You’re going to Nicaragua? Is it safe there?
This was typically the first question my wife Christina and I got upon telling friends and family that we were heading to the Central American country of Nicaragua. Many of those who were of age in the 80s and 90s still tend to associate Nicaragua with the political unrest and social strife of that time, as the country was going through its ‘Revolution.’ The Nicaragua of today, however, is an entirely different story.
Considered to be one of, if not the safest Central American countries, visitors will encounter warm and friendly locals who have a deep passion and knowledge of their history and culture. The country itself is one of contrasts. Here you will find everything from active volcanoes, emerald blue waters at the edge of white sand beaches, rolling hills, towering mountains, and lakes so large you can’t spot the other side from the shoreline.
When my parents visited neighboring Costa Rica in July of last year, locals and expats alike kept telling them
You must go to Nicaragua, my friends!
It was, they said, much like Costa Rica in its tourism infancy, the Costa Rica of 30 years ago before hordes of tour buses took to the streets and Royal Caribbean cruise ships pulled into port; the days before ziplines outnumbered hanging vines. It was with this information that Christina and I decided to head south to Nicaragua to seek out a quiet commune with nature, and thus we found ourselves checking into Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge in San Juan del Sur to celebrate her birthday.
Morgan’s rock is located on 4,000 acres of private land, and is built entirely of locally sourced materials from the area. The property operates entirely off the grid, obtaining its electricity and heating its water through solar energy. Each of the 15 bungalows are made from a different type of wood from the grounds of the ecolodge, including mahogany, and cedar, among many others, and are constructed to be open to nature, with the exception of a screen on the open wall to prevent the wildlife from joining you in bed.
You won’t find air conditioning here, but the cool breeze from the Pacific is more than adequate to make you quite comfortable, no matter the time of year you find yourself at the ecolodge.
While staying at Morgan’s Rock, you’ll have access to many activities and amenities, ranging from the tranquil to the adventurous. Take a yoga lesson at the impressive yoga pavilion, grab a surfboard or stand up paddle board to take out into the warm waters of the Pacific, hike one of the many trails on property, do some horseback riding, or take a spin on the complimentary mountain bikes through the jungle to spot one of the many species of monkey that roam the grounds, or the elusive and nocturnal sloth. Christina and I took a Kayak through a mangrove lined estuary located just off the property’s beach, where we got an up close and personal look at a number of species of tropical birds.
By combining a mixture of relaxation, adventure, and taking in the local culture, you are sure to have the perfect ingredients for a romantic getaway with your loved one, whether you find yourself here for a honeymoon, anniversary, or just a long weekend getaway. Below you will find four ways to get away from the tourist circuit and enjoy the unspoiled country of Nicaragua while staying at Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge.
Indulge In Fresh + Healthy Cuisine
The food served at Morgan’s Rock is mostly sourced from the numerous farms located on the property’s 4,000 acres. This, combined with a chef who turns food presentation into an art form, ensures that you will eat very well while staying at the ecolodge. The resort is also incredibly accommodating for special dietary needs. Christina and I are both vegetarian, and the chef made sure to prepare a special, fresh from the farm meal for us each night. Once seated at your table, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the Pacific ocean. At dinner, get seated early enough so that you can enjoy the magnificent sunset as you reflect on your day.
If you’re looking for a totally unique experience, and aren’t afraid to get your hands a bit dirty, you can take a guided trip to the farm to prepare your own breakfast – milking the cow, collecting eggs still warm from the chicken, and making your own corn tortillas from scratch. It doesn’t get more locally sourced than that!
It can often be difficult to maintain a healthy diet while on holiday. We found the exact opposite to be the case on this particular trip, with all of our meals being well balanced, and lacking in the heavy doses of oil and filler ingredients that many resorts lean on to stretch their dollar. The meals were light, yet filling, and representative of dishes that are local to the area. Make sure to save some room for the diverse dessert menu – I recommend the Nicaraguan sampler, a well rounded representation of traditional Nicaraguan sweets.
Do A Whole Lot Of Nothing (& love every minute of it)
Of course, it’s okay to take a break from all the activities on offer at the ecolodge. Hiking, biking, kayaking, surfing, and sightseeing are great, but be sure to take a day to enjoy one another’s company by doing absolutely nothing.
One of the most appealing aspects of Morgan’s Rock is the fact that there are only 15 rooms on the property, with an equal number of beach bungalows on the resort’s own private, crescent shaped beach. This means you will never find a crowd and will never have to rise early in the morning to reserve a good spot on the beach by placing your towel down on a lounger. Spend a few hours here laying in a hammock with your favorite beach read, debriefing with your partner about your adventures so far, and working on your tan.
When you’ve had enough sun and sand, just head back to your three walled, open-air bungalow, crossing the suspension bridge on the way where you will likely spot some of the ubiquitous howler monkeys or some of the many species of birds along the way.
Once back in the comfort of your private, wood crafted bungalow, lounge on the hanging bed as it gently swings over your balcony with views overlooking the bay while sipping a few cocktails and enjoying one another’s company.
After sunset and a five star dinner at the on site restaurant, retire to your cosy bed, where you will fall asleep to the soothing sound of waves breaking on the beach, the perfect ending to an enchanting and relaxing day.
Visit The Organic Farm To Harvest Ingredients For A Mojito
Take an hour out of your busy day of lounging in your private beach hut to take a ride in a 4×4 to the property’s vegetable and herb farm. Here, your informative guide will give you the oral history of the resort as you drive down bumpy dirt roads in the back of a safari jeep through the property’s 4,000 acres.
Along the way you’ll pass reforestation projects taken on by the owners, fruit tree plantations, and baseball fields where games frequently take place between the resort staff and the farm workers. (Baseball is huge in Nicaragua!) As you head toward the farm, your guide will pick fruit directly from the trees for you to sample, which include mango, papaya, gooseberry, and passion fruit.
Upon arrival at the farm, you’ll meet the farmers, visit the greenhouse, sample herbs and vegetables, and pick some mint for a very fresh mojito. Once back at the ecolodge, you’ll head to the bar to pass off your haul to the bartender who will then prepare the freshest mojito you’ve ever had, made with Nicaragua’s pride – Flor de Caña rum.
After finishing your mojito, head back to your private beach oasis, or take a dip in the infinity pool just next to the bar.
Get Acquainted With The Real Nicaragua
While you may find it difficult to pry yourselves from the comfort of your open air bungalow, or the thatched roof hut of the private beach, it is well worth one’s time to get off the property for a day to see the real Nicaragua. Hire a private driver for the day to show you around the highlights, and get a local perspective on things in the process. Granada is the most visited city in Nicaragua, though you will still find it largely untouched by the tourism industry. This alluring city will charm you with it’s colorful, colonial architecture and cobblestone streets. The blast of color imposed onto Granada is a relatively recent doing, perhaps within the last 20 years, and largely a result of the president’s wife, who insists that the major cities are as vibrant and lively as possible.
While the colors may be the initial draw, the rich culture and diversity of the area will immediately draw you in. Take a stroll through the delightful Parque Central, in the shadow of the flamboyantly painted Cathedral de Granada. After perusing the numerous artist stalls of the park, enter the cathedral and walk the narrow stairs to the top for commanding views of the tiled roof city below you.
From the Cathedral, a healthy meal in a pleasingly rustic atmosphere is in order at the Garden Cafe, a restaurant catering to vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Here you will have the choice between dining within the library (where you can check out a book or brush up on your Spanish language skills), or sit in the brightly lit and naturally breezy garden. You can’t go wrong with either choice, and you will immediately find a diverse menu of wholesome foods and local dishes.
After a guilt-free lunch, take a short walk to the horse drawn carriages that line the main drag and head to the boat docks of Lake Nicaragua for a private tour of Las Isletas. The tiny islets here were formed when the looming Volcan Mombacho long ago blew its top, peppering the lake below with its remains, forming an archipelago of 365 tiny islets (some as small as just a couple of rocks).
Taking a private boat from the dock on Lake Nicaragua, your guide will take you in and out of the numerous islands, all the while, you can daydream about purchasing one of your own islands and disappearing off the grid for a few years with your loved one. The islands are actually going for rock bottom (no pun intended) prices, and many foreigners are purchasing them for as little as a quarter of a million dollars and building beautiful homes upon the land.
After pulling back into port, support the community by enjoying a coffee and dessert at Las Sonrisas, a cafe staffed entirely by deaf and mute Grenadines. The walls here are plastered with pictures showing how to sign various words, and when ordering, you will simply point to pictures on a menu, using certain signs to indicate if there are any ingredients you want to omit or add.
There are so many other things to be experienced in this amazing country, from sledding down the side of an active volcano, to hiking around the coffee plantations of the central mountains. Once you experience the pristine and unspoiled nature of this low key country, you’ll already be thinking about your next visit. Getting to Nicaragua is easy, with multiple daily direct flights from Houston, Atlanta, and Miami.