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  • Writer's pictureCasey Steele

Scarlet Villas in the Tico Times!!

Check out an article about The Scarlet Villas and my journey as the owner. Click the link to read directly from their site or see below....Enjoy the read!

In the midst of a global pandemic, where uncertainty loomed, one American woman decided to take a leap of faith and embark on a journey that would change her life forever. Meet Casey Steele, a 40-year-old tech entrepreneur, who traded the hustle and bustle of the American concrete jungle for the tranquility of Costa Rica. Turning a rundown hotel into a thriving haven for travelers seeking a slice of paradise in Costa Rica’s hidden gem, the mountain town of Ojochal. 

Hailing from a small town in Texas, Casey went on to spend most of her adult life living in some of the US’s biggest cities including Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. Casey’s next chapter begins in 2020, just as the world was grappling with the impacts of COVID-19. Having spent her entire career in the advertising technology space, with successful stints at multiple startups, Casey found herself yearning for something more.

Recently divorced, she knew that it was time to focus on herself for once. Spending years exhausting energy on others that weren’t deserving and into a career that was self-fulfilling. She finally gave herself permission to look within and follow her true desires, as unconventional as they may be.

She created a post-divorce “Bucket List” with the ambitious goal of completing it in the next 3 years. The list was extensive, including but not limited to freezing her eggs, getting her first tattoo, becoming a yoga instructor and visiting Costa Rica for the first time. Shortly after freezing her eggs, she aggressively combined some of her list by coming to Costa Rica for the first time to get her Yoga Teacher Training certification. She chose a unique experience at Kindred Spirits, a yoga retreat center and horse ranch on the county’s Caribbean coast.

For a month she lived in a treehouse, quite the contrast to the bustling city apartments from her past. The serenity and sense of peace that followed gave her the space and time she needed to heal, reflect and reevaluate everything she had planned for her life thus far.

Simultaneously her career was taking off, her current startup had been acquired by SnapChat – one of the world’s largest social platforms at the time. Casey was left at a crossroads, tethering with the ease of leaning back into her comfortable yet unfulfilling tech career. Looming ahead was a potential move to London and continuing to climb the never-ending corporate ladder, or taking a leap of faith in a time when the world was the most volatile. 

The next phase of her life became apparent on only her second visit to Costa Rica. She felt an even deeper connection to the country’s vibrant culture, friendly locals and lush landscapes, prompting her to make a life-altering decision.  With no prior experience in the hospitality industry and no friends or family nearby, Casey purchased a dilapidated hotel in what is known as Costa Rica’s “hidden gem”, the jungle-mountain town of Ojochal.

This bold move was a stark departure from her successful career in the fast-paced tech world. The decision, driven by a desire to share Costa Rica with others, was undeniably risky. However, it was fueled by a passion to create something meaningful and a place that could help others overcome life’s obstacles and find peace as well in this magical country. 

The hotel needed an extensive renovation and Casey knew the next step was to breathe life back into the neglected property. Cultural differences and language barriers posed additional challenges, but her determination prevailed. She approached the renovation with a fresh perspective, incorporating nature with innovative ideas for modern-day travelers. Another tall order of business that proceeded was renaming the hotel and making it her own.

This was the birth of The Scarlet Villas, not only a new name but a completely new brand that had never existed online or in the world prior. Casey fell in love with the scarlet macaws the first time they flew over on her journey down the pacific coast. From then on, she vowed that every time they graced the skies above, she would take that moment to both look up at the sky with high hopes and down at her feet to remember how she got there.

The first major project was the transformation of Villa Coco. It was the oldest and most run-down of the 6 villas. The most important part of the upgrade was making Villa CoCo specifically accessible to handicapped guests. This was the first of many upgrades that symbolized a dedication to inclusivity. The refurbishment extended to a community BBQ area and common space centered around a custom-made pool table and other games that bring guests together.

An indoor air-conditioned room adequately named the Lapa Lounge gives guests a comfortable retreat from the hot days and rainy nights. The new additions also include an elegant bar, an open-air gym, and The Nest – the new yoga shala overlooking a private river, where nature’s serenity and wellness intertwine. 

The villas are surrounded by lush jungle but just minutes from many local beaches that offer everything then surfing, mystic caves, turtle nesting and the famous Whale Tail Beach/Marina Ballena National Park. The villas themselves feel very private because of the gardener Carlos’ thoughtfully placed tropical plants that blanket the grounds.  Each of the 6 villas has a Costa Rica theme and is unique in size and occupancy.

They were given custom makeovers with the intent of not losing their local charm. The original multi-colored tiles, arched doorways, and handmade bamboo furniture were kept. Sprinkles of modern flair were added with contemporary art pieces enhancing each villa’s vibe while practical touches were added to elevate the guest experience. The villas have different personalities but are common in that they offer a full-efficiency kitchen, patio, air conditioning, large bathrooms, and all the amenities a traveler needs. However, the goal isn’t to feel like you’re traveling, but to feel as if you were home.

This is where the concept for the new bar was born. At the “Honor Bar” you can grab a cold beer from the fridge just like you would at home.  Guests can also enjoy a bottle of wine, corked and poured to their desire. In addition, the lush gardens are filled with tropical fruits, herbs, and spices that can be hand-picked by the guests and used for cooking in their own villa kitchen. 

Casey credits her amazing staff, all local to Costa Rica, for their support and passion to create a sanctuary for guests and anyone who visits the villas. Meeting great locals is not a challenge in Costa Rica, but finding the ones who share a vision to help others enough to embark on an uphill journey such as this, is not easy.

Casey’s knowledgeable team brings their local flair and strong values of the Tico culture. It’s not uncommon to find Helder, the hotel’s friendly manager sharing stories with guests at the morning breakfast table or laughing over a drink at the bar.  The staff have all brought their unique and complementary talents forward and that has been the foundation of the hotel’s success. 

In 2024, Casey’s vision is now a reality. The once-rundown hotel has been transformed into a thriving oasis, attracting travelers from around the world. The hotel, now with a new name and brand, The Scarlet Villas has become a popular destination for retreat groups, families, and global travelers. The venture has not only brought economic growth to the local Ojochal community but has created a space where people can escape, rejuvenate, and connect with the beauty of Costa Rica.

The space has been host to many local charity events, and fun community gatherings. Recently they hosted their first wedding for a local tico family. They chose Scarlet Villas because they wanted a jungle setting for the ceremony and a large space for the reception party and dancing. In addition, The Scarlet Villas is also a premiere destination for remote workers with fast wifi and many nature-surrounded working spaces, curated from Casey’s travels throughout her tech career.  

From hosting retreats to welcoming guests from across the globe, Casey’s vision has come to fruition.  The hotel’s layout, with private villas and inviting common areas, fosters a sense of community and social connection. This makes it an ideal place to host retreats of all kinds. Now the villas have been the proud hosts of different retreats – including yoga, fitness, and a couples tantra retreat. “The true rewards in life don’t come in the form of money or success to me anymore. It’s in moments like when a guest was checking out and when I asked him how his experience was, he said that when he looked in the mirror that day, he finally saw himself again for the first time in years.”

Reflecting on her journey, Casey acknowledges the challenges she faced as a single woman venturing into uncharted territory. Her courage to step out of her comfort zone and follow her dream serves as an inspiration to others contemplating a major life change. Casey states “Costa Rica has a way of giving you what you need, whatever that may be.

I want to share this magical place with others. If I can be an example to women or anyone along the way, then it makes it all even more worth it.” The Scarlet Villa’s story is a testament to the transformative power of taking risks and embracing change for the better. Casey and her staff have a mission to make their guests feel like they are at home, from friendly smiles and service to the welcoming energy the space exudes. They stand as a symbol of resilience, determination, and the pursuit of a life unlike the ordinary in the heart of Pura Vida.

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