Free use of snorkeling gear, paddleboards, and kayaks
Free Wi-Fi (though it's spotty)
No TVs for unplugged experience (a con for some)
Eco-friendly design and practices
Many steep stairs from beach and restaurant to reception
No common pool yet
Larger spa still under construction
Aqua Wellness Resort is a rustic-luxe retreat set into a hillside overlooking Redonda 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.
An eco-friendly resort with luxury treehouses and a tranquil white-sand beach
Those in search of tranquility and rustic luxury need look no further than Aqua Wellness Resort, which offers upscale treehouses tucked into a lush, unspoiled natural setting. (If you're picturing something out of Swiss Family Robinson, you're not far off.) The main activities at the resort involve lounging on the beach, cooling off in the private plunge pools, snorkeling, kayaking, and practicing yoga on the ocean-view wooden platform, and to help guests unplug, there are no TVs in the rooms.
The resort's emphasis on wellness can be felt in two main ways: First, the restaurant serves simple, healthy local dishes with sides of vegetables; and second, there's a big ocean-view yoga platform with free group classes. There's also a small spa with great ocean views, but it's temporary and a larger structure is underway.
The eco-friendliness of the property is evident in its design, which was conceived to disrupt the natural landscape as little as possible. Even the lights on the grounds were specially chosen so as not to interfere with the monkeys' traveling patterns at night. The upsides of this are clear: Guests get to experience a lush, preserved natural setting, spot wildlife, and stay in gorgeous rustic rooms immersed in the surroundings. The downside, for many guests, is unexpected; by not leveling the trees and hillside, Aqua Resort maintained the property's natural slope, and there are a lot of steep stairs leading from the beach and restaurant to the resort's reception area. Those not interested in an arduous daily climb should consider booking one of the beachfront units; those staying higher up might do well to try and think of the stairs as mandated exercise. This is a wellness retreat, after all.
The resort opened in 2011, and is among the handful of pioneering luxury properties that are helping to redefine Nicaragua's tourism market. The country has long drawn backpackers and adventure travelers, and Aqua Resort is proof that the upscale travel market here is growing. The resort itself, in fact, is still growing; room additions, a pool, and a new larger spa are still in the works.
On Nicaragua's Pacific coast in the Rivas province
Aqua Wellness Resort is located in the Rivas province on the Pacific coast, north of the popular beach town of San Juan Del Sur. The region surrounding the resort is still largely undeveloped, with poor roads, modest homes with pigs and chickens in the yards, and grazing cattle. But that's starting to change as more luxury resorts are coming to the area, such as Mukul, Aqua's more expensive neighbor to the south. Aqua Resort does have a security gate and guard, and Nicaragua's crime rates are the lowest in Central America.
2-hour drive from the airport in Managua
Whale- and dolphin-watching boat tours pick up from the beach
Treehouse-style rooms built with locally crafted woods; some have kitchens and plunge pools
Aqua Resort's rooms are all constructed with locally crafted wood and stone, and the elevated treehouse-style buildings look as if they sprung naturally out of the landscape. Some have kitchens and plunge pools, and views are of the forest, ocean, or beach. The position among the treetops means guests will probably spot birds and other wildlife; those staying in the Mono Congo units are pretty much guaranteed to have howler monkeys as neighbors.
Those not interested in a steep climb to and from the beach each day should book one of the Beachfront units.
A healthy restaurant serving locally sourced cuisine and fresh juices
Bromelia Restaurant is located in an open-air, thatched-roof structure with views of the ocean. The menu is a mix of Nicaraguan and American fare; dishes are simply prepared with locally sourced ingredients (the hotel even has its own herb garden). Portion sizes tend to be on the small side, and most dishes come with sides of vegetables or salad, as part of the resort's focus on wellness. Tasty fresh juices are on offer.