For a far-flung, back-to-nature (with benefits) getaway that’s more haloed than a Whole Foods tote, Morgan’s Rock Hacienda & Ecolodge is commendably green – in both looks and personality. You’ll find it on a rainforest-overrun strip of land between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific coast, with a low-impact farm and turtle-nest-sheltering cove within its bounds. Guests stay in bungalows crafted into colourful ocean- or forest-gazing dens from reclaimed wood or bamboo, each one open wall so every guest feels at least a little wild – no loincloth required.
Get this when you book through us:
One free on-site experience for two: breakfast on the farm or horseback riding on the beach
Fifteen, including five bungalows with private pools.
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from $273.75, excluding tax at 27 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional resort fee of 10% per room per night prior to arrival and an additional government tax of 2% per room per night prior to arrival.
Rates include à la carte breakfast, non-motorised watersports (surfing, kayaking, boogie-boarding and paddle-boarding) and mountain-bike hire.
Salute the sun in the hacienda’s 4,300-square-foot, open-air yoga studio with hard-wood floors and palapa thatch. Private classes must be arranged when booking your stay, and the resident yogis can help plan a bespoke retreat. Guests can gather eggs and milk the cows on the farm, or pick up some souvenirs; handicrafts by local artisans – clay pots, weaving, colourful tchotchkes – are sold onsite. If you want to leave an impression, make a donation to the local school.
At the hotel
Private beach, farm, acres of rainforest, yoga studio, laundry, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: iPod dock, coffee machine and kettle, water purifier, beach bag, Raw Botanicals bath products. Forest-View Rooms and three Ocean-View Rooms have private plunge pools.
Our favourite rooms
With plunge pools in all, a ‘sea-breeze’ machine above the bed to keep you cool, and bright splashes of colour, the Forest-View Rooms are just that teeny bit better than Ocean-View Bungalows; you still get a peek of ocean too, if you’re worried about getting short-changed on the view. Ocean-View Bungalows live up to the natural showcase their name promises; but staying in them involves a clamber up several flights of stairs, and a longer walk to the restaurant.
The forest-flanked chlorinated pool is petite, but just-right for sunset watching. There’s a smattering of wooden sunloungers for some post-swim R ‘n’ R; wave over snacks and drinks from the bar as needed. There’s a small child-friendly pool, too. Alternatively, hit the beach to splash in the surf, rock in a hammock or recline on pavilion-shaded lounger and order a couple of coconut cocktails from Mike’s Beach Bar.
Inspired by local sea turtles, the Paslama Oasis is a simple spa-shack open to the elements with wooden walls and a sandy floor. Gaze out at the ocean, inhale the salty-sea breeze and prepare for some serious pampering with a deeply-relaxing aromatherapy, Thai, Swedish or hot stone massage.
Light sleepers may want to shut out nature when snoozing – pack earplugs to mute the crashing waves and eye masks to shutter daybreak. Mozzie spray will make your stay that little bit more relaxing.
We’d advise against drinking the tap water, but filtered is readily available. Guests with mobility issues may struggle with the many stairs.
Best suited to over-6s, the Morgan’s Rock is a giant green playground and exotic petting zoo (but actually petting is discouraged, of course). Bungalows sleep up to three children on a queen-size sofa bed (an extra bed can be added on request).
Children are welcome, although children over-6 will be able to make the most of the property; activities tend to involve jungle rambling or splashing about. For children aged 3–11 there’s a seasonal charge: US$55 a child in low season, US$67 in high season, US$94 in peak season.
Juniors, tweens and teens.
Ocean-View Bungalows sleep up to five (two adults and up to three children on a sofa bed and one extra bed). Smaller families can fit in a Forest-View Bungalow with Pool, with an additional extra bed.
Activities are for children aged six plus only. Bomb through the vegetation on a bike (helmets available to hire), go horse riding, or learn how to surf. Kids will love helping out on the farm and the monkey- and sloth-spotting walks.
There’s a second, smaller pool (around two foot deep) that’s better suited to kids, but there’s no lifeguard.
There’s a small and sweet children’s menu with burgers, a selection of pizzas, fish-fingers using fresh catches, and sandwiches on home-made bread.
There’s no babysitting service, but if parents are desperate they can hire a local mother to watch their child.
The resort doesn’t have a huge cache of child or baby kit, so be sure to bring any essentials. If you’re crossing from Costa Rica into Nicaragua, books, games and a fully-charged iPad will make the notoriously slow border crossing a little more tolerable.
Dynamically so; planet-saving efforts include solar-powered water heaters, composting and eco-friendly construction methods and products. The estate encompasses a protected wildlife reserve and sustainable farmland; and the owners are involved in reforestation and conservation efforts (working with agroforestry organisation NicaFranca), and education programmes, collecting donations for schoolchildren and helping to maintain school buildings. Around 95 per cent of staff are local, and the hotel sources ingredients not grown onsite from Rainforest Alliance-approved farms.
Perch at a table with the clearest view of the coast – then settle in for the sunsets of many colours.
Tropical prints and light breezy dresses by day; smarten up before sundown.
To reach La Bastide, the palm-fronded dining pavilion, you cross a suspension bridge with jaw-dropping views, so you’ll be gobsmacked before you’ve even ordered an apéritif. Food is staunchly farm-to-table (around 60 per cent of ingredients are grown or produced onsite), with rare exceptions sourced from equally ethical local suppliers. Locally influenced dishes include carne and pescado with tamarind, jalapeño or chimichurri, served to tables overlooking the ocean and cove, with some alfresco tables. A Central American-style breakfast (gallo pinto, spicy eggs) is served either here or on the farm, where chef Denia cooks on the hearth – ask nicely and she’ll teach you how to make tortillas.
Bar Commodore serves up Nicaraguan beer and heady cocktails with serious lashings of rum; the usual suspects – daiquiris, piña coladas, caipirinhas, mojitos muddled with freshly picked mint – party together on the chalkboard menu. Bossa Nova beats set the mood as the sun heads south. Alternately, ask friendly bartender Mike to whip you up a summery sipper at his wooden beach bar.
Breakfast is from 7am–10am, but staff can rustle something up outside hours. Lunch is from noon–3pm, and dinner starts at 6.30pm, with a last seating at 9.30pm. The beach bar opens from 10am–5pm, Bar Commodore closes when the last guest leaves.
Guests can dine in-room on request, but it may attract the attention of hungry rainforest residents.
On a rainforest-clad strip of Nicaragua’s Pacific coast, the hacienda’s 4,000-acre estate comprises protected wildlife-roamed land and a sheltered cove with a white-sand beach.
Morgan’s Rock is a two-hour drive from Nicaragua’s capital Managua; fly into Augusto C Sandino International Airport or Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia, Costa Rica. The lodge can arrange transfers: a one-way trip from Managua for up to four is US$225. If arriving from Liberia (around a three-hour journey, on a good day), rental cars cannot be taken over the border at Peñas Blancas, and hotel transfers will switch vehicles on the Nicaragua side. Border crossings can take several hours when busy, so some in-car entertainment is essential.
Nicaragua’s rural roads are improving, but only confident drivers with lightning-quick reflexes should attempt them in a hire car; it’s not unusual for livestock to wander out into the road. To reach the hotel, turn down a dirt road, nicknamed La Chocolata, before entering San Juan del Sur. Drive for around eight kilometres until you spy signs for Maderas and Majagual Beach, then turn left. Drive straight until reaching a fork in the road, and head right towards Majagual Beach; keep going till you reach the hotel’s main gate. There’s free parking onsite.
A private jet may not be the most ecologically sound way to arrive but, if you’re so inclined, the resort has its own landing strip, a 35-minute flight from Liberia or Managua.
Worth getting out of bed for
The lodge resides deep in the rural Rivas department; beyond its ley-lines sprawl sugar-cane fields and mango orchards, and to the east Concepción and Maderas volcanoes rise from Lake Nicaragua to form Ometepe Island. With hotel staff’s help, the intrepid and stamina-blessed can climb these behemoths, but it’s a round trip of up to 10 hours and rocks near the top get a little toasty. The grounds offer gentler pursuits: biking, horse riding, monkey- and sloth-spotting trips, jungle walks by day and night, shrimping… Watersports (surfing, kayaking, boogie-boarding and paddle-boarding) are included in your room rate, and the cove’s sandy beach is a postcard-ready vision; for an added splash of romance, watch the sunset from a hired boat. Come summer, watch the fruits of the hacienda’s conservation efforts, when turtle hatchlings scurry from egg to sea. Twitchers should pack binoculars to up the chance of seeing scarlet macaws, herons, egrets and other graceful birds. Take to the canopy to get a closer look.
Beyond Morgan’s Rock, bijou colonial town Rivas is an hour’s drive away, and beach town San Juan del Sur has charming clapboard houses, a mini version of Christ the Redeemer and rideable surf. San Juan del Oriente, a two-hour drive north from the lodge, is the place for colourful ceramic pots, vases and other doodads – we especially like the smiley-faced planters. Book the hotel’s ‘cultural experience’ trip to see the artisans at work, gaze in awe at the expanse of Apoyo Lagoon from the Catarina Viewpoint, visit a spice-scented market before stopping by Masaya volcano, then lunch amid Granada’s colonial grandeur; or pair Granada with a hike through the Mombacho Crater. If Ometepe’s volcano-conquering is too hardcore, take a boat trip through its brood of dinky islets.
It’s hard to leave a hacienda where howler monkeys might swing by as you dine, but fresh catches of the day are especially good in San Juan del Sur’s shoreline restaurants. Restaurante El Timón is a family run, shaggily thatched fish restaurant steps from the sand – be prepared to shimmy to samba-style beats. El Bocadito Tapas y Cervezas (+505 8440 2591) in the Barrio Centro is renowned for punch-packing small plates. Further afield, try local delicacies in the Garden Cafe, on Calle La Libertad, Granada; try tamales, achiote-sprinkled pork or the daily changing local special.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this environmentally friendly resort in Central America and unpacked their artisanal pottery and downloaded their howler-monkey pics, a full account of their utterly unique beachy break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a postcard from Morgan’s Rock Haçienda & Ecolodge in Nicaragua (on recycled paper, naturally)…
You’re lying on a day-bed gently swinging on hemp ropes in the breeze. In the near distance is a white-sand cove; beyond, the vastness of the Pacific. There’s just the occasional distant roar of a howler monkey and chittering of tropical birds – no phone beeps, no traffic noise… sounds good, right? Morgan’s Rock Haçienda & Ecolodge does ‘getting away from it all’ with aplomb, but it’s not all dithering about in sloth-like fashion: guests can venture out on wildlife-seeking quests, hop in a kayak, get bendy in the yoga pavilion and, for the brave, tackle climbing the volcano peaks on the Island of Ometepe to the east. Or, you can make a few new friends on site: primates, dinky crabs, deer and anteaters wander about as if they own the place – and they very nearly do: the lodge’s 50/50 protected sanctuary and low-impact farmland, which are just the right odds for a wildlife wonderland.
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