Family-run; owners are fifth-generation coffee planters
80 percent of the restaurant food is produced by the farm
Howler monkeys, tropical birds, agoutis, and other wildlife
Horseback riding and estate tours offered
Private bungalows with attractive mountain decor
Chalets that can fit groups of 6 or 12
Free Wi-Fi available in the lodge building (but not the rooms)
Unplugged; no in-room Wi-Fi, music players, or cable (a con for some)
Hot water can sometimes take a while
Mosquitoes can be a nuisance
Dark at night; can be tricky to find your bungalow
For outdoorsy types looking for an authentic eco lodge experience, Selva Negra is the real deal. This family-run organic farm and coffee estate has accommodations ranging from hostel rooms to private bungalows, as well as a lush, cool mountain setting that's rich with wildlife (expect howler monkeys, lizards, agoutis, and all types of birds). The sustainable practices are everywhere evident, from the excellent farm-made cheeses at the restaurant to the solar water heaters. The lodge is charmingly rustic rather than luxurious, featuring buildings designed in a quaint German style, and the friendly owners help make it a truly special place.
A charmingly rustic eco-lodge in a lush, nature-rich mountain setting
Selva Negra, which translates to Black Forest, is named for the mountain range in Southwestern Germany -- which may initially seem an incongruous choice for those unfamiliar with the history of this region. But in fact, this area of Nicaragua has rich German heritage, thanks to the German immigrants who arrived in the 19th century to help develop the coffee industry. The owners of Selva Negra are fifth-generation, German-Nicaraguan coffee planters, which helps explain why the clusters of buildings around the property look as if they could belong in a quaint German village, and why the main lodge was designed after a German train station from a toy train set.
The buildings may be German in design, but the setting doesn't resemble the Black Forest in Germany all that much. Instead, guests will encounter lush cloud forest with howler monkeys, tropical birds, blooming orchids, bromelias, and thick vines. At night, guests can fall asleep listening to the echoing booms of the monkeys and the buzzing of the cicadas. It's an ideal set-up for someone looking to unplug and get in touch with nature.
In addition to offering lodging, Selva Negra is a coffee estate, working farm, and nature reserve, and there are tours designed to introduce guests to these different aspects of the property. Namely: the farm tour (the property produces its own dairy products, sausage, and vegetables); coffee tour (coffee tastings are included); a nature tour; and a night walk. Horseback riding is also available, and the staff can recommend numerous hikes around the 300 or so preserved acres of cloud forest.
Selva Negra is a 1,400-acre property, and about 300 of those acres are preserved cloud forest. The climate here is much cooler than the beachfront areas of Nicaragua, and it can be downright chilly at night, so guests should make sure to bring a jacket. The turn-off to the Selva Negra property is only about a 15-minute drive from Matagalpa, and it's an uphill drive to the main lodge, where parking is available.
Matagalpa is one of Nicaragua's major commercial centers, and the province produces coffee, meat, cheese, fruits, and vegetables.
Private bungalows, chalets, hotel rooms, and a hostel
Selva Negra offers a wide range of accommodations. The 19 private cabanas are the nicest, offering attractive mountain-style interiors of brick, wood, and tile. All have ceiling fans, and some units have fireplaces for cooler weather. Bathrooms are perfectly serviceable if not luxurious, with small tiles and waterfall-style showerheads. Each has a front porch with rocking chairs. The entrance to the bungalow area is a few-minute walk down the road from the main lodge, and the bungalows are separated by the lush grounds. Though there are lamps along the walkways, it's still quite dark at night and locating the correct bungalow can be tricky. One-, two-, and four-bedroom bungalows are available.
The four chalets are designed for families and groups, housing six or 12 guests. Each has a different name and story, as well as historic decorations.
The 26 hotel rooms are located closer to the lake and lodge, in three detached buildings: The Karen Rooms (four rooms); the Laguna Rooms (10 Rooms), and the Yasica Rooms (12 rooms). These rooms are pretty basic, with dated decor, double beds, and private bathrooms.
The shared youth hostel, which occupies the same building as the Yasica Rooms, offers special rates for students.
A (truly) farm-to-table restaurant with Nicaraguan and German specialties
The hotel restaurant is located in the main lodge building, and it's truly farm-to-table: 80 percent of the ingredients used are produced right on the property, from the cheese to the meat. The breads, pastries, and desserts are all homemade, and coffee is incorporated in interesting ways (there are coffee preserves at breakfast, for example). The menu includes both Nicaraguan and German specialties, and prices are quite reasonable.
The indoor seating for the restaurant is situated right in the main lodge building, and the outdoor seating has views of the lake. Those sitting outdoors should expect mosquitoes in the evenings, however.
There's a small bar opposite the reception desk serving alcohol.
The closest off-site dining is located in the city of Matagalpa, about a 15-minute drive away.