A Floridian’s Nicaragua Experience

Nicaragua is still one of those ‘less traveled’ destinations. Most would question it as maybe not being the best place to visit, but I completely disagree, so should you and here is why. I recently visited on a solo trip to the country and had nothing short of an amazing experience. In a world where we all want to find the next best thing, now you can help discover the incredible country of Nicaragua. This post shares just a few of my favorite things, but hope that it will help guide you in building your ideal Nicaragua vacation.

Sunseting on the lake at Jicaro Island Eco-lodgeChoosing the right property is key. When I first arrived to Jicaro Island Ecolodge, I was unsure where I was arriving to because I arrived late in the night. It was pretty dark, aside from the candles and minimal lighting to help guide you to the common area. The property immediately intrigued me to want to see more. Once I had a good night’s rest, I woke up on a little piece of heaven situated right in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. I had to actually take a second and realize where I was. It was amazing. The two-story casitas made me feel as though I had my own haven amongst this unique private island. Yes, I did say private island and let that sink in one more time. You are in your own private two-story casita on a secluded private island.

During a vacation, it is also the small things that count. From the welcome drink to being able to paddle board and kayak around the lake at any given time, nothing went unnoticed. The paddle boards and kayaks are accessible to you at any time and the wonderful staff will get you all set up in second, completed with water and towels upon arrival back. Cocktail hour was also a great way to interact with the staff and other guests.

Cocktail hour!

Cocktail hour!

When at Jicaro, you become a part of the family. From before you even arrive to after you leave, you are immediately connected to the staff at Jicaro Island Ecolodge. Aside from the remarkable food, every dining experience offered up something incredible. Breathtaking views, delicious meals and the lovely staff made each meal memorable. I also never wanted to leave the property, but during my day tour of the volcanoes, the city of Granada and a trip to the central market; I felt even more connected to the wonderful country. I explored and met tons of locals who embraced me with open arms. We additionally visited the local school and learned about all of the amazing initiatives that Jicaro Ecolodge actually implemented there. It was remarkable.

I could go on and on, but I think that this helps give a great overview to what a few amazing days in Nicaragua at Jicaro Island Ecolodge are like. What are you waiting for, head over there now!Masaya, Nicaragua Market

Dining at Jicaro

Written by: Josh Newmark

During your stay at Jicaro, the culinary team will make sure you’re more than well-fed. The menus for each meal are varied and there is always a local twist so that upon departing, you will have had a taste of Nicaragua. The restaurant is all-inclusive so you can have a meal as fulfilling as you like, and the staff are super friendly and attentive and will accommodate any preferences or dietary requirements.

For breakfast there is a fantastic variety of options: a cooked breakfast might take your fancy, including the eggs and bacon with which you are familiar but accompanied by gallo pinto (a favourite local dish of rice and beans) and Nicaraguan dry cheese. Or perhaps you would prefer fresh, locally-sourced granola with yoghurt and a plate of fresh mango, grapefruit and pineapple slices. And if you are after something sweeter, the menu offers amazing pancakes accompanied by caramelised banana. My recommendation would probably be the ‘island french toast’: thick slices, dusted with grated coconut and accompanied by a jug of pineapple syrup. And make sure to ask for the smoothie of the day! Also, every meal is accompanied with freshly baked bread, which at breakfast includes a fresh pastry and locally-produced fruit jelly.

Jicaro Island French Toast

Jicaro Island French Toast

The lunch menu has several traditional local dishes. The ceviche is a delicious cold starter made of sliced fresh fish, new potatoes, and avocado with olive oil, served alongside crunchy plantain fries. Red bean humous is a Nicaraguan twist on an international favourite. There are also three different flavours of refreshing gazpacho to choose from. For the main course you might decide to try the vigoron, a traditional meal of yucca mash with fried pork. The tacos (chicken, fish, or prawn) are another delicious option, served on corn tortillas and accompanied by refried beans and salad. Then there is also the option of a simple three-cheese toasted sandwich, a burger, or steak, as well as vegetarian options.

Dinner can be preceded by a salad or soup (the fresh crab soup is brimming with flavour), or by another starter such as the eggplant stack, which is served alongside a slice of camembert. Although I am not a vegetarian, I tried the tortilla española and the plantain lasagne, and they did not disappoint. On the non-vegetarian menu are two delicious steak options, as well as delightfully exotic coconut shrimp dish. And despite being someone who rarely enjoys fish, I requested the orange-glazed fish of the day multiple times because it was so tasty – served upon a delicious sweet quequisque paste, alongside roasted eggplant. Desserts include exotic ice cream flavours (coconut, dragonfruit, passion fruit), chocolate or citrus cakes, and ‘choco banana’ – a frozen, chocolate-coated banana on a stick.

A delicious eggplant stack

A delicious eggplant stack

Finally, if your stay at Jicaro coincides with a Saturday, you might be lucky enough to experience ‘Nicaraguan food night’, a buffet of traditional dishes.

Nicaraguan Food Night

Nicaraguan Food Night

¡buen provecho!

Artisanal Fishing Classes

Written by Josh Newmark

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Traversing Lake Nicaragua, local fishermen are a common sight, using a traditional method involving a net which is cast out in a circle and then pulled tight with a rope. Jicaro offers guests the opportunity to learn this style of fishing and give it a go out on the water.

We started on the floating deck, where Zelso and Jobert, two Jicaro staff members who grew up by the side of the lake, showed us the technique for casting the net.

After my first attempt I could see why it has been labelled an “art”: although the fishermen throw a perfect circle each time and make it look like the easiest thing in the world, it’s a tricky method to learn. You have to gather the rope in one hand, find the halfway point of the inside of the net with your other hand, and hold it open with your teeth! Then, in one movement, you twist your body as you cast the net outwards in a round motion so that, ostensibly, it should open up in a circle. However, it took a few attempts before we were able to get the net open at all, let alone in a circle!

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Nonetheless, the Jicaro staff were patient and helpful and clearly enjoyed showing us this locally-developed skill. Once people had managed to catch a few fish from the floating deck (all the fish we caught were released back into the water straight away), it was time to take it up a notch, and we got onto the boat and traveled further out onto the lake to test ourselves some more. It was great to be able to try out this activity which is an integral part of the life of the local community, and it was very satisfying to be able to catch a fish using such a manual, skill-based method. It quickly became addictive trying to see who would get the biggest catch, and before we knew it, it was getting dark. Time to head back to the lodge, after a great couple of hours learning something completely new and unique. Just one of the many great cultural experiences you can sample at Jicaro.josh1

My first view of Lake Nicaragua was of a pitch black nothingness: I arrived at around 10pm, and my boat trip over to the island took place in total darkness. However, the next morning I was able to appreciate the reality of how beautiful a setting it is for Jicaro. The veranda of my casita overlooks some shallows in between Jicaro Island and an adjacent islet, where I can always spot waterfowl diving for food, and turtles padding around the rocks. Walking around to the front of the hotel, there is a much greater expanse of water: the sun gleams off its surface, and clouds roll over the distant mountains through a bright blue sky. Dock

Maybe three days into my internship on the island, I was invited out on the kayaks by Sustainability Manager Gorge Carcache, one of the friendliest guys you could meet, with oodles of knowledge about the local community and a real passion for the sustainability programme. There is one individual kayak and one two-person kayak, both available for guests at any time during the day. We paddled past the floating deck and headed off on a route through many of the local islets – of which there are over 200, created by the Mombacho Volcano, Gorge explained.kayak

Kayaking is a wonderful activity: it can be whatever you want it to be – a session of ultra-relaxation, a great workout, or simply an easy and eco-friendly method of local travel. With the lack of engine noise we could glide in silence across the gentle surface of the water: when we stopped paddling, the only audible sounds were the breeze through the trees, the birdsong, and the occasional casting of a fisherman’s net. Although there was no cover from the sun high in the sky, a lovely gentle breeze rolls constantly across the surface of the lake, so that as long as you remember to apply sunblock, the weather is your friend while you are out on the kayaks. Lake Nicaragua

The kayaking trip was a great way to see some more of the lake area: you can get up close to a very different way of life – with each local household living on their own little islet, in houses built by hand with whichever materials could be found at the time. You will pass women washing clothes or bathing children in the shallows, and men hard at work catching fish or transporting fresh mangoes. It’s an incredibly tranquil experience, but also a great way to see the area which surrounds Jicaro without all the disturbance of a big boat with a noisy engine. A greatly rewarding activity that I would definitely recommend to any visitor to the island.

This was was created by Josh Newmark who is working at Jicaro as an intern for the next month and a half. 

All Fun and Games

We have written so many amazing blogs about the stunning wildlife guests enjoy at Jicaro Island Ecolodge, the activities that are made available being situated on Lake Nicaragua, and why Nicaragua is such a wonderful place to visit. However, we have never written a blog about games to play in the beautiful infinity pool on our property, and we really feel that has been an oversight.

Since the beginning of time humans have enjoyed rough-housing and frolicking in bodies of water. Well, here is a list of some of the best games to play in the swimming pool. Also, we do not discriminate based on age, and we hope that even adults can enjoy some of these childhood classics!

1. Mermaids
Since Ariel made the whole idea of mermaids a little less scary and a little more fun, children have enjoyed pretending to be these half-human-half-fish sea creatures. Those rock structures that make up the edge of the pool are perfect for perching your mermaid/merman-self, to await a curious sailor, or perhaps the merman, or mermaid, of your dreams.

NIC_131213_004782. Marco Polo
This game, named after the renowned Venetian explorer who introduced Europe to Central Asia and China, is timeless. One person is it, and they close their eyes, and everyone else tries to keep from getting tagged. When whoever is “it” says “Marco” you have to reply with “Polo”, giving them a clue as to where you are!

3. Penguins
This one is particularly fun if you’re okay with jumping in and out of the pool, many times. One person is the leader, and everyone else stands on the edge of the pool. The leader begins to say words that start with the letter “P”, and when they say “Penguin” everyone has to jump in the pool, swim to the opposite side and back, and get out of the pool again. The last one out loses! A very fun and active game.

NIC_131213_004754. Somersault competition
This one may be just as timeless as “Marco Polo”. In this game, participants simply see how many underwater somersaults they can do in a row. It is a test of how long you can hold your breath while doing a little physical activity. This game is a little quieter too, so if the pool deck is full of people serenely enjoying their books, as it often is, this would be a good game to play!

5. Handstand competition
Finally, the handstand competition. Contestants have to do a handstand, with just over half of their body in the water. Often there is a judge, who rates the handstand based on duration, style and form. Also a good quiet game, and one that can entertain for hours, until those hands go all pruney!

NIC_131213_00480We hope that gets you excited for a tropical vacation in Nicaragua!

Happy Hour in Nicaragua

We all know how exhausting and stressful it is to spend the day laying out by the pool, wandering the beach and observing the beautiful lakeside wilderness that surrounds Jicaro Island Ecolodge…

So, at Jicaro we make a point of starting happy hour right on time, so you can move from the day into the evening seamlessly! So how do we make all those delicious cocktails? Well, we begin with some high quality ingredients.

NIC_131213_00490Then we get chopping! We love adding as much fresh fruit as possible. It accents the flavor of the chosen alcohol, while lending the drink a delicious and tropical quality.

NIC_131213_00496Our masterful bartenders squeezes some fresh ingredients into the mix.

NIC_131213_00503Then comes the fun part. With a full bar, we can make guests their favourite drink! Rum is one of Central America’s main exports, and because of its abundance it is used as the alcoholic component in many drinks. Gin, vodka and tequila are some of our other favourites!

NIC_131213_00508Finally, it is time to enjoy your beverage! Our staff are always friendly and excited to help any guest have their needs and wants satisfied. Cheers!

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A Facinating Story

The history of Nicaragua is absolutely fascinating! Having gone through many ups and downs, Nicaragua, and her people, are truly in bloom, with a growing tourism industry and a strong workforce of kind and hardworking people.

Now, instead of attempting to summarize thousands of years of history in the short space available, we have selected a few key points in Nicaraguan history. Points were chosen because of their importance then and/or their pertinence now.

Beautiful view of the lake1. The name “Nicaragua” is derived from the Nahuatl-speaking tribe’s name for the capital, which was Nicarao. When the Spaniards arrived, they decided to combine “Nicarao” with “Agua” (the Spanish word for water), to create “Nicaragua”.

2. There are ancient footprints that have been found by archaeologists, suggesting people inhabited this area more than 6,000 years ago.

View of the jungle and water from Jicaro, Nicaragua3. When the Spanish arrived, there were three main tribes in the country called the Niquirano, the Chorotegano and the Chontal, each of which had their own distinct language and culture.

4. The Spanish arrived in 1522, and 299 years later, in 1821, the Nicaraguan people took back their independence.

Traditional Nicaraguan Dance Costumes for the Local Schoolchildren5. From 1933-1979 a brutal dictatorship was in place, led by General Samoza and then his son and brother.

6. The current President, Daniel Ortega, has made strides towards achieving universal health care, education and work.

7. The tourism industry has grown a whopping 70% in the last 10 years.

Horse drawn carriage in Granada, Nicaragua

A visual guide to Jicaro

Welcome to Jicaro Island Ecolodge! Usually in our posts we write lots of words. This post, instead of talking about how great our resort is, we’re just going to show you. Enjoy!

Room Key at Jicaro Island Eco-Lodge

Welcome to Jicaro! Here is your room key.

Ice cold refreshing cucumber indused water

Have a refreshing glass of cucumber water.

Prawn tacos with rice and tomato and corn salsa

Hungry? How about some spicy prawn tacos with rice and tomato corn salsa.

Refreshing Mint and Lime Cocktail from Jicaro Island Eco-Lodge

Maybe a cocktail to wash down your lunch?

Beautiful blue pool and deck

Time for a swim in the pool!

Green Macaw

Now go on a tour and check out the amazing wildlife! These are three Green Macaw’s spotted right near the property.

Couple laying in hammock and relaxing with cool beers

Time for a little nap and a read!

Rising sun behind the vocano in Nicaragua

To end the day, a sunset over the lake.

Fill your days here with adventure and enjoyment at Jicaro Island Ecologe!

We’re Green and Good, Through and Through

The future is safe with Jicaro Island Ecolodge.

At Jicaro we believe in sustainability. The first thing that may spring to mind is environmental sustainability, but that isn’t 100% of the equation. Sustainability refers to these three areas: natural, cultural and social. So our mandate as a business, is to work towards and achieve not only environmental sustainability, but to cultivate cultural and social sustainability too, through supporting the local economy and its people.

Our property was built with serious considerations to the environment, ensuring that our lodgings leave the smallest footprint possible, as well as the social and cultural scene in the area. Here are the key things we do to help.

View of the jungle and water from Jicaro, NicaraguaWATER
Our water is heated with solar panels for guest and kitchen use, our pool cleaning systems are chlorine free and our waste water is treated on the island in compliance with Nicaraguan and internationally accepted standards.

AIR
We have no air conditioning – using instead cross ventilation and ceiling fans to cool the property. We also only use organic and biodegradable soaps, cleaning detergents and spa products.

REDUCE
Abiding by the mantra reduce, reuse and recycle, we reduce first and foremost. The less we need, the less we have to bring to the island, and ultimately, the less waste we have.

Fishing in Lake NicaraguaFOOD
We buy and produce locally, incorporating local dishes, ingredients and flavors into each of our meals. Sourcing our food from the region is a cornerstone of our efforts to aid in Nicaraguan economic development.

STAFF
We hire local staff and use subcontracting services. Spreading the potential wealth brought to Nicaragua by tourism is another way we are working to create economic sustainability.

EDUCATE
A main aim for us is to have every guest leave a little more engaged and invested in environmental action. Our tours are adventuresome and fun, but also often have an ecological focus.

Padre Nello SchoolDONATE
We are working with the local Padre Nello School (with 210 students) to provide them with clean drinking water and reliable electricity. So far we have raised enough money to buy and install solar panels (phase one of four). We are currently in phase two, raising money for a water treatment system. Donate and truly make a difference!

Sustainability for us is just as much about making the world a better place, as it is about surviving as a business and having a competitive edge. We love that we can feel so good about growing our business, because we know the longer we remain as an top class resort, the better-off the region and her wilderness will be.

Rising sun behind the vocano in NicaraguaWe are so thankful that ever increasingly in today’s tourism industry, destinations no longer can afford to ignore their impact on the environment, primarily due to consumer demand!

Yoga and Wellness at Jicaro Island Eco Lodge

As you move from Mountain Pose to Standing Forward Bend, a cool breeze that has ridden over the Mombacho Volcano in the distance and across the warm Nicaragua Lake waters catches a bead of sweat running down the nape of your neck. For a second it gives you this marvelous cool chill that ripples throughout your body, instantly refreshing you.

Guests doing yoga in the afternoonJicaro Island Eco Lodge has a yoga deck right on the lake, with daily classes for guests.

Having a magnificent array of exciting, adventuresome and educational things to do while here at Jicaro is something we boast about on the regular, and we love that we can offer guests the ultimate experience in relaxation and regeneration, by doing yoga outdoors in such a beautiful setting! We also offer yoga retreats throughout the year, so check out website to keep updated on when the next one will be.

Yoga in the warm afternoon!

Yoga in the warm afternoon!

What does yoga do for your body?

Increase flexibility – Improving ones flexibility not only allows for better and more efficient muscle growth, it is also one of the keys way to prevent injury when exercising. Tightness leads to strain on muscles, so when they are extremely fatigued the chances of them being pulled or torn shows a marked increase. Improving flexibility can also reduce or eradicate stiffness and soreness throughout the body.

Strengthen Muscle - Have you ever reached the end of a workout feeling like you just exercised a part of your body that you didn’t even realize existed? Well, you probably did! Or at least you exercised a part of your body that you’ve never focused on strengthening. Well, yoga to the rescue! The low impact activity is a whole body workout, focusing on many areas throughout. Developing a more rounded strength throughout your body not only increases overall power, but also is a preventative for injury.

Improve Joint Mobility- Yoga sessions are specifically designed around getting your body moving, and that includes each and every joint. It has been proven that the simple exercise of joints reduces the chance/intensity of degenerative arthritis.

Guest receiving a massage from spa employee at Jicaro Island Eco-LodgeAnd of course, after all that movement in our exhilarating yoga class, it is time to hit the spa. With two open air treatment rooms and private showers you can enjoy everything from Swedish massage to shiatsu and hot stone treatments. Need we say more?