I’ve spent nearly my entire career in tourism. Over the past 15 years I’ve watched developing tourism destinations around the world follow a similar path to growth.
First, a destination is “discovered” by backpackers and adventure travelers. Travelers like this are typically undeterred by a country’s dicey reputation or lack of modern amenities. Recent examples of destinations that grew from backpacker favorites to leading luxury destinations include Mozambique and Columbia.
Next, very high-end projects catering to people who want to see and experience new places, but are not willing to sacrifice comfort to do so will open in these developing tourism destinations. An added benefit for this class of high-end adventure traveler is the opportunity to have bragging rights among friends back home.
From there, middle market and mass tourism development may follow.
So when I started hearing a buzz about Nicaragua several years ago, I was intrigued. For many of us, Nicaragua still garners images of war and poverty.
Travelers were talking about Nicaragua as a safe destination, one that offers widespread natural beauty, and unique colonial history. And yes, the buzz was largely coming from backpackers and adventure travelers.
But then Guacalito de la Isla, a massive, multi-faceted development and Carlos Pellas’ vision to put Nicaragua on the tourism map as a luxury travel destination, came on the scene. This development actually offers two accommodation options on the coast of Nicaragua; vacation rental homes and Mukul Beach Resort.
When they invited me to come down and have a look I couldn’t say no. Nicaragua not only has the buzz of a hot travel destination, but is now also home to one of the most luxurious properties in all of Central America.
This development absolutely lived up to the hype and in my assessment absolutely reigns as leader when it comes to Nicaragua luxury beach resorts.
Staying at Guacalito de la Isla
Guacalito de la Isla is an ideal Nicaragua Pacific Coast home base for families and an excellent place to wrap up a Nicaragua or Central American family travel itinerary.
Guacalito de la Isla is the name of the residential community development including private residences, a golf course, a restaurant and plans for more homes, an equestrian center and even a town center with shops and restaurants. Mukul, a boutique resort, is also part of this community development. Residents and guests of the Guacalito de la Isla vacation rental program have access to amenities at Mukul with reservations and in some cases, at an extra cost.
From the moment we drove through the main gates, we breathed a sigh of relief and relaxation. Paver-lined roads and meticulous landscaping snake throughout the pristine property. We were greeted with magnificent views of the Pacific ocean from the hilltop before descending through the property towards the water.
We stayed in one of the Las Terrazas apartments. These condos, perched high on the hill with stunning views of the Pacific coastline below, are all privately owned, three-bedroom units.
After a week in Granada, we loved being able to open our bags and settle in. You’ll notice the safety right away. The complex is extremely safe, so we didn’t have to worry about locking things up, and the tap water is safe to drink. After a month on the road in Central America, these little things were much appreciated.
We used a shared pool for theLas Terrazas community. Several more Las Terrazas buildings are currently under construction, so the inventory here will only continue to increase.
At least for now, be sure to stop at a grocery story in Rivas to stock up on your way as there are no grocery stores in the area yet. I’m sure that will all change, however, as an airport opens later this year (2015) and Guacalito enters a 2nd phase of development which will include a town center, shops and more.
Things to do at Guacalito de la Isla
Guacalito de la Isla is all about relaxing and enjoying the beach. Head down to the main club house, where you can grab lunch and drinks.
My kids spotted the playground a mile away, and after several weeks on the road were thrilled to run free. The raised mini-soccer field was also a hit.
There is something special about the beach at Mukul and Guacalito de la Isla. A crescent bay made up of a wide, flat beach with dark sand invited all of us to run, do cartwheels and hand stands. It’s almost always totally empty, and the freedom and illusion of privacy made for great times on the beach.
The water here is warm, and certain areas on this beach as well as others in the area are also great for surfing. The beach here also has lifeguards, a rarity in Central America.
Guacalito de la Isla shares some amenities with Mukul resort. If you’re staying in the residences at Guacalito, you can book spa services as well as dine at Mukul, a luxury resort on the same property. But if you’re traveling with kids, the residences are absolutely the way to go.
The spa is truly one of a kind. Enjoy your services in a “private sanctuary.” Choose between one of six suites that is all yours while you’re enjoying your service. Start with a steam shower, move into the service room, and end with a soak outside while you enjoy the hilltop views.
If you go, plan on spending at least three nights at Mukul Beach Resort . The experience here works well at the end of a broader Central American itinerary, focusing on an opportunity to relax and unwind before heading home.