A few months ago, I was insanely blessed to join Free People as an influencer on their FP Escapes retreat to San Juan Del Sur in Nicaragua. I quickly discovered that just about everyone on this trip was a true influencer and the creative juices and genuine bonding hangs were quickly flowing strong. This lovely post about our trip originally ran in Free People’s August Magalog, by a good friend Samantha Juda, Afar Media. Let her words take you to the beach where we drank mai tais, and to the jungle huts where we shared stories and delicious meals on top of DIYs. We were nothing short of a good time from days filled with horseback riding, surfing, and walks to secret beaches. Enjoy.. !
After long flights, we arrived in Maderas to a beautiful oasis – Maderas Village. The village itself blends into its surroundings, with tree house-like structures for rooms, an open-air living room area, and the most incredible views of the Pacific. The village was created with the modern traveler in mind. It’s a place for thinkers, friends, family, and artists to be inspired and experience the world with like-minded adventurers. As the Yogascapes yoga retreat began, the flow of the week went something like this: first, we’d wake up around 5 am to the ferocious sound of howler monkeys — this was only startling the first day, and then became sort of comforting — after either falling back asleep or meeting in the lodge for some morning downtime, we made our way up to the yoga space. The yoga hut is beautiful: you can hear (and see) the waves crashing in the distance, and feel the breeze cut through the humidity as you shift from up-dog to down. Post-yoga breakfast included a variety of fresh fruits, juices, banana pancakes, and – of course – beans and rice. The post-breakfast treat? A short walk down to Maderas Beach for some beach time and surf lessons taught by the local Escuela de Surf. Music bumped from the beach hut restaurants, and tourists and locals shared the space, all enjoying the beautiful sunshine and perfect waves. After many tries standing up on a board in the Nicaraguan surf, we made our way back to the Village for crafting, quiet time, and to enjoy the beautiful sunset. Some days were peppered with additional adventures like a catamaran tour, a hike to a secret beach, a horseback ride, or a raw food workshop. Needless to say, by the end of the trip we were completely relaxed, sunburned, and sore (in the best way).
Dave and Dickie, co-founders of both Maderas Collective and Maderas Village, met me on the deck of the third floor of Maderas lodge at the village to tell me more about the collective they started 3 years ago. The space where we met happens to be an office and occasional bedroom with all the essentials: a bed, bathroom, desk, outdoor hammock, and perfect view of the beach down the hill.
The Maderas Collective, based in Managua, was started after the first phase of construction at the Village, because they’re self-proclaimed “serial-entrepreneurs” who need something new to do to keep things interesting. While building Maderas Village, Dave and Dickie realized they had a team creating beautiful furniture for the village that could potentially sell to an international audience. This sprouted the seed for the Collective, and sells at a premiumwith notable projects including the new Brooklyn VICE Media office, and more.
They now work with an international team of craftspeople, architects, and draftspeople to create furniture, which is used in both Nicaragua and exported worldwide and sells at a premium. The pieces that come out of the workshop are not only locally handmade, but they’re also sustainable, comfortable, and beautiful works of art.
“It’s a wonderful way to show that you can really invest time in your people and it leads to stronger companies,” Dave explained. The company employs local craftsmen and teaches them new techniques, then works with them to build a career. They also offer a microloan program to help locals support their families while giving back to the developing community
Thinking of making the trek yourself? Take a look at our top 5 must-dos in this Nicaraguan oasis:
1\ Yoga at Maderas Village: If Maderas begins to feel like home, that’s because it is: owners Dickie and Dave make it a point to meet everyone who’s staying there, no matter how long, and some visitors even turn into almost-permanent residents. The beautiful yoga space is outdoors, with a thatched roof, so you can practice your down dog while listening to the wonderful sounds of Nicaragua: wind, birds, monkeys, and waves crashing in the distance.
2\ Surf at Maderas Beach: Just a short walk from Maderas Village, you’ll find Maderas Beach, a small beach boasting a few restaurants and bars and great surf. Rent boards from Escuela de Surf for $25 with a lesson, or $10 without. The guides are super helpful, so you’ll be hangin’ ten in no time.
3\ Ride a Catamaran: Although a bit more expensive than most Nicaraguan activities, a catamaran ride from San Juan Del Sur is a must. The boat trip leaves from the port in town, so you can easily spend the morning exploring shops and restaurants. We recommend the 5-hour boat trip, with swimming, ceviche, and a wonderful selection of local drinks.
4\ Eat at Buddha’s Garden: This hidden gem in San Juan del Sur serves delicious raw vegan treats that will leave you feeling healthy and clean and was the first raw and vegan restaurant in the country. You can get your favorite juice, smoothie, or even raw vegan brownie while on the road (and believe us, you’ll want to. It’s delicious).
5\ Find a Secret Beach: Walk along the coastline at low tide, and you’ll find tons of secret beaches. Not only will you most likely have the beach to yourself, the waves will be perfect for play(oneword)time. Make sure you stay to watch the sunset, but just be sure you can make it back before the tide comes back up!
Stay tuned for my interview with Free People!
Photos by: Niko Margaros
Meet lovely Yoga Instructor Koya Webb here.
See Free People’s post on our adventure here.