Consider the Turtles: How to Design a Luxury Home in Guanacaste National Park

As the architects, our charge was how to design a luxury home in Guanacaste National Park, meeting the needs of the client … and the turtles who live there, too.

Our best clients are open to bold solutions. The very first renter of our Casa Magayon fell in love with the home over Christmas – so much so that she was thinking of buying a house in the same community. Instead, she discovered a beachfront property in another area, this one a national park. We call this project the Villa Tres Mares in Tamarindo, Guanacaste. It’s a wonderful example of how to design a luxury home in Guanacaste National Park, meeting the needs of the client … and the turtles who live there, too.

This part of the park is meant to protect the turtles. Not 100% of the turtles that emerge swim back to the ocean, and to help them find a safe home, the park enforces special rules. One is that swimming pools are supposed to be built above ground.

The reason for that is if a turtle makes its way to an in-ground pool, it could drown. Yet while wanting to save the turtles, our client wants to welcome guests to a high-end luxury rental income property with a large pool.

To be more precise, our charge was, “Build me the largest home that you can with the most bedrooms and as large as possible of a swimming pool across the width of the property.”

So we started reading through all the different regulations and realized the park requires that we cover no more than 50% of the 1200-square-meter lot. This left us with only 600-square-meters of coverage. The team considered: How can we build this very large home and a lap pool in this small footprint?

There we were, with the ideal client ready for us to take on her project. But we felt completely dismayed. Normally a high-end luxury home with six bedrooms would be 5,000-square-feet of indoor space plus 5,000 more of outdoor space and a pool. Working with the numbers at hand, we realized this was already cut by half and we could not go up to a second story.

To better understand how to design a luxury home in Guanacaste National Park, we inquired of the officials in the local municipality. We learned that if rainwater is able to permeate the ground in a certain space, it would not be counted as coverage. This was our first “ah-ha moment.”

The home could now include many outdoor spaces, corridors, and hallways in a deck material so that rainwater would be able to filter right through the ground. None of those areas would be considered coverage.

Then the team discussed: How can we build an above ground pool on a flat piece of land? Our answer: Let’s flip it up!

The officials said they had never seen anybody have the courage to come up with this type of solution. One asked me, “You’re going to put a pool on the roof. Are you serious?” I said, “Yes, because I know how to do it.”

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About the author

Roderick Anderson

SARCO Architects is a small-sized boutique architectural firm located in San Jose, Costa Rica. It is a family business owned by Roderick and his wife, both of whom are architects. The firm works exclusively with international clients, providing high-end custom architectural design services for luxury vacation homes and investment properties in Costa Rica, Panama and the Caribbean.