Aqua Wellness Resort
One of the many elements that make Aqua Wellness Resort so special is its staff. Consisting of a wide array of multi-talented ex-pats, they resemble a family (and by the end of your trip, they will feel like your family). The Director of Sustainable Systems is a Vermont-educated farmer. The Managing Partner who originally hails from British Guiana is also a Manhattan hedge fund manager. The Wellness Director having “broken up with winter years ago,” spends her winters in Nicaragua and summers in Canada. The General Manager who is developing the spa into a world-class program, was born in the Ukraine. The German architect is married to the Managing Director (ask about how they met: she was a tourist in Manhattan’s Central Park, he offered her directions, they fell in love…) The English chef biked around Asia for two years perfecting his craft.
An eco luxury property comprised of 25 tree houses, Aqua Wellness Resort sits on the protected Redonda Bay on the Pacific coast. The resort emphasizes nature, in particular the stunning ocean at its feet. The houses, built on pilings amid the tropical forest and made of sustainable local wood and stone, feature rain showers and un-chlorinated private plunge pools. Ideal for families, the tree houses can accommodate several people and even have full kitchens, dining rooms and lounge areas. The Nicaraguan furnishings are comfortable and the views of the rainforest and ocean act as the world’s most spectacular decoration. One of the directors described their mission: “We’re intentionally taking people out of their comfort zone and bringing them back to basics. We’re in nature, but in a luxurious way.”
Activities include hiking, surfing, fishing, kayaking and yoga. The 1,100-square-foot yoga platform overlooks the ocean and the instructor also offers a raw-food cooking course. The protected nature of the bay allows for snorkeling and swimming in the very warm and gentle ocean, and phosphorescent sea creatures are visible at night.
The incredible food at Bromelia restaurant was the best I had in Nicaragua. Due to the similar tropical climate as southeast Asia, where the chef trained for two years, he has access to similar ingredients in Nicaragua making the food a delightful and eclectic mix of Central American, Thai, and traditional European. For dinner one night we started with bruschetta made with homemade ciabatta and local cashew-pesto, next was a freshly caught mackerel ceviche on a bed of greens from the chef’s farm on Ometepe island, followed by a Thai fish curry. And for dessert we were treated to homemade “raw” peanut butter truffles.
Villas were still being built in December of 2011 when I visited and there are a few kinks to work out, but rooms are highly functional and were the only ones in Nicaragua with WiFi access. Rooms begin at $292 in high-season.
WHO SHOULD STAY: Families and those looking for a retreat that stresses wellness.
WHO SHOULD NOT STAY: Anyone who might have problems with many stairs.
ROOMS TO GET: Ocean view, closest to the beach
INDAGARE TIP: Stay up late one night and wade into the ocean. Watch for the phosphorescence.
Pelican Eyes Resort & Spa
Pelican Eyes is the only reliable option for staying in the charming surfer town, San Juan del Sur, but know that it is rustic in infrastructure and has spotty service. Designed in 1989 by Chris Berry, an American ballet dancer and Stanford-educated lawyer, the resort has 69 villas whose undulating lines and red tiles give an impression of Gaudi-meets-Mexico. The spa with a magical view of the beach crescent and towering statue of Jesus offers treatments with products using ingredients grown on the property. The bar and restaurant, also with stunning views, is overseen by a Mexican chef and Argentine sommelier. Ingredients are local because the management is concerned with sustainability, healthy eating and supporting the local economy. Pelican Eyes Resort can arrange a sunset sailing cruise along the coastline in their private sailboat with a crew. Rooms begin at $180.
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