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“More than Just a Vacation” 5 of 5 stars
Review of La Mariposa Spanish School and Eco Hotel

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La Mariposa Spanish School and Eco Hotel
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De la Cancha, 200 metros al sur, 50 al este | San Juan de la Concepcion, Masaya, Nicaragua   |  
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Hotel amenities
Ranked #1 of 6 Hotels in Masaya
GreenLeadersPlatinum level
Shelburne, Vermont
1 review
“More than Just a Vacation”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 2, 2013

The best hotel I stayed in during my trip, I can't recommend this place enough! I stayed at La Mariposa for a month and a half as a volunteer and a spanish student and had an incredible experience. The food is great, they have weekly activities and trips all over southwestern Nicaragua, and the spanish school is top notch. My spanish has improved by leaps and bounds, I’ve learned about a wide range of topics relating to Nicaragua (history, politics, food, sports, religion, volunteerism, and the environment), and I felt like I was interacting with the local community in a responsible way, all while having a very good time. Make sure you read their website and know what you’re getting yourself into before you come, and you better not be allergic to dogs. Both the school and the hotel are situated inside a two story white manse surrounded and encroached upon by all maner of exoctic plants and rescued animals. The building itself feels alive at times, animated by the running and playing of the ten dogs, the sounds of the half dozen or so species of birds, and the internal conflict and drama of the monkey cage. The village of San Juan de la Concepcion is tiny, and feels somewhat off the beaten path, but its location along a bus rout in the middle of southwestern Nicaragua makes the cities of Masaya, Managua, and Granada all easily accessible. As long as you're not claustrophobic the Nicaraguan bus system is very good, and I found the Hotel’s location pleasantly out-of-the-way while also only a short bus ride from metropolitan ´´society.´´ Not that I ever had to go out of my way to visit other parts of the country while I stayed at La Mariposa; the Hotel has an excellent array of weekly activities and trips around Nicaragua´s southwest. While studying spanish at La Mariposa I was able to visit Managua, Granada, Masaya, La Laguna de Apoyo, La Boquita (scenic pacific coast beach with excellent outdoor restaurant), and Volcan Masaya National Park, all through La Mariposa trips. I also went on weekend hikes and horseback rides, and the monthly full moon hike. Keep in mind my focus during my stay was not on the activity program; I was a homestay volunteer and spanish student, and usually chose not to go on activities in favor of classes. More spanish stuck in my head from a month and a half of classes at La Mariposa than from four years of high school classes. All of the teachers I had were patient, challenging, and conversational. I especially enjoyed my conversation classes, in which I felt comfortable talking about any subject and was able not only to practice my spanish, but also to learn a lot about Nicaragua and Nicaraguan culture. I chose to do volunteer work while I was at La Mariposa, and worked building a house at their organic farm. The other workers were all Nicaraguan, which was a great opportunity to practice my spanish. While I was there other volunteers were doing things like working at local public schools, watering plants on the farm, tending to La Mariposa grounds, and (those with medical experience) working in the local health clinic.
Paulette Goudge, the owner of La Mariposa and a published author on the subject, is of the philosophy that while volunteers often can help at their specific assignment, the experience is really more about what the volunteer is able to learn there, and that the Nicaraguan workers do the bulk of the work organizing the volunteers themselves. What I mean to say is, there’s no racial perception that we as intelligent, capable westerners, are coming in to aid the hapless Nicaraguans. She genuinely cares about her work and the region as I could plainly see when a massive forest fire burnt about a third of the nearby Volcan Masaya National Park while I was at La Mariposa and Paulette voluntarily contributed over 4,000 dollars in resources to help combat the flame. I’ve read the very few negative reviews of La Mariposa on this website, and frankly I think they´re garbage. This isn’t the Princess Hilton in Managua, but you’d think that much would be obvious though even the most surface level research before your trip. I stayed in a homestay while I was at La Mariposa, but I spent most of my time at the hotel, and I found that the bathrooms were always clean, the workers were genuinely welcoming and personable, and I didn’t know a single hotel guest who complained about their room. Its not a country club, or a party hostel for that matter. If you’re looking for drugs, sex, and mayhem, look elsewhere. There are weekly trips to local bars, smoking is allowed, and the kitchen is stocked with one dollar Tona beers. The social life consists of talking/having a drink with the other guests, hiking, and visiting the nearby towns and cities. I can imagine that the degree of social excitement would vary widely depending on the number/tastes of the given group of guests, but in my time I met many interesting people and felt my meager attention span to be more than satisfied. I had a great time visiting other parts of the country on La Mariposa trips and activities, I had great experiences in both my volunteer assignment and in my homestay, and my Spanish improved dramatically. I especially liked the library (an incredibly satisfying selection of both novels and texts on a wide range of historical, political, and cultural topics), monkey cage, and the kitchen staff’s homemade “salsa verde.”

  • Stayed April 2013, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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paulettelamariposa, Owner at La Mariposa Spanish School and Eco Hotel, responded to this review, May 13, 2013
This is such a great, and very detailed, description of the Mariposa. It highlights both our best points and makes clear that there are some things which are just not for everybody. Such as we do, we admit, have a lot of dogs and it can be noisy at times. As you say, we are not the Princess Hilton, we don't want to be, and that should indeed be obvious from the most cursory reading of the website. Or from reading tripadvisor, for that matter!

Thank you so much for this review which I think should be super helpful to anyone making the decision whether to come here or not!!!
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320 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (74)
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Calgary, Canada
Senior Reviewer
10 reviews 10 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 29, 2013

I spent 5 weeks here at the beginning of my gap year and absolutely fell in love with the place. La Mariposa is an education not only in the Spanish language, but also in the environment, geography, culture and animals. The grounds are beautiful and I had almost all of my classes outdoors because the weather was extraordinary. Learning spanish was more than just grammar with the amazing teachers here, it was a chance to learn about life in Nicaragua as well, in exchange for information on your home country! The folks at La Mariposa truly care and will pair you with a teacher that suits your Spanish speaking level. The one-on-one teaching allows for the greatest growth and although this way of teaching was not a priority for me at first, I learned that having my own teacher is a MUST if I were to look into Spanish schools. Well done!

The accomodation was good. I stayed in the cabin and really enjoyed my room, simple, but always kept clean by the amazing staff. After 2 weeks in the cabin I moved in with a homestay which I would recommend to ANYONE interested in spending some time here. My homestay family brought me in with open arms and were a joy to spend time with. They lived just a 6 minute walk from the school so it was ideal for immersing myself in Nicaraguan life.

I was initially concerned that spending 5 weeks in one place I would find myself constantly bored, but absolutely not! La Mariposa always has optional daily activites whether it be hikes up the local volcanoes, visiting local artisans, beach days, horseriding, and so much more that keep you busy! If these activities aren`t enough, there is also the opportunity to volunteer on various projects as well.

What really made the trip was the people. The folks that run La Mariposa Spanish School, do so with so much heart. The teachers also are really great, keeping you motivated as you learn. The cleaning and cooking crew are so sweet, always striking up a converstation when you`re in the kitchen picking up some of their OUT OF THIS WORLD delicious vegetarian food. I hope to return one day soon!

¡Gracias por la experiencia extraordinaria!

Room Tip: The cabin is a bit more pocket friendly, but it means using a latrine and shared outdoor shower (bot...
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  • Stayed October 2012, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
paulettelamariposa, Owner at La Mariposa Spanish School and Eco Hotel, responded to this review, May 13, 2013
Thank for this lovely review...we enjoyed meeting you as much as you enjoyed your stay! We particularly appreciate your comment that we have a heart....that is certainly how we try and run the Mariposa and it is always so encouaging when students feel that! It is also terrific that your Spanish improved so much.

hasta la vista!
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Knoxville, Tennessee
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 17, 2013

My husband and I spent two wonderful weeks learning spanish from a wonderful group of teachers that made me feel comfortable from the very start. They were very supportive and made conversation come naturally without fear of failure. The grammar instruction was also excellent. All staff was very welcoming and very soon I felt at home. Trips to neighboring communities and natural sites added depth to our experience, as did discussions of Nicaraguan news and history. I hated to leave and almost cried when I said goodbye to my last two teachers. The food was very good with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as beans and rice and delectable desserts. We were very comfortable in our room and enjoyed walking through the grounds which have a variety of local planth and animal life. I look forward to returning again soon.

  • Stayed April 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Eugene, Oregon, United States
Top Contributor
58 reviews 58 reviews
14 hotel reviews
Reviews in 22 cities Reviews in 22 cities
20 helpful votes 20 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 16, 2013

My 9-year-old son and I had an amazing two weeks at the Mariposa School and we cannot recommend it more highly. My Spanish was already good and I wondered if it would be one of those places that really only caters to beginners - not to worry! My teachers honed right in on the advanced grammar I really wanted to improve and held me to it! My son had some Spanish but was shy about using it - his teachers played games and walked with him, kept his interest, and even got him excited about doing homework. (!)

We stayed with a wonderful family that also had a son my son's age, which really enhanced our experience - if you're interested in this part you need to be prepared for rustic accommodations but to me it is SO worth it. My son got a very clear first-hand look at the global reality that MOST people do not live like we do in the U.S. And the faceless "poor" people of the world now have some faces - loving, kind people who took care to make us welcome and comfortable. They willingly and generously shared the little they had and that is such great role modeling for him. I think he's going home VERY appreciative of all our blessings and hopefully a little humbled.

Our volunteer work was also very worthwhile. I cannot say enough good things about the excellent projects this school promotes around their community. You roll up your sleeves and help out and it is very satisfying to do something positive with hopeful, dedicated Nicaraguan people working hard to improve their lives.

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Oakland, California
Senior Contributor
32 reviews 32 reviews
12 hotel reviews
Reviews in 14 cities Reviews in 14 cities
31 helpful votes 31 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 30, 2013

My husband and I were looking for a language school to got to prior to a service trip in Nicaragua. He is conversational and I can order a beer. Regardless, we were welcomed to this lovely place and provided with personalized Spanish lessons. The hotel is small and basic but clean and a friendly place to be. The rooms have comfortable beds, reading lights (a must for us), and a decent bathroom with a shower that actually delivers hot water. The food is vegetarian and prepared by a wonderful kitchen crew who use vegetables from the large organic garden. If you are not an animal lover this will not be the place for you. There are numerous rescue dogs and cats roaming around, all of whom are very well behaved and sweet. In human caged areas are moneys, birds, rabbits and turkeys/chickens. Yes, there is such a thing as a rescue turkey.
The teachers are personable and really work at teaching you Spanish, you will work hard.
We would go back in a heart beat!

Room Tip: There are not many rooms and all are pretty much the same. No A/C but there is a fan in the room th...
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  • Stayed March 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 30, 2013

I just returned from a week at La Mariposa with my 9-year-old son. We couldn't have had a better time. We stayed at the Eco-Hotel, which was very comfortable with private toilets and hot showers. The food was simple and delicious - luckily my son likes rice and beans. The staff went out of their way to arrange activities that met our particular interests. We enjoyed horseback-riding, a forest hike, and swimming in the Lagunda de Apoyo volcano crater. If you have the chance to take a trip to Granada, I highly recommend visiting the Cafe de las Sonrisas, which has delicious fresh juice and is staffed entirely by the deaf.

The Spanish classes were also excellent with one-one-one time with two different instructors each day. My son was a beginner and on spring break, so his teachers found a way to make the lessons fun for him. He learned some Spanish while feeding mangoes to the monkeys and doing other activities around the property. He says it was a fun time.

This is supposed to be the hottest time of year and we never found the heat overwhelming - we were comfortable sleeping with a fan. One thing to know is that La Mariposa is a relaxing place, but not exactly quiet. The cicadas and birds will wake you before dawn, so just be prepared to go to sleep early and get up early (or bring ear plugs.)

All in all, this is one of those special places that will stay in your heart long after you leave. It was nice having dinner and conversation with fellow travelers and feeling like you are a part of a project that helps the local community. I hope we will return to join in one of the many volunteer projects organized by La Mariposa.

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hyattsville, Maryland
Reviewer
5 reviews 5 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
8 helpful votes 8 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 19, 2013

No question that I would return to La Mariposa, albeit briefly, during my second trip to Nicaragua. I still managed an easy hike, a visit to the new study center, a how-to-make rosquillos (rohs-KEE-yohs) "lesson" at a local woman's home, a film and discussion with a park ranger from the Volcan Masaya park, and 3 days of Spanish classes -- plus bonding with the other guests and staff who are consistently terrific.

Yes, I enjoyed La Mariposa as much as last year -- see my gushing March 2012 review -- and even had a Spanish verb tense breakthrough (cue the angels singing). One thing was a bit different this year: the food. No complaints about last year, but this year the food was noticeably better. More variety and more of it, thanks to La Mariposa's very own organic farm.

Founder Paulette Goudge is the kind of visionary who leaves me babbling stupidly in her presence (in both Spanish and English). Not her fault; I just can't help being awestruck.

La Mariposa will see me back again next year.

Room Tip: Waking to the din of parrots squawking for their breakfast isn't everyone's cup of tea. I f...
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  • Stayed March 2013, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about La Mariposa Spanish School and Eco Hotel

Address: De la Cancha, 200 metros al sur, 50 al este | San Juan de la Concepcion, Masaya, Nicaragua
Location: Nicaragua > Masaya Department > Masaya
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Restaurant Shuttle Bus service
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 6 Hotels in Masaya
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Number of rooms: 11
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. Students can stay in the eco-hotel or our cabin. We use solar power - for heated water in your shower as well as 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 45 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 on our small organic farm, on a community garden scheme, in local schools, with a day care project. 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 8 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 
Also Known As:
La Mariposa Spanish School And Eco Hotel Nicaragua/Masaya

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