The Best Hotels in Nicaragua
It’s time to let the masses have Costa Rica. Nicaragua, its lush neighbor to the north, is emerging as Central America’s next hot-ticket eco-destination. How best to experience this sparsely populated country's beautiful rain forests and pristine beaches? These eight hotels are a great place to start.
Mukul, an Auberge Resort
The first five-star hotel to hit the shores of Nicaragua is a far cry from its typical eco-chic bungalow hotels. An untouched swath of Pacific coastline is home to Mukul, comprised of just 12 beach villas, 23 cliffside bohios, and an impressive open-air lobby built like a palapa. Everything here was designed with privacy in mind: the spa is made up of six standalone pavilions and Turkish baths, a golf course is tucked away in a nearby valley, and more than seven miles of hiking and biking trails are for guests’ use only. It’s luxurious and intimate—but not without a conscience. Owner (and Nicaraguan billionaire) Carlos Pellas built Mukul with a mission, replanting 1,500 trees and creating jobs on-site for the surrounding communities.
The most design-forward hotel to hit Granada also happens to be one of our favorites. Two New York restaurateurs and expats opened Tribal Hotel in 2014—a cozy, seven-room bolt hole that is at once cosmopolitan and bohemian. Interiors read like the eclectic home of a world traveler: Moroccan lanterns, artwork from Kenya, and Turkish kilims mix with midcentury modern furniture in guest rooms, all of which have a private terrace overlooking the palm tree-shaded central pool. Although there’s no restaurant on site, guests are welcome to indulge in the hotel’s traditional Nicaraguan breakfasts and poolside cocktails. Otherwise, the Granada’s 500-year-old UNESCO-protected streets are just out the door.
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In a country dominated by cloud forests and dormant volcanoes, it’s hard to believe Nicaragua was without a luxury mountain resort until the opening of Nekupe last year. But therein lies the magic. Here, just four rooms and four villas come with their own local guide and all-terrain vehicle—necessary for navigating the surrounding 1,300-acre reserve, home to howler monkeys and wild boar. After an adrenaline-fueled day of horseback riding or mountain biking the trails, there’s nothing better than kicking back with a rum and cigar tasting or simply sunning by the communal infinity pool—views of the Nicaraguan jungle on all sides.
Aqua Wellness Resort
Tranquility is a byword for this serene forest resort tucked away on Nicaragua’s untouched Emerald Coast, where even the tree-house accommodations come with kitchens, plunge pools, and spacious decks (so we’d forgive you for never wanting to leave). Along with said tree houses, there are 50 villas and suites scattered across the hillside looking out to the sand and the sea—morning yoga, surfing, or meditation, anyone?—along with a spa and open-air beachside restaurant, where guests can enjoy locally sourced dishes with their toes in the sand. If ever you tire of the view, staff are on hand to arrange fishing excursions, volcano treks, or visits to the UNESCO-listed capital, Granada.
Jicaro Island Ecolodge
Looking to go off the grid? You won’t find much more in the way of seclusion than at this romantic eco-retreat, which sits on its own island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. Everything here is sourced from the surroundings—food comes from the on-site chicken and pig farm and edible garden, and all water is filtered from the freshwater lake itself. Nine two-story wooden casitas feature mosquito-netted beds and huge windows overlooking the water. There’s not a TV in sight (and good luck finding WiFi), but we doubt you’ll mind unplugging. Paddle out onto the lake with a guide to spot turtles and some of the area’s 87 bird species, zip line you way 100 feet over the forest floor, or hang back at the lodge for a yoga class, spa treatment, or a snooze—we won’t judge.
Yemaya Island Hideaway & Spa
To reach Yemaya, 43 miles off the country’s eastern coast on Little Corn Island, you have to take a 90-minute flight from Managua, followed by a 20-minute ferry and then a second boat trip to the hotel (you’ll find no paved roads here). The journey, however, is worth the reward. Just 16 cabanas line an untouched beach, stylishly decorated with embroidered throws, white beds, stone-walled showers, and hammocks strung between two palms. The mindset around wellness cannot be overstated: there’s a covered yoga platform that hosts twice-daily classes, shoes are to be removed before meals, and the drink order is more often than not detox smoothies than any fancy cocktail. From the hotel, it’s a 30-minute jungle hike to “town”—worth it if you want to immerse yourself in the laid-back local culture (which is made up mostly of Nicaraguans, dedicated scuba divers, and the backpacking set).
Morgan's Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge
As far as ecolodges go, it doesn’t get more “back to nature” than Morgan’s Rock. Guests fly into the 4,000-acre private reserve via an overgrown airstrip, where they’re led to one of 15 screen-enclosed, thatched-roof bungalows fronting the forest or the sea. Inside, it’s expectedly rustic: hanging daybeds, sweeping balconies, walls made from reclaimed bamboo, sweeping balconies that let in the sights and sounds... To give you a sense of how "wild" it is here, sea turtles nest on the beach, the hyper-local onsite restaurant grows ingredients on its own organic farm, and sightings of sloths and capuchin monkeys are not out of the norm—nor are the spectacular sunsets you'll see from horseback on the crescent-shaped beach.
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