Thirty minutes north of San Juan del Sur, at the top of a breezy jungle hill surrounded by howler monkeys and the rustling of a million leaves is a collection of thatched-roof cottages called Maderas Village.
That's the geographical and physical description, anyway. But those words don't even begin to get to the heart of what Maderas Village is. When we walked in our first night, all dusty and bleary-eyed from a day of traveling from NYC to Costa Rica and over the Nicaraguan border on foot, we felt liked we'd walked into some kind of magical surf camp fairy land. Everyone was beautiful and clever and sun-kissed, sitting around under twinkly lights and hibiscus vines with rum-and-tea cocktails in hand shooting good vibes and big smiles all over the place. Where the hell are we? What the hell is this place? Ah, who the hell cares? It's definitely right.
Or, it is if you want it to be. Maderas Village — for all its rustic jungle charms, big family dinners, and tree-house sleeping — is definitely not for everyone. And that's what makes it so amazing. Somewhere on Trip Advisor there's a review from some poor soul who complains about the howler monkeys waking her up at 5am and the 5-minute trek through the forest to the beach and the fact that the place is nowhere near a town. Seriously? If those are the kind of things that bother you, then yes: Maderas Village is definitely not for you.
However, if you're the type of person who likes a vacation that feels like one long glorious dinner party in a place surrounded by cacti and palm trees and a host of like-minded new friends — and in fact, if you're reading this blog — then Maderas Village is a damn good place to be. Go. Wake up at 5 am. Watch the monkeys. Do yoga. Look at the sea. Eat banana pancakes. Take the catamaran cruise, do the four-hour lobster lunch, surf all afternoon, find secret beaches, wear your PJs to dinner, get lost in conversation and laugh so hard your cheeks hurt. Run into the waves at midnight screaming and swim underneath the full moon. We did, and it was divine.
Before we left for Nicaragua, a good friend who had recently stayed at Maderas described it as cult-y. You'll see, she said. We didn't understand what she meant, but once we arrived, we did.
And all we can say is this: If Maderas Village is a cult, we're 100% in.
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Maderas Village is a collection of casas, cabanas, and casitas centered around one big main house about a five-minute walk up a steep hill from Playa Maderas. The staff will arrange a pick-up for you from Managua Airport, San Juan del Sur, or Rivas — or probably anywhere nearby, really. Dinner each night is communal and family-style — they'll assume you're joining unless you tell them otherwise. The food is good but not fancy — fried chicken and fish, tacos, that sort of thing. Don't expect Hartwood-style meals or anything crazy. Stay in a cabana (hot water, king-size bed) or the penthouse if you want to be fancy. You can rent a surf board at Maderas or down at the beach for about $5. Maderas Village is excellent for solo travelers and professional nomads — there's lots of wifi, hammocks, and space to work.