For 2018, I have the goal of becoming a more sustainable, ethical, and informed traveler, this year and beyond.
In line with this aim, there was no better place to kick off my solo travels of 2018 than in Granada, Nicaragua. The city is famous for its beautiful colonial buildings, surrounding volcanoes, and its spot smack on the tourist trail through Nicaragua.
Less well-known, but even more worthy of consideration, is that the city is a serious socially-responsible tourism hotspot.
During my visit to Granada, I stopped by (more than!) 6 responsible, ethical, social-enterprise initiatives, comprising a variety of models and purposes. Incorporating more sustainable and ethical travel into my repertoire is easier than I’d imagined, at least in Granada! This what I found…
Stay at Hotel con Corazon
The first nonprofit hotel I’ve ever stayed in, Hotel Con Corazon blew my mind. The hotel is gorgeous (that pool area though!), comfortable, and from the outside, looks like any other boutique hotel.
But it’s so much more!
The hotel invests in training for local staff (including English), provides livable wages and benefits, and ALL profits are invested back in local education, focusing on projects that “stimulate children to finish school and increase their chances to grow, both personally and professionally”.
Specifically, Hotel con Corazon invests in tutoring programs for kids and the funding of extra-curricular activities (including sports and creative classes), along with sponsoring secondary and university education, and occasionally investing in educational facilities.
The Hotel places an emphasis on local: hiring and training local staff and purchasing local goods and products through local suppliers.
Another sustainable stay: Check out Casa San Francisco, though not non-profit is Rainforest-Alliance certified and supports local social projects.
Eat at Cafe Son Sonrisas
Calle Real Xalteva: Monday-Saturday, 7AM – 3:30PM
The food is delicious, portions are huge and inexpensive, the atmosphere is quiet and peaceful… what more could you ask for?
Cafe con Sonrisas is unique in that it employs only deaf-mute staff, and aims to showcase that having a hearing or speech disability is not incompatible with high quality, professional service.
Don’t worry if you don’t speak Sign Language (though there are tons of materials available at the restaurant to help you learn or practice if you’d like, even on your table), as the menus are pictorial and “choose and point” style, with options to vegetarianize/specialize anything.
Another ethical eat: The Garden Cafe (which is housed with Thousand Cranes boutique, mentioned below), provides benefits and educational opportunities to its staff, along with pushing environmental initiatives (they launched Granada’s “skip the straw” campaign, use ecological to-go containers, and recycle up the wazoo).
Go on the Colonial Homes Tour
Ole Boutique on Calle Calzada: 10 am every Tuesday
This walking tour was incredible! It felt like House Hunters Granada, or Cribs Granada, but instead of just watching on TV, I actually got to go inside and look at the homes up close and personal!
The tour costs $15/person, starts every Tuesday at 10am departing from Ole Boutique, and all proceeds benefit local children through the Biblioteca Puedo Leer project, and scholarships at the Sacuanjoche International School.
Thousand Cranes is self-described as a “cultural impact shop”, which aims to “promote and generate visibility for Nicaraguan craftsmanship”.
Buying a gift or souvenir at this shop has the added benefit of supporting positive impacts on local Nicaraguan artists and organizations, many of whom are social enterprises. For example, the proceeds of bracelets by UPNicaragua provide scholarships and mentorship for at-risk girls in Granada.
When you buy a present or a souvenir at Thousand Cranes you’ll be acquiring a beautiful gift for a loved one, but you’ll also have created positive impact in the life of a Nicaraguan artisan or organization.
Next to Cafe Con Sonrisas
In the past, Nicaraguans with disabilities have had a very hard time finding work, or a place in the community. Tio Antonio , whose initiative has started a variety of projects including the aforementioned Cafe Con Sonrisas, created a self-sustainable Hammock Occupational Project, which provides jobs to people with disabilities, and high-quality handmade hammocks to tourists.
You can also buy the hammocks online here.
Calle La Calzada
Ole stocks souvenirs, gifts, and home goods made by local women’s cooperatives, artists, and young entrepreneurs. Purchases help support the families of the artisans. Further, all profits from this little not-for-profit shop support the scholarship program at the Sacuanjoche International School, where 35% of the student body comes from financially-disadvantaged households.
For more non-profit initiatives throughout Nicaragua, I recommend checking out Ecotourism in Nicaragua: 7 Inspiring Non-Profits And How To Get Involved by Temporary Provisions.