On a recent trip to Nicaragua I stayed at Maderas Village, an artisan enclave in the hills on the Pacific coast, a short ride from San Juan del Sur. I felt the familiar rush of adventure as we drove up the rocky hilltop terrain towards the property grounds. This was no manicured resort, but a kind of remote, boutique getaway in which the cabanas and casitas blended into the natural landscape and the local flora grew wild throughout the grounds.
While surfing, yoga, and exploring the coastline were my main priorities, I quickly found the company of my fellow travelers was just as interesting. This idyllic resort gives the concept of community a much-needed refresh, and occupies an interesting space that is part youth hostel, part design hotel, and part retreat.
Founding Partner Matthew “Dickie” Dickenson explains: “Maderas Village was designed from the beginning to be a creators’ paradise. A place where the best minds from our generation could come together for short visits or longer stays to think, work on projects, share ideas amongst a community of like-minded people, and live well through healthy eating, surfing, and yoga.”
This ideal was most vividly on display at day’s start and end: surfers, yogis, and capoeira players filing out of their casitas at sunrise; evenings spent in passionate, Toña-fueled conversation beneath delicate bulbs draped through the trees.
As well as the people, the other aspect of the Maderas allure was the design of the property itself, with palm-thatched roofs, wooden-plank tables, and various other handcrafted fixtures dotted about. Many of these expertly made furnishings were created by Maderas Collective—Maderas Village’s furniture design workshop, dedicated to Masaya woodworking.
Maderas Collective came about when the Maderas team noticed an opportunity to help preserve a part of Nicaraguan culture that was in danger of dying out, with many woodworkers abandoning their careers to explore more lucrative jobs. The manufacturing facility they founded now produces sustainable, handcrafted furniture for clients all around the world. The studio is responsible for the custom furniture in Brooklyn restaurant Sisters and in the Mast Brothers retail store. Their most recent and notable project is a collaboration with Uhuru Design to outfit the Vice Media offices in Brooklyn.
Maderas Collective and Village directly employ 65 Nicaraguans, and offer a micro-finance fund that distributes loans to employees. Along with such upcoming ventures as Maderas Life (an online magazine), they are testament to what can happen when you establish a space for creative entrepreneurs to meet.
Even while loading up the jeep to leave, I began planning my next trip. There were still plenty of waves left to conquer and more jungle left to explore—but most importantly, there were still reams of interesting people yet to come, with whom to meet and collaborate.
Want more Nicaragua? Here are five reasons AFAR Audience Marketing Specialist, Samantha Juda, also fell for the country.