Our 9-day adventure philanthropy expedition took 8 Roadmonkeys to two of the most wild & least discovered regions of Central America. On the Pacific coast, they learned to surf on warm, consistent beginner and intermediate waves. Then, the group ascended into the orchid, coffee and cloud-rich mountains of the north, to give something back—a playground, made from local materials—to a community in need.
For four days, we surfed Nicaragua's uncrowded Pacific beaches, progressing from beachside safety lessons to the whitewater, where beginning surfers catch their first waves. Then we traveled by van high into Nicaragua's northern mountains, spending three days building a playground for underprivileged children, in cooperation with our nonprofit partner, the Fabretto Children's Foundation.
Then we headed north, to San Jose de Cusmapa, in Nicaragua's prime tobacco and coffee-growing region, where horses and mules are common modes of transportation. For three days, we stayed at the family-style Fabretto Children’s Foundation lodge in Cusmapa, eating, sleeping and working communally. We’ll also made time to explore the town and get to know its residents, including local women weavers who sell baskets, coffee and other locally produced products. After we completed the playground at the Fabrettorun school, it was time to go. We caravaned back down to Granada for a celebratory dinner on Sunday, March 14.
"Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little." ~ Edmund Burke
Our first night was spent in Granada, the lively colonial city 45 minutes south, and feasting at El Zaguan, a local restaurant known for its grilled meats. The following morning, we caravaned 2 hours south, to San Juan del Sur (aka San Juan del Surf), a tranquil, still-undeveloped region of long beaches, good food and friendly locals, on Nica’s southern Pacific coast. Then came four days of surfing lessons at sandy-bottomed Playa Maderas, the best beginner and intermediate beach break, and exploring nearby beach coves. A few of the Roadmonkeys also took a sunset boat cruise to deserted beaches not reachable by road.
In San Jose de Cusmapa, in Nicaragua’s cool northern mountains, we worked long days, sometimes past dark, building the playground from locally available materials, often working with local parents and community members, at the Fabretto-run school. The playground was built on the school grounds and is open to all of Cusmapa’s children. After a long day of building, the Roadmonkey crew ate a hearty Nicaraguan dinner, flushed it down with a cold beer or two, and prepared for the next day’s work.
The nine-day expedition cost $2,700 (£1,692 | €1,883 | AU3,065) and included most meals (see Lodging & Food, below, for what that means) and all lodging, transportation, surfing instruction, surfboard rental and full coordination of the volunteer project in Cusmapa. The price does not include airfare or voluntary tips for surf instructors. Entry visas are not required for North Americans, Europeans, Australians or almost everyone else.
Expedition members enjoyed single rooms in superior hotels during their first and last nights in Nicaragua. While surfing in San Juan del Sur, lodging was shared in a bungalow-style surf lodge off the main tourist path. Breakfasts and dinners were included in the expedition price and was family style, in the lodge’s large open-air bar & restaurant. Because lunches often were difficult to coordinate while surfing, depending on who rises at what hour to catch the morning waves, hike along the beach, practice sunrise yoga or explore the jungle, expedition members were responsible for their own lunches.
During our volunteer project and transit times, meals were covered. In Cusmapa, we lodged at the Fabretto house—the only lodging available in this mountain-top region, in clean rooms with bunk-beds and shared bathrooms. We ate our three daily meals at a huge wooden dining table in the home, family style.
What you are doing has had a huge affect on all of us, internally. Externally, there is a playground where there was none and a bit more hope than there was just a week ago. There are ties forged by the experience that go both ways, and cross oceans, that will never be undone. It's a beautiful thing.
~ John, architect