THE NEW HAUTE COAST
Ultra Travel: March, 2013
article by: Paul Rubio
photography: Ken Kochey
With the opening of its first five-star resort, Nicaragua solidifies its destination status in the world of luxury travel
Nicaragua's rich cultural heritage, charming colonial towns, remarkable biodiversity and breathtaking landscapes have long been favorites of adventure enthusiasts looking to escape Central America's beaten tourist trail. To accommodate the growing number of these travelers, the country's southern and central Pacific coastlines - as well as its picturesque colonial town, Granada, and its surrounding lake islands - have blossomed with a vast portfolio of oceanfront developments and Eco-chic lodges. Nevertheless, the country still lacked a world-class resort that would garner superstar status on the luxury travel map - until now. With the arrival of the country's first world-class resort and its quarter-billion-dollar excess, the stage has been set for the rise of Latin America's newest " It " destination.
Welcome to Mukul, the first five-star resort and residential development in Nicaragua, set on a pristine 1,670 acre property on the southern Pacific Coast called Guacalito de la Isla. The opulent yet Eco-minded 36 groundswell of rave reviews and bookings. Translating to " secret " in Mayan, Mukul indeed surfaces a clandestine hideaway for the international jet set; a self-contained world of design-savvy villas, bohios, and spa sanctuaries, private beaches, seductive pools, fine dining, championship golf and everything imaginable for the outdoor and water-sport enthusiast.
Equidistant from Nicaragua's capital city of Managua and the Costa Rican city of Liberia, Mukul cascades from the low-rise mountains of Manzanillo Beach to the velvety sands themselves, with a collection of 23 hilltop bohios (thatched-roof suites) and 12 beach villas. Each unit is uniquely Nicaraguan, showcasing national identity through architecture and design.
Amalgamations of native teak and glass, the bohios peer over Nicaragua's finest panoramas of sand and sea. Exquisite, intricately patterned tiles from Granada's oldest tile manufacturer line the floors and walls. Lively scenes of nature come to life on bedside lamps, constructed from mud of the Masaya volcano and then etched by local artists. Grass weavings and deconstructed barrels from Nicaragua's iconic Flor de Cana run factory have been reinvented as modern art. Hand-crafted wood furnishings exemplify the prowess of Nicaragua's prized wood industry while employing Mukul's sustainability mantra through the use of fallen trees salvaged during hurricane cleanups. Private plunge pools, expansive decks and complimentary mini-bars -- stocked with national beers like Tona and Victoria Frost, Flor de Cana rums and homemade national treats like cajeta de coco ( a coconut candy) -- round out the scene.
The luxury factor goes up another notch in the villas. Decorated in a comparable style yet architecturally distinctive with vaulted ceilings, the square footage swells from the bohios' 620 to 3,000. Much of this extra square footage is dedicated to the regal shower and bath area, which includes an outdoor shower garden, a " liquid temple " with rain showers and soaking tubs, and two separate vanity rooms. A full-sized, infinity-edge swimming pool anchors a sprawling terrace, lined with lounge chairs and complemented by a dining and relaxation pavilion. Each villa is also exclusively assigned a personal butler. A separate foyer provides the butler inconspicuous access to deliver morning coffee and cakes as well as evening nightcaps without infringing on privacy.
Taking it up yet another level, La Casona Don Carlos, is like a resort within a resort. An enclave of six double-story beachfront villas, La Casona serves as Carlos Pellas' family vacation home select weeks of the year and caters to larger families and groups at other times.
Beyond the villas and bohios, Mukul's haute resort-style offerings cater to the full spectrum of leisure aficionados. Golf enthusiasts gravitate towards the championship, David McLay Kidd designed, 18-hole golf course, cast over a forest where howler monkeys roam. Nature buffs revel in daily hikes, snorkeling trips and exotic bird watching. Beach lovers alternate between sunbathing on Manzanillo Beach, sipping macuas ( the national drink consisting of extra light run, guava pulp, orange and lime juice ) in the oceanfront common pools and kayaking along serene Guacalito Beach, a second, remote white-sand beach on Guacalito de la Isla's undeveloped terrain. Socialites tend to base themselves at the resort's principal palapa, home to the Flor de Cana Rum Cellar and the whimsically decorated lookout lounge. A 40-foot, tiered wrought iron chandelier with more than 100 traditional Nicaraguan baskets adorn this thatched-roof masterpiece.
A visit to Mukul would be incomplete without banking multiple hours in the Spa Mukul. The spa consists of six separate thematic sanctuaries, each with a private entrance, bespoke hydrotherapy circuit and signature treatments. Treatments in the Crystal Temple, for example, center on the healing powers of gems. The Casita Mukul recalls pre-hispanic Nicaragua with rustic colonial design and delivers centuries-old indigenous beauty rituals such as a volcanic mud wrap followed by a florecidas, or flower bath.
And while it may seem like Mukul is as good as it gets, there's still plenty more in the works for this Central American gem: a full service Beach Club, a marine dock, a house catamaran, the first phase of private homes, another restaurant to compliment the existing Parrilla and La Mesa restaurants and a landing strip for private jets.