Jicaro Island Eco Lodge Sustainable Luxury
by, 03-25-2013 at 09:57 AM (1005 Views)
A British tourist (Karen) arrived in Nicaragua with a vision of an eco-friendly, small & upscale lodge. She found and purchased a small isleta in Lake Nicaragua. She hired and architect and Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality to manage the place. Thanks to them and Howard, ctavio, Claudia and the rest of the Jicaro staff a small slice of heaven was born in Nicaragua! Cayuga has been recognized as a world leader in upscale, sustainable tourism for more than 10 years. This is their 1st place in Nicaragua they manage other lodges in Costa Rica Lapo Rios being one of them.
Our LL package included 5 nights in one of the 9 private casitas with all meals and non-alcoholic beverages, as well as a choice of either a 30 minute massage or a couple of different tours we chose the massage and even though it was only 30 minutes it was very relaxing. The spa is small and offers a few different massage options from 50 90 minutes long.
The casitas are all identical 2 story structures built from re-claimed wood with a small outside deck containing 2 chairs, a table, and a large hammock. Each casita has a private entrance reached via a winding stone pathway with natural rock formations and nice landscaping features. The 1st floor contains a seating area with a couch that cleverly rolls out to a full size bed and a coffee table. From this area you go up 2 steps to the bathroom area with ample storage space and a safe. A partition separates the couch from the sink and counter area and a sliding, louvered door opens into a large open shower with a rainshower and the toilet area. Very nice soft, fluffy towels and a bathrobe were provided. The 1st floor has large, screened windows which can be cleverly closed with sliding, louvered shutters. There are also small screened vents in the floor around the shower area for ventilation. The rest of the walls are made of wood and have opaque panels for light which are made of the sort of material you may see in a greenhouse. With a ceiling fan and the large windows letting in a nice lake breeze the temperatures were quite comfortable.
At the back of the 1st floor, there is an open wooden stairway leading to the 2nd floor bedroom area of the casita. There is a king size bed with a very comfortable mattress and very soft sheets pretty close to the great beds we experienced in the Lumina Luxury Suites in Mexico City. Most of Latin America seems to like firm, hard beds, so for me at least, a nice, soft, pillow top mattress is always a pleasure. Each side of the bed has a built in side table and there is also a small desk and chair. My only comment would be to include some shelves or hooks on the 2nd floor to hang clothes, etc. on. All shelves and hooks are on the 1st floor. The 2nd floor also has very large screened windows with wonderful views which can also be closed off with sliding, louvered shutters we never had to since privacy was never an issue for us. A ceiling fan keeps things cool. Even though Nica was a bit hot especially in Granada, the heat was never an issue on Jicaro due to the nice lake breeze.
Privacy screens artfully arranged on the outside ensure that you never really notice the neighboring casitas. So even though you are on a small island, you never really felt crowded expect on a day where everyone decided they wanted to sit around the pool at the same time.
An open air kitchen and restaurant with nine tables, an open air seating area with comfy seating & with books to borrow, a small gift shop, and an open bar and comfy seating area surround the pool area which is more or less in the center of the island. There is a large open deck down a few stairs from the dining area with great views of the lake where you can have yoga lessons in the morning, watch the sunset, stargaze or just sit and read a book. We liked to sit on this deck each evening the sunsets were beautiful and the stargazing was awesome!
The spa is off to the side of the open deck. There is another deck with a comfy couch and 2 massage treatment rooms. A very relaxing place. The medium size pool is surrounded with nice landscaping, cushioned lounge chairs and some Adirondack type chairs and a table. If a good portion of the guests decide to stay on the island and lounge around the pool during the day, then there may be some seating issues this was not an issue for us since we are not the lounging around in the bright sunshine type of folks but was an issue for a couple of the guests since they wanted a lounge chair and they were all in use.
The island is small maybe a bit over an acre, and the architect did a wonderful job blending in everything with the trees, plants and rocks on the island they did everything they could possibly do to not remove many trees or native plantings and rocks. And it looks wonderful. Stone walkways wind around the island leading to the casitas, the main lodge areas and a wonderful observation platform with amazing 360 views of the lake, neighboring islands, volcanoes, birds and stars at night.
Each morning we were awakened by birdsong and there are many, many different birds! Coffee and tea are delivered at the time of your choosing to your casita each morning (the time is arranged the evening before) and it was very nice sitting on the deck listening and watching the birds while having our morning beverages. We tend to be early risers and we had ours delivered each morning at 6:30am. There are set times for meals 7-10:30 for breakfast, lunch is 12 to around 3pm, and dinner begins around 6pm with the last seating around 8:30pm, however, if you arrive a little after 8:30pm you will still get your dinner. There are also snacks and various beverages available throughout the day. As I am a tea drinker, it was nice to know that all I had to do was ask and a pot of tea appeared before me. It was very nice to see a Latin American place that knows how to prepare a pot of good black tea piping hot water, tea in the water and not just a teabag on the side, warmed milk and sugar. We also indulged in great fresh fruit smoothies!
Each morning at breakfast you also ordered your lunch and dinner selections, this way if you were not going to be on the island for lunch and dinner, then they did not need to prepare anything for you great way to control food waste! There are a decent number of meal selections to provide enough variety each day and many of the other guests would get something different each day so they could try everything on the menu. While not everything was to my personal liking, I did discover that you could customize the menu items to your taste and if they have the ingredients, you could also order off menu. All dished were nicely presented and were large portions we ended up getting ½ portions since after a day or two we were feeling stuffed! My husband especially liked the fish tacos which he had a few times at lunch; the beef was very, very good as was the chicken, fresh vegetables, breads, etc. I included pictures of the menu in my link. All wines are from Argentina and Chile and they seemed to have a good selection at good prices. There are also a variety of local beers, traditional cocktails, after dinner coffee drinks, and Jicaro creations. My husband tried a few of the coffee drinks and said they were great. On the few times that I drink alcohol, I stick to Pina Coladas and these were good and refreshing at only $4.50.
The lodge remains true to their eco tenants the water in the casitas is solar heated and hot water was never an issue. The lighting is LED and halogen. All waste water is filtered and used to water the plants. The water for drinking is also filtered and safe to drink and they also have water containers dotted around to refill your Jicaro water bottle that is given to you on arrival. The lodge also participates in Pack for a Purpose and we packed items for the local school that they support.
Jicaro also provides a variety of tours and can also arrange transport to/from the international airport. We could have easily stayed on the island for our 5 nights but we wanted to get in a bit of shopping so we arranged a day trip to Granada and another trip to Masaya Market. There are also tours to hike, climb volcanoes, visit coffee plantations, etc. Our 2 day trips as well as our transportation to the airport and the few alcoholic drinks came to $184 much less than we expected!
A nice well rounded group of fellow guests (including another LL couple) made for some nice and interesting conversations. The service was excellent with a few minor, quickly fixed glitches. The staff is very friendly and the ones that deal directly with the guests speak fairly good English. The drivers that took us on our day trips did not speak English, however, since they are your personal driver, the lodge tells them exactly where you want to go and working out where to get picked up (where you get dropped off) is easy. The late afternoon/evening manager, Octavio, is especially helpful he is a Nicaraguan native who lived in Miami for 20 years and moved back to Nica in 2007. He can tell you all sorts of things about where to visit, history of the country, what different birds and plants are a great guy! Each time you arrive at the island when you 1st get there, when coming back from a tour, etc. you are met at the dock with cool, refreshing drinks the staff always know when you are arriving back they have a good system of cell phoning each other so they pretty much know exactly when you will pull up at the dock.
We loved, loved, loved Jicaro it has entered my top 5 list of LL trips and we were very sad when it was departure day! Go and go now before the hordes discover this place and it becomes hard to get a reservation. Next time we go, I dont even think we will leave the island. This was one of the most memorable and relaxing trips we have done. Never felt the urge to get up and go, go, go that we usually feel. Just sitting around and watching the lake, birds, local fisherman and having the attentive staff to bring you your next drink was so relaxing ..
When we arrived home, we received a nice email from Jicaro thanking us for visiting them; asking if there were any suggestions we had to make the place even more enjoyable and that they hope to see us again. When we arrived, Karen, the owner was actually there for one of her 2-3 yearly visits and we had a few good conversations with her and I mentioned a few suggestions for some slight improvements ;-)
Nicaragua is a wonderful place and we would not hesitate to go again especially to Jicaro.
Here's a link to my pictures.