Spanish Schools in Nicaragua
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Nicaragua has a growing network of independent Spanish schools, and an increasing number of visitors to the country choose to combine their travels with a few days, weeks, or even months of language study. With new “schools” (from teenagers in a living room to full-fledged language institutes) popping up all the time, it is increasingly difficult to keep track of them all; we’ve listed below the schools that stand out for their reputation and experience.
Most schools follow the same basic structure, mixing language instruction with cultural immersion: 2–4 hours of class in the morning, community service activities or field trips in the afternoon, and optional homestays with Nicaraguan families.
To a certain extent, choosing a school is as much a question of your geographical preference as anything else, since there are quality schools across the country. If possible, it’s a good idea to come down and personally look into a few options before making a long-term commitment. Get a feel for the teachers (ask about their experience and credentials), the professionalism of the business, and the lesson plan. Do not trust everything you see on the websites.
Also, please note that keeping up with prices is difficult in the competitive world of Spanish schools, so always confirm prices. In general, expect to pay around $150–300 per week, depending on the quality of services offered. This usually includes room, board, instruction, and sometimes tours. Schools in the northern regions are generally cheaper.
You can create your own language tour by studying at several schools, using your class schedule and family homestays as a way to travel throughout Nicaragua.
Once in the classroom, remember that gaining a language takes time—you must learn one word at a time until they start flowing together in sentences and you stop translating everything in your head. Be patient, do your homework, and be ready to laugh at yourself (along with everyone else) as you make mistakes. ¡Suerte!
Viva Spanish School (tel. 505/8877-7179 or 505/2270-2339, vivaspanish [at] btinternet [dot] com, www.vivaspanishschool.com) offers intensive classes to students of all ages and bcakgrounds, catering mainly to NGO members, embassy employees, and missionary workers. The school is located in the heart of Managua, just a couple of blocks from Plaza Metrocentro. Class costs are $90 semi-intensive (10 hrs/week) and $175 intensive program (20 hrs/week). Homestays and other lodging options available. Advanced and specialized classes available as well as online classes and home-office classes.
Granada’s status as ground zero for the Nicaragua tourism scene (from backpackers to upscale) makes it a natural choice for many students who love the city’s aesthetic as much as its bar scene. Casa Xalteva (across from the church by the same name, tel. 505/2552-2436, www.casaxalteva.com) offers a similar package, $150 per week, with a stress on volunteer activities; it’s highly recommended by former students, has a quiet location, and is part of a small group home for boys, which is supported by your tuition.
Roger Ramirez’s One-on-One Spanish Tutoring Academy (on the Calle Calzada, four blocks west of the central park, tel. 505/2552-6771, oneononetutoring.granada [at] yahoo [dot] com, www.1on1tutoring.net) offers 20 hours of instruction per week ($110, or hourly for $6), which includes various instructors and five afternoon activities (city tour, salsa lesson, field trips, etc.), plus an end-of-week dinner celebration. Homestays are an additional $85 paid directly to the family.
You’ll also find Spanish classes in the patio of Maverick Reading & Smoothie Lounge, and in the beautiful Palacio de Cultura (tel. 505/2552-7114), in a grand building on the west side of Granada’s main plaza.
Los Pueblos Blancos and Carazo
Tucked into the forest off the road to the village of San Juan de la Concepción (also known as La Concha, 12 kilometers west of Ticuantepe, under an hour from Managua), Mariposa Eco-Hotel and Spanish School (tel. 505/2418-4638, www.spanishschoolnica.com) offers language classes in an isolated-feeling setting which is only an hour from Managua or Granada; there are views of Volcán Masaya, riding horses, hiking trails, and a library. We’ve received rave reviews of Mariposa’s all-inclusive Spanish school packages ($300/week).
Just outside Jinotepe, Futuro Mejor (tel. 505/8871-4705, info [at] futuromejor [dot] org, www.futuromejor.org) offers room and board, 20 hours of Spanish instruction for $200 a week, and an English-teaching exchange where you can volunteer in associated communities. It’s part of a larger project led by a Danish traveler Brian Wolter, who is helping to start a soccer academy.
Laguna de Apoyo
If you prefer to avoid the bustle and nightlife of the city, Proyecto Ecologico Spanish School and Hostel (tel. 505/8882-3992, eco-nic [at] guegue [dot] com, www.gaianicaragua.org) is the only Spanish school in Nicaragua in a purely natural setting—the lakeside lodge is in the crater of an ancient volcano. The spot is incredible, only an hour from Managua, less to Granada, yet still tucked away in its own green world. Lodging and food are excellent (homestays are possible too), and the organization is not-for-profit. One week costs $190 and includes classes, activities, and room and board in their lodge.
San Juan del Sur and Isla de Ometepe
One of the best deals in the country is Doña Rosa Silva’s Spanish School (located 30 meters west of the Mercado Municipal, tel. 505/8682-2938 or 505/8958-5262, spanish_silva [at] yahoo [dot] com, www.spanishsilva.com), offering four hours of daily instruction ($100 a week for just lessons, $200 includes homestay and meals). Classes are small (or private, costs a bit more), mix conversation with grammar, and include readings by Nicaragua’s best authors and poets. Rosa also has a school on La Isla de Ometepe (in the center of Altagracia, 50 meters east of the mayor’s office).
Latin American Spanish School (tel. 505/8820-2252, info [at] nicaspanish [dot] org, www.nicaspanish.org) is a good option, run by a half dozen entrepreneurial and professional Nicaraguan Spanish instructors with significant experience teaching foreigners. They offer a basic 20-hour instruction and activity package for $120, plus $90 a week for lodging with private bath and three meals a day, plus homestay and volunteer activities.
Across from the BDF bank, in the Lago Azul restaurant (right on the beach!), the San Juan del Sur Spanish School (tel. 505/8372-4666, sjdsspanish [at] yahoo [dot] com, www.sjdsspanish.com) has all-inclusive packages for $200 per week; the teachers are experienced and very friendly. Homestays include private bathroom. They also have opened a sister school in Ometepe.
Vapues Tours (tel. 505/2606-2276, www.vapues.com) recently began offering an intensive, full-immersion Spanish course: $195 for 20 hours of one-on-one class (over five days), includes room and board. There are new schools all the time in León. Check the Casa de Cultura class schedule, or the bulletin board at the Vía Vía Hospedaje for private tutors and lessons.
La Isla Foundation (from Movistar, half a block south, tel. 505/2311-3101, laislafoundation [at] gmail [dot] com, www.laislafoundation.org) is a nonprofit organization which offers both English classes to local residents and Spanish immersion courses to international travelers and students in León. Beginner, intermediate, and advanced classes plus opportunities for tours and work exchanges.
You’ll find a cool climate and a number of natural excursions available at these schools in Estelí, all of which have been around since the early 1990s. Spanish School Horizonte Nica (located two blocks east and half a block north of INISER, tel. 505/2713-4117, horizont [at] ibw [dot] com [dot] ni, www.escuelahorizonte.edu.ni) has one of the longest track records in town and proffers the lofty vision of “promoting peace and social justice for those living in poverty, those struggling against class, race, and gender prejudices, and those fighting for political freedom.”
It donates part of your $220 weekly fee to local organizations and has an afternoon activity program that includes visits to local cooperatives and community-development programs. Price includes 20 hours of intensive study, afternoon activities, and homestay; service projects sometimes available.
Centro Cultural Juventus (from the southwest corner of the central plaza, two blocks west, tel. 505/2713-3756, walter_delgado_2007 [at] yahoo [dot] com, www.vianica.com/juventus) is a super-tranquilo little compound with dorm facilities, nicer rooms, a shared kitchen, and a breezy café with cappuccino and fruit shakes. Various language professors are on hand to tailor your Spanish curriculum; $100 for 20 hours, lodging $35 per week in the dorm or $60 a night for lovely, modern private rooms.
Spanish School Güegüense (six blocks east of the Autolote car lot, , tel. 505/2713-7580) offers afternoon activities, including trips to Jinotega, Quilalí, San Juan del Río Coco, and local Estelí attractions. Class and homestay cost $150 per week.
This is a remarkable, off-the-beaten-path city in which to spend a few weeks, attending Spanish School Matagalpa (tel. 505/2772-0108 or 505/8647-4680, escuela [at] matagalpa [dot] info, www.matagalpatours.com). As a part of Matagalpa Tours, you’ll have immediate access to a range of day trips and backcountry hiking expeditions in the surrounding mountains. The school is conveniently located next door to one of the country’s most suave cafés, El Artesano.
© Randall Wood & Joshua Berman from Moon Nicaragua, 4th Edition