Ever found yourself sitting in a room surrounded by 4 white walls, a window looking at the city skyline, and the computer you’ve been staring at for hours? And, even tough you’re supposed to be pressing fast on those keys to finish what seems to be a never-ending spreadsheet for work, you find yourself looking intensely out the window and into the sky as if you had never seen something like it before. That infinite blue sky! Without realizing, you’re standing on your feet, hands extended in the air, eyes closed, chin up and your breath intensifying by the second as you slowly enter into your daily trance. You are daydreaming again. Daydreaming about all the places you want to visit before you’re too old to do so. All the cities, people and cultures you’ve never gotten to know but are dying to. Those green forests with hidden paths that always end up leading you to the nearest river, lake or ocean. The endless green forests where monkeys howl freely at night and winds take a powerful yet soothing character of their own. The towns where coffee tastes fresher, people are humbler and fast food restaurants simply cease to exist. The boutique hotels where every dish is homemade and every juice is more colorful than the last one waking up every sense in your body that routine has put to sleep. And the oceans...those cold dark blue waters where you waive fear a last goodbye, grab a surfboard and defy the waves for your first time. That is luxury. That is living. Everything else is merely existing. Everything else is letting your soul die solely in the hopes of building the means to give yourself the opportunity of living in the future. A future where you won’t have half the energy you have now. Yes… I’ve found myself in that exact situation. Daydreaming on a daily basis. Feeling the wind underneath my arms even though I was standing in the middle of my office. But you see, there was something I didn’t know at that time. I didn’t know I had the power to change this and turn those day dreams into my reality but in order to achieve it, I had to accept that luxury has different meanings to different people, and that to me, luxury meant freedom. Wanderlust. Adventures. Nature. Every experience money simply can’t buy! That’s exactly what I found in Nicaragua while visiting and reviewing the fourth eco hotel for the blog: Maderas Village. A nature-loving retreat co-founded by Dickie, a 32-year old who worked as a Commercial Realtor in Toronto until he fell in love with Nicaragua and decided to build a place where guests could forget about work, stress, or any issues they are facing in life. A place where they could take off their suits and connect with that inner voice we’re all too afraid to listen to. A place where lying in a hammock and reading a book from cover to cover is normal. A place where holding a cold beer under one arm and a surfboard under the other while walking down a trail surrounded by nature at 9am is everyone’s routine. A place where ordinary 5-star hotel architecture plays no role but instead tall beautiful casitas and cabañas made from naturally fallen hurricane wood and palm tree leaves take over. In short, Maderas Village is for all those souls who enjoy moments of solitude as much as the ones in community where you get to connect with people sharing your same vision. Maderas Village screams LIFE and creativity more than any other hotel I’ve visited so far.
Let’s start with day one. My team and I were welcomed by Alvaro (driver) and Dickie and his girlfriend, Schuyler, at Managua’s airport. A 2.5 hour drive later we arrived at Maderas Village and straight to our 520 sf cabaña that fit 3. It had walls, floors, a table and a shower completely made from sustainable wood, and a roof perfectly made from palm tree leaves strong enough to protect us from nature yet thin enough to let us hear it. We went to bed around 4am to the soothing sound of the wind and one or two monkeys howling near our cabaña. The next morning (or exactly 3 hours later! I sort rose up with the sun.) I woke up to the intense sunrays hitting our floor-to-ceiling screen walls (no glass). It was surreal and magical! And, even though I had slept 3 hours only, I felt incredibly energized. I put on my yoga clothes and walked to communal lounge/restaurant to enjoy a delicious homemade vegan a la carte breakfast with my team and the staff who, to my surprise, were mostly 25-35 year olds who had either arrived at the hotel as guests and never left, or were Dickie’s friends and now business partners/employees. From PR specialists, to Manager, to Architect. 8-12 free spirits who left their corporate jobs in New York and LA to become part of the Maderas Village family. I don’t think I’ve ever connected with people more than I did during this 4-day stay.
After breakfast, I took a power yoga class with Alex- a 29 year old surfer, DJ, hypnotherapist and yoga teacher- in a secluded hut (or Casa 1, like they called it) completely surrounded by nature to the beats of Alex’s incredible mix. As if my morning had not been amazing enough, Alex and I also worked on my handstands with the help of Mathilde- a beautiful model gone yoga teacher who decided to take a soul enriching vacation to Nica and found herself still there four months later. She’s also a teacher at Maderas Village and a person I feel blessed to now call a friend after our hour-long conversations. Right after yoga, my team and I went back to the restaurant to have a fresh green juice and grab a cold beer (all about balance guys!) and hit the beach. Maderas Beach has 3 popular restaurants/bars where the surfers enjoy their 1-2 hour breaks until they hit the waters again. Women and men with perfect caramel suntans, dozens of bracelets around their wrists, uncountable tattoos and inspiring smiles no wave-crash can wash away. My type of people! I saw surf pros own those waves as if their boards were attached to their feet, and then the amateurs fly out of their boards and crash into the ocean faster than a clown being expelled from a cannon. It was a completely different scenery from what I was used to. Intimidating yet breathtaking. But to get on that surfboard for the first time and smile and wink at fear instead of giving up without even trying, was even more powerful than the scenery itself!
Dinners at Maderas Village were all about the community. We sat in L-shaped tables, enjoyed a cold beer or glass of red wine while waiting for Julio, Jackie and Jadixa (kitchen staff) to bring out the food. Same dish for everyone (with vegan and vegetarian options). Family-style, and that is exactly how it felt! 20-30 people talking about the thrills of their Nica days, or simply getting to know each other and sharing their life stories with everyone. We all went to bed past midnight not worrying about waking up early or not the next day. That was the whole beauty of it! The ones who woke up early did it because they wanted to. Not because they had to! Nobody rushed to have breakfast, as we normally do in other hotels, because at Maderas Village it was available all day long! No stress. No rush. Everyone at their own pace. Lunch was served between 11.30am-4.30pm and dinner started at 7.30pm.
My next two days were similar to this one except for some extra bumps and bruises from surfing. The last day, my team and I spent the entire morning at the hotel and left around noon to get to visit some of the nearby towns. We enjoyed an amazing raw vegan lunch at Buddha Garden in San Juan, made a quick stop at the Masaya arts & crafts market, walked through the colorful streets of Granada where we also had dinner and later called it a night and had the driver take us to Managua to catch our redeye flight back to Miami.
What an experience guys! I honestly hope this trip inspires you to travel as often and as much as you can because there’s seriously no excuse! Traveling is not about how much you spend or how far you go but about what the place and people you’re visiting make you feel. Will they nurture your soul and inspire you to paint and chase your own type of paradise, or will they feed your ego? Think about it, babes! Click here to see the final video of this trip!!
If you’re meditating on paying Maderas Village a visit, here are a few tips to take into consideration:
-3 nights are NOT enough! Plan to stay at least for a week or so in order to FULLY enjoy the essence of this hotel and its amazing staff! I’m already planning my next trip there soon. :p
-Driver: the hotel will help you make a reservation. It’s around $100 from the airport to the hotel (or $40 each, if you are more than 2 people). You can also make a reservation for a car to take you to nearby towns.
-Surfing: it’s a MUST! Maderas Beach and Nicaragua itself are known for its surfing waters so make sure you give it a go. At least once! Price: board rentals at the beach are $10/day; 1 hour private lesson + board rental for the day is $35. The hotel also rents high-performance boards for $20/day.
-Yoga: Another MUST because of the peaceful and nature-loving scenery and the teachers! Price: $10
Disc Golf: $6
-Reservations: contact firstname.lastname@example.org
-Wi-Fi works perfectly in communal areas ONLY
-They DO have plug-ins in the rooms for you to charge laptops, iphones etc..
-Make sure you order vegan/vegetarian options beforehand (specially for dinner since it’s family-style)
-Take a repellent with you (eco-friendly PLEASE!)
-Flights from Miami/FLL to Managua are around $300. Only 2.5hr flight.
-Maderas Village rates range from $25-$125 per night.
-Learn about Maderas Village sustainable programs here.