We ascended a dirt trail, crossed a 350-foot-long wood bridge,
passed signs for rooms 8, 9, 10 and then climbed steps carved into
a steep ridge. Fortunately, a porter carried my suitcase over his
shoulders to room 14 at Morgan’s Rock, for it was the longest trek
I’d ever made to a hotel room.
“It’s worth it,” said my host. “You have one of the best
Opening the door to my room unveiled a sweeping, 180-degree
panorama of the Pacific Coast with almost no other structure in
sight. Straight below were the hacienda and restaurant and pool
where I had checked in; beyond that was a beach that snuggled into
a perfect crescent almost a mile around.
Situated on the coast near the fishing and surfing town of San
Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge is a
serious entry into the growing category of sustainable luxury
accommodations. Fifteen years after revolution and civil war, the
now peaceful country is throwing its energy into tourism.
Many Americans assume Nicaragua is still dangerous, yet it is
safer than most countries in Latin America. And the scenery is
stunning, ranging from rainforests, to impeccably symmetrical
volcanoes. The architecture of two colonial-era cities Granada and
Leon rivals better known cities like Antigua.
“One way Nicaragua has come to differentiate itself from other
Central American destinations is that it’s culturally authentic,”
explained Maria Nelly Rivas, the country’s Minister of Tourism.
“We’ve been lucky to preserve cities like Leon and Granada. You see
people there with their doors open sitting in their rocking chairs
that’s the way they live.”
San Juan del Sur has become the Pacific Coast’s pre-eminent
tourist destination, and during a March visit, the scrubby
foothills surrounding the town looked like California’s Central
Coast in August parched, tanned and lovely.
Morgan’s Rock provides a tantalizing perspective on what
Nicaragua’s future in tourism might be. The lodge is owned by the
Poncons, a French family that has been in Nicaragua for three
decades managing coffee farms and reforestation pro-jects. They
acquired the nearly 4,500-acre property and began planting 1.5
million trees for lumber and fruit. Inspired by the Lapa Rios
Ecolodge in Costa Rica, the family hired Englishman Matthew
Falkiner to design Morgan’s Rock.
The result is dramatic. The 15 rooms feature the best in upscale
lodge living, with king beds, quality linens and in-suite
bathrooms. A large deck wraps around the structure, with private
sun patio, an outdoor shower and a mattress suspended from
Though wrapped by screens open to the breeze, the structures are
memorable for their use of renewable hard woods, including
eucalyptus, almond and teak, plus hand-cut volcanic stone for
retaining walls. All face west, positioned at different elevations
above the sea. The bellow of howler monkeys provides the eerie
morning wake-up call, followed by coffee delivered to the room.
Activities include kayaking, walking tours, horseback riding,
trips to the Masaya volcano, canopy tours and surfing lessons.
Clients can even snorkel for lobster with a local fisherman.
Although the meals could use improvement most portions were
small, selections limited and the entrees hit-and-miss many of the
ingredients are sourced fresh on-site, and the stone-and-thatch
dining room was a beautiful venue that almost surmounted the
Where Morgan’s Rock most succeeds is the comfort level of the
accommodations, which are unusually high for a low-impact,
environmentally sensitive property. The lodge is a perfect fit for
clients exploring what is sure to be the next “it” destination.
Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge
Bungalows at Morgan’s Rock are priced $170-$195 per person
(double occupancy), including three meals daily, snacks on request,
non-alcoholic beverages, tax and service charges. Most activities
are priced as an additional charge. The lodge is a 30-minute drive
north from San Juan del Sur.
Managua is served by American, Continental, Delta and TACA
airlines (nonstop from LAX).
888-733-6422 (A new information call center)