Why Michael Douglas and Morgan Freeman Are Flocking to Nicaragua for Getaways

1:37 PM PST 04/22/2014 by Susan Campos
Ryan Forbes

The actors are among the most recent visitors to the country that's becoming a major vacation contender, thanks to the opening of its first five-star hotel.

Nicaragua is coming up the ranks as a serious contender to Mexico and Costa Rica as an A-list getaway spot (recent visitors to the country include Michael Douglas and Morgan Freeman), thanks to the allure of the recently opened Mukul, the country's first five-star hotel.

Though there is no direct flight from Los Angeles, you can connect comfortably through Costa Rica and then it's an hour jaunt to Nicaragua. Once in Managua, it's a 90-minute drive (35-minute helicopter ride) to a slice of paradise along the Pacific Ocean.

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Carlos Pellas, a Nicaraguan business mogul who hails from one of the wealthiest families in Nicaragua, spent $250 million dollars building the luxurious Mukul hotel along the country's Emerald Coast. Pristine jungles, untouched beaches and great surfing make this 37-room boutique resort a real gem.

Once inside the gates, you'll find oceanfront villas, an 18-hole golf course designed by David McLay Kidd, fine dining and hiking trails, where monkeys, sloths and iguanas are part of the natural decor. For those wanting a little pampering and privacy, Mukul offers a unique spa experience. Rather than having one large building, there are six private casitas (each with a swimming pool) to enjoy a selection of spa treatments in a lavish, secluded treatment area.

Rooms start at $550 a night, but for those wanting a little more space, there's the 20,000-square-foot oceanfront compound called the Casona Don Carlos, which comes complete with six suites, 80-foot-high palapa ceilings and a large private swimming pool. But prepare to pay $8,600 a night for the privilege.

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Two other spots in Nicaragua are also becoming big draws.

Just an hour away from the hotel is a fishing village called San Juan Del Sur, which gained international attention when Survivor took its show to the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. The quaint village with the killer waves is also a hot spot for brave Hollywood surfers such as Matthew McConaughey and Josh Brolin.

Morgan's Rock is the place to stay in San Juan Del Sur, with guests being able to experience both local wildlife and the Pacific Ocean. There are 15 cottages with easy access to 4,000-acres of Nicaraguan jungle, nearly half is a government-protected reserve. Prices for bungalows at the eco-chic lodge start at $235.

Another eco-friendly hotel is located in the colonial town of Granada (about an hour away from the airport). One can take a short boat ride to reach the Jicaro Island Ecolodge on Lake Nicaragua. The hotel is on its own private island with nine private casitas and a view of the Mombacho Volcano. Prices start at $300.

As for shopping, one of the greatest finds in Nicaragua may be the bags and belts made of crocodile and lizard skins. The best selection is inside the airport, where small stands are set up with clutches you might find at Barneys or Neiman Marcus -- but for a fraction of the price.

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