Pacaya Hotel: Nicaragua’s New Luxe Lodge
Some hotels are great for seeing city sights. Others are go-tos for wild, remote adventures. Pacaya Lodge, which sits within Nicaragua’s protected Laguna de Apoyo nature reserve, on a picturesque crater lake, promises guests a good look into local life, culture, arts, and cuisine.
In addition to being close to the colonial city of Granada and the cultural hub of Masaya, the luxury boutique resort sits squarely in the heart of Nicaragua’s picturesque Pueblos Blancos, villages known for their high-quality art and handicrafts. In fact, the property was designed to capture the flair of neighboring communities and to cater to travelers curious about authentic Nicaragua—those who want to better know the natural and cultural character of the Laguna de Apoyo region and the larger country as a whole. Giving back to the community is an important part of the property’s mission, too.
“While many upscale resorts in Latin America seek to shield guests from local communities, Pacaya Lodge & Spa embraces its home and reflects its sense of place,” says Gabriel Seder, the sales and marketing director. “We highlight local artists and artisans, offer unique cultural excursions, and operate in a way that engages and gives back to the local community.”
Opened March 2016, the lodge provides a pampered experience. Overlooking Laguna de Apoyo’s dramatic crater lake and jungle canopy, it allows guests to unwind in many ways. Laze in a hammock on your balcony as howler monkeys swing through trees nearby. Spend a sultry afternoon in the infinity pool with a cocktail and a gorgeous view. Indulge in a signature spa treatment or wander the trails that weave through the reserve.
Sound enticing? Here’s a closer look at what you’ll find:
“It was important to us to celebrate the vibrant Laguna de Apoyo communities and their rich artistic history in the lodge,” says Seder. All 26 of the lodge’s rooms and suites feature furniture, hammocks, textiles, baskets, fixtures, and artwork from a network of 16 nearby artisans who use natural materials like bamboo and banana fibers. “Their products are cornerstones of the lodge,” says Seder. “Their families have been making these beautiful crafts for years and seeing this collaboration of talented and skilled artists come alive in the lodge is truly amazing. From the colorful woven blankets on the beds to our breakfast baskets, everything was made locally. I can’t think of many places in the world where this happens.”
The rooms, which blend local décor with warm, contemporary design, feature panoramic views of the crater lake and jungle canopy, plus useful perks like WiFi.
Trek down to the lake to sunbathe, swim, or paddle on the clear, thermal waters of Laguna de Apoyo. Enjoy a yoga class with the crater lake as your backdrop, check out the local tourism school, lend a hand on the lodge’s organic farm, or master a Nicaraguan recipe. Stray further from the property to visit an artisan workshop in the nearby Pueblos Blancos, famous for their ceramics, Spanish architecture, and local customs. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the communities of Granada or Masaya, where you can also explore local museums, markets, and churches. Birdwatch and search for wildlife at any one of the nearby nature reserves or visit rural Ometepe Island, home to twin volcanic peaks and wildlife-filled jungles.
The lodge’s open-air restaurant, Guardabarranco, and bar, Macuá, (both named after native birds) use ingredients sourced from the lodge’s organic garden and from other local sources (including the nearby high school’s organic farm). Try el Macuá (the national drink of Nicaragua), which combines Nicaraguan Flor de Caña rum, guava juice, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Seasonal specialties include “el Gueguense,” a traditional dish made with yucca, pork, creole chorizo, guacamole, beans, pico de gallo, and fried plantains. Grilled ribeye with chayote lasagna is a favorite. Not-to-miss desserts include yucca donuts and passion fruit medallions with honey yogurt.
Pacaya’s employees are hand-selected from the local community for their regional knowledge and commitment to exceptional service. The lodge also supports a local high school that specializes in tourism and agriculture, and high school students intern at Pacaya for hands-on experience.
“Pacaya Lodge & Spa is designed to accommodate travelers of all speeds,” says Seder. Honeymooners can relax in private casitas or the lodge’s infinity pool, hit Nicaragua’s famous beaches, or book a private, candle-lit dinner with hand-selected and prepared courses from an internationally-acclaimed chef. A private spa offers couples’ massages, “chocolate” therapy, and a variety of customized treatments. Sunset yoga classes are a great way to close the day.
Families and large groups are easily accommodated, too. “We believe that the best and most memorable travel experiences for kids involve cultural exchange, learning, and a whole lot of fun,” says Seder. The pool and beachfront access (with kayaks and a floating dock) are popular with kids, and the lodge’s location in a national protected area practically ensure the spotting of howler monkeys, parakeets, sloths, and other jungle wildlife from the comfort of each casita. Kids are also welcome to explore the onsite organic garden and join morning yoga classes, too.
Revenues from the lodge support Opportunity International Nicaragua, an NGO that operates a tourism and agriculture high school just down the road from the lodge. In addition to aiding with hospitality and tourism education at the school, Pacaya Lodge offers internships and professional development opportunities to students. Much of the lodge’s fresh produce comes from the school’s working organic farm, too.