The world is waking up to the many travel delights of Nicaragua: charming colonial towns, huge freshwater lakes, fiery volcanoes, lush Caribbean islands, world-class surfing and shady coffee plantations offering unbeatable birdwatching. And then there’s the vibrant folk art, the tasty traditional dishes, the award-winning rum and the incredible people. Mass tourism has thus far passed Nicaragua by, and the best resorts here are remote, sustainable and boutique in style.
Most visitors stay in the colonial city of Granada and take a day trip to visit the forested islands of Las Isletas in Lake Cocibolca, aka Lake Nicaragua. At Jicaro you’re just 15 minutes from Granada, but far from the hustle and bustle. The comfortable cabins are built from reclaimed timbers and the gourmet meals are organic. Relax by the infinity pool overlooking the mighty Mombacho volcano, stretch on the yoga deck or kayak as you ease into the tranquility of island life.
Rough-luxe doesn’t do justice to this eco-resort, reached through a thickly forested nature reserve. You’ll stay in treehouse-style bungalows set in a private cliff-side jungle with outdoor showers and porches looking down on a crescent of sand. Beds are topped by an ingeniously silent and eco-friendly air conditioning unit, so you are lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves and woken by the distant whoops of howler monkeys. A dining area serves breakfasts and gourmet meals sourced from the in-house organic gardens.
Built on a hillside to exploit the panorama of the Masaya volcano and the large crater lake below it, this remote ecolodge in Masatepe is all about unwinding and taking in the views, especially from the infinity pool. The natural theme continues in the palm-thatched cabins, which are decorated with funky murals of colorful wildlife. For a day out, head to the craft market in the town of Masaya or take an evening tour to the volcano to see the bubbling lava sloshing over the sides of the deep crater.
With the San Cristobal volcano looming in the background, this isolated resort-style complex and marina in Chinandega, on the shores of the Aserradores estuary, is a place to get away from it all. Large suites with balconies prioritize the view, and an infinity pool is a refreshing escape from the heat. Sports fishing in the open ocean is one of the draws for visitors looking to land a dorado or marlin, and surfers will love the famous breaks on the nearby Aposentillo beach.
Courtesy of Yemaya Island Hideaway Hotel / Expedia
Nicaragua’s best-kept Caribbean secret is the pocket paradise of Little Corn Island, where lilting English Creole is the local tongue and every beach is a short walk away. Tucked among the palms on the northern tip of the island, the rough-luxe cabins of Yemaya overlook golden sands and crystal waters. There’s no main pool, but there’s snorkeling, kayaking and paddleboarding in the ocean. To ease into island life, start with a spa treatment, take a yoga session or bliss out on the beach with a cocktail.
Treehouse villas set in thick forest overlook a stunning crescent beach at this hippie-chic ecolodge and spa on the wild Pacific coast. Work on your asanas at a large thatched yoga deck, and bust out any remaining knots with a massage or spa treatment. For more action, take out a paddleboard or head to the nearby surf spots. There are no TVs in the rooms, as the emphasis is on getting away from it all, but the wifi is strong enough for a sneaky catch-up of your favorite box sets.
A family-friendly condo complex that also has long-stay options, Gran Pacifica is only an hour from the international airport, but is unspoiled enough to feel remote. Rooms and suites are spacious, and there’s an infinity pool with loungers overlooking Playa San Diego beach. Activities include sports fishing and horse riding, and the resort has three nine-hole golf courses.
With 157 rooms and located in the main restaurant and shopping area of Managua, the Real InterContinental offers the level of service and comfort you would expect from a five-star hotel. Families and couples will appreciate the large pool when the city starts to swelter, and there’s a well-equipped gym. A wide choice of meals at the three on-site restaurants runs from home-style favorites such as pizzas and pasta to fine dining on seafood and steaks. The Metrocentro Mall, with clothes shopping and a food court, is a short walk away.
Reached by boat on a choppy ride from Pearl Lagoon, this tiny Caribbean hideaway in the Pearl Cays is aimed at A-listers, with a maximum of eight guests staying in suites crafted from driftwood and a staff of 25 to wait on them. The lucky castaways who wash up here can swim in crystal-clear waters, kayak to other islands or just laze in the infinity pool. A gourmet chef serves fresh-caught lobster with coconut milk in a nod to Creole cuisine, and every day is a cocktail day.