words + photos by Ellen Barone
Exploding fireworks. Tolling bells. High volume music. Tooting car horns. Sound is omnipresent in Latin America; the vibrant soundtrack of every day life. But from the cozy sling of a hammock on the veranda of a private casita at Hacienda Puerta del Cielo Ecolodge & Spa, it felt as if Nicaragua had gone silent.
It was early December, mid-way through a three-month stay in the nearby Colonial city of Granada where the town had been rocking for days in boisterous preparation of the upcoming Feast of the Immaculate Conception celebration. At the Hacienda, however, perched atop a remote hillside with unimpeded views of tangled jungle, smoldering volcano and glistening lake, there wasn’t even a whiff of noise on the balmy breeze. As if to make the point, soundless butterflies the size of dessert plates fluttered about the resort gardens.
Soon though, the subtle sounds of nature began to reveal themselves: the screech of a passing flock of parrots, the distinct trill of a kingfisher, the cheery chirps of geckos, the gentle rustle of palm fronds and giant guanacaste trees. For a blissful 48-hours, my husband and I padded between pool and hammock in companionable silence while we napped, read, and daydreamed the days away.
When mealtimes arrived, we’d head for the open-air lodge where a friendly staff served delicious locally-sourced meals that were included as part of our room rate, as were all snacks, bottled water, soft drinks, fruit juices, and Nicaraguan Flor de Cana rum and Toña beer. At night, we fell asleep to a skylight view of sparkling night sky and a melodious chorus of insects, tree frogs, and jungle creatures.
Had we not been living in the area, we could have elected to take daylong excursions to the Mambacho cloud forest and coffee plantation, Masaya volcano and artisan market, the isletas of Lake Nicaragua, or to go zip lining through the jungle canopy off the property. But we came for peace and quiet. A hike down a forest trail to the lake was about as far as we ventured before heading back to the pool and hammocks.
The 7-casita, 60-acre property is the inspiration of two Nicaraguan brothers who, as boys, lived a few miles down the road in the town of Masatepe. But like many who fled the country during the Sandinista revolution and resulting Contra war in the late seventies and eighties, the family left Nicaragua and settled in the U.S.. Fueled by decades of peace, fond childhood memories, strong family ties, and a love for their homeland the brothers purchased the property and began the three-year process of creating a luxurious eco-friendly hideaway for nature loving visitors.
Boasting artisanal wood, stone, metal, and artwork, the resort is refreshingly devoid of mass-produced products. From the narrow, rustic entry road, bamboo caned ceilings, locally crafted furniture, and handpainted murals, to the absence of television and phones in the casitas, every aspect of the Hacienda experience reinforced a feeling that’s remained with us since our first visit to Nicaragua a decade ago - that we were somewhere special.
IF YOU GO:
Hacienda Puerta del Cielo (011-505-8396-2039, http://www.haciendapuertadelcielo.com) offers air-conditioned shuttle service to and from the Managua airport; travel time is less than an hour. All-inclusive spa, tourism, honeymoon, and Spanish immersion packages are available. Free Wi-Fi available in public spaces.
Nicaragua is a friendly, natural and cultural rich destination for adventurous travelers looking to step off the beaten tourist path. It boasts a gigantic freshwater lake, with twin volcanoes rising from its center; mountain terraced coffee plantations; pristine Pacific beaches; Caribbean islands; one of Central America’s least spoiled colonial cities, Granada; and very few tourists. Learn more about travel in Nicaragua at: VisitNicaragua.com.