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“An important chapter of my life” 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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Ranked #1 of 6 Hotels in Masaya
Toronto, Canada
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3 reviews 3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
“An important chapter of my life”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 10, 2010

Leaving is so hard to do, in particular when you are leaving someone, someplace, something you have grown attached to – La Mariposa is all of the above. La Mariposa is more than the summation of all the previous excellent reviews had described – to me it’s an experience beyond words.

I am a 63 years old retiree, lived in Australia for many years, I'm now living half year in Hong Kong and half year in Canada. I have traveled a lot but mostly on luxury land or sea cruises. This is the second time I traveled independently – the first time was backpacking in Spain two years ago. I prefer independent travel to organized tour because I can see places and people in real life. However, backpacking can be a bit tiring and lonely for me even though you meet a lot of interesting travelers you can seldom make long-term friends because no one stay long at one place. It’s different at La Mariposa, not only do you see the real Nicaragua you are also never lonely. As majority of the guests come for at least a month, we spent most of our waking hours together except the 4 hours class time in the morning (usually one-on-one) and we got to know one another quite well. On top of that, we got on really well with the teachers and hotel staff, we were always welcome to visit their homes. I have made many great friends there.

It’s so much easier than backpacking and yet it gave me the same up-close-personal experience with the local life. Apart from the organized activities which were very comprehensive and interesting ranging from the major day-trips, horse-riding, to visiting local artisans’ workshops (check out their current program http://mariposaspanishschool.com/pdf/la-mariposa-monthly-activities.pdf to get an idea of what it covers). We also visited (and some guests even participated in) the social projects run by the hotel owner Paulette - the Panama school, the Children Reading Corner and the organic farm. (Check out the hotel web site http://mariposaspanishschool.com/index.html and La Mariposa School blog http://mariposaschool.wordpress.com/ for more details). There were also ad hoc activities as the events popped up e.g. on a sad occasion, we were invited to a family’s “wake” for the death of their son. On another occasion we were invited to the wedding of the female staff. We also attended a school carnival down the street.

As for learning Spanish, I have attended Spanish classes in Hong Kong and Spain for the past 3 years, in comparison, the La Mariposa teaching system and teachers were by far the best. The system was developed by Bergman the school headmaster, it’s an unique approach that I have not seen anywhere else. The teachers were all handpicked by Paulette and Bergman. First, they have to go through intensive training by Bergman, they then get tested before they were assigned teaching posts.

One month was short but I have taken away a lot of precious memories that I could keep for life. The unspoiled natural beauty of Nicaragua, the warm and friendly Nicaraguans, and the exquisite environment of La Mariposa (I got up at the break of dawn every day to enjoy the beautiful view of the garden; the distant mountains; the animals and birds rehearsing their daily performance) had all touched me deep down. Believe me or not, it was God who brought me there. He gave me the courage and confidence to take up this challenge, overcoming many moments of doubts – especially when I checked my weaknesses against the “Please-don’t-come-list” on their website http://mariposaspanishschool.com/please-do-not-come.html
Personally, I think the list should be longer e.g.
1) people who could not stand – insects; animals (apart from the 5 cats that always hide in Paulette’s quarter, there are 7 dogs, chickens, ducks, turkeys, frogs that make funny noises at night, monkeys, birds, occasional snakes and bats); riding in cramped old public buses filled with sweaty people; walking on dusty dirt roads; the sights of poverty everywhere;
2) people who could not adapt to a life-style where even the basics are in shortage – water and electricity; where you have to be conscious of every drop of water you use or unit of electricity you’re consuming; where garbage disposal is a major issue; where soiled toilet paper have to be dumped in the garbage can instead of flushing down the toilet; where laundry is done by hands whether you do it yourself or paying someone to do it for you…

It would have been a big mistake if I hadn't gone.

I would like to express my heart-felt appreciation to Paulette, Bergman and the Mariposa team, you have given me the best time of my life!

p.s. a tip for those who are going - bring a re-usable water bottle (as there is filtered drinking water in the hotel), also bring mosquito repellent (OFF is easily available in the local pharmacies for around US$5 if you need to replenish) and something organic to sooth the itch e.g. Aloe Vera gel. Try NOT to bring anything plastics that need to be disposed there as you will be adding to their problem.

  • Stayed May 2010, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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282 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    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 (62)
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Any
English first
Michigan
1 review
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 8, 2010

La Mariposa is beautiful, small, and personal--8 simple comfortable guest rooms with private baths. Students eat together family style--good fresh mostly vegetarian food that's either raised there or is from local markets. Solar panels provide electricity and hot water, organic agriculture is practiced, water conservation encouraged, and the chickens and turkeys get table scraps. Local people are employed and the money we pay stays in Nicaragua. Everything is the opposite of wasteful exploitative tourism.

Our friend, who heard La Mariposa described as an exceptional example of responsible tourism, came home in love with the place. So we went for a month. We're old--74 and 85--and didn't expect to learn much Spanish, but we thought a lodge and language school would be a good base for visiting Nicaragua and would provide interaction with Nicaraguans.

We had no idea what an extraordinary experience it would be. We had four hours of
Spanish each morning with excellent teachers. One on one instruction took each of us from whatever level we came with and brought us to a higher level. We actually had many teachers because everyone--guys who worked there, cooks, drivers, gardener--they all talked to us . . . as best we could. These were people we wanted to be able to talk with. Hugely motivating.

Afternoons and weekends can be as filled as you want. La Mariposa is in a region famous for handcrafts so we visited artisans in the area, visited their homes because these are cottage industries. We visited a forest reserve, markets, beach, volcano, Granada. We had sessions in English and Spanish on Nicaraguan history and news.

We were the old people, but there were students of all ages and from many countries-- including a couple with young children--and our individual interests were catered to. It was beautiful to see the kids with their teen age teachers who made everything fun for them.

We were impressed with and enjoyed everyone there--teachers, staff, other students--but La Mariposa really depends on two extraordinary people, Paulette and Bergman. Paulette's lively energy and devotion to Nicaragua guide the whole enterprise. Bergman is in charge of the language school, hires teachers, develops materials, is a master teacher himself, and leads our outings with amazing knowledge and great good humor.

We left feeling like kids leaving camp friends at the end of the summer. And we look forward to going back next winter.

  • Stayed February 2010, 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
    • 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.
florida
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 27, 2010

This was my third trip to Nicaragua and La Mariposa Spanish School and Eco Hotel. There are times when you a hesitant to return to a place for concern that you will jeopordize the fond memories stored away of previous visits. Not the case at La Mariposa ....the memories are now more vibrant than ever. What a wonderful experience. I made a video this time should you be interested in viewing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fjvEY1XXO8

  • Stayed March 2010, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 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.
alaska
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 20, 2010

Staying here was some of the best times of my 2 month trip! I liked traveling off the beaten track and visiting areas not known for tourism. Seeing "real life" is far more rewarding for me than going to resort tourist areas.
I spent 2 weeks at La Mariposa as a solo traveler and then was joined by my boyfriend for a couple weeks more...slightly over a month in total.
The school program was fantastic! Great instructors (very personable), challenging classes, interesting trips around the area and entertaining guides for all the adventures.
The rooms are very nice, food delicious, staff helpful and friendly, animals entertaining, and people we met through the school were wonderful.
Home stays were available through the school but after hearing mixed reviews about other places I was tentative about signing up for one. After meeting all the people associated with the school/homestay program I would have no reservations about it here.
It was great to get to know the community and area rather than to just pass through. We visited many farms, churches, learned to dance like a local, got to enjoy the fruits of the area and attended community events.
After spending a month in the program my Spanish skills were very much improved in listening, speaking and understanding.
In the future I hope to return to spend more time in rural Nicaragua. (That's where all the fun is!)

  • Stayed December 2009, 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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Detroit
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 17, 2010

I cant wait to go back, what a wonder wonderful place. Everyone at La Mariposa was so warm, caring and genuine. Paulette's commitment to the environment, people and animals of Nicaragua is sincere and admirable. The rooms are comfy, the atmosphere welcoming, the food delicious and the spanish lessons so helpful! I miss Marvin and Jimmy!

  • Stayed November 2009, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 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
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Madison
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 4, 2010

I just returned from a one month stay at the Mariposa and all I can think about is HOW SOON CAN I GO BACK! My experience there met and exceeded all my very high hopes and expectations. The quality of the language instruction was superb, with one on one/two instruction by committed and very well organized and trained Nicaraguan instructors. The schools is dedicated to taking individual learning needs into account and to helping each student, whatever their level of Spanish when they arrive, maximize their learning. Besides the actual formal instruction, the school offers daily opportunities to expand your knowledge of Nicaraguan history, politics, and culture. The warmth and welcoming that is so vital a part of the Nicaraguan way of life is evident in every aspect of the Mariposa experience. There are opportunities to take horse back rides up mountains that overlook volcanoes, lakes, and the rugged and rolling green landscape of Nicaragua; to visit local homes, farms, artisans, clinics, and schools to really get a taste of day-to-day life in Nica and the many ways that people use their talents and strengths to build a life. All within the context of Paulette's commitment to protecting the environment of this country and to contributing in every way possible to the local economy.

The living accommodations are lovely - just check out the pictures you can find on the web. My room was large and clean and comfortable, with simple but homey furnishings.
I could not have asked for anything more. The grounds are beautiful and restful and the animal life is a treat not to be missed. I could get up early in the am and go talk to the monkeys and parrots, lay in a hammock and soak up affection from the most loving dogs I have ever been around (I was not especially a dog lover when I went there, but my respect and affection for them has multiplied 100 times over from being with them at the Mariposa), and listen to the sounds of the town waking up.

The staff was consistently warm and enthusiastic, and everyone, from groundskeepers to cooks, was happy to talk with you and share their work with you and do anything they could to make you more at home. People come to the Mariposa from all over the world (during my month there, there were students from US, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Turkey, England and more), and the ages ranged from 23 to 85. The diversity of experiences that people bring to the Mariposa combined with the communal atmosphere (shared meals, trips, etc.), makes for a learning experience that extends to every aspect of life there.

The friendships I made during my time there will be with me for the rest of my life. Paulette, Guillermina and Bergman (and others) have impacted my life and taken places in my heart forever. I am so grateful to have had this experience, and it has deepened my already deep commitment to Nicaragua and my sense that Nica is my true home (this was my 16th time in Nica, but my first devoted just to language study).

I can't end without mentioning the food! What could be better than having three delicious, organic, mostly vegetarian meals prepared for you and eaten communally around a big table on the terrace?? There was oohing and aahing at every meal. Only the diehard meat lovers needed a once-a-week hit at the local roast- pork -serving bar. The rest of us were in seventh heaven.

All this just skims the surface. My experience struck deep chords in me that will resonate for the rest of my life. I have made lifetime friendships and have had the honor of being taken into the hearts and homes of people in Nica. My understanding of the history and culture of Nicaragua has been greatly expanded. I have received by far the best Spanish instruction of my life (I entered the school at an intermediate level) that gives me the tools to continue on to fluency. (I had the privilege of being taught by Bergman, who is rightly described as a Renaissance man and amazing multitasker in other reviews). He is also a teacher of the highest quality, and the most patient person I have ever met in my life!.

All of this at a price that is a bargain by any standard, and with the knowledge that the money spent is helping provide employment and improvement to the local community. I signed up for next year before I even left, and I was not the only one! I am so grateful for all who make the Mariposa what it is and for all I have gained from my experience there!

  • Stayed January 2010, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 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.
Bozeman, MT
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed January 24, 2010

Escuela de la Mariposa is a very special place. It is very comfortable and gave me the feeling that I could stay for a long time. The service is tops, the activities are really fun and informative and the staff very professional. It is carved out of some great country. The language school is directed by Bergman a guy whom I would put into the category of ‘the-best-group-of-people’ in the world. He is a tremendous multi-tasker. Likewise Paulette has done a tremendous job of putting together one of the best Spanish schools around. At my basic level of Spanish I felt my instructors were very very good. They quickly evaluated my level of Spanish and tailored their teaching to my abilities.

  • Stayed December 2009, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
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 ( Wi-Fi ) 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): $
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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