It's official; Nicaragua has arrived as a destination. Fox News recently reported that tourism increased more than eight percent in the first five months of 2014, a "sustainable increase" according to executive president of Intur, Mayra Salinas. For travelers who look for untouched and often remote places with sparse tourism, this means the time to explore Nicaragua is now. One resort still off the beaten path despite the influx of tourists is Morgan's Rock Hacienda & Ecolodge, a hotel tucked away in a thick 4,000-acre jungle with a private, pristine one-mile beach. I had the pleasure of staying at Morgan's Rock on my last trip to Nicaragua, and it is one not to miss on a trip to Central America.
During the 70s, a French couple toured the area now known as Morgan's Rock, surveying the crops on behalf of a French government assignment. The duo loved Nicaragua and bought the land in 1998 then developed and opened the hotel in 2004. The land management of the resort is deliberately sustainable and that’s not surprising, given its owners' backgrounds. Fields of lush farmland, including a shrimp farm, are found among the trails in the jungle, since about 30 percent of Morgan Rock's land is low-impact agricultural land. The remaining acres are sustainable tropical forestland managed by Desarrollo Ecoforestal, S.A. and are a government-designated reserve. From the beach facing the Pacific Ocean to the thriving forestland, the colors and life of Morgan's Rock are vibrant and quintessentially Nicaraguan.
Morgan's Rock currently has 15 bungalows which each offer uninterrupted views of the palm-tree lined beach and the crashing waves below. A huge suspension bridge across a vast jungle canyon leads guests from the restaurant area to the bungalows. During a few mornings, I spotted and later heard howler monkeys enjoying the dawn light amidst the treetops that brush the bridge. The bungalows are architecturally spectacular and could best be described as opulent mansions designed for tree houses. Art pieces from Nicaraguan artist Augusto Silva add grace to the bungalows, and the rich wood furnishings found in them and throughout the resort were commissioned by Simplemente Madera, a noted Nicaraguan sustainable wood and furnishing company.
The lighting and ventilation inside the room is stellar, giving guests the feeling of being outdoors without suffering the sun, bugs, or pitch-black veil of night. Double doors open to a suspended deck where a daybed swings in the balmy breeze. Piping hot water is readily available whether indoors or out, thanks to solar powered grids.
Nature is unsurprisingly the centerpiece of Morgan Rock's extensive line-up of daily adventures. My favorite hike, a solid three-hour excursion, takes guests from the jungle floor to the highest peak on the property. And kayaking is a fun alternative to the copious number of hiking trails available. Sunrise and sunset estuary kayaking through mangroves is a tranquil and magical way to start or end the day at the resort.
For those who enjoy working for their meal, the Breakfast at the Farm is a pastoral experience popular among city slicker guests. Guests milk cows, pick eggs and gather fruit from the nearby Hacienda, the farm for Morgan's Rock. Even I prefer fishing to farming, and I wasn’t left out. The Fisherman for a Day tour teams you up with knowledgeable local fishermen, whose lives depend on their expertise to reel in local species of fish, which include yellow fin tuna and dorado. Morgan’s Rock happily cooked the lobster I fetched that morning, too.
Although Morgan's Rock is close to the popular surfers' haunt, San Juan Del Sur and just a two hour drive from the capital Managua, the resort feels like a sacred secret of nature. Sea turtles on the flawless beach and capuchin monkeys in the thick jungle trees are likely to be the only guests you'll spot frequently. Florescent blue and orange colored forest crabs are found everywhere along the jungle floor, tasty treats for the array of equally-colorful reptiles that prowl the forests. So if you’re looking for a private, one-of-a-kind hotel, look into staying at Morgan’s Rock.