, including souvenirs,

clothing, and fresh fruit and vegetables. Boutique Surf Shops are also increasingly popular. Lodging: Accommodations in the city of San Juan del Sur range from minimal homestays and hostels, to luxury resorts with amenities. During the high season, prices per night can range from as little as $10 USD for a “hospedaje” to upwards of $500 USD at a resort. Even budget-friendly accommodations tend to offer laundry service, meals, and organized day trips to nearby sights, beaches, and recreational activities. Annual Events: San Juan del Sur hosts a number of festivals throughout the year, in a mixture of traditional Nicaraguan ceremony and expat carousing. Semana Santa (Holy Week) is one of the largest holidays of the year, attracting an influx of travelers and tourists to San Juan del Sur. Large tents are set up along the beach for dancing, drinking, and revelry, which continues through the week. Street vendors with food and souvenirs are positioned on every corner. The festivities include concerts, “Via Crucis” (Stations of the Cross) processions, folkloric dance presentations, and sport competitions. Fiestas Patronales, June 16-24, includes various fiesta events and culminates in the Procesion de la Virgen del Carmen. As the patron saint of fishermen, a statue of the Virgen del Carmen is carried through

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town, then down to the docks where she is transferred to a boat that takes her on a lap around the bay.

surfing, it offers a laid-back atmosphere. A beachfront bed & breakfast provides a restaurant, bar, and pool.

On September 2, the city commemorates the 1992 earthquake and tsunami that took 116 lives and caused destruction in the city and surrounding region.

Playa Yanqui (aka Yankee): 9.5km North from the ITSA site is a long, beautiful sandy beach favored by local surfers. It is a remote beach without amenities.

San Juan del Sur offers the Los Aguizotes festival on the last Friday in October, in the tradition of the Nicaraguan city of Masaya. The “Aguizotes” is a harbinger of death in Nicaraguan lore, taking the form of the guis bird, a yellow and white finch with giant horns. During the festival, marching bands meander through town followed by a procession of elaborate and terrifying handmade costumes of skeletons, demons, folkloric characters, ghosts, and other spooky visions.

Playa Hermosa: 18km North from the ITSA site, this beach is popular with surfers for its “five great breaks,” as well as with families for its safety and “cool, lost-in-paradise vibe.” Amenities include: a restaurant, bar, wifi, public restrooms with showers, a volleyball court, covered seating, and available lessons for surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, as well as boat tours.

III. Surrounding Beaches The beaches of the South Pacific coast of Nicaragua are known for their incredible natural beauty, wildlife, and often excellent surf. The most popular beaches are accessible by the coastal highway – the more remote beaches are sometimes only accessible by boat. The following descriptions are based on information from and the 2015 Moon Guide. Playa El Coco: 3km North from the ITSA site is a quiet beach without crowds. Good for swimming, but not so much for

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Playa Maderas: 29km North from the ITSA site (north of San Juan del Sur), this beach is perhaps the most legendary surfing beach in the region, with a “layered” break that appeals to surfing beginners as well as seasoned pros. The area offers multiple hostels and hotels. Other beaches within a 29km radius of the ITSA site include: Playa Remanso, Playa Marsella, Playa Escameca, Playa Anima, Playa Manzanillo, and El Toro.

IV. Recreation Surfing: The western coastline of Nicaragua welcomes south-to-southwest swells from the Pacific, and surfing breaks are created by the region’s unique

points, beach geography, and outer reefs. Characteristic offshore winds, originating over Lago Cocibolca (aka Lake Nicaragua), blow in 300 days a year, also contributing to excellent surf. Surfing season lasts from March to November. The surfing scene in Nicaragua is notably “casual.” The region is known to appeal to travelers seeking consistent, highquality, warm surf – without the crowds. Surfing camps and ecolodges dotted along the southwest coastline include: Chicabrava Surf Camp, Playa Hermosa Ecolodge, Coconut Surf Camp, and Buena Vista Surf Camp. Yoga: Perhaps as a natural complement to surfing, group yoga is increasingly on offer. Ranging from drop-in classes on the beach, to luxe all-inclusive retreats, yoga is featured at a number of businesses in the region including Zen Yoga, Maderas Village, Palermo, Casa Maderas, and Costa Dulce Hotel and Retreat Center. Hiking & Camping: For those who prefer to explore by foot, notable trails and mountain parks in the area include the hike to “El Cristo” in San Juan del Sur, a trail to a set of ancient petroglyphs outside of San Juan del Sur, and the Parque de Aventura Las Nubes in the mountains above San Juan del Sur which features a number of established forest trails and opportunities for viewing wildlife. Camping is also allowed at La Flor.

Zip Lining: San Juan del Sur-based business Da Flying Frog is known for their “Canopy Tours” -- zip lines through the forest canopy, past waterfalls, surrounded by natural beauty and wildlife. Zip lines are also featured at the Parque de Aventura las Nubes. Fishing, Sailing, Snorkeling, & Diving: The waters of Nicaragua’s Pacific Coast are known for some of the best fishing in Central America. Fishing tournaments are held in San Juan del Sur each year. Tourist fishing charters are based out of San Juan del Sur, Playa Maderas, Playa Marsella, and El Ostional. Nicaragua’s waters contain a huge variety of fish, including many threatened and endangered species. Marlin, Tuna, Wahoo, and Sailfish are all popular fishing for sport. Aquaholic and Mango Rosa, charters based in San Juan del Sur, also offer whale watching, sunset sailing, snorkeling trips, and scuba diving excursions. It should be noted that the swells and offshore winds which make the Pacific coast of Nicaragua such an ideal destination for surfing, conversely make for less clear conditions for snorkeling and diving. Some of the coastline’s most remote beaches are only accessible by boat, as well as the many small offshore islands, including islands opposite Playa La Flor and Playa Hermosa. Catamarans, pangas, sailboats, and motorboats are common sights and available in most beach towns for charter or rent.

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mobile public library that offers books and afternoon classes to rural communities. Cultural Immersion: Potentially, the most immersive experience available to travelers is that of a homestay. Homestays, like those offered within the community of Tortuga, allow tourists to live and work alongside local families. There are a variety of homestays throughout the region – from the more urban community of San Juan del Sur to the rural El Ostional or Tortuga, from the ranching and farming agricultural lifestyle of the mountains, to the fishing communities of the coast. Homestays are arranged through NGOs, travel agencies, and Spanish language schools.

Horseback Riding: Rancho Chilamate Eco Guest Ranch, located near Playa Hermosa off the coastal highway, is known for their “happy, healthy” horses and sunset beach rides. Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge near Playa Maderas, and Da Flying Frog Adventures based in San Juan del Sur, also offer forest and beach rides. Voluntourism: Volunteering while traveling (aka “voluntourism”) allows visitors more immersive access to a culture, while they offer their own skills to the benefit of local communities. The Barrio Planta Project, based in San Juan del Sur, provides “education through creativity, communication, and confidence.” They invite individuals and

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groups of all ages to volunteer for as little as an afternoon or as long as a week-long trip. Chica BRAVA is a women’s surf camp based in San Juan del Sur. In addition to their for-profit aims, they spearhead charitable efforts throughout the year. The annual Camp Bella is a free surf camp for Nicaraguan women – in years past the camp was specifically offered to victims of sex trafficking. Chicas Adelante, a collaboration between Chica BRAVA and Escuela Adelante, is a community outreach program for dynamic local young women. They also host a bi-monthly beach cleanup at the San Juan del Sur bay. Additionally, they coordinate volunteers for the San Juan del Sur Biblioteca project, a free

The Casa de Cultura in San Juan del Sur is open to foreigners and locals. They offer Spanish classes, salsa, merengue, bachata, or folklorico dance lessons, art lessons, and more. Immersive Spanish classes are also taught at Spanish Ya, Latin American Spanish School, and Lago Azul Spanish School – all located in San Juan del Sur.

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Six: Transportation I. Local Government Road Projects Construction on a new Costanera (coastal) highway from El Naranjo (Rivas) to Las Salinas (Managua) will begin in 2017, with an anticipated date of completion in 2022. It will be 130km in length. A new customs station, at the Nicaraguan/Costa Rican border, will be constructed on the road.

II. Getting to ITSA The ITSA site is located off the San Juan del Sur/El Ostional Carretera (Highway 224), which links to east-west highways at San Juan del Sur (Highways 16 and 72). The San Juan del Sur/El Ostional Carretera is partially paved for 7km immediately south of SJdS, after which the road is dirt in good condition. High-clearance vehicles are recommended.

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Buses travel once-to-twice daily between San Juan del Sur and El Ostional, stopping at La Flor, within walkable distance from the ITSA site. Taxis, private shuttles, and car rentals are also available in San Juan del Sur, as well as Rivas and Managua. In smaller villages such as Tortuga and Ostional, it may be possible to catch a ride in a pickup truck with a local. The dirt road from La Flor to Tortuga is in fair condition. There is no public transportation along this road. Persons travel by foot, horse, carpool, or private vehicle.

Juan SantamarĂ­a International Airport: located in San Jose, Costa Rica, 278km from the ITSA site, served ~4.5 million passengers in 2015. Costa Esmeralda Airport: located in Tola, Nicaragua, 80km from the ITSA site, opened in 2015. It accepts smaller passenger planes. The airport estimated 10,000-15,000 passengers served in 2016.

IV. Regional Ports

Augusto C. Sandino International Airport: located in Managua, Nicaragua, 160km from the ITSA site, served ~1.5 million passengers in 2015.

San Juan del Sur has served as an international port for over a century. Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Seadream, and Star Clippers, dock cruise ships at San Juan del Sur. The 2015-2016 cruise season received ~35,000 tourists. The annual average is 40 cruises, with the average rising. For 2016-2017, 61 cruises are scheduled.

Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport: located in Liberia, Costa Rica, 94km from the ITSA site, served ~880,000 passengers in 2015.

The port is not yet fully operational. At completion the development will include 9 restaurants, 1 artisanal market, information offices, and a discotheque.

III. Regional Airports

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Seven: Utilities I. Water The Adan Calderรณn Cooperativa supplies El Coco with fresh water from a well located on cooperative land, 200m from the Casa Hacienda La Flor. A basic chlorine water treatment system is maintained. Water in Tortuga is supplied by water tanks. In San Juan del Sur, a water treatment plant purifies fresh water originating from the Cocibolca Lake in La Virgen, 18 kms away.

II. Electricity In 2014, 80% of the Nicaraguan population had access to electricity. In rural areas, access is 54%. The village of Tortuga has an electricial grid and is supplied with electricity through the privately owned company Distribuidora del Sur (DISUR). In recent years, the electrical grid in San Juan del Sur has undergone improvements to bring more consistent service. Many

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hotels and homes also maintain backup generators in case of outage. DISUR also handles electricity distribution in San Juan del Sur.

Depuradora de Aguas Residuales, which has been publicly owned since 2010. Additionally, homes and hotels may use septic tank and absorption well systems.

In 2005, the Nicaraguan government passed Law 532, which promoted renewable energy as a national interest and established tax incentives. The government has pledged to derive more than 90% of its energy from domestic renewables by 2027. Renewable energy plants in Nicaragua include Solar, Geothermal, Wind, Hydroelectricity, and Biomass derived from sugarcane.

IV. Waste & Recycling Management

III. Sanitation Homes in Tortuga use septic tank and absorption field systems, or eco latrines, for waste management. San Juan del Sur has a city-wide sanitation system. Waste water is treated at Estacion

Tortuga and El Ostional have a twiceweekly garbage collection service. The garbage is taken to a communal dump in El Ostional. There are garbage pickup services in San Juan del Sur. The municipal landfill is located 5 kms from San Juan del Sur. Recycling is separated (glass, metal, plastic, and paper).

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Eight: Construction Resources I. Material Suppliers INFOGONSA, located 9.5km from the ITSA site on the coastal highway, is a lumber supplier. Venta de Materiales de Construcción y Ferretería Alemán Pomares is located in San Juan del Sur, 21km from the ITSA site. SINSA, El Halcón, Ferromax, and Roofland Costa Rica: Roofing & Insulation Systems are located in Rivas, 50km from the ITSA site.

II. Regional Architecture Regional vernacular includes buildings constructed of concrete block, wood, adobe brick, bamboo, stone, thatch and/or straw. Taquezal: Very common construction style using adobe brick and wood.

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Victorian: This historic style utilizes wood. Cinder Blocks: Often hostels are built from concrete cinder blocks and wood. Piedra Cantera: This ancient technique constructs walls from irregular stones. Minifalda Construccion: As a response to earthquakes in the region, Minifalda (“mini skirt”) structures utilize concrete for lower portion of the walls, and wood materials for the upper portions. Mamposteria Confinada: This technique uses concrete post and beam with a masonry infill.

III. Alternative Materials Sustainably-sourced lumber, bamboo, pre-fabricated panels, thatched straw roofing, and other alternative methods of construction are also seen in the region. Typically, local ecolodges utilize sustainably-sourced wood and straw in their construction.

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Nine: Tourism Profile I. Statistics INTUR (Instituto Nicaraguense de Turismo, the governmental body regulating tourism) provides an annual report of tourism activity in Nicaragua. In 2015, over 1.4 million tourists visited Nicaragua. In 2016, this number increased 7% to about 1.5 million. Tourism has grown consecutively for the past 7 years. In 2015, 70% of travellers entering Nicaragua were tourists, while 18% were traveling for business purposes. The percentage of economic activity from hotels, restaurants, and commercial sales was 15.02% of the total Nicaraguan Gross Domestic Product in 2015, the largest percentage of any sector. The Tourism sector generated $528.6 million USD in income in 2015. The statistics presented reflect the 2015 INTUR report on tourism.

Tourists Origin % North America: 26.3% Central America: 60.6% South America: 2.9% Caribbean: 0.6% Europe: 7.2% Other: 2.3%

Places Visited % Colonial Cities: 22% Pacific Beaches: 13% Ometepe Island: 5.9% Natural Reserves: 2.3% Artisan Markets: 4.8% Pueblos Blancos: 3.6% Corn Island: 1.4% Isletas de Granada: 2.8% Other: 43.4%

Expenses Per Day by Mode of Transportation Cruise Ships: $30-90 USD/day Airplane: $70 USD/day (average stay 11.8 days) Auto: $26.50/day (average stay 8.5 days)

Tourist Activities % Hiking Volcanoes: 37% Surfing: 24.1% Hiking: 18.7%

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Ten: Nearby Ecotourism Destinations I. Morgan’s Rock Hacienda & Ecolodge Located 10.5km North of San Juan del Sur, and 31km north of the ITSA site, Morgan’s Rock is an “eco luxe” resort located on a 4,000 acre (1,619 hectares, or 2299 manzanas) private reserve. The area contains a mile-long private beach, woodland (a portion of which is sustainably harvested), and an operating farm that produces fruits, vegetables, eggs, and dairy that provide for the restaurant’s farm-and-ocean-to-table menu. There is also a sustainable shrimp farm in the mangrove swamps on-site. Sea turtles are known to nest on the beach, though not on the arribada event scale seen at La Flor. The ecolodge includes 15 ocean-view and forest-view bungalows with plunge pools. Activities available to guests include: horseback riding, beachfront yoga, fishing, wildlife tours, off-site tours to local villages, private candlelit dinners, and

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surfing lessons. Body boards, surfboards, paddleboards, and kayaks are available to guests to use for free. Costs range from $250-$400 per night.

II. Casa Maderas Located 7km North of San Juan del Sur, and 28km North of the ITSA site, Casa Maderas is an “eco friendly hotel” located within walking distance of Maderas Beach, a well-known surf break. The hotel contains 24 rooms in “Nicaraguan style” cabins, a restaurant, bar, and large swimming pool. The premises also include a sea turtle hatchery that is part of the hotel’s “nature friendly initiatives.” In partnership with MARENA, a portion of the eggs laid during arribada events at La Flor are brought to Casa Maderas for incubation. After 1-2 months, the hatched baby turtles are released on Playa

Maderas or Playa Masella -- an activity in which guests can participate. The hotel also coordinates other activities including surf lessons, horseback riding, zip lining, fishing tours, sailing tours, and yoga. Costs range from $30-$75 per night.

III. Playa Hermosa Ecolodge Located 11km South of San Juan del Sur, and 18km North of the ITSA site, the Playa Hermosa Ecolodge is particularly popular with surfers. The lodge rents surf boards, offers surf lessons in Spanish and English, and organizes trips to nearby beaches such as Playa Colorado, Playa Remanso, and Playa Popoyo. Their beachfront premises also include a restaurant and pool. There is an entry fee to the beach for daytime visitors, which includes access to the pool, showers, and lockers. Sea turtles will

also nest along Playa Hermosa, and the lodge maintains their own “conservation program.” The lodge advertises that their staff is 100% Nicaraguan. The lodge also coordinates other activities such as horseback riding, zip lining, snorkeling and diving, sailing tours, fishing, and “booze cruises.” Costs range from $20-$70 per night.

IV. Rancho Chilamate Eco Guest Ranch Located 11km South of San Juan del Sur, and 10.5km North of the ITSA site, the Rancho Chilamata Eco Guest Ranch is an “off-grid, solar and horse powered” horse ranch and guest house located on a 450 acre private reserve that is also the site of a major reforestation project. The accommodations include 4 available rooms and a pool. Breakfast and dinner are included in overnight pricing, while lunch and horse rides are an additional fee. They host daily beach rides at low tide, and offer photography. The horses are Criollo, a local breed. They also offer surf lessons for guests. Costs range from $129-$160 per night. A percentage of the ranch’s profits are donated back into the local community.

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wildlife and community hikes, horse rides, and boating trips, and organizes homestays, including at the Adan Calderón Cooperativa’s Casa Hacienda La Flor and in the Tortuga community. On Isla Ometepe, the Cooperativa Carlos Díaz Cajina runs Finca Magdalena, a 350-hectare organic farm on the slopes of Volcán (Volcano) Maderas. The cooperativa consists of 24 members and their families. They offer guided hikes at the volcano, to local ancient petroglyphs, to a local waterfall, through coffee plantations, and of the farm. They accommodate overnight guests in a hostel, built in 1888, located on the farm.

V. Other Accommodations • Mango Rosa – Playa Maderas • Maderas Village – Playa Maderas • Buena Vista Surf Club – Playa Maderas • Villas Playa Maderas – Playa Maderas • Hotel Clandestino – Playa Maderas • Marsella Beach Front – Playa Marsella • Balcones de Majagual Eco Resort – Playa Majagual • Villas de Palermo -- San Juan del Sur • Surf Ranch Hotel and Resort – San Juan del Sur • Pelican Eyes – San Juan del Sur • Makul Beach Golf Resort & Spa – Playa Manzanillo • Aqua Wellness Resort – Playa Redonda • Hacienda Iguana – Tola • Rancho Santana – Tola • Playa El Coco Townhomes – El Coco

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• Parque Marítimo – Playa El Coco • Costa Dulce Hotel and Retreat Centre – Playa Escameca • Orquidea del Sur – Playa El Yankee

VI. Homestays And Community-Based Tourism in Nicaragua In recent years, rural communities have increasingly turned to community-based tourism and homestays as an additional source of income. These are targeted to travellers seeking authentic, immersive, and educational experiences. Travellers stay with families, and share home-cooked meals and daily activities. The NGO Paso Pacífico offers guided

The UCA (Union of Agricultural Cooperatives) San Ramón offers guided tours and homestays in 4 rural communities located near San Ramón: La Pita, La Corona, La Reina, and El Roblar. Guests are introduced to fair-trade coffee farming, as well as local natural sights, wildlife, and history. Based in Granada, the UCA Tierra y Agua offers homestays and guided tours on the Southern slope of the Mombacho Volcano and in the communities surrounding the city of Nandaime. Matagalpa Tours is a travel agency specializing in sustainable travel experiences connecting nature, adventure, and social-cultural activities. While they organize nationwide trips (up to 21 days) to the most remote areas of Nicaragua, the agency is based in the city of Matagalpa

and they also offer day hikes in that area. In EstelĂ­, the NGO Tree Huggers partners with about 20 different homestay families and employs over 23 local Nicaraguans as tour guides of the town of EstelĂ­ (including Cigar- and Mural-focused tours), Somoto Canyon, the Miraflor Nature Reserve, and the Tisey Nature Reserve. Additionally, Spanish schools often encourage and coordinate homestays for students, for full cultural and language immersion. Lago Azul and Spanish Ya, in San Juan del Sur, both offer homestays.

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Eleven: Future Projects I. Playa Hermosa Development

III. La Santa Maria Apartments

IV. SJdS Primary Hospital

A new development for Playa Hermosa is in its prelimary stages. The development will include lots for rent or sale, an ecoresort area, eco-mountain area, as well as businesses and restaurants.

Construction on “La Santa Maria” development began in Fall 2016. This 22,000 square meter project, on the former site of the historic Barlovento Hotel, is conceived as the first of its kind in San Juan del Sur. The luxury apartment complex will include 75 apartments, villas, or penthouses, a community clubhouse, gym, children’s pool, multipurpose courts, gourmet food, and subterranean parking lots.

Construction of the new $120 million USD hospital in San Juan del Sur began in October 2016. The hospital will include an operating room, laboratory, emergency room, pharmacy, maternity ward, and offices for doctors of internal medicine, pediatric, radiology, anesthesiology, general surgery, and gynecology. There will be 30 beds for patient hospitalization. The estimated construction timeline is 13 months.

The luxury vacation homes are intended to target foreign investors. The developers have estimated 3 years for construction.

The new hospital will greatly expand health services in San Juan del Sur.

II. Costanera Carretera El Naranjo to Las Salinas Construction on a new Costanera (coastal) highway from El Naranjo (Rivas) to Las Salinas (Managua) will begin in 2017, with an anticipated date of completion in 2022. It will be 130km in length. A new customs station, at the Nicaraguan/Costa Rican border, will be constructed on the road.

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Twelve: Incentives & Regulations I. TIES Principles Founded in 1990, the International Ecotourism Society (TIES) provides guidelines, standards, training, technical assistance, and educational resources for the development of ecotourism. They define ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.” They promote the adoption of the following ecotourism principles: • Minimize physical, social, behavioral, and psychological impacts. • Build environmental and cultural awareness, and respect. • Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts. • Produce direct financial benefits for conservation.

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• Generate financial benefits for both local people and private industry. • Deliver memorable interpretative experiences to visitors that help raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environment, and social climates. • Design, construct and operate lowimpact facilities. • Recognize the rights and spiritual beliefs of the Indigenous People in your community and work in partnership with them to create empowerment.

II. Disclaimer The Laws, Rules, and Regulations as described in the following sections are Nicaraguan law. For comprehensive interpretation and understanding, refer to the most recent versions of pertinent governmental documents as written in Spanish. The following descriptions

are intended as an introduction to existing legal parameters. The following descriptions do not constitute official or exact translations or legal advice.

III. Law 306: Incentives Law 306, the Law of Incentives for the Tourism Industry of Nicaragua, offers multiple substantial tax incentives for investors in this sector: • Exemption of 80 to 100 percent of the income tax (IR) for a period of ten years. • Exemptions of property tax (IBI, for its acronym in Spanish) for a period of ten years. • Exemption of Value Added Tax (VAT) applicable to design services, engineering, and construction services. • Exemption of Import Tax and Value

Added Tax (VAT) on the local purchase of goods, furniture, equipment, ships and vehicles of 12 passengers or more or cargo vehicles, if declared necessary for the establishment and operations of the tourism activity by the Tourism Board; and on the purchase of equipment that contributes to saving water and energy and necessary for the safety of the project.

IV. Law 217 & Buffer Zones The Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor was designated a Protected Area of SINAP, in accordance with Nicaraguan Law No. 217, in January of 2014. The protected area occupies a total of 7,349 hectares (~18,160 acres), of which 525.68 ha are terrestial and 6,824.02 ha are marine. Additionally, Law No. 217 includes the designation of a conservation “buffer zone� around protected areas. Buffer zones are subject to additional regulations in accordance with conservation goals. Surrounding Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor is an additional 17,300.27 hectares (~42,750 acres) of buffer zones. Both the terrestial and marine components of the protected area of the refuge have respective buffer zones. The buffer zones surrounding the refuge include the communities of Tortuga, Ostional, El Coco, Fatima and encompass

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for the Protection and Management of the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor.”

V. Biodiversity Conservation Zone This zone, a strip of land to the immediate east of the Coastal Conservation Zone, is comprised of 276.50 hectares (~683 acres). It includes areas of dry tropical forest, tropical forest, and marine coastal ecosystems.

further protective actions by the surrounding communities of Escamequita, Collado, Las Brisas, San Antonio, and Montecristo among others. The terrestial component of the protected area is divided into two management Zones: 1. Biodiversity Conservation Zone, with 276.50 ha (~683 acres). 2. Regulated Ecotourism Zone with 249.18 ha (~616 acres). The terrestrial buffer zone covers 4,223.43 ha (~10436 acres), and is divided into two subzones: 1. Sub-area of Sustainable Production with 3,677.74 ha (~ 9,088 acres) 2. Sub-area of Water Protection with 545.69 ha (~1, 348 acres).

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The marine component of the protected area is divided into two management zones: 1. Marine Resources Conservation Area with 6,688.28 ha (~ 16527 acres). 2. Coastal Conservation Zone, with 135.74 ha (~335 acres). The marine buffer zone covers 13,076.84 hectares (~32,314 acres), and is divided into two sub-zones: 1. Sub-area for the protection of minor marine species with 7,411.02 ha (~18,313 acres). 2. Sub-area for the protection of marine migratory species with 5,665.82 ha (~14,001 acres). The following regulations are defined in the governmental document, “2016 Plan

The objective of the regulations that apply to this zone is to preserve the resources, coastal ecosystems, and terrestrial flora and fauna of the area. The area is to be used only for “contemplative tourist visitation,” with a minimal infrastructure. Visitation should create zero or minimal environmental impact. All uses of the area are to be approved by MARENA in coordination with all authorities. ALLOWED: 1. Scientific resources.




2. The construction of operational infrastructure required for the management and administration of the protected area. 3. The construction of infrastructure for ecotourism purposes only at designated sites for that purpose

and duly authorized by MARENA in accordance with applicable environmental standards and procedures. For example: pedestrian paths offering interpretation and environmental education; Viewpoints; Trails for horse riding only at sites authorized for that purpose by MARENA; Rehabilitation of wells and construction of other types of infrastructure associated with tourist trails (places of rest, stands, passes, etc.) with rustic or minimal finishes, using sustainable materials that do not alter the quality of the landscape. 4. The establishment of natural barriers with the use of native species. 5. Only fallen trees may be used as firewood, exclusively for domestic use, with authorization.

6. The use of water through existing wells.

5. Construction of any type in places not authorized by MARENA.

7. The use of clean sources of solar energy. Additionally, the use of insulated underground wiring will only be permitted with the authorization of MARENA.

6. The construction of infrastructures of more than 25 sq meters.

NOT ALLOWED: 1. The extraction of species of wild flora and fauna, especially sea turtle eggs. 2. The extraction, transport, trade, of wildlife, including parts, products, or by-products. 3. The extraction of genetic material from the protected area without the corresponding authorization. 4. The construction of artesian wells.

7. The extraction of building materials such as river stone, slab stone, sand, or any other type of material. 8. The construction of conventional fences of wood, wire, or other material other than “living fences� using native plant species. 9. The construction of walls of any kind. 10. The installation of telecommunications antennas, whether linear, parabolic, collapsible or otherwise. 11. The extraction of commercial purposes



12. The introduction of exotic species. 13. The construction of infrastructures of any type within 50 meters of high tide. 14. Commercial hunting.

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VI. Zone of Regulated Ecotourism* *The Southern tip of the ITSA site exists within the Zone of Regulated Ecotourism. This zone, an area immediately east of the Biodiversity Conservation Zone, is comprised of 249.18 ha (~616 acres). The objective for this area is to promote sustainable development and ecotourism in accordance with the objectives of protection and conservation of the natural resources of the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor, seeking to generate benefits for local actors and for the management of the protected area. ALLOWED: 1. The construction of infrastructures up to an individual footprint maximum of 350 square meters, or a maximum percentage of 20% in relation to the size of the construction to the size of the property. In case of construction of more than one building, each building will add to the total area built. 2. At Playa La Flor, the buildings must be constructed at least 150 m from the maximum tidal limit. Natural barriers should be established to prevent the passage of light and sound toward the beach. 3. All types of buildings must be strictly respectful of the landscape, discreet and conforming to the environment in

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color and design. Stone or pavers may be utilized on slopes of 15% or greater, upon approval and assessment of environmental impact by appropriate authorities. 4. Every construction must have a septic tank, for the collection of all wastewater and sewage. The minimum capacity will be authorized by MARENA in agreement with the dimension and capacity of each construction. 5. The construction of pedestrian access trails with a width not exceeding 1 meter. 6. The construction of vehicular access roads to infrastructure, with a width not exceeding 4 meters, using only backfill or gravel surface with authorization from MARENA. 7. The construction of pedestrian paths, vehicular access roads, parking lots, vehicular bays, cannot be created with asphalt or other chemical products, but only with backfill or gravel. Stone or pavers may only be used where the slope presents erosion problems, and must be authorized by MARENA. 8. The construction of rustic lookout points, without artificial lighting, in the high points of Punta Brasilito and Punta La Flor, with a maximum surface area of 50 square meters. 9. The use of clean sources of solar

energy. The use of portable electrical generators must be approved by MARENA and requires soundproof housing for the unit. 10. Any fuel used for the generation of energy must be stored in a special storage room. Special measures must be taken to avoid fires, spillage, contamination of the soil, subsoil, or bodies or water. 11. For the installation of external or internal lighting in areas close to the beaches, or visible from the beach due to elevation, reference shall be made to the recommendations approved MARENA. 12. Any type of internal or external lighting with potential of visibility from the beach should be considered harmful. 13. Lighting is strictly controlled. Lamps with yellow or orange long pass dichroic filter are sometimes allowed, as well as incandescent lighting with yellow or amber color (as insect control) that are less than 60 watts/100m2. 15. The establishment of natural barriers with only native species. 16. The installation of vertical or parabolic antennas, or any other type authorized by MARENA. 17. Fallen trees may only be ued with

the authorization of MARENA. 18. The pruning or removal of trees that may endanger the infrastructure or lives of people, whether roads, bridges, houses, cottages, trails, etc. 19. The area’s water resources may be used only in those sites defined by the administration of the refuge, and in amounts determined by the applicable technical standards, with the authorization of the appropriate authority. 20.




botanical gardens, arboretum and nurseries of native species only with the approval of MARENA.

3. The extraction of genetic material from the protected area without authorization.

21. The decoration or gardening should be only native species.

4. The extraction of commercial purposes.

NOT ALLOWED: 1. The extraction of species of wild flora and fauna, especially sea turtle eggs.

5. The hunting of wildlife for sporting or commercial purposes.

2. The extraction, transportation, or trade of wildlife, including their parts, products, or by-products, especially those in danger of extinction.



6. The confinement of protected or endangered wildlife in the area of ecotourism, either as a pet, as an exhibition, or for any other purpose. 7. The introduction of exotic or invasive

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environmental regulations. 16. The construction of conventional wooden or metal fences, or any other form of construction of permanent walls. 17. Carrying out agricultural activity or introducing foreign species for any purpose, such as ornamental, medicinal, or any other type. 18. No agricultural allowed.



19. No livestock of any kind or the grazing or presence of any livestock. plant species or animals to the area of ecotourism, whether pets, ornamental plants, or any other species. 8. The introduction of plants for decoration, cultivation or any other purpose. 9. The construction of buildings more than 13.75 meters high. 10. Building less than 50 meters from the high tide line. 11. The use of asphalt for the construction of roads, the use of chemicals to shape the soil, the obstruction of natural flow of water bodies and trees for the construction of roads, be these pedestrian, vehicular,

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or of any type. 12. The installation of lighting of any type in the first 150 meters from the high tide line. 13. The installation of any type of white light is not permitted in external or internal areas. 14. The use of reflectors, halogen, or any other type of intense lighting that would pollute the beaches or the forests of the area, temporarily or permanently. 15. The installation of posts or tensioners, aerial wiring, or electric power transformers. All electric lines should be subterranean, authorized by MARENA, and under compliance with

20. The use of agrochemicals is not permitted for any purpose, whether fertilizers, biocides or any other type. 21. The extraction of materials from the La Flor River and its river bed, including water, soil, subsoil, river rocks, gravel, stone, sand, or any other type of material. 22. To dam, divert or interrupt the natural flow of the La Flor River and other water sources (springs, rivers, ponds, channels, estuaries).

VII. Terrestrial Buffer Zone*

ALLOWED: 1. Rotation of crops. 2. The diversification of farms.

12. Implement actions for the protection, reforestation, and regeneration of riparian forest in river banks and areas of greater vulnerability, to prevent soil erosion and maintain the natural course of rivers.

*The greater portion of the ITSA site exists within the Terrestrial Buffer Zone. The terrestrial buffer zone includes natural dry tropical forest, as well as land under agricultural use. This area encompasses the majority of the La Flor River water basin. The area has been divided into two subzones: Sustainable Production, and Water Protection. The first includes the majority of the buffer zone, except for the banks of the La Flor River. The second extends on both sides of the La Flor River in a width of 200 meters on each side.

3. The implementation of soil conservation practices and natural regeneration.

5. Plowing and tilling by horse-drawn plow.

15. Implement reforestation actions in eroded areas, water recovery areas, trails, and roads to restore soil and natural resources.

The role of MARENA in the buffer zone is to coordinate the different governmental and non-governmental actors in operation in the area, and to ensure compliance with the relevant national sectoral regulations.

6. Elaborate and implement Farm Management Plans authorized by the corresponding authority.

16. Use pasture varieties already existing in the area and resistant to drought.

7. The use of biocides and fertilizers approved by MARENA, only.

17. Formulation of animal husbandry plans including animal health schedules, annual feeding plans, breeding and herd enhancement mechanisms, hygiene sanitary measures for herding and milking, herd reproduction plans, under approval by the Ministry of Agriculture.

The Sub-area of ​​Sustainable Production covers 3,677.74 ha(~9,088 acres). The objective of regulations in this area is to preserve the dry tropical forest, which is fundamental for the continuity and connectivity of this ecosystem with other ecosystems within the Rivas isthmus, as well as to reduce pollutants and other elements that affect the marine and coastal ecosystems of the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor, through the promotion of environmentally friendly production practices in the La Flor River watershed.

4. The use of fallen trees for domestic purposes, either those that endanger the safety of people, or fallen trees that are of species not protected by law, in compliance with the requirements and procedures established by the appropriate authorities.

8. The disposal of solid and liquid waste in a way that does not contaminate the landscape, water bodies, or forest areas. 9. The use of protective measures for personnel who apply agrochemicals. 10. The proper storage of hazardous materials, reducing the risks to human health and the conservation of the environment. 11. Implement systems for

silvopastoral livestock.

13. Perform rotation of paddocks. 14. Promote the use of “living fences,” and replace wire fences.

18. Register cattle herds, and the purchase and sale of each head of cattle, in the corresponding municipality. 19. Forest plantations of native species are allowed, in compliance with the relevant regulations by INAFOR and MARENA, and under approval of the corresponding City Hall.

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20. Energy and electricity production in coordination with INAFOR and the municipality.

5. The disposal of rubbish, containers, or agrochemicals, in the channel of the La Flor River.

21. All construction of new roads must be approved by MARENA and approved by the corresponding municipality.

6. Washing of the pumps, containers, or any other vessel that may contain residues of chemicals, in the river beds.

22. Constructions should not exceed 13.75 meters in height. 23. Paving of roads must be approved by the corresponding municipality, after approval of the environmental impact assessment by MARENA.

7. Free grazing by cattle, without control.

24. All construction or installation of poles, transformers or electric lines, as well as potable water or sewage pipes must have the authorization of MARENA, other local authorities, and the corresponding municipality. 25. The domestic use of material from the rivers, with authorization. NOT ALLOWED: 1. Any activity that is contrary to the purpose of protection of the natural resources existing in the buffer zone of the refuge. 2. Agricultural production on slopes greater than 45º. 3. Fire-fallow cultivation or Slash-andBurn agricultural production. 4. Any destruction of forests for the establishment of crops, livestock and/ or pastures.

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8. Burning of grasslands. 9. The diversion of rivers or streams. 10. Any alteration of the natural flow of bodies of water. 11. Washing cars in rivers. 12. The discharge of waste water or solid waste into rivers. 13. The practice of “clear cutting.” 14. The sport or commercial hunting of wildlife. 15. The capture, transport commercialization of wildlife.


16. Fires for hunting animals. 17. The poisoning of rivers and watercourses for the capture of shrimp. 18. The killing, hunting, or poisoning of wildlife to prevent attacks on domestic animals. 19. In the area of the zone adjacent to the coast, no new construction or

additions is permitted within 50 meters of the high tide line.

VIII. Sustainable Tourism Management Program The Management Programs define general guidelines for appropriate actions, activities, and practices that function in accord with the application of environmental zoning regulations, to produce effective management of a protected area. The strongest economic potential in the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor is the development of the ecotourism industry. These activities can be carried out by the communities surrounding the refuge, providing an alternative source of revenue. The goal is to encourage new ecotourism development within the criteria of environmental sustainability, while prioritizing the creation of social and economic benefits for the community actors. It is necessary to expand and strengthen infrastructure and local capacities to respond to current tourist industry demands. STRATEGIC ACTIONS: • Planning, management, and monitoring of current tourist activity in the refuge and its buffer zone, and the defining of types and possible tourist activities to be developed, in compliance with the environmental regulations of the

protected area and its buffer zone. Identification of options, alternatives, products, and services that are environmentall friendly and economically profitable.

Developing the promotion and marketing of sustainable ecotourism.

Establish tourist information centers on the natural resources of the protected area, in locations that MARENA approves for this purpose.

Select and train people from the communities who will be certified by INTUR as local guides, selected for their skills, ease of communication, knowledge of the area, and recognized moral quality. Provide continuous

follow-up and quality control. Create private tour services, in coordination with the sector of Tour Operators, offering recreation, lodging, transportation, food and beverages, and supporting the communities of the buffer zone in the management of these tourist packages, according to the capacity of the designated sites.

Create signage routes, and compliance regulations

for trails, evacuation safety zones, in with established and procedures.

Establish the “Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor” brand for products related to the natural resources of flora and fauna of the refuge and promotional marketing, empowering the communities surrounding the refuge in the processes of production and marketing.

To construct ecological hygienic services in the zones of visitation.

Evaluate the degree of visitor satisfaction and receive suggestions.

Develop technical training plans for tourism service providers in the communities surrounding the refuge and its buffer zone, in the areas of: protection and conservation of the environment, honey production, customer service, food and beverage management and processing, proficiency in English, trail navigation, and first aid, among others.

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Thirteen: List of Regional Actors I. Definition of Actors

II. List of Actors

In 2014, under the coordination of MARENA, the Committee for the Protection, Care, Conservation and Collaboration of the Protected Area for the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor was formed. The Committee on Protection, Care and Conservation, also called the Collaborative Management Committee/Comitéde Manejo Colaborativo is comprised of governmental, NGO, businesses, and local community-based bodies and organizations. The Collaborative Management Committee is organized through Management Programs to carry out specific tasks with the purpose of promoting the economic, social, ecological and tourist industy development of communities, as well as to promote, aid, and directly contribute to the work of protecting, preserving and conserving the environment and natural resources of the communities and the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor.

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• •

• • • • • •

The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources/ El Ministerio del Ambiente y los Recursos Naturales The City Hall of San Juan del Sur/ La Alcaldía Municipal de San Juan del Sur The Cabinets of the Family, Community and Life of the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor/ Los Gabinetes de la Familia, la Comunidad y la Vida del Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor. Local communities within the Buffer Zone of the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor The Youth Environmentalist Guard/ La Juventud Ambientalista Guardabarranco The NGO Paso Pacífico International Fauna and Flora Organization/ Organización Fauna y Flora Internacional The Cooperativa José Adán Calderón. Municipal Office of Tourism/ Gabinete Municipal de Turismo

The territorial delegations of the following Nicaraguan goverment bodies: • INTUR: Nicaraguan Institute of Tourism/ Instituto Nicaragüense de Turismo • INTA: The Nicaraguan Institute of Agricultural Technology/ Instituto Nicaraguense de Tecnología Agropecuaria • EPN: The National Port Company/ Empresa Portuaria Nacional • MEFCCA: Ministry of Family, Community, Cooperative and Associations/ Ministerio de Economía Familiar, Comunitaria, Cooperativa y Asociativa. • INAFOR: The National Forestry Institute/ Instituto Nacional Forestal • INPESCA: Nicaraguan Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture/ Instituto Nicaraguense de la Pesca y Acuicultura • MINED: Ministry of Education/ Ministerio de Educación • MINSA: Ministry of Health/ Ministerio de Salud • National Police/ Policía Nacional

• • •

The Nicaraguan Army/ Ejército de Nicaragua The Nicaraguan Naval Force/ Fuerza Naval The Directorate of Migration and Aliens/ Dirección de Migración y Extranjería

Additionally, local communities have formed the Association of Villagers/Asociación de Pobladores to support the management and conservation of the natural resources of the communities and the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor. The association represents the local communities of Tortuga, Escamequita, Ostional, San Antonio, Montecristo, Las Parcelas, Las Brisas, Los Cocos, Collado, Carrizal and Pochote.

III. Additional Regional Actors •

ITSA: Italianic Inversiones Sociedad Anónima/ Italianic Anonymous Investment Society

COPETUR: Cooperativa Turismo/ Local Tourism

ELLAS Learning, and

Cooperativa de Ostras de Ostional Oyster Cooperative

Local de Cooperative

Initiative: Environmental Leadership, Adventure, Stewardship Initiative Ostional/

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Fourteen: Maps I. ITSA in context The following maps place the ITSA site in its geographical context.

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Map #1: ITSA Site in Central America

Map #2: Regional Map with Major Roads

Map #3: ITSA site with MARENA Zones of Protection

Map #4: ITSA site Detail with MARENA Zones of Protection

Map #5: Google Earth Map of Site

Map #1: ITSA Site in Central America














PANAMÁ 50 kms

100 kms

200 kms

Map #2: Regional Map With Major Roads










5 kms

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10 kms

20 kms


Map #3: ITSA Site With MARENA Zones of Protection SAN JUAN DEL SUR








2 km

4 km

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Map #4: ITSA Site Detail With MARENA Zones of Protection EL COCO






















500 mts



100 mts



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Map #5: Google Earth Map of Site

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Fifteen: List of References I. Websites (English)

III. Further References (English)

Agro Ecotourism UCASAN RAMÓN |

Arrival Guides. San Juan del Sur. Sep, 2015. Print.

Casa Maderas |

Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) |

Clean Seas: Turn the Tide on Plastic |

Matagalpa Tours Nicaragua |

Brodsky, Micah C., Honarvar, Shaya, O’Connor, Michael P., Spotila, James R. and Van Den Berghe, Eric P. “Ecology of Olive Ridley Sea Turtles at Arribadas at Playa La Flor, Nicaragua.” Herpetologica Vol. 72 (4). 2016. pp. 303-308. Available from, accessed May 2017.

Morgan’s Rock Hacienda & Ecolodge |

Nativos Tours |

CREST. A Directory of Sustainable Tourism Initiatives & Resources. Washington, DC, September 2017. Print.

Playa Hermosa Ecolodge |

“Electricity Sector in Nicaragua.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia, Aug 2014. Web. Accessed May 2017.

Paso Pacífico |

Rancho Chilamate Eco Guest Ranch |

Gleeson, Bridget and Egerton, Alex. Lonely Planet Nicaragua. China: Lonely Planet Global Ltd, Oct 2016.

SEE the WILD |

SEE Turtles |


Honarvar, Shaya. “Nesting Ecology of Olive Ridley(Lepidochelys olivacea) Turtles on Arribada Nesting Beaches.” Doctoral Thesis. 2007. Available from Drexel Online Library, accessed May 2017.

Tree Huggers Tours |, Explore Nicaragua Online |

Jurado, Diana, and Madrigal-Ballestero, Róger. “Economic Incentives, Perceptions and Compliance with Marine Turtle Egg Harvesting Regulation in Nicaragua.” Conservation & Society Vol. 15 (1). 2017. pp. 74-86. Available from Conservation & Society, accessed May 2017.

Kababie, Moises and Strong, Gavin. “In Light of NAFTA Uncertainty, Mexican Investors Look South.” Forbes. March 12, 2017. Available from Forbes, accessed May 2017.

Katz, Nancie L. “Ecotourism Activities Very Close to San Juan del Sur.” ViaNica, March 23, 2017. Accessed May 2017.

II. Websites (Español) •

Finca Magdelena |

Ruta del Sur |

UCA Tierra Y Agua|

“La Flor Beach Natural Reserve.” Tripadvisor. Tripadvisor, 2017. Web. Accessed May 2017.

Markham, A., Osipova, E., Lafrenz, Samuels, K. and Caldas, A. 2016. “World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate.” United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi, Kenya and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Paris, France.

McMahon, Edward T. “Ten Principles for Responsible Tourism.” Urbanland. August 10, 2015. Available from Urbanland, accessed November 2017.

Mora, Cynthia Flores. “Nicaragua: A Renewable Energy Paradise in Central America.” The World Bank, October 25, 2013. Available from, accessed May 2017.

“Nicaragua.” Global Climatescope Org. Climatescope, 2012-2016. Web. Accessed May 2017.

Otterstrom, Sarah, and Smith, Richard. “Engaging Local Communities in Sea Turtle Conservation: Strategies from Nicaragua.” The George Wright Forum Vol. 26 (2). 2009. pp. 39-50. Available from JSTOR, accessed May 2017.

Pérez, Emili Carolina. “Sustainability Transitions: Exploring the Transformation of Nicaragua’s Electricity System from Fossil Fuels to Renewable Sources.” Masters of Science Thesis. 2011. Available from Lunds Universitet, accessed May 2017.

Perkins, Elizabeth. “Enjoy Sustainable Tourism in Nicaragua.” Moon Guide. Avalon Travel, June 9 2015. Web. Accessed May 2017.

Perkins, Elizabeth. Moon Guide Nicaragua. Berkeley: Avalon Travel, Dec 2015.

Plotkin, Pamela T. Biology and Conservation of Ridley Sea Turtles. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2007.

PRONicaragua, AMCHAM Nicaragua, and Ministerio de Fomento, Industria, y Comercio. Doing Business in Nicaragua 2016-2017. Nicaragua, 2017. Print.

Silva, Maria. “South Tourist Route.” Del Sur News, Nov 24, 2016. Available from, accessed May 2017.

IV. Further References (Español) •

Banco Central de Nicaragua. Cuenta Satélite de Turismo de Nicaragua 2015. Nicaragua, June 2016. Print.

Calvet & Asociados. Plan Estratégico para el Desarrollo Turístico

“Municipio de San Juan del Sur.” Managua, 2006. Print. •

Instituto Nacional de Información de Desarrollo, INIDE. San Juan del Sur en Cifras. Managua, March 2008. Print.

Instituto Nacional de Información de Desarrollo INIDE, and Ministerio Agropecuario y Forestal MAGFOR. Departamento de Rivas y sus Municipios: so de la tierra y el agua en el sector agropecuario. Nicaragua, May 2013. Print.

Instituto Nicaragüense de Turismo INTUR. Boletín de Estadísticas de Turismo Año 2015. Managua, 2016. Print.

Moncada, Roy. “Gobierno revive proyecto de Carretera Costanera.” La Prensa/Nacionales. Jan 25, 2017. Available from La Prensa, accessed May 2017.

“Refugio de vida Silvestre Pacifico.” Sinia. SINIA – MARENA, 2015. Web. Accessed May 2017.

V. Photo Credits •

The GA Team: Dominique Gettliffe, Alejandra Baltodano, Patricia Barrios.

Flickr Users: Adam Jones, Alexandre Patrier, AlexAuKite, Amber Campion, Andrea Torselli, Antonio Carreria, Arnaud Z Voyage, Artem Bagaev, Ben Pascoe, Blue, Bob Gala, Bruna Sofia Simoes, buildOn, Casey LeFever, Celine Colin, Cesar Paniamogan Jr, Chad Hart, christinaochoa, Craig Homo Sapien, Cristina, curahee, Cycle for Water, Damon Torgerson, Dannie Polley, David Curry, Elisha MacKay, emiya, Erik B, Expedicion Mutare, fotofrysk, Francisco Otero, gustavo leon, Harpa Elin, Hubert Guyon, Jack Wolfskin, jlml99, John Pappas, Jordi Aguilo, Jose Gabriel Martinez Fonseca, Kosuke Fujikura, La Bastilla Ecolodge, Luke Trautwein, Manuel Soler, Martin Sheppey, Marie-Marthe Gagnon, Marion Robin, marlonbart, Maureen Hanratty, Maureen Morlet, Megan C, Mike Vondran, MilesBJordan, Moises Duran, Mypicturetime, Nate B, Neal, nicaragua san juan del sur, Oghamish, Oliver Davis, Paul Latimer, Paul Wienerroither, PasoPacifico, Peter Connolly, Rachel Lindsay, rbergsma, sc944, sensi 1, SG in CR, S Zenewicz, Tanenhaus, Tansy Jeffries, tomatessechees, Tree Nation, Ula, UnboundIntl, veritykent, Vitor Senger, Voyageur du Monde, Wildcoast, wyrwoll01, Zhu, Zsuzsa Poor

PART TWO: The Vision

One: Programming I. Programming Description The location of the ITSA site supports excellent opportunity for a communitybased ecotourism development. The site’s key proximity to the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor, its position on the Nicaraguan coastal highway, and its setting in the rare Dry Tropical Forest biosphere, all contribute to the unique potential of the site. The project is envisioned as a development built in equilibrium with nature, that provides visitors singular opportunities to support, and responsibly discover, the endangered wildlife and biospheres of the site and surrounding region. The project would be built in collaboration with local communities and sustainable initiatives in the region, resulting in a communityowned and operated business. In addition to generating new revenue, the project would support native flora and fauna through education and conscientious access.

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A Visitor Center, accessed off the coastal highway in the MARENA-designated Zone of Regulated Ecotourism (see pages 50-51), would serve as a point of entry: offering attractive amenities to visitors, and providing a base of operations for local actors in the region, namely communitybased ecotourism initiatives and local NGOs.

A basic first aid station would be available to visitors and staff.

Basic administrative, maintenance, repair, and supply storage spaces would be integrated into the project, as well as staff housing.

The space would provide a base of operations to local communitybased ecotourism initiatives and NGOs, meeting their specific needs. These needs and functions would include, among others: meeting areas, classrooms, a research facility, and a computer lab.

The space would provide a venue for tourists to access interpreters and local guides, and to book activities.

An auditorium would supplement the museum & exhibition area, providing a space for screenings and presentations.

We envision the Visitor Center as a local landmark and meeting spot, as well as a space for associated community events to take place.

The Visitor Center would support several key functions: •

A designated museum & exhibition space would provide public education on the sea turtles of the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor and surrounding environment.

A café would offer food and beverages.

Public restrooms, which are notably absent from the stretch of highway where the site is located as well as from the MARENA ranger house at the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor, would be available to visitors, as well as a rest and hydration area with water fountains and/or outdoor showers.

An Ecolodge would support the functions of the Visitor Center by offering on-site activities and providing means of access to off-site activities. In addition, it would provide accommodations for those in need of overnight lodging. With these functions in mind, construction on the Ecolodge could begin after the completion and active operation of the Visitor Center. The Ecolodge would be built farther into the forests and hills of the site, in the MARENA designated Terrestrial Buffer Zone (see pages 53-54). The Ecolodge would provide overnight lodging to several visitor profiles. It could encompass small individual structures sleeping 1-2 people, in combination with structures that sleep multiple people, offering tiers of privacy. Visitor Profiles: •

Day trippers visiting the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor in the evening (the best time to see the Arribada events) seeking overnight lodging for one night, rather than travelling after dark.

Ecotourists and voluntourists, pursuing more immersive and intensive travel, seeking multiple nights of lodging.

Students seeking lodging in proximity to the educational avenues provided at the Visitor Center.

Researchers and scientists seeking long-term lodging in proximity to their subject and/or to research facilities provided at the Visitor Center.

The Ecolodge will provide an atmosphere that is conducive to cultural and scientific exchange. Purposefully designed community areas, in balance with private areas, will encourage interactions, dialogue, and the sharing of ideas.

II. Relationship Diagram The Relationship Diagram on the following pages represents the various functions of the project as envisioned. The connections, overlaps, and relationships between functions are explored abstractly and graphically.

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ITSA Project Functions: Relationship Diagram

Two: Conceptual Design minimal environmental impact, and harmony with native biospheres.

I. Initial Concept A foundation of research and multiple sources of inspiration came together to form the basis of the Conceptual Design for the ITSA Ecotourism Project. Combining the expressed intentions and aims of ITSA members with information gathered in the Feasibility Study resulted in a Program of defined functions for the space (see pages 68-71). Conceptualizing a form from those functions the Gettliffe Architecture team drew inspiration from the following: •

Indigenous and vernacular architecture of Nicaragua and Central America.

The topography of the ITSA site, and its relationship to the hills, local communities, coastal highway, the sea, and to the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor.

A framework of architectural practices

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sustainable to ensure

Architectural spaces that inspire delight, interaction, exchange, and dialogue.

II. Materials The Conceptual Design reflects the choice of three core materials for the project: •

are waterproof and provide excellent insulation. Likewise, bamboo and teak are commonplace, renewable, and provide flexible strength for construction. These materials will form organic shells specific to the various functions of each space.

Stonemasonry/Piedre Cantera: Stone has been used in the architecture of Central America for thousands of years. From ancient pyramids, to retaining walls, to modern homes, stone is a ubiquitous material in the region with demonstrable sustainability: long-lasting, durable, and locally sourced. Stonemasonry will provide an anchor material that seamlessly molds to the sloped terrain. Thatched straw and wood: Like stonemasonry, thatched straw and palm roofs are commonplace throughout Nicaragua and Central America. The layers of dried vegetation

Tensile canopy: Overhead, tensile (stretched fabric) canopies provide alternating light and shade to space between structures, and further protection over thatched straw roofs. In experiencing the space, visitors will choose between areas of direct sun and shade. Additionally, the tensile canopy offers the potential for the use of bright, joyful colors. The tensile canopy will unify the various building shells and take them “under its wings” in protection.

The Conceptual Design expresses the structures as three layers of materials: stonemasonry grounding each structure in the earth, wood and straw flexing and adapting to each structure’s specific function, and an overarching fabric canopy stretching to the sky and offering protection from the elements. We see a metaphorical

connection between the materials and the core aim of the project: the protection of the endangered turtles and biospheres of the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor and surrounding region, through community support, education, and advocacy.

III. The Visitor Center The Visitor Center represents the first phase of design and construction of the ITSA Ecotourism Project. The Visitor Center will be easily accessible from the coastal highway, integrated into the landscape alongside the existing Mirador structure on the ITSA site. The layout of the Visitor Center, as expressed in the Master Plans and Cross Sections on the following pages, reflects various tiers of immersion available to visitors. Closest to the entrance are essential amenities – a rest and hydration area with restrooms, and a café. Enticing those visitors to discover more about the sea turtles and biospheres of the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor, and of the surrounding region, the museum and discovery center is also immediately accessible from the entrance, as is the Mirador offering views of the estuary and ocean. As visitors move through the exhibits of the museum, they likewise are moving further into the Visitor Center complex, and offered opportunities for additional immersion and discovery: a section of the center is reserved as a “base of operations” for local ecotourism groups and initiatives. This area would provide a point-of-access for visitors interested in scheduling tours and experiences.

Protective Tensile Canopy Wood & Thatch Shells

Stonemasonry Base






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1a. Masonry: A portion of a Mayan ruin, Belize.

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2a. Thatched Straw: Sinchi Warmi Ecolodge, Ecuador.

3a. Tensile Canopy: The Red Lightening project from Burning Man 2014, built by Guildworks LLC.

1b. Masonry: Residential construction site, 2015, Roger Valerio Arquitectura, San Juan del Sur.

2b. Thatched Straw: Sinchi Warmi Ecolodge, Ecuador.

3b. Tensile Canopy: The Red Lightening project from Burning Man 2014, built by Guildworks LLC.

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Pacific Ocean


MARENA Ranger Station La Flor


A semi-outdoor auditorium would provide a setting for screenings, presentations, and community events. Beyond the auditorium and ecotourism base of operations are classrooms, meeting areas, and research facilities, which provide a setting for fully immersed and committed students, volunteers, conservationists and scientists to pursue their work of supporting the protection, care and conservation of the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor, native ecosystems, and local communities.

IV. The Ecolodge The Ecolodge represents the second phase of design and construction of the ITSA Ecotourism Project. The Ecolodge will be located on the other side of the hill from the Visitor Center, offering a degree of seclusion and privacy to overnight visitors and longer-term occupants. The expression of the lodges and common

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areas would echo that of the Visitor Center – a combination of masonry, wood and thatched straw, and tensile fabric canopies. The Ecolodge will provide an atmosphere that is conducive to cultural and scientific exchange. Purposefully designed community areas, in balance with private areas, will encourage interaction and dialogue. Lodging will vary from smaller structures sleeping 1-2 individuals, medium structures sleeping 4-6, to larger structures sleeping 6-8. There will be multiple tiers of privacy offered, appealing to different visitor profiles.

Costanera Highway

Visitor Center


Visitor Center


Rest & Hydration Area


Educators & Students Area

Ecotourists Area


Visitor Center



Ecotourism Base of Operations

Classrooms Research Facilities Meeting Areas

Maintenance 0m



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Rest, Hydration, and Restrooms



To Costenera Highway

Museum Visitor Center Conceptual Master Plan: Plan I

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Ecotourism Base of Operations

To Ecolodge

Meeting Areas

Research Facilities



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Rest, Hydration, and Restrooms

Parking Parking CafĂŠ

Departure To Costenera Highway Arrival

Plaza Ramp Stairs



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Ecotourism Base of Operations

To Ecolodge

Bicycle Parking


Balcony Patio Meeting Area Research Facilities Stairs

Classrooms Auditorium

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Rest, Hydration, and Restrooms


To Costenera Highway Canopy

Visitor Center Conceptual Tensile Structure: Plan III


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Administration Ecotourism Base of Operations

To Ecolodge

Canopy Research Facilities Dome

Classrooms Dome Auditorium

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Rest, Hydration, and Restrooms







To Costenera Highway



Visitor Center Conceptual Master Plan: Plan IV

A - 84 -



D Ecotourism Base of Operations

To Ecolodge

Access Road

Research Facilities Dome

Classrooms Dome

Auditorium C

D - 85 -

Rest & Hydration Area


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Visitor Center





Access Road







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Ecotourism Base of Operations




Classroom Dome



Meeting Patio


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Medium Style Hut (4-6 people)


Larger Style Hut (6-8 people)




Plan: 0m

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Plan 10m

I 20m

Smaller Style Hut (2-4 people)


F Footbridge


Common Lodge: Ecotourists

Access Pathway

Point of Entry

Common Lodge: Educators & Students


To Visitor Center


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Larger Hut: 6-8 people


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Medium Hut: 4-6 people



Common Lodge: Educators & Students

Point of Entry

Access Road

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Larger Huts: 6-8 people


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Medium Huts: 4-6 people




Common Lodge: Educators & Students

Foot Bridge

Common Lodge: Ecotourists

Small Huts: 2-4 people

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Endnote Thank you for joining us in exploring the potential of the ITSA site and surrounding region, and in envisioning the ITSA Ecotourism Project as a catalyst for community-based ecotourism and a model of ecologically conscious development in support of endangered native species and ecosystems. This booklet was created by the Gettliffe Architecture team, based in Boulder, Colorado and Managua, Nicaragua, during the years 2017 and 2018, at the request of ITSA.

Š Copyright 2018 Gettliffe Architecture: All Rights Reserved

3014 Bluff St., Unit 101 Boulder, Colorado 80301 200 Exchange St. #1413 Providence, Rhode Island 02903 usa. 617.901.9702

Km 12.8 Carretera Masaya Managua, Nicaragua usa. 303.449.9155 nic. 505.2279.8062

Š Copyright 2018 Gettliffe Architecture: All Rights Reserved