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“I have to go back someday!” 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
San Jose, California
Contributor
11 reviews 11 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
“I have to go back someday!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 18, 2010

Spent just short of 6 amazing weeks here in July/August. La Mariposa was suggested to me by a friend in the NGO world who had once stopped in for lunch with Paulette to discuss her sustainable business model, although she didn't stay or take any classes. After poring over the school's website and noting that half the TripAdvisor reviewers were already repeat visitors or planning to return, I decided I had to see this seemingly magical place for myself... and now I am one of those people who insists on returning someday! That's saying a lot, as I've traveled pretty widely and rarely feel such a strong emotional pull to return to a place. If for nothing else, I must see my awesome and dear teachers again, assuming they haven't moved on to other things by the time I make it back to La Mariposa.

Points of note:

1. Nice location makes it a good base for taking your own day/weekend trips by public transportation. I felt very safe striking out to take 3 overnight trips, always traveling with a fellow female twentysomething.
2. Instruction is fantastic. How fantastic? I didn't speak any Spanish going in, and I started the subjunctive tense -- the holy grail of grammar -- on my last day of class, after just 5 weeks! I had a total of 3 different grammar teachers and 8 conversation teachers, all 1:1. Heard rave reviews from fellow students about the grammar teachers I didn't study with. Although there will always be some who haven't quite found their footing as teachers, overall the team at La Mariposa is absolutely excellent. They're also great about correcting you when you misspeak, even when you're just chatting during breaks or in the hallway, if you're into that sort of reinforcement.
3. Afternoon activities and the "charlas" (chats) in Spanish about politics, history, economics, and the news greatly accelerated my picking up of the language, as well as teaching me tons about the country.

Tips / Good things to know:

1. Wifi hours are from about 7 am - 7 pm, and there's no internet access from the rooms. You have to be in the dining or hammock areas to pick up the wireless signal.
2. Heed the "Do not come here if..." list on the website! Although, I did fine considering that I'm not a big dog person. To be honest, I did tire of the food after a few weeks, but again, heed the list.
3. Bring earplugs if you have difficulty sleeping through animal sounds.
4. In the rainy season, make sure to keep your windows open often for air circulation so that mold doesn't grow on your belongings in the humidity.
5. Bring lots of $1 bills (and some $5) if you plan to use US dollars around the country.
6. Talk to everyone who works in the kitchen, the garden, etc. Everyone's very friendly, and you'll learn a lot.
7. Ask your conversation teachers if they wouldn't mind taking you on a walk of the town (San Juan) or even hop on a public microbus to other nearby places (e.g. Jinotepe) during your 2 hours of class. Great way to explore local spots. Wish I had done it more than once or twice with my teachers.

I would be happy to answer any questions via TripAdvisor messaging, especially if it would convince you to go!

  • Stayed July 2010, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 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
New York City, New York
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 28, 2010

In my second week volunteering at La Mariposa, my volunteer mentor told me a story I want to share. One day while we were working, he picked up a rock and grinned. “Quires sopa de piedras?”

Do I want stone soup? I thought I had misunderstood (an experience quite common to my language learning process). Soup made of stones? He grinned again and nodded, telling me an old folk tale about stone soup.

It goes like this: travelers come to a starving village needing food. They are refused, so they put water in a pot with a stone, and tell curious townsfolk that they were making a delicacy called stone soup. People are interested in trying it, so they offer to contribute ingredients needed until an actually edible soup is made and enjoyed by all. The story was a joke between us the rest of my time.

Stone soup is, of course, a tale of scarcity, something all too pertinent in Nicaragua, where American-backed wars, debt restrictions, and free-trade agreements have left it the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere. But there is another level of meaning, which I am now gleaning. The ingredients for a food that could feed all already existed in the story. But it wasn’t through charity that the soup could be made. It was only when the townspeople understood the travelers as having something to offer them, that working together became possible.

Such is La Mariposa’s philosophy of volunteering. Upon arriving, you have a conversation with Paulette about what interests you. Based on that, the two of you work together to figure out which project makes the most sense. There is no illusion of selflessness- the work is explicitly meeting both community and personal needs from the jump.

In my time volunteering I was able to build a fence, learned about structures being implemented in La Concha to support community development, and hear story after story of la revolucion and proceeding Contra-years. My volunteer mentor became one of my closest friends at La Mariposa, and in my first month back we have already exchanged letters.

Put simply, we made great soup and a recipe I will keep with me for a long time. I strongly recommend you make your own version while here.

  • Stayed July 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
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 3, 2010

La Mariposa experience is much more than just a hotel stay, a few Spanish classes or a nap in a hammock. It can be just those things if that is what you want it to be....but it can be so much more if you are open to what this place has to offer.
Read the website carefully: the "Please Come If..." and more importantly the "Please Do Not Come Stay If..." lists. This is a good place to start to see if this is the place for you.
I give the hotel a rating of "Excellent" without hesitation. This is of course with the understanding that this is a place that aims to do things in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. For example, if your idea of clean is bleached, white, starched and antibacterial, this might not be the place for you. If you are afraid of insects or mind being woken up by roosters, again this might not be for you.
However, if you are interested in learning Spanish, meeting Nicaraguans, eating healthy, locally grown food, contributing to a local economy, questioning your consumption habits, engaging in interesting conversations with locals and other visitors....this is the place for you!! And don't worry...there is still plenty of time for that nap in the hammock!
La Mariposa experience is unique in that it provides a space for relaxation and learning.

  • Stayed May 2010, 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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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
1 review
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 31, 2010

I just got home from a 3 week stay at the Mariposa Spanish School & Eco-Hotel. It's located in a small town next to a bigger town in the hills about 45 minutes west of Managua. This is my 2nd visit in 3 years and it's still a great value, a lot of fun, and the school is the best! With 4 hours a day of grammar and conversation in the morning, and trips and many activities in the afternoon, the opportunities to learn spanish are everywhere. The food is great traditional Nicaragua vegetarian cuisine, AND the other students have been international and interesting. For us animal lovers, there are lots of friendly animals around including monkeys. If you are interested in really getting to know Nicaraguans and learn about Nicaragua, this is the place. I highly recommend it to all of my friends.

  • Stayed July 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
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, United Kingdom
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 27, 2010

“Eco-tourism” is a term that is often misinterpreted and misused these days and many hotels claim to be eco-friendly, but the Mariposa should set the standard. Not only is it stringently eco-conscious, it has a social conscience too. While a number of hotels employ local people and support charities, few actually exist to improve the lives of their neighbours. The Mariposa Spanish School and Hotel does both, thanks to the vision and determination of its British owner, Paulette.
The hotel itself is charming in style and the atmosphere very relaxing, but as another reviewer mentioned there are a lot of rescued animals and their chorus can be very noisy. It didn’t bother me, but if you’re a light sleeper you should probably bring ear plugs. By far the best aspect for me was the warmth and kindness of the local people and staff who worked there. My Spanish teacher Bergman is often mentioned in these reviews and deservedly so because he really is an excellent teacher and without a doubt one of the most exceptional people I’ve ever met.
If you’re laid back, curious and open minded, you will love the Mariposa. If you are uptight or looking for parties and wild nights, then you may be wise to reconsider. Personally I fell in love with the place, made some very dear friends (both locals and guests) and struggled to leave, extending my stay from 1 month to 2. I have every intention of returning.

  • Stayed April 2010, 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
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Thousand Oaks CA
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
7 hotel reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
12 helpful votes 12 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 23, 2010

My husband and I recently spent 3 weeks at La Mariposa. It was an incredible experience. I took Spanish classes and I learned more in that time than I had in a year on conventional Spanish classes. My husband voluntered to teach at a local elementary school and he said he was humbled by the poverty of the students and their desire to learn. This will not be something we forget.
La Mariposa is not for those who want luxary or a carnivores diet. But if you want to see the true Nicaragua and meet fellow sojourners from all over the world, this is the place to go. We met individuals and families from England, Switzerland, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia, Colorado, New Mexico, Montana and Texas.
It was truly an incredible experience. Thank you Paulette Goudge for your vision and thank you Bergman for your amazing Spanish school and for all that you do.
Simon Waltzer and Nancy Kimberlin

  • Stayed May 2010, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 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.
Toronto, Canada
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
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
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 ( 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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