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Nicaragua: a New World-Class Resort

By Andrew Harper

The Hideaway Report | November 11, 2013

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Although Nicaragua has most of the ingredients required for success, its tourism has been slower to develop than expected. So I was intrigued to hear about a new $250 million Pacific coast retreat.

Located two hours’ drive south of Managua, Mukul is the brainchild of Don Carlos Pellas, a fifth-generation Nicaraguan and one of the country’s most prominent businessmen. A Stanford University graduate who decided to stay in his homeland even after the Sandinistas came to power in 1979, he presides over an empire that includes transportation and health care, as well as sugar cane and rum. In 2005, Pellas started a development group dedicated to the creation of luxury resorts and residential communities. His stated aim is to help his homeland by transforming it into an upscale tourist destination.

Apparently, mukul is the Mayan word for “secret.” On arrival, I was driven down a winding road backed by the shining ocean. From time to time, I espied the verdant fairways of the Guacalito de la Isla golf course, laid out by noted architect David McLay Kidd, and caught glimpses of the red-tiled roofs of some of the resort’s sumptuous villas.

The 12 Beach Villas are set along the Playa Manzanillo and come with terraces, palapa roofs, private pools and outdoor showers. Their interiors feature glass walls, nine-foot ceilings, teak furniture and squash court-size baths. Twenty-three so-called “Bohios” have been constructed and appointed in a similar style on a steep hillside overlooking the golden sands. These also provide wooden decks and private pools. Both room categories are attended by private butlers. When the Pellas family is not in residence, it is possible to rent Casona Don Carlos, the owner’s magnificent 20,000-square-foot oceanfront compound, which comprises six suites, a wraparound stone terrace and a large swimming pool.

During our stay in a Bohio, it was hard to tear ourselves away from the glorious view of the ocean. However, the resort offers a seemingly never-ending list of activities. Whale-watching, sailing and deep-sea fishing are available (the unspoiled waters off Nicaragua being unusually well-stocked with tuna, sailfish and marlin). The surfing can be excellent, while swimmers and snorkelers enjoy the calm waters around Anciana Island. “Adventure Rangers” lead excursions on 12 miles of hiking ?trails through dry rain forest inhabited by a dazzling array of tropical birds.

Guests may dine in a variety of venues, including Parrilla on the beach, the palapa-shaded Terras, or La Mesa, an atmospheric indoor restaurant serving Mesoamerican cuisine, whose walls are decorated with photographs illustrating the 135-year history of the Pellas family. The Spa Mukul offers six self-contained private casitas where visitors are encouraged to spend the entire day. And the resort has a rum room that features offerings from Pellas’ Flor de Caña brand, as well as providing a space in which to enjoy cigars such as the Nicaraguan Flor de las Antillas, which Cigar Aficionado magazine named “Cigar of the Year” in 2012.

Apparently, plans for a Pellas resort portfolio are well-advanced. Certainly, Mukul has already raised the bar in Nicaragua to an entirely new level.

Although Nicaragua has most of the ingredients required for success, its tourism has been slower to develop than expected. So I was intrigued to hear about a new $250 million Pacific coast retreat.

Located two hours’ drive south of Managua, Mukul is the brainchild of Don Carlos Pellas, a fifth-generation Nicaraguan and one of the country’s most prominent businessmen. A Stanford University graduate who decided to stay in his homeland even after the Sandinistas came to power in 1979, he presides over an empire that includes transportation and health care, as well as sugar cane and rum. In 2005, Pellas started a development group dedicated to the creation of luxury resorts and residential communities. His stated aim is to help his homeland by transforming it into an upscale tourist destination.

Apparently, mukul is the Mayan word for “secret.” On arrival, I was driven down a winding road backed by the shining ocean. From time to time, I espied the verdant fairways of the Guacalito de la Isla golf course, laid out by noted architect David McLay Kidd, and caught glimpses of the red-tiled roofs of some of the resort’s sumptuous villas.

The 12 Beach Villas are set along the Playa Manzanillo and come with terraces, palapa roofs, private pools and outdoor showers. Their interiors feature glass walls, nine-foot ceilings, teak furniture and squash court-size baths. Twenty-three so-called “Bohios” have been constructed and appointed in a similar style on a steep hillside overlooking the golden sands. These also provide wooden decks and private pools. Both room categories are attended by private butlers. When the Pellas family is not in residence, it is possible to rent Casona Don Carlos, the owner’s magnificent 20,000-square-foot oceanfront compound, which comprises six suites, a wraparound stone terrace and a large swimming pool.

During our stay in a Bohio, it was hard to tear ourselves away from the glorious view of the ocean. However, the resort offers a seemingly never-ending list of activities. Whale-watching, sailing and deep-sea fishing are available (the unspoiled waters off Nicaragua being unusually well-stocked with tuna, sailfish and marlin). The surfing can be excellent, while swimmers and snorkelers enjoy the calm waters around Anciana Island. “Adventure Rangers” lead excursions on 12 miles of hiking ?trails through dry rain forest inhabited by a dazzling array of tropical birds.

Guests may dine in a variety of venues, including Parrilla on the beach, the palapa-shaded Terras, or La Mesa, an atmospheric indoor restaurant serving Mesoamerican cuisine, whose walls are decorated with photographs illustrating the 135-year history of the Pellas family. The Spa Mukul offers six self-contained private casitas where visitors are encouraged to spend the entire day. And the resort has a rum room that features offerings from Pellas’ Flor de Caña brand, as well as providing a space in which to enjoy cigars such as the Nicaraguan Flor de las Antillas, which Cigar Aficionado magazine named “Cigar of the Year” in 2012.

Apparently, plans for a Pellas resort portfolio are well-advanced. Certainly, Mukul has already raised the bar in Nicaragua to an entirely new level.

 Sneak Peek

This article appeared in The Hideaway Report, a monthly newsletters exclusively for members.

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