Apoyo Lodge: A Vegan Oasis in the Nicaraguan Jungle

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  • by Leigh Hayhurst

Natives of Nicaragua will tell you one of the most beautiful places to visit in their country is Laguna de Apoyo. Around 20,000 years ago, the Apoyo volcano imploded and filled with subterranean and rain water, creating a mineral-rich lagoon. Lush, leafy guacuco, pochote and rosewood trees surround the water, which stays toasty warm year-round. Roaring cries of howler monkeys echo in the coves, and osprey, yellow-tailed oropendolasruby-throated hummingbirds and falcons fly overhead. Oftentimes, you’ll hear the faint melody of traditional Nicaraguan marimba music drifting through the air; and if you’re lucky, a friendly local will share tales of the magic and mystery that loom around the lagoon. 

Venture deeper into Laguna de Apoyo’s jungle, and exotic, comforting smells of chickpea curry stew and vegetable paella will waft past you. This is a sure sign you’re nearing Apoyo Lodge, a cozy compound situated in an enclave of the lagoon. Located approximately 30 miles south of Nicaragua’s capital, Managua, Apoyo Lodge is a health and wellness boutique hotel specializing in yoga retreats and raw-cooked, planted-based whole foods. 

Co-owner Miriam Rodriguez-Marquez has made it her life’s mission to nourish bodies, relax minds, and illustrate that living and eating well isn’t something reserved solely for the elite. “Visitors come to the lodge to change bad habits, heal their bodies and jumpstart a new lifestyle,” said Rodriguez-Marquez. 

“When people tell me they’re doubtful they can change their eating habits or eat more healthily, I tell them that if I can do it in the crater of a volcano in a developing country or in the war-torn country of the Democratic Republic of Congo, then anyone can, she said. 

And that’s where Miriam’s journey to healthy living began. Miriam and business partner, Maribel, both originally from Spain, met in the DR Congo in 2013. In search of a more purposeful life, they had both just joined the United Nations, putting their professional skills and experience to work for the peacekeeping mission in DR Congo. They learned early on they shared the same dream of one day owning and operating a small hotel somewhere quiet and beautiful. Eventually, they stumbled upon Apoyo Lodge. 

Food 

Apoyo Lodge sources seasonal, plant-based foods found locally in Nicaragua. Meals are free of meat, fish, dairy and eggs (in fact, these products aren’t allowed on site), and there is a strong emphasis placed on incorporating whole foods, such as local dark leafy greens, herbs, veggies, tropical fruits, fermented foods, sprouts, nuts, grains and seeds, into all dishes Two or three courses are served at each breakfast, lunch and dinner. Miriam and her team carefully prepare delicious meals such as oat and banana pancakes with squash compote and fresh fruits; lentil cakes with beetroot ketchup and ratatouille; and Vietnamese spring rolls with peanut and lime sauce. Desserts include everything from fresh fruit and raw carrot coconut cake to avocado chocolate ganache and choco banana, Apoyo Lodge style. To stay hydrated, guests have access to a smoothie and juice bar, flavored waters and herbal teas. 

Rooms 

The lodge was thoughtfully constructed by incorporating existing elements of the property.  Pathways, smaller buildings and fence lines were built of large rocks found on the grounds.  Interior wall hues mimic the soothing colors of nature, and sleek, tropical hardwood furnishings elevate the overall lodge’s look. 

The Lake View Suites located on the second floor house two queen beds and one single bed for a total occupancy of five people. A private, modern bathroom with hot water and locally made soap, shampoo and conditioner are available for guests. The icing on the (vegan) cake is the glorious view of the lagoon from the large, private balcony. 

Lake View Rooms are equipped with two single beds (that can be pushed together to form a king) for a total occupancy of two people. These rooms include the same as Lake View Suites and a private patio area under a pergola with direct views of the lagoon. 

The Forest Rooms offer two single beds (that can be pushed to form a king) for a total occupancy of two people. They have the same offers as the other rooms with views of the lush gardens and woods.   

Things to do at the lodge 

Offered each day, a complementary morning yoga class accommodating all fitness levels is taught in a thatched roof palapa overlooking the lagoon. Private twilight yogaacroyoga, fitness lessons and dance classes are offered for an additional fee. Massages, holistic therapies, manicures and pedicures are available on the second floor of the palapa. Those looking for a full-body workout can hike up to a nearby view-point or grab a recycled surf board, raft or innertube and simply float in the shallow waters. And don’t worry, there’s no need to fear underwater predators; the high mineral content of the lagoon cannot sustain life other than some endemic fish species and small crabs. 

Day and night trips 

Located at the foot of the Mombacho volcano, about 30 miles from the lodge is the colonial city of Granada. Take half a day to explore the city and visit the cathedral, Convento de San Francisco (the oldest church in Central America), stop in cafes, browse street vendors’ wares or book a boat tour of Las Isletas. 

Consider a visit to Masaya, the Nicaraguan capital of folklore and home to a large, open air artisan market. Stroll through booths and admire handmade blankets, bags, shoes, paintings, pottery and much more. Finish the day by taking a trip to Masaya Volcano National Park where, after the sun sets, you can take a peek inside a mesmerizing active volcano known by the Spaniards as the “Gate to Hell.”   

If you’re looking for an overnight excursion, book a trip to San Juan del Sur, known as the surf capital of Nicaragua. Enjoy a surf lesson or just relax by the Pacific Ocean. You’ll have plenty of time to explore this famous little town, visit attractions, shop, eat and watch the iconic sunset by the beach. 

By the end of your trip, you’ll feel nourished, relaxed, rejuvenated and blessed by the Apoyo Lodge’s motto: Lokah Samastah Sukino Bhavantu, or, May All Beings Be Happy & Free.

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