Considered the “next Costa Rica” for ecotourism and Pacific surfing safaris, Nicaragua can still be a bit daunting to navigate. Enter Mill Valley’s Auberge Resorts, which since November has managed a 1,675-acre, 38-room resort on Nicaragua’s Emerald Coast. Now known as Mukul, Auberge Resorts Collection, this sustainably luxurious oasis offers carefree exploration of the region’s lush rain forest and uncrowded surf.
TABLE FOR TWO
The aptly named Romantic Dinner features a special menu du jour, served on the beach and under the stars; luminaria light the way to your private open-air dining cabana with separate lounging area.
The four-mile private beach allows for all kinds of ocean sports; surfers of any level can try their hand at Manzanillo Point, while the more advanced can book excursions to hidden breaks. Check for four species of monkeys as you hike or bike 12 miles of nature trails, or take a helicopter ride over countless volcanic islets.
Among Spa Mukul’s six individually themed sanctuaries, the Secret Garden may be the most enticing. Its signature 3.5-hour ritual includes watsu therapy — floating in a warm pool while receiving gentle shiatsu massage — followed by a Nicaraguan floral body scrub and a massage with essential oils of local blossoms.
Though the Nica Luau may sound out of place by several thousand miles, guests delight in this weekly beach bonfire dinner with grilled regional specialties and live music. Yoga devotees will want to go with the vinyasa flow in free daily sessions in the treetop Yoga Pavilion.
Built in 2013 by entrepreneur and philanthropist Carlos Pella for $250 million, the eco-friendly resort also boasts the 18-hole Guacalito Golf Course and low-density private beach residences. Guest lodgings, each with an ocean view, private pool and staff, and vast deck, are divided among 23 treehouse-style teak and pine bohios, perched 300 feet above the beach; 12 one- and two-bedroom beach villas with palapas and outdoor lava rock showers; and the Pellas’ enormous, elegant family compound. Rooms start at $725; see website for four-night honeymoon package. mukul.aubergeresorts.com
ARRIVE IN STYLE
Fly into Managua, Nicaragua, and a resort concierge will greet you with beverages, guide you through customs and whisk you to a private car with Wi-Fi for the scenic two-and-a-half-hour drive to Mukul.
Travel and features writer Jeanne Cooper fell in love with Marin and the Bay Area as a graduate student at Stanford University. After 20 years as an editor and writer for the Washington Post, Boston Globe and San Francisco Chronicle, she began a freelance career that has taken her from the Austral Islands to Zimbabwe, with many visits to Hawaii in between. Her stories have appeared in numerous national and regional magazines, including Hemispheres, Sunset, San Francisco and Nob Hill Gazette, as well as Marin and Local Getaways. The author of several Frommer’s guidebooks, she now lives on the Big Island, where she’s active in animal rescue. She still enjoys exploring Northern California with her husband and friends.