HulaKai Hotel was the perfect spot to relax after our two-week turn at forced volunteer farm labor on Ometepe Island. The hotel is set on a point overlooking the sublime Playa Maderas, which is on the southwestern coast of Nicaragua. A healthy dose of day-tripping white people come to the beach to take advantage of the break for both experienced surfers and beginners, and a couple of restaurants have sprung up to take advantage of the white people. There's not much else there except peace and quiet.
We came to Playa Maderas because we had read it was an up and coming option to the nearby and touristy town of San Juan del Sur – where the young go to vomit. We came upon the hotel by accident – we pulled into the parking lot when we decided that I should walk the very steep and rocky hill to the beach to investigate before driving Wesley down it since we weren’t sure it would make it back out. My expedition didn’t tip the Wesley issue one way or another, but did convince me that we needed to stay. The beach was a cliché – there was reggae music, waves, volleyball, tide pools, horseback riding, surfers, surfers in bikinis, and sand softer than cotton and finer than a police officer pulling you over and deciding not to give you a ticket.
After walking back up the hill and into the hotel I expected to bust our $100 a day budget - the pool was glistening like a sapphire and the view from the bar to the horizon was nothing but ocean - but made the executive decision that no matter the cost, we were taking a room. Fortunately, the cost of our eco-pod was reasonable, so, as is our custom, even though we planned to stay only a day or two, we are still here a week later. Even the monkeys that hang out in the adjacent trees have started calling us by name.
Again, though, it’s more about the people than the location – though location does help. While I might visit some of the interesting folks we’ve met here in some place like Oklahoma, I probably wouldn’t stay a week. Tyler, the owner of the land before it had a building on it, has gone from living in the woods, to building and running a hostel with his buddy, to this place. He’s got vision and hasn’t yet realized all the dreams he’s got for the place.
As if we weren't already having as much fun as Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, they’ve doubled down by hosting nightly family style dinners - where all the guests and staff sit around and eat good food with an Asian flair (which is a welcome change from beans and rice). And, to top it all off - Taco Tuesday - which needs no further explanation.
Alas, all things come to pass, and after about six weeks in Nicaragua, on Friday we fire Wesley back up and leave for the Costa Rican border. We’ve heard from everyone that Costa Rica is much more expensive than anywhere else in Central America, so, as is our custom, we'll probably stay a week.