When did you open Apoyo Lodge and what inspired you to do so?
Apoyo Lodge opened its doors on 1st Dec 2016, the first 100% vegan hotel in Nicaragua, and it was born out of a desire from my business partner, Maribel, and I, to offer a space in which we look after humans, animals and the planet, to the best of our abilities.
What do you love most about Apoyo Lodge?
That we do everything with intention, and we bring together people that truly care about health, wellness, animal welfare and conservation of the planet. It is such a joy hosting people that are here for a reason, that live life with a purpose and support others that do that as well.
What has been the most rewarding part of opening Apoyo Lodge?
Knowing that there are people that come to Nicaragua just because there is an all-vegan hotel, which then gives them the opportunity to explore this beautiful country. People that would have not thought about coming here on holiday and then they do and they love it.
Also, opening a world of plant based options to those who might not know much about the vegan lifestyle and a plant based diet. It is extremely rewarding.
What has been your biggest challenge and how have you overcome this?
Well, other than running a business in the crater of a volcano (which is already challenging as it is), by far the biggest challenge happened last year when we went through a few weeks of protests in the country and then once they finished the media continued portraying Nicaragua as a "dangerous" place, when in reality it is still one of the safest places in Latin America to travel to. Fighting fake news and scaremongering media reports has been by far the biggest challenge so far.
Tell us about your team...
Maribel and I are the co-owners, and I am also General Manager and live here full time. My wonderful husband is my right wing and together we make up the management team. We couldn't do what we do without the support of our collaborators, mostly members of our local community that have come a really long way to understand veganism and healthy plant-based foods, as well as learning how important it is to offer exceptional customer service and do our job with love as the main ingredient.
We are proud to report we are number one rated in our area with a certificate of excellence, as well as online travel agent recognition two years in a row.
What's next for Apoyo Lodge?
To continue sharing our message of health, animal welfare and sustainability with those that are open to it, as well as expanding our presence with the local community. Veganism is still small in the country, but surely growing, and we are happy to be pioneers supporting those who need a place to nourish their bodies and learn more about health and tips on how to live a more compassionate lifestyle.
How has Tab helped Apoyo Lodge?
Tab has been a crucial partner from the beginning, allowing us to take card payments even though we are located in a remote area of the Natural Reserve. We have been able to take deposits in advance to secure reservations, and allow card payments for final bills, and customers are very happy they don't have to go to the cash machine, or carry large amounts of cash around.
Why is Nicaragua a great place to visit?
It is called the Land of Lakes and Volcanoes, and honestly, the landscape is just breathtaking. It is also super friendly, safe and you get good value for your money. For nature lovers there is plenty to do, for history lovers there are colonial cities to explore, and don't even get started on the pristine uncrowded beaches and lakes. It is such a hidden gem in Central America.
Are there any trends/changes that you've noticed in tourism?
We are seeing more people that are finally understanding that the belief that Nicaragua is dangerous is really outdated, and that if you take a leap of faith, you will discover such an amazing country that has so much to offer.
What would your advice be for anyone thinking about starting their own health & wellness retreat?
Ha, to not forget about their own health & wellness along the way :)
You can find out more about Apoyo Lodge on their website: http://www.apoyolodge.com/
Or follow them on Instagram at @apoyolodge