I did some adventuring in Nicaragua this past May 2017.
If you aren’t familiar with Nicaragua, it’s in Central America located between Honduras and Costa Rica. This beautiful country has multiple volcanoes, lakes, nature reserves and beaches which all give it a peaceful zen-like feel. It’s truly a hidden gem that most people haven’t explored.
Personally, I was in search of an educational program immersed in nature and stumbled upon La Mariposa Spanish School and Eco-Hotel. After looking at reviews and their local mission, I was intrigued to visit this country as well as this unique Spanish school.
LA MARIPOSA translates to BUTTERFLY in Spanish.
Six weeks before I left, I had sent an email to the administration and booked my flight. What I automatically loved about this place is they don’t do credit cards and booking is all done through email. This is pretty old-school, but at the same time, I enjoyed the simplicity of sending an email and corresponding with a human.
For a solo trip, I paid around $1,150 USD for 8 days, 7 nights. The price included airfare from Chicago, transportation to and from the airport, accommodation at the eco-hotel, 3 meals each day, activities in the afternoons/nights and Spanish classes Monday-Friday for 4 hours. Amazing price for everything I experienced in a week’s trip.
Once I stepped foot out of the airport, I wasn’t sure what to expect of Nicaragua. I heard it all from being a garbage filled country to one of the most beautiful places on Earth (which it is).
As I began my journey to the school, my eyes were fixated on the tiny homes, roaming animals, small convenient stores, horses pulling materials, and kids on bikes.
But, I also took the time to look at their faces. I noticed smiles and pleasant conversations between neighbors. My culture shock was in full force, but I knew this was why I came here. To see how others lived and to learn their language.
As I arrived at La Mariposa, I was greeted with friendly faces who tested my Spanish skills immediately. They quickly caught on that my slow-speaking Spanish was at a beginner level and eventually switched to English. They had a plate of food waiting for me even though I had arrived 3 hours after lunch was served. I was then shown around the school property that was surrounded by nature. They had the eco-hotel rooms, classrooms, wildlife rescue, outdoor dining area and much more.
*This was me on my hammock outside my hotel room looking out at one of the classrooms.
It was a beautiful tranquil area with hammocks and only the sounds of the wilderness.
Staying in the eco-hotel reminded me of backpacking in Europe. The room was very simple with a desk, bed, mosquito net (you will definitely use it), fan and bathroom with a working warm shower and toilet.
I was provided with a great amount of reading materials on the property and how to dispose your garbage and toilet paper. We couldn’t flush any of our toilet paper and the excess water was used to water the plants. Everything was recycled.
My only, literally only, complaint was the bugs and mosquitoes. Even with wearing bug spray, those suckers got you. I wouldn't let this stop you from coming to Nicaragua, but be prepared.
I started my Spanish classes the next morning at 8am. The first part of the day was 2 hours of conversation. I had a moment where I was wondering how I could speak to my teacher only in Spanish for 2 hours, but I did. This experience gave me confidence to keep communicating and to not be afraid to use my Tarzan like Spanish. The second 2 hours was grammar class. We covered mostly unfamiliar words and verb tenses. The classes were Monday through Friday from 8am to noon.
I was impressed with myself for how much Spanish I had absorbed during the 8 days I was there.
At noon, everyone gathered to eat lunch. The food at La Mariposa was probably the healthiest I’ve ever eaten. Almost all the food was grown on-site or bought from the surrounding neighborhoods.
Each day following lunch they offered a daily excursion. To attend, there was a board next to the kitchen area that gave you the daily activities for the week. If you wanted to adventure on your own, you were more than welcome to pay a driver and guide to take you. It’s helpful if you bring more people so you can split the costs. Most activities were free or otherwise indicated on the board.
Here are 4 Activities That Are a Must See While Visiting La Mariposa
Laguna de Apoyo
Laguna de Apoyo is the largest crater lake from a volcanic explosion. Since this was a nature reserve, there were no boats allowed. This created an amazing environment to relax and listen to nature while drinking a cold beer.
If you're up for the swim, there was an awesome floating-swim-dock just off the coast. The resort also had kayaks and flotation devices that made it easily accessible. The resort was called San Simian Eco Resort. If you wanted a real break from life this is the ideal place to book a trip. I believe each person paid $5 or $10 USD to enter the resort area. If you are looking to stay for a night, prices ranged from $50-$70 online.
From what I hear, Nicaragua is known for its surfing due to the extraordinary waves of the Pacific Ocean. I had never seen waves like this in my whole life. If you weren’t careful you would have been easily swept off your feet by this massive body of water. The waves were strong and the sea creatures were real.
One of the students was stung by a sting ray on his foot. He was fine, no casualties, but be aware that you are in the ocean. The school group put their belongings at an outside restaurant, however, the waves started coming into the restaurant which made for a remarkable story, but not so great if your backpack got eaten by the ocean. The restaurant had good bar food and cold beverages. This trip had a small transportation fee.
The Volcano - Mombachu
Have you ever been able to touch a cloud before? Well, the top of this volcano is a tropical cloud forest. It reminded me of Jurassic Park at times because of all the animal noises and beautiful forestry.
There were a couple options to get up to the top of the volcano from where the La Mariposa van dropped us off. There is a bus that is equipped to drive up-hill to the top or you can hike on a brick/dirt road. I chose the hike which was 3 miles.
There were times where you felt like rock climbing because of the massive incline. The views along the way were impressive and the friendly conversation made the hike bearable. I won’t lie to you…this hike was hard. However, once you reached the top there was a small café, bathrooms and an indoor seating area.
The temperature drops significantly once you are in the cloud. There was an easy hike with maintained walking paths once you reached the top to see other parts of the volcano.
Even if you aren’t in the best of shape, the walking paths were simple and easy to navigate. Prices varied depending on what hikes you wanted to take.
The City of Granada
We visited Granada during the evening hours and businesses were still out and about with their tables of jewelry, purses, t-shirts, etc. This city had a vibrant night life with multiple outside restaurants and bars. I wasn’t fortunate enough to visit any of the museums or churches. This city was picturesque due to the bright colors of the buildings and being located off the coast of Lago de Nicaragua.
Overall, the activities planned at La Mariposa were excellent. These were just a few that I went on, but I know there was much more that the country had to offer. Click here to see the full list.
My experience in Nicaragua was humbling and very much eye opening in terms of our materialism and consumerism in the USA. La Mariposa is doing a tremendous job with education, preservation, animal habitats, organic farming and more. The owner, Paulette, was such a sweet woman and is doing so much for the Nicaraguan community. Please visit this beautiful country and excellent school. Click here to find out the latest at La Mariposa .
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