American woman spearheads green hospitality initiative in Panama


CLEVELAND, OH & PANAMA CITY, Panama – Works like Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” have helped to bring challenges like global warming and climate change to the world’s attention.

Yet, while world leaders engage in dialogue addressing these issue, sometimes it is at the grassroots level where real change happens, as the example of an American lady in Panama illustrates.

Even before carbon footprint and sustainability became household words, Virginia Cronin, housewife and mother from a Cleveland, Ohio, suburb had felt that one of the great strides anyone can make is to move towards greater energy independence.

In that spirit – her children being out of the house and her being tired of cold and grey skies – Cronin and her then husband decided to start a new life in the tropics and create a model project of sustainability that could serve as an inspiration for others.

Convinced that sustainability and a comfortable lifestyle in pleasant surroundings do not have to be mutually exclusive, Cronin used the Internet for initial research and – after much trepidation – decided that Panama seemed to fit the bill.

She learned why that small central American country – till recently mostly known to Americans for Noriega, straw hats, and the Canal – has become an increasingly popular retirement haven for Americans that is about to catch up with neighbor Costa Rica as an eco-travel destination favored by nature lovers internationally.

With the help of Google and the Internet, Cronin determined the green hills of the Boquete district in western Panama, bordering on Costa Rica, looked promising: pleasant climate year round, welcoming locals, and reasonable cost of living. On her second visit to Panama, Cronin and her then husband found suitable acreage.

Despite formidable obstacles (she did not speak Spanish and had no experience) they prevailed, developed a plan, and began construction on one of the most ambitious private clean energy projects in the region.

Soon they discovered that things can take a lot longer than anticipated in a foreign country. Yet, against all odds, six years later, Cronin’s dream has become a reality.

Rancho de Caldera Eco-Project, close to hot springs amidst natural splendor, proudly overlooks the hills of western Panama, often facing spectacular sunrises.

Thanks to hydro, solar, and wind power, Cronin’s Rancho operates off-the-grid year round. Local rumor has it the Rancho’s clean power supply is more reliable than that of the village nearby.

Besides a main building housing Madre Tierra gourmet restaurant – under the care of acclaimed gourmet Chef Craig Miller from Portland, Oregon – and space for workshops, meetings, and cooking classes, the Green Globe certified Rancho de Caldera features a swimming pool and eleven fully furnished and equipped terraced rooms and suites to accommodate guests from all over the world.

Organic green houses made of on-site bamboo are supplying fresh herbs and greens for Chef Craig’s famous organic fine dining creations. Even though in the tropics and far from home, Rancho residents and visitors do not miss out on popular edibles they have come to love – au contraire. Madre Tierra’s loyal lunch and dinner guests from far and wide appreciate Chef Craig’s creations. As one lady guest from Florida put it:

“Exaggerated and far fetched as it may sound, if you really want the best French fries in the world today, it seems you have to go to an off-the-grid eco-resort in the green hills of Boquete, Panama.”

Chef Craig smiles.

For more information on the Rancho de Caldera eco-project, visit .

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