My husband and I had a spectacular visit to Nicaragua in February 2018. We stayed for just over two weeks at Jicaro Ecolodge, a nine-casita hotel on Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America and the 19th largest lake in the world. Located inland, the lake is closer to the Pacific Ocean side of Nicaragua than to the Atlantic side. The casitas are two stories, with a mosquito-netted bed upstairs and a living room, bathroom, and storage area downstairs. (Though we had been forewarned about mosquitoes, we encountered very few during our visit.) National Geographic includes Jicaro as one of the fifty unique lodges in the world. Karen Emanuel, a successful London businesswoman, fell in love with Nicaragua, bought the island, and built this lodge, with the help of architect Matthew Falkiner and a team from Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality, a Costa Rica-based hospitality management company that develops and manages lodges, sustainable resorts, and green hotels in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Lake Nicaragua is beautiful with many species of birds, as well as iguanas and monkeys. Looking out on the lake, visitors see parents rowing their children to nearby schools, and fishermen with nets looking for the daily catch. Jicaro offers a wonderful varied menu, with dishes featuring freshly caught fish (tilapia, snook, and sea bass), excellent beef, chicken, soups, and TexMex including shrimp, chicken, and veggie tacos. The desserts are irresistible, sweet and delicious. For our last night, the staff surprised us by serving us a special candlelit dinner—with lobster—in a private room overlooking the lake, and presented us with a thank you card on handmade paper. On the floor there was an outline of a heart, in rose petals!
Each casita has a spacious deck overhanging the lake, and the gracious staff serve hot coffee (in a thermos), milk if desired, and freshly baked breads (e.g., banana bread, carrot bread, corn bread) in a handwoven basket with a latch (to keep the voracious birds from consuming it before the guests get to it). There are beautiful crafts, which can be seen and purchased at the enchanting Masaya Market and along the roadside. Hammocks and hammock swings are ubiquitous, in bright colors; see craftsman making a multicolored hammock below (and see colored string in gallery above).
Tours from Jicaro Ecolodge
The lodge offers many excursions, and our wonderful guide was Julio. Julio is well educated in tourism, knowledgeable about bird life, and articulate. We loved our tours of Masaya and Granada, and thoroughly enjoyed our bird watching tour, starting at 6:00am in order to see as many species as possible as our boat wove in and out of the many inlets on the lake: egrets, great blue, little blue, bare-throated tiger and green heron, Inca dove, ring kingfisher, crimson-fronted, white-fronted, and ornage-fronted parakeets, turquoise-browed motmot, ring and green kingfisher, collared aracari, osprey, altamira oriole, cormoran, great-tailed grakie, Montezuma oropendula, and great kiskadee to name a few.
Across the lake, a short rowboat ride from the lodge, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the charming city of Granada with its pastel-colored houses, a bustling food market, and several churches, as well as a pretty town square with a few vendors.
We visited the nearby City of Granada, across the lake, the oldest colonial city in mainland America, including Elba Cigar, Las Mercedes Church, La Polvora Fortress, and the Central Park.
Our tour of Masaya and Catarina was exciting, and included a visit to the Masaya Volcano National Park, with the stunning and active Santiago crater, as well a tour of Nicaragua’s most popular open-air handicraft market, where we purchased some small baskets.
We than drove through Catarina, where ornamental plants and flowers are grown—the road is flanked by beautiful, colorful plants and flowers. Next visit was to San Juan de Oriente, where potters are at work, and we bought a couple of small, decorated vases at the studio of Jacobo Potosme (email: email@example.com), Entrada Principal 1 ½ c. al sur, whose pots are elegant with sophisticated decoration (see below). We observed a hospitable potter at his wheel and were enthralled by the stunning vases.
One of the highlights was our visit to the local school, Escuela Padre Nello Callini, situated on a peninsula about a half-hour’s rowboat ride from the lodge. There we saw beautiful children in their crisp uniforms, kindergarten through 7th grade, in their classrooms paying close attention to their teachers.
Views from Our Lodge
Our Casita, #7, on the right
Activities at Jicaro
There are many enticing complimentary activities at the lodge:
- Dance performances by children from local schools
- Cooking classes in the open kitchen
- Spanish classes
- Yoga on the deck overlooking the lake
- Trip with a local fisherman
- How to make cocktails
Below are a few recipes provided by the ecolodge:
Spanish Lesson in the Tienda
Our two + weeks at Jicaro Ecolodge were enjoyable, relaxing, varied, and delightful. And we would recommend a visit to all of you. A bonus was the people we met—all ages—from all over the world, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and many professions, documentary filmmaker, architect, coffee plantation owner, academics, physicians, nurse, and others.