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
- Free WiFi
- Handicap Accessible
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
First a little back story - I had booked 8 days at yoga wellness spa only to find out none of those words should have been used to describe the experience. I was 2.5 hours for anywhere and couldn’t fathom staying another night. Besides no yoga and wellness there was also no electricity or water. I had tried to change my flight plans to no avail and realized I better find somewhere else to go.
After scouring the internet I found jicaro island resort. At first glance I thought “yes! I am going there!” I packed my bag and left. The ride there was at best harrowing and on the way there I found out wouldn’t be able to get to the island till the next day. I sat in the car with the driver yelling at me thinking “oh my god- what have I gotten myself into.”
In stepped Howard the GM at jicaro. He found me a room in Granada, met me at the door of the hotel and handled the surly drive. First impression was “wow”! I felt like visiting royalty. After a wonderful night at the plaza colon, Howard himself met me in the morning and escorted me to the skiff then on to jicaro. Again wow!
The boat ride there across Lake Nicaragua is amazing. Words can’t describe it, pictures wont do it justice. The island itself is breathtaking, a true tropical paradise. It is serene and beautifully laid-out.
Arriving at the island I was greeted by some of the staff with a drink in hand. As my bags were whisked off to my room I was give a tour of the small island.
The casita are beautifully designed to be open and airy yet private. The room is stocked (first day is gratis) with light and dark rum (it’s a generous amount probably between 4-6 shots) as well as mixers, local beer and soft drinks. They also leave you little snacks everyday. If that wasn’t enough to make you feel welcome you also get coconut oil, coffee scrub and lip balm. You can do your own rum soaked spa treatment in your room.
The food is amazing, every meal was perfect. Everything is pretty much made to order and they accommodate most food preferences (I’m a vegetarian and Latin America can be challenging but not a jicaro, I was stuffed, stuffed! every night).
My first day I had a massage and it was wonderful. The spa is located in an isolated part of the island with an amazing view of the lake. I laid there listening to the birds and the lapping of the water and forgot the last 3 days.
The staff is unbelievable, kind, responsive and amazingly professional. They strike the perfect balance of being present without being invasive. Everyone was kind, considerate and truly made me feel welcome. The level of professionalism of the staff is truly top notch. A model of what hospitality means.
Jicaro is located about 20 minutes or so to Granada by boat so it is a wonderful place to relax and still be near a lot of the attractions.
A note on Nicaragua - I was a women traveling alone and besides the surly driver I never felt in danger or uncomfortable, most everyone I met was kind and considerate. I was probably hassled less in Granada then in many cities I have visited. There were 2 protest while I was there - supposedly. It really had zero affect on my vacation. I only know this because I signed up for the state department updates. I walked alone at night in Granada to get dinner without a worry. I probably shouldn’t admit this but I actually forgot to lock my casita door on jicaro a few nights, it literally feels that safe.
I’ve never stayed at a Four Seasons but I feel that at Jicaro Island Lodge I got the closest I’ll probably ever get to that level of exceptional attention, comforts and food. My husband and I give my heartfelt thanks to Julio, Maria, Arge, Diamanda, Mario, Lester, Segundo, Javier, Claudia and everyone else on the Jicaro staff along with the founder, Karen Emanuel’s vision for giving us a lifelong memory of relaxation, connection and learning about the country of Nicaragua.
We celebrated our anniversary and my husband’s birthday during our visit and the staff made both very special. We loved Julio, Segundo, Arge and Lester singing happy birthday with maracas. And, our floating dock anniversary dinner was a beautiful and most wonderful experience. Completely magical and unforgettable.
One of best things about Jicaro, along with the staff, is that it’s on a small island and to get there of course you have to get on a boat. I’m estimating it takes approximately 15 minutes on the boat to get there. For anyone who’s nervous on a boat, it’s a wide-bottomed boat with about eight seats and a shade cover. Super comfortable and the sights are so calming.
It was very warm most days but being on the water kayaking or hanging out by the beautiful pool kept us cool. The cars used for the mainland excursions had air conditioning. Fans in the room worked well and I brought a rechargeable hand-held fan that helped me out occasionally. I bailed on make up and hair dos most of the time. We brought lots of bug juice and only got a couple of bites. The bed netting worked well and is lovely to wake up to.
The number of bird species on Lake Nicaragua is amazing. We highly recommend the bird watching tour on the boat. It would have been way too hard to kayak and look through binoculars. Julio was so good at spotting birds and communicating where they were in a sea of green leaves. We saw so many different kinds of birds, some turtles and even sighted some howler monkeys. Love Nicaragua’s national bird – Guardabarronco. What a beautiful bird!
We also enjoyed watching cutter ants on the island. Those guys slay me every time with the size of objects they can carry. Great Jicaro entertainment!
We love the idea that much of the small island has been left as was found. The rocks that were left create hidden walkways. Continuing the eco mindset and sustainability - Bamboo straws, real dishes and glassware (reusable plastic by the pool) local crafts on display – all part of sustainable environment and community. Sustainability is serious and we did not take the efforts at Jicaro for granted. We appreciated all that was shared with us.
The sights on the excursions are unique and special – swimming in Lagoon de Appayo which is a crater lake – peering down into Masaya Volcano at sunset – Alex and Gustavo as guides and Maximillan as our driver. They are so knowledgeable and grounded. We did the tour of the White Towns with Alex – one is known for its plant nurseries with thousands of flowering and green foliage plants, another town has an incredible view of a crater lake and is a place that people gather to look at the view and connect with one another. It overlooks Lagoon de Appoyo which we later swam in and hung out on a floating dock. The water is a deep, clean and a refreshing blue. We also visited a family-owned and operated pottery studio where they use kick wheels (manual) and use colored pigments rather than glazes for their colorful wares. We enjoyed a demo, discussion and tour. We visited Masaya where we walked through El Mercado with a large center stage for entertainment and many vendors selling local wares. We then stopped at a local restaurant and sampled some sweet treats that are a traditional Nicaraguan dish.
Another day we went out with Gustavo for a tour of the nearby historic Colonial town of Granada. He is so knowledgeable and enthusiastic. A very good tour guide who asks a lot of questions as well as has the ability to explain the intricate history of Granada. We toured the cemetery which is very ornate, climbed to the top of a church bell tower for spectacular views overlooking Granada and learned about the history of the railroad.
During our stay we felt very safe and saw no reason to be afraid as the government/military has receded, allowing the people, environment, culture and architecture to be enjoyed by visitors without fear or intimidation.
The food! We so enjoyed all of the food that chefs, Mario and Segundo prepared. We really loved the Creole salad which I think we had every day for lunch during our 8-day stay. The fresh fruit (banana, papaya, mango, pineapple, and two other native fruits that I don’t remember the names) and freshly made bread at breakfast was fantastic. The fabulous, strong Nicaraguan coffee, the banana vinegar and the Diablito are amazing! We also appreciated some of the unexpected delicious snacks that appeared occasionally while we sat by the pool. It’s so hard to imagine how good the food could be out on this tiny island, but Chefs Mario and Segundo have got it down! How I miss their food! A big thank you to Diamanda for sending me some of the recipes we enjoyed at Jicaro.
The kayaking is fantastic. You could go as far or as close from Jicaro as you’re comfortable with. It’s such a peaceful activity and around Jicaro are water lilies, beautiful trees, fantastic and interesting birds, wonderful smalls islands with private family homes, and there’s even a cemetery across the way from Jicaro. Some of the native trees are huge and hang over the water. One of my favorite pictures is of Nicaragua’s national tree which was flowering during our stay, and Mombacho Volcano towering in the distance. (I’ve added the pic below under "Bird Watching".)
We also had several spa treatments that were good and the spa facility is a lovely indoor/outdoor environment.
There were a few other people staying there while we were there and they mostly kept to themselves. One couple shared some excursion tips which we appreciated and we did the same. I was under the assumption that during our excursions other guests would be joining us, but that wasn’t the case which was great with us. We also appreciated that no one played loud radios or made a lot of noise. It’s a very peaceful and serene place.
Around sunset time and cocktail hour we sat at the table just outside the bar drinking and snacking, watching the most beautiful sunsets. Our last night at Jicaro was made special with a beautiful table setting on a lower deck area with a fantastic sunset view. A terrific way to end a very special trip. Thank you Julio and Arge.
I look forward to visiting Nicaragua again and sitting and reconnecting with the people we met at Jicaro.
From the very first moment I set foot on the Jicaro Island Lodge property I was warmly taken care of by the amazing staff! I can't stress enough how welcoming and accommodating everyone was. The team helped us plan our excursions for each day. They made sure we had a fantastic driver, a knowledgeable guide, plus snacks and supplies we didn't know we needed. The food on the resort is delicious! Everyday coffee and breakfast breads are provided with an amazing assortment fresh fruits and juices. The lunch and dinner options are also terrific and accommodating for anyone with dietary restrictions. Daily morning yoga looking out on the lake with the soothing sounds of nature was perfectly lovely and the best way to start the day.
I would recommend Jicaro to anyone who is looking for a unique vacation. The island itself offers luxury sustainable accommodations, and the excursions give you the opportunity to experience the natural beauty and culture of Nicaragua. Time feels like it slows down a little bit on the island making it a great place to relax and unwind, but still with the comfort of having wi-fi in your back pocket. This is a truly a special place, and I genuinely hope I make it back!
First off, it seems the 2 biggest questions deal with the Safety and Mosquitos. 1) We felt completely safe getting to and from the island as well as our time on the island. All guides, drivers, and locals we talked to were very friendly, and it seems like the political tension has subsided. 2) The mosquitos were abundant on the 2 calm nights we had and not noticeable on the breezy nights. They were only out for about 2 hours after sunset and only bad for 1 of those 2 hours. We got used to watching the sunset and then going inside to get ready for dinner while the mosquitos were out. We did not see a single mosquito inside our casita.
Now onto the review...The island is beautiful and so different than other places. Definitely luxury yet eco at the same time. The food was amazing and the drinks were wonderful. The best was the morning coffee/tea/juice and banana bread delivered to your private deck followed by morning yoga on the main deck. Sunsets behind the Mombacho Volcano are also unbelievable as is kayaking/SUP around all the many tiny neighboring islands. The pool definitely came in handy as the lake is not clear; the pool is also bigger than it looks in pictures. Great place to completely unplug and the incredibly friendly staff make it easy to relax.
We ended our trip in Nicaragua with a very pleasant 6 days on Jicaro Island, close to Grenada. It is a pleasant 1 hour drive from Managua airport plus a small boat ride. This small part of Nicaragua lake is a little quiet oasis in the middle of Central America. A cluster of small islands provides a sheltered part of the lake, covered in lush vegetation and an abundance of tropical birds.
The island itself is quite quaint, nice little paths with several steps to keep you fit, 9 casitas dotted around the pretty island. All are 2 floors with a sitting room and a bathroom on the ground floor and a bedroom upstairs. Nice and spacious, very quiet except for the bird life.
The food was great, felt on the healthy side and the friendly service provided by Diamond, Ruby, Lester, Arka was very good. While sitting by the pool they refreshed the water regularly and were always available for drinks.
The reason we went was for the excursions. We did the bird watching trip by boat with Julio, this was an exceptional trip and I would highly recommend everyone to do it. Julio was a great guide and spotted 37 different birds and some monkeys. We did a couple of other hikes which were quite strenuous and an island boat trip - all were good.
I still can not believe how peaceful and beautiful it was sitting on an island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. As an aside we had heard Nicaragua had some political problems, we spent 15 days in Nicaragua and although we saw a lot of troops, never saw any trouble and do not believe you are likely to encounter any.