Nicaragua’s Next

By Kelsey Lyon / February 28, 2012

Nicaragua has the Amazon’s largest swath of primary rainforest, six active volcanoes and spectacular, undiscovered beaches. It’s the second safest country in Latin America (after Costa Rica), according to the Global Peace Index, and its hospitable culture welcomes tourists. A two- to three-hour nonstop flight from Atlanta, Houston or Miami, it attracts about 250,000 American travelers each year.

That’s about to change. As Americans discover the authentic, accommodating paradise in their backyard, Nicaraguan officials are investing in infrastructure and safety measures to encourage their return. Roads are being built and improved, though you still might have to navigate around donkey carts full of surfboardladen teenagers. Eco-lodges are popping up in quiet coves, but there are plenty of opportunities for picnics in uninhabited ones. Tourism is now Nicaragua’s second largest industry (after agriculture). Abraham Quezada, who’s opened restaurants in New York, Atlanta and South Beach, just opened Susie Q’s sushi bar in San Juan de la Sur.

The January opening of Casona Mukul at Guacalito de la Isla, a world-class luxury resort with a private David McLay Kidd designed golf course and one-of-a-kind spa, will open more travelers’ eyes, and minds, to Nicaragua. With Casona Mukul, Don Carlos Pellas of Grupo Pellas, one of Central America’s largest business conglomerates, aims to “do for Nicaragua what the Four Seasons did for Costa Rica—we are creating a catalyst that will put Nicaragua on the world tourism map.”

“We’re raising the bar very, very high,” says Casona Mukul Spa director Angel Stewart, who opened the spas at Las Ventanas al Paraiso, The Golden Door and Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage. “I’m hearing a big buzz about Nicaragua these days.”

Casona Mukul
Guacalito de la Isla, Nicaragua

Pelican Eyes
San Juan de la Sur, Nicaragua

Jicaro Island Ecolodge
Granada Isletas, Nicaragua

Aqua Wellness Resort
Playa Gigante, Nicaragua

OSM editor-in-chief ROBYN GRIGGS LAWRENCE caught Casona Mukul’s preview party and Granada’s Pase de la Virgen (Immaculate Conception celebration) while visiting Nicaragua.