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Discover the Allure of Nicaragua

We hit the city, jungle and beach of this up-and-coming Latin American destination.

By: Jenna Mahoney

Enter Slideshow
  • Why It

    Why It's a Hot Honeymoon Spot

    It seems fitting that the meaning of “Nicaragua” is debatable, considering the country’s recent tumultuous history. There are some who say it refers to “the land of the lakes.” Others claim it is a loose saying from the local tribal language of the Arawak: “To where the Arawak came.” To whatever the country’s name refers, one thing is clear — Nicaragua’s diverse natural beauty, welcoming people and fantastic coffee and food (did someone say ceviche?) are ready for tourism.

    And in the past five years the country has been experiencing a boom in hospitality thanks to its dollar-friendliness, safety and excellent lodging options. Here’s what my husband and I discovered in Latin America’s hottest country.

    Photo Credit: Ryan Forbes

  • In the City

    In the City

    We started our weeklong adventure in the colonial city of Granada, which sits on the banks of the beautiful Lake Nicaragua and is less than an hour from the international airport in Managua. Founded in 1524, the Old Town section of the city has a leafy plaza, cobblestone streets and numerous churches. There are coffee shops and watering holes à-go-go, and it’s very pleasant to stroll from café to historic site, day or evening. Horse and carriage rides are a popular mode of transport to the historic cemetery (which is further afield), along with a family-run cigar-making operation.

    Photo courtesy of The Nicaragua Tourism Board

  • Granada

    Granada

    La Merced church was burned in 1854.

    Photo Credit: Dick Washburne

  • Where to Stay

    Where to Stay

    We stayed at the coolest little boutique hotel: Tribal Hotel, a collection of just six guest rooms set around a leafy inner courtyard with a pretty pool. Rooms are breezy and comfortable with private outdoor space that’s curtained and perfect for enjoying breakfast, that famous Nica coffee or an ice-cold beer. Come nighttime the candlelit common patio is a relaxed spot for a cocktail.

    Photo courtesy of The Tribal Hotel

  • Tribal Hotel

    Tribal Hotel

    Guest rooms are individually appointed (room rates start at $125 a night and include breakfast: tribal-hotel.com).

    Photo courtesy of The Tribal Hotel

  • Jicaro

    Jicaro

    One of the major draws of this Central American country is the vast topographical diversity, including the jungly islands of Lake Nicaragua. Las Isletas are a collection of 365 mostly privately owned islets with views of Mombacho volcano, set just southeast of Granada.

    Jicaro Island Ecolodge, one of the idyllic isles, is a green hideaway of nine individual treehouse-like villas, with a small pool and beach, open-air restaurant and separate bar area, intimate spa and an oversize yoga platform with a view.

    Photo courtesy of Jicaro Island Ecolodge

  • On An Island

    On An Island

    Just like the accommodations and cuisine, the atmosphere is laid-back luxury with a focus on local responsibility. Activities include paddleboarding, kayaking and fishing excursions, as well as mixology and cooking demos (room rates start at $400 a night and are all-inclusive; jicarolodge.com).

    Photo courtesy of Jicaro Island Ecolodge

  • Laid-Back Enclave

    Laid-Back Enclave

    Surfers have been keen on Nica for a while. The Pacific coast’s wide beaches boast epic breaks for all levels and, unlike neighboring countries, are rather crowd-free. Surf-friendly Rancho Santana, a sprawling gated coastal community, sports five beaches, various surf breaks, a working ranch, a taco stand, a restaurant, multiple pools, a beach-cabana spa, a recently launched intimate hotel and more.

    The oceanfront Inn at Rancho Santana houses 17 individually appointed guest rooms in a colonial hacienda-like building. Not only is it a central location from which to enjoy the enormous property’s myriad offerings, it’s the perfect perch to watch the waves, the horseback rides on the beach and amazing Pacific sunsets (room rates start at $275 and night; ranchosantana.com).

    Photo courtesy of The Inn at Rancho Santana

  • Cheers

    Cheers

    Enjoy a sundowner at Rancho Santana.

    Photo courtesy of The Inn at Rancho Santana

  • Mukul

    Mukul

    About 20 minutes from Rancho Santana sits the beachfront Mukul Beach, Golf & Spa, a high-end oasis of pampering. The ultra-luxe property boasts individual bohios (villa-like accommodations) and larger casitas, all with private pools. There’s an awesome learn-to-surf program, fabulous food (when we were there, so was Mario Batali), and an unbelievably gorgeous golf course.

    Photo Credit: Ryan Forbes

  • Spa Temple

    Spa Temple

    The resort’s best amenities are the wellness offerings. The poolside yoga classes are as instructive as any NYC studio and the spa is nothing short of spectacular. Treatments are enjoyed in six individually themed “temples” with private bathrooms and outdoor space. Services reflect the suite’s prevailing healing traditions, and all are accompanied by blended juices and healthy treats (room rates start at $500 a night; mukulresort.com).

    Photo Credit: Ryan Forbes

Discover the Allure of Nicaragua

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