Elizabeth Steinvort and her daughter Elena Rohrmoser are both from San José, the capital city of Costa Rica, where they were each raised a generation apart. When Elizabeth was a young woman, she set her sights abroad and took a more non-traditional path than her peers, leading her to Europe where she studied and worked as an interpreter. After starting a family, she opened a store in San José, filling it with her own handmade clothing and accessories alongside the work of young Costa Rican artisans. Once Elena herself was old enough to travel independently, she made her way to Europe where she worked in the fashion and music industries for global companies like Women’s Wear Daily and Universal Music. Eventually, the affection they both shared for travel and art would lead them back to the Caribbean coast of their home country to launch a business of their own.
In the small pueblo of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca (previously featured in Boulder Lifestyle’s February issue), where the jungle meets the sea, sits the original Aguas Claras property, where the Kubali family cacao fields once thrived. But due to disease, the crops were destroyed in the '80s leaving scarce land behind. Elizabeth and her daughter saw potential though, and after acquiring the land, they enlisted a landscape artist who brought the diverse jungle back to life.
Now, winding pathways weave in between the lush greenery draped overhead where electric-blue morpho butterflies, slow-moving sloths, and Howler monkeys can be seen. Their new Hotel Aguas Claras was created by upgrading the rustic wood buildings through the application of the women's cosmopolitan aesthetic while maintaining the Victorian-style structures common in the area. Elizabeth took on the interior design of the houses and the lobby, with a gypsy-meets-traditional Caribbean approach, while Elena designed the restaurant and the Pavlova Suites with her funky Art Deco style (and no restraint when it comes to color).
“We have a very close relationship, and since we are both so creative, we have always been connected,” says Elena. “Her taste is amazing and this project is really a dream.”
The modestly sized hotel includes six uniquely themed private suites, six multi-room bungalows, and one home that accommodates 10 people all decorated with upcycled collectibles, contemporary paintings, and retro lighting. With an emphasis on open-air living spaces, the rooms feature outdoor modern showers beneath the canopy, large patios and bamboo terraces.
Inspired by the Wes Anderson-designed Bar Luce in Milan, the Papaya restaurant is a pastel pink and turquoise dreamscape punched with crocheted lamps, terrazzo countertops, and handcrafted chandeliers. All of the furniture was crafted by young Costa Rican designers, including the oversized pink doors and tangerine booths. The menu was inspired by the regions’ Afro Caribbean comfort food and is served poolside underneath a sweeping palapa roofline. Da Lime Beach Club glances out over the white-sand Playa Caracola and serves up custom cocktails and fresh eats. There is also a stunning Balinese Yoga shala where guided classes and massages take place.
Aguas Claras has gained international coverage in Vogue with an article titled “An Artists’ Guide to Puerto Viejo,” and garnered much attention for their ultra-chic establishment that simply stands out from the rest. While Elena now focuses on the visual branding and event planning for their local and international guests coming from India, Japan, Europe, and Latin America, the mother-daughter pair continues to co-create in their tropical hideaway serving as their shared canvas.
A Mother’s Touch
“My mom has been an artist all her life and sustainability and protecting the land was always important to her. So, she creates upcycled art, like using old jar tabs to make mirrors,” says Elena Rohrmoser.
You can see Elizabeth Steinvort’s recycled art throughout the gallery-style hotel, including flower watercolors in Casa Floralia, the mirrors in Casa Coral and Magnolia as well as the furniture in the bungalows using her “decoupage” technique.
Phone: +1 844-828-4277