Mukul Luxury Resort and Spa Rating: 5.0 Pearls
Mukul is more than just a luxury resort; it is one of the most exclusive and romantic 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 romantic 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 couples 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.
Selva Negra Rating: 3.0 Pearls
For outdoorsy couples looking for an authentic eco lodge experience, Selva Negra is the real deal. This family-run organic farm and coffee estate has accommodations ranging from hostel rooms to private bungalows, as well as a lush, cool mountain setting that's rich with wildlife (expect howler monkeys, lizards, agoutis, and all types of birds). The sustainable practices are everywhere evident, from the excellent farm-made cheeses at the restaurant to the solar water heaters. The lodge is charmingly rustic rather than luxurious, featuring buildings designed in a quaint German style, and the friendly owners help make it a truly special place. There is also a lovely stone chapel on-site for couples looking to tie the knot in a beautiful cloud forest.
Hotel Victoriano Rating: 3.0 Pearls
The aptly named Hotel Victoriano, built by an English immigrant in 1902, has charming Victorian architecture and style. This intimate boutique hotel is a great choice for couples, with a location across the street from the beach and within walking distance of San Juan Del Sur's restaurants and bars. Rooms have relaxed (if not luxurious) beach-y style -- locally crafted cedar furniture, bright floral bedding, tile floors, and cable TV (though some TVs are tiny). They're showing a bit of wear, but they're clean and a couple have ocean views. The small pool is suitable for a dip rather than a swim, and the beach across the street is a bit dirty and not very wide (it almost disappears at high tide). The restaurant serves a quality a la carte breakfast and solid lunch and dinner fare.
La Gran Francia Colonial Boutique Hotel Rating: 3.5 Pearls
This charming colonial-style hotel just off Central Park is one of Granada's best hotel options for couples, providing boutique intimacy, a small courtyard swimming pool, and simple but tasty local food. The hotel building and the building housing the restaurant and bars are across the street from one another, and the simple yellow exteriors belie the loveliness found within. Antiques, potted plants, beautiful tiles, and rooms with wood-beamed ceilings (centered around the open-air courtyard) make the hotel feel like a hidden sanctuary. The historic ambiance is authentic: The building dates back to the 16th century. Just note that the bathrooms could use an upgrade, the tube TVs may have fuzzy reception (not to mention limited English channels), and there are few features besides the pool.
Hotel El Convento Rating: 3.5 Pearls
Hotel El Convento, a boutique built on the site of (and in the same style as) a former 17-century convent, is the best hotel for couples in Leon. A flowering central courtyard, antiques lining the hallways, and a fine dining restaurant that many consider to be the city's premier option make for a charming stay. Rooms are mid-range but have plenty of character, with details such as brick walls, terracotta tile floors, and wrought-iron bed frames. There is no pool, however, which is a significant downside given Leon's hot weather.