Why just rent a room… When you can take over an entire hotel?
The rains have come and gone, the valley is as lush as it gets, and everything is spruced up and ready for high season to kick into gear here in Southern Nicaragua!
During the pandemic, “buy-outs” of hotels became popular with folks seeking a way to travel that’s more private and intimate, but the concept isn’t new to us. We love it when groups “take-over” our space and make it their own. It’s then that Verdad comes alive in a unique way. We are super excited to welcome several group retreats this year - returning retreat leaders, groups of friends & families, and groups of surfers too.
One of the things we especially love is how quickly groups vibe into our Nica way of life. With our small staff that has been with us for years and knows how to make everything just right, beautiful communal spaces that were designed specifically to encourage guests to hang out together in the picturesque surroundings, and cozy casitas that feel like a home away from home, we make it easy to become immersed in the local culture and find connection. Unlike many other hotels that are secluded behind walls and completely separate from the communities in which they reside, we are the opposite.
We built Verdad around the Nicaraguan lifestyle and engaged with our neighbors in the surrounding community from the very beginning. Over the five years that we’ve been open, we’ve seen so many ups and downs with hurricanes, a pandemic, political upheaval…but one thing that has remained constant is our connection to the magical place that we call home and to our Nica family who welcomed us with warmth and humor from the get go. And, when you come with a group, you get that too. You truly become part of our extended Verdad family.
Our Nica family members are the people who make us who we are. It’s a little bit hard to describe in words, and a whole lot easier to feel, but when you travel to our hillside perch and meet our team, it doesn’t take long before you recognize that you are not on just another vacation in a tropical paradise, but you are on an adventure where you have the chance to experience the true, La Verdad, Nicaragua.
So no matter what your group's interests are, be it surfing, yoga, boating, fishing, hiking, fitness or something else, Verdad becomes your launchpad, your home away from home, where you can both kick back and relax in laid-back luxury and immerse yourself in a whole new community and culture.
A retreat leader’s paradise
Looking for a way to combine her passion for teaching yoga and her love of travel, Singer Mayberry, director of The Art of Yoga School in Austin, Texas, traveled to Nicaragua several years ago.
She landed in the beautiful community of Escamequita which is next door to us at Playa Escameca Grande, and one day while driving around, she spotted our little sanctuary up in the hills.
“I remember thinking to myself, what is this place?” said Singer. She decided then and there that Verdad would be the location of her next retreat.
This January, she will host her fourth retreat with us.
“The whole area is gorgeous, it really is a slice of paradise,” said Singer. “Of all my beach retreat locations, it’s the number one spot I want to keep going back to.”
Teaching in our open-air studio also helps her go deeper into her own yoga practice.
“You’re bordered by all of this beauty and the sounds of nature, becoming one with your surroundings. You can hear the waves crashing from the studio and every so often, the odd howler monkey will hop through the trees,” she said.
Her favorite time of the day to teach is right before dinner, as the sun starts to dip towards the horizon. Beams of light skip through the yoga studio and she ends her session with an evening meditation, her group in awe as they watch the sun get swallowed up by the Pacific Ocean.
“I rarely get to see that moment where the sun disappears below the horizon. Just getting to imprint that memory over and over during the week… It’s magical,” she said.
Shelly Eichas, a health and fitness coach from New York, hosts retreats at Verdad that are about blending work and pleasure.
As a personal trainer, Shelly was hesitant about taking vacations because she thought it would mean letting down her clients or losing business. So, about seven years ago, she decided to bring some of her clients on a trip with her instead. She discovered Verdad through a fellow coach, and after hosting her first retreat here she knew she would be back. She now hosts two week-long retreats each year, and loves it so much she hopes to add a third.
Shelly fell in love with our Nica community as fast as we did, and now she happily takes her groups out to all of our favorite local spots and restaurants, but her group equally enjoys evenings at Verdad. When they do stay at the hotel, they’ll share a sunset and tapas at our honor bar before sitting down for a delicious, communal dinner. “The meals are by far one of the highlights of the trip. I’m not even exaggerating,” she said.
That's because the meals at Verdad are the perfect combination of macronutrients that fuel the intense workouts Shelly leads, while satisfying her client's desire for both new and familiar flavors, and of course highlighting the local bounty.
For Shelly, Verdad is the perfect hub for an active vacation filled with morning and afternoon workouts, beach runs, and trail hikes, complimented by nourishing, healthy meals prepared by our in-house chefs, and fun off-site activities like sailing, fishing, zip-lining, horseback riding, and even hiking volcán Masaya.
Each day ends with night time “alcohol-base bonding,” as she puts it.
Fridays, our Honor Bar comes alive when our favorite local musicians come to play. The kitchen serves up homemade tapas and our staff shake up signature cocktails while the sun sets over the water. It’s a highlight for our retreat leaders and the perfect way to wrap up the week!
“Work hard, play hard,” Shelly laughs. “We have to put a bit of a spin on it.”
Being so close to the beach, Shelly jokes that she likes to push her landlubbing clients out of their comfort zone by testing their abilities in the water. She enlists Wes’s help, making them do various surf drills and paddles.
As you may know, Wes, our general manager and head surf instructor, also happens to be an awesome surfer. On the days he isn’t giving surfing lessons, he still loves guests' company in the water, and he’s quite generous with advice! Helping fellow surfers out, no matter what level they’re at, just comes naturally. There have been times when seeing a beginner catch their first wave makes him happier than getting barrelled. Well, maybe not quite as happy, but pretty darn happy nonetheless! Several of Shelly’s clients have experienced their “virgin” ride at Verdad with Wes.
What Shelly loves most though, is watching the way her guests connect with each other over the course of the week. Most of them don’t know each other prior to her retreats, but having Verdad all to themselves — a space they can really relax and feel at home — brings her groups together in a way she never thought possible. She loves walking into the common spaces after a workout and watching as strangers become friends over fresh fruit, a beautiful view, and maybe even a howler monkey joining the party!
There’s something about the environment, and how chill everything is, while at the same time, nothing is missing, and it fosters a sense of camaraderie that brings people together.
Jessica Bellofatto of JB Yoga is yet another retreat leader that is smitten with Verdad. In fact, not only does she now host two-week long yoga and wellness retreats back-to-back at Verdad every year, she actually moved to Nicaragua! Falling in love with the area and buying property is surprisingly not all that unusual – the truth is we know more than a handful of past guests that now own land here!
Jess tells us that our studio is her all time favorite. That says a lot, ‘cuz Jess has been hosting retreats all over the world for about 20 years. “From the 'off the beaten path' stunningly beautiful location and the huge, open-air yoga and fitness studio with epic ocean breezes and mesmerizing views, to the clean, healthy, nourishing food and the kindhearted staff who are always smiling, I will keep bringing students back here again and again,” says Jess.
A family affair
But, hosting a group at Verdad doesn’t just have to be a business endeavor. For Cindy Parsons, arriving at Verdad for a friends and family vacation for the holidays is like coming “home” each year.
“The feeling that you get when you are there… It’s a very warm, happy, fuzzy feeling… ” she said.
Cindy’s group of besties, who she’s known since grade school, have been coming to Verdad, with their families in tow, for Christmas and New Year’s for several years now.
“The best Christmas present ever is that we’re surfing on Christmas morning. I love that my kids can wake up and walk down to the beach on their own, and I can go on a run in the morning,” she said. “We can all do our thing, and everyone is happy.”
Having the space all to themselves also allows them to really settle in and relax, which Cindy said is especially nice over the holidays. It’s like being home, but without all the pressures of cooking and cleaning!
The kids in the group, who also grew up together, spending their summers surfing on the East End of Long Island, are so stoked to be able to get in the water that they will actually get out of bed at sunrise when their dads come knocking on their casita doors to wake them. They hike the trails to Playa el Yankee to catch the high-tide surf, dragging along local surfers Freddy and William. The whole group convenes for a hearty breakfast back at Verdad, which is something that they look forward to all year long. That’s not surprising, because the breakfasts at Verdad are hard to beat - chilaquiles are definitely an all time fav.
Another favorite activity every year is the catamaran trip. The group spends the entire day on the water, cruising through the Pacific Ocean, sipping on cold Nicaraguan beer and snacking on freshly made ceviche as they take in the breathtaking coastline while listening to the kids’ playlists.
Salt Nica times the end of the sail perfectly, so that the sun is setting as the group heads back into the San Juan del Sur harbor. Cindy said it is a very special moment that they all look forward to sharing each year.
“Our group just loves the good times,” said Jennifer Castillo, another one of Cindy’s friends who spends the holidays Verdad. “You get to experience a totally different location and culture with people you love. It just heightens the experience.”
Another thing that never ceases to amaze Cindy is the care the kitchen staff takes when they are preparing meals. She has a gluten allergy, so traveling is often difficult for her, but at Verdad, she says she is never worried because she knows Heidy and Elena have her back.
“The staff are on it from day one. They take it to heart, they remember it every year, and always go out of their way to prepare something extra special for me to eat.”
At the end of every day, the group gathers for dinner at one big, communal table. Cindy and her husband are really into wine, so we order what they like from Managua and store it until they arrive. The energy is buzzing as everyone swaps stories from the day past — always laughing… a lot.
“The communal dinners we have are always great...just a ton of us piled around, hanging out and having fun,” said Jen. “We are loud and like to have a good time.”
And being the only people at Verdad, they can be as loud as they want! Our staff often joins in, swapping their own stories from the day or reminiscing on the surf session they shared.
So whether it’s with your closest friends and family, a group of yogis on a yoga retreat, fitness lovers, or surfers on a surf retreat, Verdad is truly a one-of-a-kind boutique hotel that offers groups a travel experience beyond expectation – a chance to immerse yourself in a community and discover a whole new culture. We can’t wait to share it with you!