Mukul Luxury Resort and Spa Rating: 5.0 Pearls
Mukul is more than just a luxury resort; it is one of the most exclusive hideaways not only in Nicaragua, but Central America. The name, Mukul, is Mayan for "secret," and guests are assured of a high level of privacy: The resort, part of a sprawling, 1670-acre beach community, has only 37 luxurious Bohios and Villas, and the grounds are not open to the public. The existence of the resort is hardly a secret, however, as this $40 million project helmed by Don Carlos Pellas, a Nicaraguan business magnate, is helping to change the face of the country's tourism industry. The guests who can afford Nicaragua's most expensive hotel rates will be rewarded with a gorgeous white-sand beach, one of the most beautiful spas in the world, an 18-hole golf course, gourmet cuisine, and pampering service -- though they should note that construction on the property's hillside real estate is still underway.
Aqua Wellness Resort Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Aqua Wellness Resort is a rustic-luxe retreat set into a hillside overlooking Redondo Bay on Nicaragua's Pacific coast. The resort has eco-friendly design, lush vegetation (expect to spot wildlife such as howler monkeys and iguanas), and rooms adorned with lots of natural wood; some units include plunge pools and stunning ocean views. The white-sand beach is secluded and beautiful, the restaurant serves simple but tasty local dishes, and group yoga classes on the ocean-view wooden platform are free. For a tranquil, unplugged getaway, this is one of Nicaragua's premier options -- just note that there's no common pool (yet) and the climb from the beach to reception is extremely long and steep.
InterContinental Real Metrocentro Managua Hotel Rating: 4.0 Pearls
The InterContinental Real Metrocentro is a polished business hotel that lives up to international expectations for luxury. Rooms have plush beds, modern bathrooms, and flat-screen TVs with cable (including English channels), and the features are extensive, including a staffed business center, ample meeting space, multiple restaurants, and a lovely outdoor pool. The hotel is a chain and feels like one, but there are elements of local charm in the common spaces -- brick ceilings, an ancient funerary urn displayed as art, and wrought iron grills in front of the restaurants. The food is solid: There's an extensive breakfast buffet with an omelet station, a lounge serving cocktails and sushi, and a steakhouse, not to mention 24-hour room service (a rarity in the country).