La Mariposa Spanish School & Eco-Hotel in Nicaragua

La Mariposa Spanish School & Eco-Hotel in Nicaragua

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What happens if I have an "airport pick up"?
Managua is our nearest airport. When you have passed through baggage check and the final passport check, as you emerge from the main airport building, go through the main glass doors and look for the Mariposa (butterfly) sign. We can pick up any day or night, any time. For the cost for an airport pick up, look at Prices - you are not expected to pay the driver. We can also arrange to pick you up if you arrive on the Tica bus - if you are coming from Costa Rica you may be able to alight in Masaya, Jinotepe or Sam Marcos and we can pick you up in any of those places.

Should I tip the driver or anyone else in the Mariposa?
Of course you are free to tip or offer a small gift to any of the Mariposa workers or families. Students in homestay often become very good friends with their family and it is perfectly acceptable to buy a gift before leaving. We do however have 40 or so people now working at the Mariposa - impossible to tip them all but they all play a vital part in ensuring the life of the Mariposa. And some of them you may never see. So one idea for tipping is to give an amount at the end of your stay to Paulette, she will put it together with other tips and when sufficient has been collected she will divide it equally between all of the staff. It is not acceptable for any member of the staff to ask for money or things!

What about travelling by bus from Managua, Granada or Masaya to the Mariposa?
Getting to the Mariposa from the airport by public transport is very difficult as there is no direct bus into town from the airport. From Managua City, Granada, Masaya and even cities in the north such as Leon, getting here is relatively straight forward by local buses. For the detailed instructions for these journeys: see Directions, as well as a mobile telephone number Contact Info should you need it!

What is the food like at the Mariposa?
We do not provide a restaurant service - instead, we offer family style meals and students eat together, usually outside on the terrace. Our aim is to provide tasty, nutritious food that is also kind to the planet, as well as to animals and, indeed, to our own bodies. Eating 1lb beef costs the planet 7 times as much as eating 1lb of grain, pork 5 times as much and chicken twice as much. This is because of the amount of grain consumed by a cow in order to produce that much beef. So we eat lots of locally sourced and grown fruit and vegetables (increasingly from our own gardens), Nicaraguan produced rice and beans (the staple Nicaraguan diet) and - once or twice a week - meat, fish or chicken. Every meal is freshly cooked and served with a drink prepared from fresh, in-season fruit.

Are there any problems with water supply?
As in the rest of the world, the problems of water availability are becoming more and more serious in Nicaragua generally. Most places outside of the big cities have serious issues with water access, including us. The water supply in La Concepcion is from underground, accessed through a number of wells which now have to be over 500 meters deep to reach the water table. The water table is getting lower all the time - not least because large developments this side of Managua take a great deal of water (construction uses a lot of water, and then there are the burgeoning numbers of swimming pools etc.). The water itself is of good quality - first it is treated by the municipality. Then we add more chlorine here in the Mariposa and then we pass drinking water through clay filters, a traditional and very effective way of removing most, though not all, impurities.

We get municipal water delivered from the well in La Concepcion by pipe twice a week (sometimes less) and we at the Mariposa store water in two large tanks for use the rest of the week. Local families (this information includes families offering homestay accomodation) who have the space and the resources also construct tanks. Those who don´t use barrels or whatever else to store water. Most families still have latrines (outhouse, usually situated a few feet away from the living areas of the house) which is essentially a deep hole (usually over 15 meters deep) with a concrete seat. They are an excellent way of conserving water and the nature of the volcanic rock around San Juan makes them a particularly sanitary alternative. Of course they have to be kept clean but the use of a handful of lime or the equivalent is usually sufficient to keep the place smelling OK! We have actually built a latrine in the Mariposa which I encourage students to use as much as possible. Every flush toilet is a complete waste of the world´s most precious resource! And of course homestays who have installed flush toilets find it very difficult to ensure there is enough water available in the dry season.

Most homestays also have the basic bucket shower where you use a small bowl to wet your hair and body - it may take some getting used to but is perfectly functional! We do have a shower with a shower head installed in the Mariposa for the use of students in homestay.

What is the weather like?
There are basically two seasons in Nicaragua - hot & dry (December through to May) and hot & wet (May to November)! It rarely rains all day in the wet season but often rains at night - great for studying as the days are fresh. Because the Mariposa is quite high up (about 500 metres) we nearly always have a breeze and so it is cooler here than in the lowlands. It can actually get quite cold at night.

What clothes should I bring?
Students are advised to bring a range of clothing, rain gear in the wet season - but always something for very hot days and something e.g. sweatshirts, socks, pyjamas for the cooler evenings and nights. Long trousers and socks are advisable for walking and horse riding. Also pack some sandals, plastic shoes for beach (the volcanic lake has a stony beach, uncomfortable for bare feet) and some shoes that have good grip for walking up slopes! The Mariposa itself is very informal - if you want to help look after the animals or in the garden and get your hands dirty then bring some old clothes with you! See the Mariposa packing list

Is there anything else I should bring?
Ear plugs if you have difficulty sleeping…Insect repellent (more on insects later), mosquito net if you wish, camera, binoculars - usual stuff!!! You can buy things like batteries, toiletries locally (we supply sheets, towels, etc and also a bottle of organic shampoo and soap) if you need to restock. A small rucksack/bag for days out and a water bottle which you can refill from the filter here. Sun screen and a hat, especially for days when we go out in the back of the camionetta which means your face/shoulders can easily burn even when it doesn't seem very sunny. Books, cards, games can be useful and bring a torch (flashlight) if you fancy a night time wander around the Mariposa grounds. A flashlight and an umbrella in the wet season are essential items if you are in homestay or in the cabin.

Is there anything I can bring to donate to any of the Mariposa projects?
The most useful donation for us is actually money! For example, we are purchasing a large number of young trees in order to respond to a request from some local farmers to help them reforest their land. To help us with this, frankly, we just need the cash!!! And some hands to do the planting once you are here……We are also currently building and resourcing a pre-school classroom, using donations of cash for the building and of children's books and toys for the resources. We will also fund a part-time teacher to run it. Good children's books in Spanish are very difficult to buy here so we appreciate any gifts of those….but please bear in mind that children who live in extreme poverty often are not used to the things that Western children's books take for granted. We also appreciate donations to the Mariposa library - whether resources for teaching in Spanish or good books in English. See the what I can do to help section for more suggestions.

How safe is Nicaragua?
There are no guarantees, and like all establishments in a country where the majority of the population live in poverty, we need to take some precautions. But Nicaragua is the safest country in Central America and, outside Managua, the crime rate is low (about half that of the USA). We have all night security staff and our dogs do a fantastic job of alerting us to anything strange. We also have close communication with local police who visit us regularly.

What are the most important health issues?
You should talk to your doctor about the health precautions you need to take before arriving in Nicaragua.
Malaria is not common in this area.
Dengue (a flu like illness, also carried by mosquitoes) is more common but there is no prevention.
Chukunguna is now affecting La Concha - it is not fatal, less serious than dengue but nonetheless has painful symptoms. Like dengue, it is transmitted by day biting mosquitoes so use plenty of DEET. A useful website is

Other vaccinations need to be decided in consultation with your doctor. Bring the basic, standard medicines for headache, stomach problems (most people have a 24 hour tricky tummy at some point during their stay!), antiseptic cream, some band aids etc. However, bear in mind that the pharmacies here are good and you can actually buy many medicines considerably cheaper than in the US. Tampons are hard to come by, Nicaraguan women don´t use them, and so you might like to bring your own supply if appropriate. You also can´t buy easily suntan stuff and insect repellent (though they are available in the bigger supermarkets).

Are there insects?
Yes. We have surprisingly few mosquitoes but there are certainly some, especially at the beginning of the rainy season, they usually bite around 5.30 in the evening. There are also little midges which bite sometimes - they are completely harmless but irritating. So bring repellent, natural stuff is good but you need loads of it as the effect does not last as long as the nasty chemical DEET. We do have some mosquito nets but they are hard to come by in Nicaragua so please consider bringing your own.

There are also occasional scary insects like scorpions (not seriously dangerous, though you would not want to be bitten by one as it will give y ou a bad headache) and a spider called a "pico caballo" which is a member of the tarantula family, though not dangerous. We are an eco hotel and therefore do not exterminate insect life - there is always someone on duty to help if you have a problem with any unwanted wildlife in your room.

What other wildlife is there?
Again, because we an eco-hotel we are encouraging wildlife as much as possible on our very small piece of land. Birds are thriving here - we have breeding tanagers, hummingbirds and guardabarrancos (the Nicaraguan national bird) amongst several other species. We have resident bats, frogs, toads and you may come across squirrels, foxes, lizards, iguanas and the occasional snake. We have a small-scale wildlife rescue project including capuchin monkeys, parakeets and parrots - we have released over 150 animals and birds back into the wild. The Mariposa also has a number of rescued animals, including dogs (we have 3 big ones and two puppies), cats, horses. We keep ducks, turkeys and chickens - and the cockerels (roosters) can be noisy early in the morning!

Is there internet access?
The Mariposa has wireless internet access - you are welcome to bring your own laptop (but please note the comment above about being reasonable in your use of our solar power supplies) or use the office computer for limited periods of time. There are cheap, friendly internet cafes in nearby La Concha and most students enjoy using them as part of getting to know the local community.

What is there to do in the evenings?
Not much!! There are nearly always other, interesting students who are more than willing to have an after dinner beer on the terrace. You can go for a night walk if you wish (there is always a guide on duty who can take you). There are local bars and restaurants and sometimes a nearby weekend event/fiesta. You are of course welcome to use the TV, DVD player and borrow any of the books from the library. Generally students find themselves getting up early and preferring an early night to help concentrate in Spanish classes the following day!

How can I pay for my stay?
At present we cannot accept credit cards. We have a local ATM machine and are happy to take you there to take out money, so you do not have to travel with large sums of cash on you. Dollars or personal cheques but only from the US (and please note they have to be made out to Paulette Goudge, NOT the Mariposa) are good for us. We can help you change dollars into cordobas once you are here - it is really only large restaurants and hotels which can accept dollars. Local businesses, buses etc must be paid in cordobas. Travelers cheques are of virtually no use now in Nicaragua. Students staying in the hotel or the cabin must pay an extra government tax of up to $15 per week (the IVA).

Please pay within three days of your arrival. See PRICES for more information.

How does the Spanish school work - how big are the classes?
Before starting classes, unless you are a complete beginner, you will be asked to complete a brief "test" just to see what your level is - we use six levels of grammar in the school, from absolute beginner to advanced. Formal classes are in the morning - from 8.00am to 12.00pm with a break for juice/coffee. You will have two teachers - one for grammar and one for conversation. After your first day it is your responsibility to get to your class on time, it is not for your teacher to come looking for you. We change your teacher periodically. Classes are a maximum of three, usually two and often one-to-one. Our teachers are all local people - they have many years of experience of teaching Spanish and are mostly also trained teachers. Some of them are studying English at university. We try and put beginners with the teachers who speak English…. Please talk to Bergman (who heads up the school) if you have any problems with your classes. Two of the teachers eat lunch with the students - so if you wish to keep practicing your Spanish the opportunity is there! And there are always plenty of people around in the afternoons as well…..there is a lot more info on the SPANISH SCHOOL pages.

Can I stay at the Mariposa without doing classes?
We are primarily a Spanish school and so priority will always go to people who want to study Spanish with us. Having said that, if we have space you are welcome! And whilst you are here you can certainly join in with the afternoon/weekend activities if you so wish. Please note that we cannot organise separate activities for the mornings.
The cost is the daily rate (see PRICES).

Can I do organised voluntary work at the Mariposa?
The Mariposa is primarily about trying to provide secure, reasonably paid employment for local Nicaraguan people, for which we use the income provided by the Spanish school students. So we are very careful not to replace Nicaraguan workers with volunteers. We therefore place volunteers individually alongside a Nicaraguan worker - this also has the advantage of helping with the volunteer´s Spanish. See the section on volunteering for more information. If you opt to do volunteer work whilst staying in the hotel or the cabin, there is no reduction in price.

Can I just help out?
Yes, you are always welcome to help out in whatever interests you - for example, cooking, gardening, looking after the animals - as part of the hotel (or cabin)/classes/activities package. Please note there is no reduction is price for this!

What should I do if I have any kind of problem at the Mariposa?
Please tell us about it. Whether it is a problem with your Spanish class, the food, your room - we cannot try and put it right unless we know about it. Each team at the Mariposa has its "boss". Please talk to any of the managers or anyone available upstairs in the office.

And how can I book Spanish classes and a room at the Mariposa?
Easy - just email with your dates. There is no deposit, we just ask you to let us know should your plans change for any reason.

Here's a "home movie" of our hotel and school:

La Mariposa Spanish School & Eco-Hotel in Nicaragua Statnekov Internet Consulting