If you follow the (very) involved directions, which take you down Pacific Coast dirt roads and through a cattle ranch, you will eventually find Los Cardones Surf Lodge, six bungalows on a stretch of empty Nicaraguan beach with breaks that belong to the lodge’s guests alone. The lodge’s accommodations are simple, so are the all-inclusive rates, and that’s the point: Simple surf hospitality with a strong under-current of sustainability.
Los Cardones is run completely on solar power. Grey water is recycled; the toilets are composting. Kitchen waste is composted, too, and tin cans and some plastics are recycled. (One of the lodge’s current projects is increasing plastic recyclability.)
The lodge’s buildings were made from local and eco-friendly materials like palm fronds, driftwood, “fast-growth” wood, and bricks. The buildings were designed to blend in with the forest; the lodge is keeping seven acres of land as a wildlife habitat. Anne Laure Sitton, who owns the lodge with her husband, Izic, says they often watch over sea turtle eggs to make sure they aren’t stolen by poachers.
Anne is proud of building a “responsible” business that provides jobs for sixteen people. The lodge further supports the community’s economy by stocking its open-air restaurant with local goods. “We buy our fish from the local village,” says Anne. “We buy produce from the local farms (as much as they have available); they use organic farming by default.” Los Cardones also sponsors Arte Accion, an art, English, and social values program for neighboring village kids. “Our guests are invited to join us at Arte Accion every Saturday,” Anne says.
The smiles on the faces of Arte Accion students is one of Anne’s can’t-miss sights at Los Cardones. Also on her list: Catching a glimpse of a caiman (a relative of the alligator), the brightly feathered trogon, or hatching turtles. There are miles to hike, lots of fishing to be done (especially during the rainy season from June to October), and beach-front tours on horseback ($12 for 2 hours). And, of course, surfing.
Come back tomorrow for details on the bungalows and rates!