When I first received the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua, I have to admit I wasn’t terribly enthralled with the idea. I asked the resort that had propositioned me two things.
One: Was it safe? I didn’t want to seem ignorant, but the things I had read about the country talked about political unrest. The research and folks I consulted about this surprisingly said that the current president, Daniel Ortega, had been good for the country. Nicaragua boasts that it’s the safest country in Central America.
Ortega has also been instrumental in the economic growth of the country. Exports have doubled, and foreign direct investment is nearly fivefold.
I was relieved to know it was stable and safe. I didn’t need to venture off into the middle of nowhere and end up on a lost episode of “Survivor” where I’m the only survivor.
When the resort staff sent the photos of their “small slice of heaven,” as they described it, I must admit, it cinched the deal, and I forgot all about my second question: Do they have Internet access? I decided after seeing the photos that I was going to force myself to relax.
When we landed in the country’s capitol city of Managua, a driver from the resort came to pick us up. Over the course of the next two hours, we drove on some pretty rough roads. In fact, I am not certain they would even really be called roads by American standards.
The driver spoke only Spanish, and I realized at that moment that if no one else at the resort spoke any English, I would need to find some CliffsNotes versions of Rosetta Stone translation tapes someplace, and fast.
Let me preface what I am going to say next with this piece of information about my travel experiences. I have traveled extensively over the course of the last 15 years, and stayed in some of the worst places on the face of the earth, as well as some of the best. I have been privileged to have worked with some top Fortune 500 companies that have offered me the opportunity to experience luxury.
The not-so-great places were usually my own doing, but I have also ended up in some not-so-great places because my spouse was trying to save a few bucks. Like the time he thought about taking a cruise down the Amazon River. There is nothing luxurious about a rubber riverboat cruise.
Where am I going with this? I am somewhat of a resort snob, if you will. Since coming to know what true luxury is, I definitely am, particularly at this stage of my life (my husband would probably say, “ridiculously hard to please”).
When we first pulled in, I thought, ‘Where are we? It feels like we have been dropped off in the middle of nowhere.’ An English-speaking host greeted us as we arrived and said, “Welcome to Aqua, our private oasis here on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua.”
This place was so stunningly beautiful. I had never seen anything quite like it in my life. The entire property is built congruously into a terraced cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, so the jungle cloaks itself from outside observers. With nothing else around it, you look down to your own small piece of paradise.
A whopping 17 percent of this country is made up of protected nature preserves. So it’s no surprise that it was, indeed, the latest locale for the latest survivor. Each treetop villa is built with privacy in mind, concealed by thick, lush trees, so it’s difficult to see the villa next door.
With sounds of the black howler monkeys playing in the trees outside and brilliant blue and purple butterflies flying by, it was hard to believe we were only a three-hour flight from Houston. As I sat in the wooden rocker on my private deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean, I could feel the stress lift from my shoulders and disappear into ethers.
For the next three days, our routine didn’t seem to change much from sitting in our private plunge pool, enjoying the local Nicaraguan rum and laying on the black volcanic sand, listening to the sound of the waves crashing as they reached the shore.
The other activity that kept me occupied was filming the monkeys outside our villa. I’m not sure I will get hired as a photographer for National Geographic anytime soon, but I was determined to at least get some clear footage of how animated these creatures are.
If you get bored with loafing around on the beach, there is plenty of entertainment not far from Aqua. This includes sport fishing, hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boating, horseback riding and surfing the popular waves at Playa Gigante.
Longer day trips include volcano tours, boat trips to private islands and excursions to coffee plantations and Nicaraguan tobacco-rolling establishments.
As for cuisine, Aqua’s chefs cook delicious meals at the beachside restaurant. The owners say the ingredients for most meals, especially the seafood, come from local sources.
Aqua has only recently opened to the public. It has been hosting yoga retreats for the last year. It has received many accolades from the international yoga scene as a yoga retreat destination.
However, Aqua is now in phase-two development, which will incorporate a complete wellness offering for guests. There will be designated “spa villas” for specialized treatments like indigenous local volcanic ash used in the body scrubs for detoxification, as well as customized programs for those who would like one-on-one wellness consultations involving diagnostic testing to restore well-being and achieve a healthy balance.
Since returning home, I feel a strong gravitational pull to return to Aqua. I cannot wait to go back to the place I now fondly refer to as “nirvana here on earth.”
For more information on Aqua Wellness Resort in Nicaragua, visit www.aquanicaragua.com, or call 917-512-3577.