18-hole Guacalito Golf Course, designed by David McLay Kidd
Owners give back to the community through major philanthropic projects
Landscaping still new; privacy between Bohios will increase as it becomes more lush
Hillside real estate in the Guacalito de La Isla complex still under construction
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.
An intimate, highly exclusive beach resort on Nicaragua's Pacific coast
Mukul, which is Mayan for "secret," is as luxurious as it is exclusive. In Central America, only the Four Seasons Costa Rica offers a comparable level of luxury, but Mukul is much more intimate and private, with only 37 standalone Bohios and Villas on a sprawling property. To reach Mukul, guests must first drive through a guarded gate (only those with a reservation or a specific appointment are allowed to pass), and along a winding road to the front entrance, where a legion of staffers dressed in crisp, white, traditional Nicaraguan uniforms await. Check-in is a personalized affair that takes place in the resort's large and beautiful palapa, which has sweeping views of the ocean and an art installation of locally woven baskets hanging from the ceiling. The palapa, restaurants, pool and beach are the only common spaces, due to the intense focus on privacy, and the villas and bohios (the term the resort uses for its standalone bungalows) all have private pools and decks; villas also have personal butlers and kitchens.
The $40-million resort is part of the larger, $250 million Guacalito de La Isla private beach community, a development that will include another larger hotel and about 600 homes. Construction is still underway, which is a bit unsightly but not otherwise disruptive as it's a safe distance from the resort itself. The Nicaraguan business magnate spearheading the project is well-known among Nicaraguans -- he is one of the richest men in Central America, with interests in the sugar, rum, and automotive industries, among others -- and his own 20,000-square-foot private villa at Mukul is also available for rent. His family has been involved in developing Nicaragua's industry for generations, and the opening of Mukul is a continuation of that; the effects this new resort has on the country's tourism market cannot be understated. Mukul and Guacalito de La Isla will help Nicaragua transform itself from a country attracting mostly backpackers and adventure travelers to a country with a significant upscale traveler presence.
On Nicaragua's Pacific coast in the Rivas province
Mukul has a remote location on Nicaragua's Pacific coast, north of San Juan Del Sur and about a 2-hour drive from the airport in Managua. A small airstrip for private planes is in the works to make access more convenient, but there are not currently non-stop flights offered to Managua from New York City, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. There are non-stop flights to Liberia Airport in Costa Rica, which is also about a 2-hour drive away; visitors will have to go through customs at the border, but some may still find this option easier.
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 transportation in the area is undergoing improvement. Though Nicaragua is a poor country, its crime rates are the lowest in Central America.
Luxurious Bohios and Villas with private pools and gorgeous ocean views
The hotel's 23 Bohios are nestled into the hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean or the golf course and mountains. They expertly blend modern luxury with local charm, featuring natural wood, floor-to-ceiling glass on every wall, plush linens, and decadent bathrooms (even the huge two-person showers have ocean views!). The level of detail is exceptional, from the loaner beach bags down to the personal icemakers. Because of the resort's sprawling size, guests will likely need to call for a golf cart to shuttle them down to the main clubhouse.
The 12 Beach Villas offer even more privacy, with kitchens, 24-hour personal butlers, and gardens with outdoor showers.
Casona Don Carlos, belonging to the resort owner, is 20,000 square feet and available to rent.
Bohios have plunge pools; Beach Villas have larger private pools
A long, wide sandy beach that is practically private
Playa Manzanillo is located in a protected cove. Though all beaches in Nicaragua are technically public, the only land access to the beach is through the Guacalito de La Isla complex, so it is essentially private. There are some trees for shade, lounge chairs, and kayaks. The white sand is fine but not perfectly pristine, and there are some small rocks.
Chic infinity pools with ocean views and cushioned loungers
Mukul's infinity pool (really two adjacent pools) is large and stunning. It's located in front of the large palapa that serves as the resort's main common area, and since the rooms all have private pools, the main pool is often uncrowded; in fact, it's possible for guests to have it entirely to themselves. Water bottles are kept on ice next to the lounge chairs.
It's not an exaggeration to describe Mukul's spa as one of the most stunning in the world. There is no main reception area; instead guests are ushered into one of the six private casitas, which each have different decor, themes, and treatment options (choices include the Crystal Temple, Asian Healing Hut, and Hammam). Some have outdoor areas with plunge pools and jaw-dropping outlooks, and all have showers and changing areas.