Meet Your Hosts
Beyond our Core Principals, Social and Environmental Impact, the Turtles, the Beach, etc., what really makes the difference for guests at Playa Viva is our team. We are lucky to have the greatest team of people—folks from the local communities of Juluchuca, Rancho Nuevo and smaller villages up the watershed. We are proud that most all employees are local and that we are woman-run organization.
Playa Viva was the vision of Sandra Kahn as executed by her husband David Leventhal. Both have a background in social and environmental impact. Sandra and David were founders of Rainforest2Reef a non-profit which supported the creation of corridors for species protection in the Yucatan Peninsula and Calakmul area. R2R created one of the largest and most successful private reserves between local Ejido farmers who joined a conservation easement supported by global conservation NGOs. Key learning was that environmental protection involves providing solutions to the people who have demands on the resources in that environment. This work lead to a more whole systems approach and to the development of Playa Viva using Regenerative Design techniques under partnership with Regenesis Group. Regeneration principles have guided much of their work including the founding of Regenerative Travel and Regenerative Resorts to support similar independent hotel owners around the world doing great work in their local ecosystems promoting travel “Where Your Vacation Meets Your Values.”
Julia Garcia, our General Manager, was born in Juluchuca. Her father was a peanut farmer. After getting her education, the only place to get a good job was in the “big” city, so she was off to Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa. After working for 20 years with Club Med all over the world by opening and operating many destinations, she finally came home to Juluchuca and Playa Viva.
Amanda Harris is our Permaculture Manager. She is responsible for all 200 acres of our landscape, which includes everything from supervising the health of the soil, ensuring we have a healthy supply of fresh veggies, introducing farm animals (goats, chickens and more), managing coastal forest and mangrove reforestation, building a food forest, and maintaining roads and lagoons. It is a huge job well managed by an amazing woman whose work takes her beyond the borders of our 200 acres and into the local community. From leading the charge for building Banana Circles to working with local farmers and ranchers farther up the watershed, Amanda is becoming a fixture of the local Juluchuca community.
Colleen Fugate is our Manager of Social and Environmental Impact. She is a natural leader who engages a broader group of volunteers and community leaders to accomplish audacious goals to be part of meaningful change in the community. Her work includes the Turtle Sanctuary and its team of 14 volunteers, teaching English in the Schools, promoting organized sports, town cleanup and so much more. She is the primary point of contact when any group or individual comes to Playa Viva and wants to participate in Creating Meaningful Community alongside us.
Juan Carlos Solis, or Johnny as he is so affectionately known, is also from Juluchuca. Like so many of his contemporaries, he moved to the US for economic opportunity and ended up in Portland, OR, holding down 3 or 4 jobs at a time while trying to raise a family. When his father became ill, Johnny and his family came home to Juluchuca to help tend his farm.
The kitchen team is lead by Chef Daniel Ramirez, who is spending more time exploring the local watershed to build relationships with local farmers and ranchers in order to improve our sourcing of local food supplies. He leads the kitchen team, which includes Olga and Ines who are both famous for their mole and other local Mexican favorites. If you enjoy cooking, please feel free to ask to join in the kitchen to help out during your stay or for a cooking class. Due to the popularity of the many dishes emerging from the Playa Viva kitchen, we have published “Comida Viva: The Playa Viva Cookbook.” Playa Viva cooking is based on farm-to-table, healthy Mexican food with an international flair. We cater to a wide variety of dietary needs from vegan to omnivore adjusting for sugar or gluten free to really any allergies.
While the rest of the Playa Viva team is not as visible, each individual plays a key role in making sure your stay meets the standards of eco and luxury. This includes housekeeping, permaculture, security and our drivers. The Playa Viva team always includes Holistic Hosts who are in charge of Yoga, Massage and Hosting you during your stay. We are lucky to have Anjuli Mahendra and Alok Rockwater coordinating this role and bringing in great practitioners to be your gateway to the Playa Viva experience. If you are interested in becoming a Host, please click here to see job description and online application.
Our team isn’t complete without Volunteers. Playa Viva hosts up to six volunteers at a time who work on the farm, support ecological restoration and engage in community development. We provide room and board in exchange for volunteer labor. As a guest at Playa Viva, please connect with the Volunteers to explore the landscape and the community and ask them to share their experiences with you. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please complete the Volunteer Application Form.