A Few Days In

Finding Beauty in the Wilds of Nicaragua

by Amanda Ho
Isleta Regenerative Travel's Amanda Ho at Isleta El Espino in Nicaragua. All photos by Carly Rudd.

On a sustainable journey through Nicaragua, Regenerative Travel co-founder Amanda Ho and her friends learned to make chocolate with local cacao, milked cows for their organic breakfast, learned the art of casting fishing nets, and planted trees. This is a tale of slowing down, recharging, and giving back. Dream now; travel when it's safe.

NICARAGUA— Still undiscovered by many travelers, the thick jungles and sparkling waters of Nicaragua hold a wild beauty all their own. A diverse landscape — encompassing volcanoes, lakes, rainforests, and more than a few charming villages and cultural centers — the country contains a hidden side that few have experienced. 

For all its thrills, Nicaragua is an ideal wellness getaway, which is why my team at Regenerative Travel, a collection of sustainable and eco conscious hotels, went to find beauty in the wilds of Nicaragua. Cut off from the modern world in our jungle hideaway, we set out to connect with the beauty of the natural world.

Isleta El Espino on Lake Nicaragua.
Early morning yoga.

Life on the Island

Our first stop was Isleta El Espino, a stunning hotel located on its own private island on Lake Nicaragua, with a view of the Mombacho Volcano. Secluded from the bustle of everyday life (but an easy boat ride from the colonial city Granada), the inn was built in harmony with nature. With only three cabanas (totaling five guest rooms), it promises a relaxing getaway that never feels crowded. The hotel is completely solar-powered — an easy achievement, given the abundant Nicaraguan sunshine. 

The tiny island is well tended by the staff, who grow much of the food in the organic gardens on the property. Lake Nicaragua itself provides a sustainable source of filtered drinking water, underscoring the balance struck by all living things here. Even the rhythm of our days seemed slower. We rose with the sun for yoga at the lakeside pavilion before enjoying an organic, homemade breakfast to prepare us for the rest of the day.

What to Do

Chocolate Making
What would a trip to Central America be without indulging in local chocolate? Isleta El Espino gave us firsthand experience in making our favorite snack. Everyone start with locally-grown cacao, then added their favorite ingredients to create a personal treat. We couldn't have asked for better teachers than the local staff who have worked with sustainably-sourced cacao for many years.

Net Fishing
Lake Nicaragua is a source of life for many of the surrounding communities. For generations, fishermen have taken their boats out into the waves to cast their nets and provide for their families. Isleta El Espino facilitated an engaging afternoon for us as we set sail with local fishermen to observe their skill. Though casting the nets may seem simple, there is an art to this traditional practice that takes time to master. Whether or not you catch anything, an afternoon among the lush isletas of the lake is time well spent.

Planting trees at Morgan's Rock; making chocolate at Isleta El Espino.
Cruising around Isleta El Espino.
Making tortillas at Morgan's Rock.

Sleeping in the Trees

After Isleta El Espino, we set our course for Morgan’s Rock in San Juan del Sur. Set amid a 4,000-acre rainforest, the hotel conserved half of the jungle as a private wildlife reserve. Morgan’s Rock also watches over endangered sea turtles that nest on its private stretch of beach, making the hotel a sanctuary for wildlife and travelers alike.

With 15 bungalow rooms and a smattering of private villas, the sustainably-minded hotel (the first of its kind in the country) proved to be a dreamy place to unwind and catch our breath. The bungalows feature an innovative, open-air design, and those that have trees growing through the roof can turn an average afternoon lounge session into a communion with nature.

Tree Planting
After beach time, we dried off and visited the massive stretch of jungle behind us. Morgan’s Rock does not simply operate sustainably, it seeks to teach all its guests about the importance of sustainability for all living beings. Led by knowledgeable staff through the forest, we reached the hotel’s reforestation project, where we learned about the benefits of various tree species. From providing shade, drawing down carbon, and even being a favorite food source of different animals, the rainforest thrives on diversity. After this informative session, we were invited to plant a few trees. The impact felt all the more important after all that we had just learned.

Breakfast at the Farm
After morning yoga on our last day at Morgan’s Rock, we visited the hotel’s organic farm, located in the middle of the rainforest. Utilizing regenerative agriculture and permaculture, Morgan’s Rock has struck a balance with the rainforest, taking sustenance without depleting its fragile ecosystem.

The friendly staff explained the aspects of organic farming — and we got to milk cows and gather our own eggs for breakfast. Ingredients in hand, we joined the kitchen staff in preparing a homemade breakfast, learning the traditional technique for flattening tortillas. Working with our hands — with ingredients that had been produced just a few feet away — was a powerful reminder of the importance of developing an intergenerational relationship with nature, so that future visitors may be able to have these same experiences for years to come.

At the end of our week in Nicaragua, we felt rejuvenated, connected, and, above all, hopeful. If hotels like Isleta El Espino and Morgan’s Rock continue to lead the way in sustainable travel, we will all enjoy a long future in the beautiful, wild landscapes of places like Nicaragua.

Regenerative Travel is an excellent resource for finding and booking eco-resorts around the world. If you missed the Amanda's Nicaragua Takeover on our Instagram account, @FathomWaytoGo, and want to lose yourself in more dreamy pics, click through photographer Carley Rudd's feed.

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