With a rugged Pacific coast, aquamarine Caribbean coast, and dense tropical forests surrounding enormous volcanoes in the middle, Nicaragua is a nature lover’s dream. A new crop of eco-lodges has sprung up to meet the needs of travelers who want to take in the country’s amazing natural landscapes while minimizing their own impact on the delicate ecosystems. Although these three lodges are hundreds of miles apart, they are each steadfast in their commitment to providing unforgettable, sustainable travel experiences.
Jicaro Island Eco-Lodge
Possibly Nicaragua’s most famous eco-lodge, Jicaro Island Eco-Lodge has been featured in both Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler. Its proximity to Granada makes it an ideal destination for travelers who want to see a Nicaragua’s natural wonders in a short time span. The hotel consists of nine casitas (“little houses”) on a private island in Lake Nicaragua. Each two-storey casita is raised off the ground, treehouse-style, with views of the lake from the upstairs bedroom and lower living area. The on-site restaurant focuses on seasonal local cuisine, and there is an open-air spa where guests can indulge in health and beauty treatments.
Jicaro Island Eco-Lodge has always been committed to sustainability in travel. All of the buildings were constructed from trees that fell during Hurricane Felix, and they were strategically placed around the site so that no large trees had to be removed. Upon opening, the hotel introduced sustainable practices like a water filtration system (to eliminate the need for disposable water bottles), ceiling fans instead of air conditioning, solar panels for heating water and organic, biodegradable cleaning products. The hotel’s nature tours allow guests to learn more about the local eco-system, whether it is through a visit to the biological studies station in the Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve or learning how to use traditional artisanal fishing methods to catch your own dinner from Lake Nicaragua.
Morgan’s Rock Hacienda & Eco-Lodge
Located on Nicaragua’s wild Pacific coast, eighty miles south of the Nicaraguan capital, Morgan’s Rock Hacienda & Eco-Lodge consists of fifteen bungalows, a private nature reserve, sustainable agricultural land and a protected tropical forest. The lodge has its own private beach where sea turtles make their nests, and the surrounding jungles are home to sloths, anteaters, monkeys and macaws. Every private bungalow has its own open-air terrace, and some have personal plunge pools as well. The lodge has an open-air yoga studio with a palapa roof and a restaurant where more than half of the food served is grown or raised on-site.
Morgan’s Rock Hacienda & Eco-Lodge makes animal conservation its top priority. They have helped restore the local wildlife population through their commitment to keeping poachers at bay and rehabilitating the forest. Since the lodge opened, staff have planted more than two million trees on the eco-lodge’s property, with the goal of developing a sustainable forestry industry that eliminates the need for illegal logging. They also offer a range of tours with a focus on the local ecosystem. The Breakfast on the Farm experience whisks guests to the resort’s private farm, where they care for the animals and learn how local ingredients travel from farm to plate. The seasonal Turtle Watching excursion allows guests to see five different species of sea turtles as they nest and hatch, and teaches guests about Nicaragua’s sea turtle conservation efforts.
Selva Negra Ecolodge
Located in the landlocked highlands of northern Nicaragua, the Selva Negra Ecolodge is one of the country’s most affordable ecotourism choices. At Selva Negra Ecolodge, guests can choose between private bungalows, traditional hotel rooms and shared dormitories in the style of a youth hostel. The ecolodge also has its own organic farm, coffee plantation and restaurant, all of which can be visited for a pre-arranged day tour by travelers who don’t have time to stay overnight. Selva Negra Ecolodge has been family owned and operated for more than one hundred years, and is one of the area’s largest employers of local workers.
Selva Negra Ecolodge believes in spreading their message of sustainability to all of their guests. Guests are not only taught how to make their stay more environmentally friendly (for example, through reusing towels, separating recyclable materials and staying on the ecolodge’s marked hiking trails), but they are also taught ways to bring the same sustainable practices home with them. Selva Negra Ecolodge is famous for its daily coffee tour, where guests see how coffee is made and learn how to choose beans that are both socially and environmentally sustainable. Nature tours are offered during the day and at night, with limited group sizes so as to not disturb the resident animals.
Nicaragua’s dry season runs from November to May. During this time, there is little rain and temperatures are generally pleasant. If you would like to see nesting Pacific sea turtles during your trip, it’s best to visit between July and November.