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!
- 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
- Also Known As:
- La Mariposa Spanish School And Eco Hotel Nicaragua/Masaya