I was a solo traveler on my first trip by myself, and didn't know what to expect when I first got to Nicaragua - but I am beyond satisfied with how my five weeks at La Mariposa turned out! My flight was scheduled to arrive late in Managua, but it was very easy to schedule a ride from the school - they even dropped me off directly at my homestay on the first night! My homestay was very welcoming, and my host mom offered to walk me to the school for my first day of class. The moment that I entered the school I felt welcomed by all of the staff members and fellow students. Every staff member in the office addressed me by name, beginning on the day that I arrived to the school and continued through my five week stay. There are so many wonderful reasons to stay at La Mariposa it is difficult to list them all, but here are a few:
- All of the staff members are very friendly, flexible, and truly care about the comfort of their guests. I was involved in volunteering for two weeks of my stay (and jumped around between several positions) but decided that I would rather participate in activities, and the staff made these changes with no problem!
- The Spanish classes are at the perfect level (because they are one on one and tailored to what you would like to learn!). All of my conversation teachers and grammar teacher encouraged me to speak in only Spanish (even though I had started with little Spanish), and by the end of my trip I felt that I had learned a tremendous amount. Having two different kinds of classes, grammar and conversation, is very helpful. The teachers do a great job of communicating as well, so they both know what you are working on in the other class, and you can spend more time practicing certain tenses. The classes are held outside, and you can also go on a walk into town - this makes it much easier to spend four hours a day in classes without getting too tired!
- The location is great! There are beautiful views of Volcan Masaya just up the hill from La Mariposa, and it is about an hour drive to many activities, including Granada, Laguna De Apoyo, etc.
- The food is amazing. Everything is fresh, and the majority of the food is vegetarian! There are also great homemade juices served with every lunch.
My experience in the homestay was also a large contributor to my unforgettable experience in Nicaragua. I learned about how families live in Nicaragua, how to cook traditional foods, and practiced Spanish much more than I would have in the hotel. I also enjoyed building great relationships with my host parents and sisters, and it was very fun to have more people to talk to in Spanish! My homestay was very welcoming, and I always felt safe and at home in their house. My room was also very large and private!
While I enjoyed everything about my stay in La Mariposa, it may not be for everyone. I would suggest reading as much as you can about La Mariposa (on their website and through reviews) and the surrounding area. It is a very simple hotel, and the homestay is much the same! There is little or no running water in the city, and the closest supermarket is a microbus ride away. In my homestay, there was only cold water for showers, however the school also offers showers for those staying in the homestay.
That being said, my experience at La Mariposa Spanish School was unforgettable. I met so many amazing people, had many great experiences volunteering and participating in activities, and I expect to return in the future. Many of the reviews I have read have mentioned not having a long enough stay at La Mariposa, and even though I was lucky enough to have 5 weeks in the school I agree - I suggest spending as much time as possible in La Mariposa, because it is an amazing place!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- La Mariposa is a small, friendly non-profit Spanish school and eco-hotel, just outside the small town of La Concepcion, Nicaragua. Only an hour from Nicaragua's major attractions - Granada, the Pacific Coast, the Laguna de Apoyo, Masaya volcano - and 45 minutes from Managua airport, La Mariposa is surrounded by organic coffee, banana trees and flower gardens. Our cool, green climate (we are 500 meters above sea level - makes a real difference to the temperature) is ideal for studying Spanish! Our conservation efforts - though small scale - have vastly increased our bird population, butterflies and even frogs! We offer intensive Spanish classes in our purpose built classrooms or in outdoor classrooms in our delightful grounds, full of tropical plants and rescued animals. Classes are mostly one on one (max 2 or 3 in a class) and we cater for all levels form beginner to advanced, including specially designed classes for children. We have an extensive library with Spanish study materials and a selection of books in English on Nicaraguan history, development issues etc. We organize a full week (that includes weekends) of activities, including cooking and salsa classes, classes on the history of Nicaragua and a weekly update of what is happening in the Nicaraguan news. These are delivered in Spanish to help with progress in Spanish and with English translation if necessary. On 3 afternoons and Saturdays we offer trips out to local places of interest as well as the Masaya volcano by night, the Masaya markets and artesanias, Granada, Leon, the Laguna de Apoyo, the Pacific beach, Managua, Catarina, the Pueblos Blancos and more! The trips are rotated on a monthly schedule. There are various accomodation options - Students can stay in the eco-hotel (ensuite rooms) or our eco rooms (cheaper). There is a also a large (en suite) family room. Situated about 5 mins from the main school/hotel is our nature reserve. There are now 2 cabins in the reserve, each with two bedrooms, seating area, shower and compostable latrine, private terrace and garden, small kitchen (though you can of course eat all meals at the main hotel) - these are ideal for families with kids who like a bit more space to run around! There are of course a few friendly rescued dogs to keep the kids happy!! We use solar power - for heated water in all of the showers as well as to provide electricity, conserve rainwater,have a number of recycling schemes and have started our own successful organic farm which provides some of the eggs, veggies, coffee consumed at the Mariposa. And much more. We use our income to maximise the employment of local people (currently employing 80 teachers, maintenance and kitchen staff) and undertake a number of projects in the local community. You can opt to volunteer at one of our community or environmental projects, living in a homestay with a local family. Amongst other projects, we are currently offering volunteer placements in the nature reserve, in local schools, with a day care project or with disabled children. You are also welcome to help out the Mariposa workers - whether feeding our rescued animals or cooking up our healthy meals. All of which is a great way to improve that Spanish! We have also recently opened, on another but close by site, a study centre specifically designed to cater for groups of students. We offer an individualized curriculum which can include Spanish classes, activities and classes on the history, culture and environment of Nicaragua. We can also arrange community service work for groups. Accommodation is in two eco built dormitories, each of which has 10 beds (bunk style). The eating/meeting hall is a lovely structure built of straw bales and thatched roofing. Classrooms face a terrace with great views of the Masaya volcano. Meals are always freshly cooked, often using organic veggies from our farm. And of course there are solar heated showers and solar powered electricity. ... more less