Jicaro Island Ecolodge should be on everyone’s travel wish list if they are searching for the perfect tranquil getaway. Hidden on a private island on Lake Nicaragua, you reach Jicaro on a short boat ride from Granada, Nicaragua and quickly leave the real world behind and settle into your own little pocket of paradise. Jicaro is part of the Cayuga Collection, which means their focus on sustainability and luxury service guarantees a memorable experience.
I was instantly drawn into a state of contentment when I boarded the boat to Jicaro. Birds were bathing in the lake and talking to each other which were easily heard due to the stillness in the air. We passed tiny islands full of lush green plants – there are 365 of these tiny islands scattered across Lake Nicaragua with 75 per cent of them homes for local families.
When I arrived at Jicaro the first thing I noticed was how dense the foliage was. The lodge wraps around the plants and it is like being in a little wonderland. The second thing that caught my attention was the architecture of the lodge. It had a very Zen feel to it and was constructed so each area had its own pocket of space, creating secluded havens for guests. The lodge has been built entirely using reclaimed timber from trees blown down from Hurricane Felix.
My tour around Jicaro allowed me to see the attention to detail given to every aspect of the lodge. Jicaro only has nine casitas – Spanish for small house (especially wooden) – that are two-storey. All casitas face out towards the lake and have private decks which offer stunning views. The king size beds are heavenly and like other Cayuga lodges, the open air rooms bring the nature to you. If you don’t sleep well with natural light, beautiful wooden rafters can be drawn across to create darkness.
If food is an important part of your vacation experience, you will love the open kitchen. You can watch the chefs at work preparing local ingredients and serving you up delicious meals during your stay. I was fortunate enough to taste the handmade biscuits and fresh coffee. It definitely made me wanting more and to sample what other treats were on offer that day. The dining area is open air and overlooks the lake, providing a tranquil setting for guests. My favourite part of the lodge is the floating deck – dining by candlelight on a floating deck is a perfect way for couples to spend time together or have some alone time if travelling solo.
The wellness area will send anyone into a state of relaxation with each room facing the lake and made private with lush greenery. Private showers are in each treatment room, perfect after a massage. Yoga is available on the deck and Jicaro is also a destination for yoga retreats.
Part of my visit to Jicaro included a sustainability tour. Jicaro work very closely with the family who reside on the island next door and such positive outcomes have resulted from this relationship. There are free range chickens roaming which supply fresh eggs for the families and Jicaro. Pigs live on the island and their excrement is used and turned into natural gas. This gas is used by the families so they can prepare meals without using firewood. This is a first in the region and it really highlights how locals can move forward to be more environmentally friendly in an age where climate change is a real issue. A greenhouse is being built, where fresh herbs and vegetables will be grown to be used in the cooking at Jicaro and by the families. It made me realise how easy it is to improve the livelihood in developing countries and I imagined the possibilities if all organisation instilled such practices. If you have the opportunity to visit Jicaro, then make sure you take this tour during your stay.
When I contacted Jicaro to arrange a tour, the last thing I was expecting was to meet the owner of Jicaro. And on top of that, to enjoy the morning talking to her over breakfast about what inspired her to create this island paradise.
Karen Emanuel was holidaying in Nicaragua by herself as she loves travelling to interesting places that offer wildlife and photographic opportunities. Something kept pulling her back to Latin America. Karen explained when you go on holiday, you return home and places fade – “but Nicaragua didn’t fade with me”. With an idea of constructing a lodge where one can get in touch with nature, Karen viewed other properties with a similar feel, including Morgan’s Rock located close to the town of San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. Karen’s idea became reality like a fairy tale. She managed to meet the right people at the right time and Jicaro evolved.
Karen visits Jicaro once every three to four months. She likes to see for herself the standard of service. At home, in the UK, Karen runs a business that turns great ideas into great products. I was so inspired by her entrepreneurial capability and wondered how she does it. Her response was she likes to be busy. She gets passionate about something and it takes her over.
I always wonder where entrepreneurs get their ambition from and when asked if Karen had any mentors growing up – she commented not really. Karen thanks her parents as they forced her to be independent and forthright. Karen learnt the value of money at an early age and when she was knee-high she had to work in her Dad’s shop to enable her to buy Christmas presents. Karen became a logical thinker and good at maths (she has a degree in genetics) and never wanted to work in business – she just fell into it.
Jicaro Island Ecolodge will leave you feeling relaxed and not wanting to return back to the real world. I am inspired to create elements of the lodge into my own home, although finding an island to live on might be a little tricky. What also makes Jicaro so special is the service and the staff. I felt the energy of the staff and they were like family to each other and their ability to provide exceptional service is evident.
Disclaimer: This trip was made possible by Jicaro’s public relations team