Casa Zen History


Casa Zen Guest House was born on a trip to Santa Teresa in the year 2000. However, the root of it all started in 1989, with my first trip to Costa Rica. My father Don (or “Papi”) has lived in Costa Rica for about 25 years, and during that first trip here I fell for it. However, I first had to finish school and do what I “should” do… In the meantime, there were numerous visits to Costa Rica, with different friends over the years, and then there was a trip with some friends who were surfers in January of 2000. Having been told by everyone at various other beaches, “you must go to Mal País!” we finally made it, set up our tent in Playa Carmen (along with everyone else), and checked out the area.  You could feel that it was on the verge of exploding, with only a handful of small hotels and one grocery store….and I started to draw plans in the sand.

Before going home to my own “reality” of cubicle world (I had just finished a Master’s degree and my student days were unfortunately over) I casually mentioned to Papi my idea for a guest house and restaurant. Of course, not having a dime to my name, and having just finished school, I fully expected a resounding NO. So, I returned home ready to face – although not at all looking forward to – my job prospects, which were none at that moment (smile). However, one month later, a phone call came from Papi: “We’ve been checking out property over there…” I couldn’t believe it! Lesson? IT NEVER HURTS TO ASK. (smile)So Papi built the house and bodega (now the laundry room) in 2003, and I arrived with my cat in tow in December of that same year, ready to help build, and thinking that I knew how to speak Spanish…ha!

We broke ground in January 2004, and with the help of Marvin Ulate and Adita, and all the guys who helped us build our dream (list of names?). I learned all the construction words in Spanish first (smile)… And after about five months, I was able to converse in Spanish, at least to the point of being understood. Our doors opened on December 11, 2004, with the entrance of Uli from Germany who helped us hang the first hooks for the “hangmats,” and who later brought us about 8 more Germans.José (el Colombiano) stayed on after the construction to help with the garden and general maintenance, Idania was ready to start the housekeeping, and some time before Christmas an angel called Marilou showed up to help me set up the restaurant. Casa Zen was thus a reality. With fits and starts, we started serving fruit batidos, then fruit plates, then sandwiches, then Thai food…and voila! The restaurant was born! The rancho was finished by May 2004, and we were well under way, already with our first successful high season behind us.

Thank you!

From the beginning, the Casa Zen staff has been like family to us, and each and every one has been very integral, and truly at the heart, of shaping it into what it is today. So I would like to give a heartfelt GRACIAS to all of them, and recognize them here (more or less in chronological order):José el Colombino, Idania, Marilou, Kimmy, Smita, Brittney, Ellen, Rosi, Alejandra, Lucia, Chris lil’ Chrissy, Mauricio el PEGA, Mainor, Maria, Francesco, Andrea, Thiago, Ingrith, Tommy, Diana, Gaston, Cesar, Santos, Martina, Emily la Loca, Aida, Celi, Yomara, Alba Luz, Yeni, Lili, Catalina, Oscar, Aracely, Yamila, Nikki, Nikki B., Virginia, Martha Elena, Marta, Marcelo, Juliana, Nené, Stephane, Nahuel, Nohelia, Tiffany, K-Lo, Laura, Andrea, Fabienne, Lori, Janette, little Katie, Russ the Bus, Christina, Silvia, Natalia, Natalie, Shannon, Daniel, Jen, Gemma, MeiMei….and everyone else to come! (and anyone that I forgot!! sorry!!)

Finally, a very special thanks to my family, whom without their support I would not have had the opportunity for such a wonderful experience: Mom, Becky and Papi, Don, Kim, my rock throughout my life, and her beautiful children Paige and Griffin, Olga, Andres and Sami, my lovely family costarricense, and my late grandmother Anita Griffin, whose strength in her own life will forever be a source of inspiration in mine.


What happened to the restaurant?

As many of you enjoyed….the restaurant of Casa Zen was open for more than 7 years, serving a variety of food for breakfast lunch, and finishing off with yummy Thai dinners.   So why did we close??   Well, first and foremost, we were ready for a new direction – namely focusing more on the Yoga part of Casa Zen, specifically developing Yoga Retreats and Workshops.

We have been blessed to meet and include in our family so many people from all over the world, and the majority of those worked in the restaurant.  Casa Zen, and Kelly in particular, is forever grateful to all who have come into our lives, even if just for a moment.

Our guests will be happy to know that the kitchen formerly used for the restaurant is now the communal kitchen for the guests, still fully equipped with all the same bells and whistles.  Perfect for cooking together with new friends!   We hope you all enjoy the use of the space, and we certainly enjoy watching everyone get to know one another a bit more intimately.

Future plans & evolution

So what next?  The primary change will be with the Yoga Retreats and Workshops, which we will be offering to our guests utilizing both in-house and invited Yoga teachers.  We are very excited about this evolution, and feel that we can truly offer beginning and intermediate yogis and yoginis a chance to learn a bit more about Yoga, meditation, and pranayama, in a relaxed atmosphere with good vibes, and without overcharging our guests.  We very fully intend to maintain our philosophy of fair pricing, in everything that we offer here at Casa Zen.

In addition to the Yoga, we are greening up our thumbs and have planted some herbs and medicinal plants in the garden, with the intention of sharing any and all knowledge with out guests.  We truly believe that food can help you lead a healthy, happy life, and can heal you in more ways than simply physically.  Our Yoga Retreats will include (nearly totally!) organic fruits and vegetables in the prepared meals and smoothies, and we will present our guests with nutrition information that they can take with them, using whole foods that are easy to find and not too expensive.  We believe this way of life can be accessible to all!

Building on the idea of healthy eating, we also want to present cooking classes with our guests, always using whole foods, herbs and spices, locally caught fish, and of course nutrition information with everything.  We believe that if we are to see a revolution in this world – that everyone has access to fresh fruits and vegetables, clean water, and affordable healthy options – that it begins with what we are putting into our bodies.   The more choices we make toward locally grown options, the more we will all see improvements in the world.

Casa Zen Guesthouse and Yoga Center Main Entrance


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