Jicaro Island Ecolodge
What We Love
- Jetsetter 2015 Best of the Best Finalist: Best Eco-Lodge
- All-inclusive rate includes three multicourse à la carte meals daily, nonalcoholic beverages and one round-trip lake transfer between Granada’s Asese Port and Jicara Island
- Peaceful, secluded location right in the middle of a lake
- READ MORE: Find Your Perfect Nicaragua Vacation
What To Know
- A stay here is all about relaxation and getting back in touch with nature
- Healthy food with an emphasis on local and organic ingredients
- Sustainable design and support of local communities
- Eco friendly
- Free WiFi
The brainchild of British businesswoman Karen Emanuel, who bought the island on a whim while on holiday in 2007, this stylish eco-hideaway sits smack in the middle of island-dotted Lake Nicaragua. With an environmentally friendly foot forward, Jicaro offers a refreshing disconnect, but it’s still just a short boat ride from the charming colonial town of Granada. The use of WiFi (available in public areas) is strongly discouraged, and watching TV is not even an option — there isn’t a single set on the islet.
Bed and Bath
Tropical trees surround the nine two-story wooden casitas, which are elegantly but simply dressed and have enormous windows looking out over quiet Lake Nicaragua. Spend mornings with fresh coffee, tea or hot chocolate delivered to your deck, and afternoons lazing in your lakeside hammock. Open-plan bathrooms offer little privacy but allow you to shower with views of the rain forest.
Nicaragua may not be known for its cuisine, but Jicaro certainly is. The lodge’s San Francisco–trained chef prepares light, healthy, organic fare in an open kitchen next to the restaurant. Don’t miss the huevos nicaraguenses for breakfast and the essential Nicaraguan accompaniments: gallo pinto, onions, smashed red beans and rice. For more active diversions, salute the sun with alfresco yoga on the floating dock, hike to the beautiful Asese Peninsula, go on a sunset kayak cruise or try exhilarating canopy ziplining. Back at the lodge there’s the promise of a relaxing Swedish or hot stone massage in one of two open-air rooms at the lakeside spa.
In the Area
Paddle out with a guide to explore the diverse ecosystem that surrounds Jicaro. As you glide through water lily–covered canals, spot howler monkeys, an occasional lake turtle and many of the area’s 87 bird species. Don’t forget binoculars, plenty of sunscreen and a swimsuit if you want to take a dip. Or, for a more adrenaline-filled excursion, zipline through the canopy using harnesses and pulleys along 2,000 feet of cable that stretch between 17 platforms placed as much as 100 feet above the forest floor. Save time for a trip to the pastel-colored streets of Granada. Climb the bell tower of Iglesia de la Merced for the spectacular view, and then head for a delicious dinner at Imagine.
How to Get There
I came to this piece of paradise for a birthday treat and oh, what an experience. The hotel is stunning, the surroundings incredible, the staff first class. Each meal was a sensation for the taste buds and what better than to swim in a private lake, kayak, climb the local volcano or relax by the pool with a cocktail? Nothing is too much trouble for the wonderful staff, who seem to be able to magic up local tour guides, private cars and travel connections! Just perfect.
We decided to take a quick romantic trip on a whim and stayed at Jicaro for a few days – best decision ever! We didn’t know exactly what to expect but the island was so so peaceful. The energy of the place is seriously magic! The hotel has free paddleboards and kayaks which was fun, and also yoga. We also booked a couples massage which was utter bliss. Service was amazing (special shout-out to Arge – we miss you!!) and the food was to die for – those rum banana pancakes and fish tacos!! If I had to pick a highlight it’s got to be the surprise romantic dinner the staff set up for us out on the floating deck. Total goose bumps and truly unforgettable! Jicaro, we will be back!
After our first stay at Jicaro Island Lodge and I need more stars and diamonds to describe our experience.
My husband and I had never before traveled to Nicaragua and a last-minute decision to escape from work ahead of the holidays landed us at Jicaro Island. Before we even arrived, the service was tremendous. A quick chat online through their website enabled me to arrange a wonderful and charming driver to pick us up at the Managua airport and deliver us to the marina 45 minutes away in Granada. From there, we were greeted by several staff members and shuttled across the bay to the gorgeous resort. I never wanted to leave.
I cannot emphasize enough how every aspect of Jicaro Island shows impeccable attention to detail. From the dining spaces to the casitas to the spa, every spot is stunning and genius in its design, and every view is more enchanting than the next.
The service is unparalleled. The staff members were truly excellent. Everything from arranging a tour of the Mombacho volcano, to planning an impromptu fishing excursion for my husband , to overseeing laundry service – it happened seamlessly and with so little effort on my part that I felt truly spoiled. It was like magic that coffee was delivered, rooms were straightened, drinks were refreshed, hammocks hung were and beds were turned down. I am in awe of the efforts. Also, I could not be more appreciative of everyone’s fluency in English and their patience with my Spanish.
Last but not least, the menu at Jicaro Island is hands-down phenomenal. Pages of meal options ranged from healthy spa cuisine to robust local steaks and hearty Nicaraguan dishes – any and all made to order and every choice delicioso! I dream of their spicy tomato soup, ceviches, and fish dishes whenever I sit down for a meal.
My husband and I have ventured far and wide in our vacations, from Airbnbs to the Ritz. Jicaro Island has raised the bar forever for us because of its beauty, luxury and tranquility. I simply can’t wait to return.
I've been fortunate enough to stay at Jicaro Island Lodge on multiple occasions, and it truly is a magical experience.
Firstly, I think it's really important to acknowledge the people who make Jicaro Island so special. In my experience, everyone I've met from the front of house team, to the food and beverage team, to the housekeepers, manager and sustainability team is always so friendly, warm and welcoming. They always have a smile on their face, nothing is too much trouble, and they always make time for conversation. Each time I've visited, I've been welcomed back as if I were one of the family. In fact, whilst visiting last year for my birthday, I was greeted in the morning with balloons, flowers and a chalkboard mural wishing me a Happy Birthday, and in the evening, the chef had baked me a beautiful cake, which I shared with the team. It's the little gestures like that which make a difference.
The island itself is simply beautiful. Accessible by a short boat ride from the port in Granada, Jicaro Island is beautifully peaceful, tranquil and private and is surrounded by views of the nearby volcanos. It's also home to the most picture postcard perfect sunrises and sunsets. Jicaro is a nature-lovers paradise and is perfect for bird watching and if you're feeling a little more adventurous, you can even borrow one of Jicaro's kayaks or paddleboards to visit the monkeys on some of neighbouring isletas.
You don't have a room at Jicaro Island, but instead you have your own private casita, complete with terrace and requisite hammock, indoor sitting area, beautiful bathroom with a rainforest shower, and canopy bed. It sort of feels like a grown-up version of a treehouse. It's so easy to feel at home here - I spent many afternoons lazing around in my hammock, watching the birds, reading, and reveling in the serenity.
It's hard to imagine wanting to leave the island, but a trip to the colonial town of Granada is a must-see, as well as visiting the volcanoes, all of which are excursions Jicaro are able to arrange. I also enjoyed the daily yoga sessions, kayaking around the isletas and swimming in the lake. And of course, lazing by the pool with a cocktail or two.
And of course, that brings us to the food. Quite simply, the food at Jicaro is absolutely divine. It's hands down the best food I've eaten in Nicaragua, and some of the dishes are up there with my all-time favourites. The menu offers a great selection of local cuisine and tried and true classics, and is all made using fresh and local ingredients, many of which are grown on neighbouring isletas. Every day, I promised myself that I'd limit myself to just 2 dishes at lunch, but every day I caved in and treated myself to a 3-course lunch and dinner, the food really is that good. There is also a good selection of wine and spirits on offer, and no visit to Jicaro would be complete without one of their signature cocktails.
It's impossible not to fall in love with Jicaro Island Lodge, and its amazing team, and I would highly recommend staying at Jicaro when you next visit Nicaragua. I'm sure you won't be disappointed!
My wife and I visited Jicaro Island Lodge in May 2018 for our anniversary and absolutely loved it. Jicaro Island is a very small island in Lake Nicaragua. The resort is reachable only by boat from the Granada Marina--about a 35-minute drive from Managua Airport. The resort comprises nine individual two-story cabins, each of which sits on the banks of the island with varying views of the lake. The cabins are essentially tree houses on a tiny island. Each one is secluded from the others. The environment is utterly peaceful, the only sounds being those of the birds in the trees that surround the cabins and of the howler monkeys on neighboring islands. To give you a sense of the size of the island, we kayaked around the entire island in 7 minutes. Each cabin has a "living room" and bathroom on the ground floor, with a bedroom upstairs, as well as a sizable deck with a large hammock and a small table and chairs at which coffee and pastries are served each morning. "Cabin" is actually not entirely accurate, as the structures are actually completely open air, but screened in. You really do feel as if you are sleeping in the trees and are part of the landscape.
Apart from the cabins, the resort includes an open-air (everything is open air) dining area, a bar, a small pool, a lounge/reading room, a lakeside yoga platform, and a spa area, as well as a small beach. There is also a dock, from which you can take kayaks and paddle boards to explore the lake--and from which you access the boat that takes you to and from Granada Marina for the various excursions/adventures that are offered.
The staff at Jicaro is fantastic. Think Four Seasons on steroids. Every staff member knows your name before you arrive, and everything you might want is taken care of almost before you ask for it.
Considering that the maximum number of guests on the island is essentially 18, the variety of the menu choices is remarkable. There are some dozen choices for breakfast and lunch--each incorporating locally-sourced ingredients. I recommend trying each of the Nicaraguan specialties, as every one was fantastic. However, more conventional menu items are also offered at each meal. You can get a local-style tamale steamed in banana leaf one morning, and bacon and eggs the next. One orders dinner at breakfast time, as the staff ventures into Granada and Masaya to get fresh ingredients based on your order. Every meal was excellent. The bar was also very good--I recommend that resort's special tamarind cocktail.
Also excellent were the excursions offered. We did the excursion to the Mombacho Volcano. In particular, we hiked the Puma Trail. This is the harder of two trails offered. It was phenomenal. Just a little ways down the trail, we came upon two dozen howler monkeys right above us and got to spend about 20 minutes watching them roam around above us, trying to poop on us to scare us away. About 20 minutes later, we came upon approximately 30 white-faced monkeys who were utterly fascinating--jumping up and down, screaming, breaking off branches, and throwing them at us. Fascinating. At the end of the hike, the guides found several red-eyed tree frogs (found only in the volcanic cloud forests of Nicaragua) that were beautiful. My wife and I agreed that, although the resort only rated the Puma Trail it a 3 on a scale of 4 for difficulty, it is definitely a 4. My wife and I are both fit and athletic, but the Puma Trail has a huge amount of elevation gain and loss and was definitely a physical challenge. There is also a point where you cross the edge of the live volcano, which creates a significant sulphur field. I can imagine that some people could be bothered by the sulphur, as it is a little difficult to breathe during that (short) stretch of the trail.
We also went on a tour of Granada, which is the oldest active city in the Americas. It is a lovely colonial town, with beautiful churches, nice parks, a fascinating public market, and great restaurants. Our tour guide, who works for Jicaro Resort, was knowledgeable and friendly. We had a great tour.
Note that, although the resort has internet via wi-fi, the signal is not very strong and it is not very fast. But what do you expect on a tiny island in the middle of a huge lake? If you're looking for a place where you can be fully work-productive, this is probably not the place. If all you need is to be able to check email and perhaps have the occasional cell phone call, it is perfectly fine for that.
I suppose I have to comment on the extent to which the protests affected our experience. We arrived in Nicaragua on May 18, three weeks after the protests started. Although the political situation was, at that time, on everyone's mind and a subject of discussion. we were unaffected by it until after we left the resort, at which point, during our drive to the south of the country, we were stopped three times at peaceful protest spots. We never felt that we were in danger. That said, I cannot comment on what the situation may be like now. All I can say is that we loved our trip to Nicaragua and to Jicaro Island and we hope the political situation stabilizes so that others can enjoy this beautiful paradise.