On the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua, Aqua Oceanfront Resort is as far Away from COVID as you Can Get
By Max Hartshorne
I met Paul Cohen on an island at the bottom of China. The Annapolis-Maryland based tourism consultant invited me to Hainan Island China last year where one of his tourism clients wanted to showcase this tropical paradise for the world to share.
He had been in discussion with a luxury resort ownership group and Nicaraguan Government and Tourism officials over the past year seeking advice on new management direction.
These discussions lead to Paul and his team taking over full management of the Aqua Oceanfront Resort on the Pacific Coast on February 1st in Tola, about two hours from the capital Managua.
After publishing stories and speaking with people in the COVID-saturated areas of the world for the past six weeks, it was a pleasure and a contrast to talk to Paul, whose life isn’t revolving around hand sanitizer and wiping surfaces.
He’s training the 60-person staff at the sprawling resort how to cater to Americans in the future, and for now, tourists coming from Managua and other parts of Central America.
Today as Cohen explains it, it’s a blank slate. “It’s like the children’s game, Chutes and Ladders. Costa Rica, more developed countries used to be four steps ahead. Now everyone is starting at zero.”
This bodes well for the countries that learn to manage tourism post COVID, and figure out the right combination of fastidious cleanliness, activities that nurture the soul, and luxury when needed.
Aqua Oceanfront Resorts offers 46 rooms, a combination of villas and suites, and treehouses that face the jungle or the sea. Besides lying on the sunny beach, which is sheltered from the famous big Pacific waves in a cove, guests can arrange horseback trips, watch hatching sea turtles, or enjoy movies on the same beach at night.
Paul’s original concept, of course, was to interest American and Canadian visitors in Nicaragua.
To many of them, it’s a new country to visit, it’s clearly not on the mainstream radar yet, but now his rooms are filled with diplomats from the different embassies in Managua and well-heeled ‘Nicas from the city.
Flights to the country are resuming in June 2020, including service from Miami, Atlanta and Houston, San Salvador, Mexico City, and Panama City.
Clearly, Aqua is poised to become one of the most important resorts in Nicaragua.
“The country is still open,” Paul added, as we toured the spacious property via Facetime on the phone. The low occupancy during the pandemic has given everyone time to learn many of the new requirements in hospitality, including social distancing, sanitizing everything, and wearing facemasks in public.
It’s a scary new world, but those who don’t heed the new lay of the land will be left behind by scared consumers. Cohen said they have a tough line to protect the staff and guests. If you’re coughing you can’t enter the property.
“We’re not the kind of place you would come if you’re handicapped, or if you have any mobility problems,” he said. “There are a lot of tall stairs, long passageways between the villas, and generally, you need to be in good shape to navigate around the resort.”
Sustainability in Nicaragua
Aqua is poised to lead luxury sustainable development in Nicaragua. This means employing locally, training when necessary, investing in the local communities through educational programs, and providing pathways for visitors to connect with local communities and nature.
Aqua promotes and exemplifies sustainable building, maintenance, and operational practices that also deliver an excellent experience.
The resort has been honored to receive two awards from the Nicaraguan Environmental Protection Agency (Marena) as a leader in sustainable development and is also Rain Forest Alliance verified.
Views from the Villas
The villas at Aqua were sited to minimize the impact on the primary forest and every room has a tranquil beach, ocean, or forest view. Families of monkey gambol through the forest alongside rare birds, butterflies, flowers, tree frogs, and other tropical life.
Villas are connected to the beach amenities by lava stone pathways and wooden bridges that meander organically amongst ginger plants, banana groves, and mountain streams.
Each of Aqua’s villas is a luxurious one, two or three-bedroom villa for a couple or family.
The unique villas were architected internationally and are individually handcrafted by a local team of Nicaraguan craftsmen using local hardwoods, hewn stone, and glass.
The Resort was built to blend the best of Nicaraguan materials and building techniques with contemporary design. All bedrooms have en-suite bathrooms with teak or slate showers, on-demand hot water, and the option of fan cooling and air conditioning. Many rooms also treat guests to outdoor Balinese showers, plunge pools, and fully equipped kitchens.
Villas at Aqua are around $200 per night, and individual suites are around $120. Find out more at Aquanicaraguaresort.com