Nandaime, Nicaragua

Photo: Nekupe

Nicaragua has finally made it to the top of your list. After years of overlooking the country for other destinations in Central America, the Caribbean, and even South America, you’re finally planning a trip to the “Land of Lakes and Volcanoes.” A beautiful colonial city (Granada), the largest lake in Central America (Lake Nicaragua), and two volcanoes (extinct Maderas and active Concepción) are already on your itinerary. But don’t stop there.

After spending time in the city and on the lake, head southwest to Nandaime. Upon first glance, the small town along the Pan-American Highway seems to be focused on three things: baseball, folk dancing, and the Catholic Church. But, as of last fall, there’s another reason to travel to and stay just 30 minutes from Granada: Nekupe. The 1,300-acre property started, as many endeavors like this do, as a weekend home. Over time, the owners bought the neighboring teak plantation, created three artificial lakes, planted thousands and thousands of trees, and added luxury accommodations. It’s now a sport resort and retreat with a home-away-from-home vibe.

That homey feeling begins long before your actual arrival. In get-to-know-you emails, the staff discusses possible activities—everything from an ATV ride and horseback riding to learning how to play a musical instrument (the marimba) and a rum-and-cigar tasting—and inquires about your coffee (it’s all freshly roasted) preferences. They’ll also scour your social media pages to print a photo of you and wife from your last vacation or make sure the chef knows that you’re a chocoholic. It may seem a little intense, but you’ll appreciate their thoroughness later.

When you finally arrive, everything feels, well, perfect. The heart of the resort, the Casa Club, is an airy lounge with panoramic views of the nature reserve. It’s home to Don Alfredo’s, a farm-to-table restaurant that serves traditional Nicaraguan dishes and vegetables from the organic gardens. There’s a spa, which uses natural ingredients in the treatments and nature as the background music. There’s a pool that’s lined with more cacti than people. There’s a modern chapel, on the property’s highest point, where you’ll find peace, even if you aren’t looking for religion. Plus you can usually hear howler monkeys practically screaming—you’ll quickly get used to them, especially when you see how friendly they are—just about everywhere.

And don’t forget your suite. The Cedro Suite faces east, so sunlight will start streaming across the terrace, the living room, and your bed around 6 am. That may sound early, but you quickly discover that the sun is better than any alarm clock. It gives you plenty of time to enjoy either the jacuzzi or the deep-soaking tub, as well as the outdoor rain shower, before vinyasa yoga on the deck begins or a breakfast of gallo pinto (rice and beans), eggs, and that amazing coffee is served.

Now eat up. You have you a full day of hiking, mountain biking, and birdwatching ahead of you. You’ll be rewarded with a glass of rum by the fire pit later for your efforts.

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