Sustainable secluded luxury on the Granada Isletas in Lake Nicaragua
In the middle of Lake Nicaragua, just a short boat ride from the UNESCO World Heritage City of Granada, with stunning islet shores and views of inactive Mombacho volcano, is El Jicaro.
Nicaragua, the ‘country of Lakes and Volcanoes’, is lush, like its neighbour Costa Rica. Also found on the ecological bridge connecting North and South America, volcanic islands and rainforest erupt from lakes and biodiversity is immense.
El Jicaro is one such island; in fact, one of 365 tiny islands dotting the waters of Lake Nicaragua known as the Granada Islets, created by a violent explosion of Mombacho Volcano 20 thousand years ago. Over time, the Islets populated and are now home to over 1200 people, some islets remaining uninhabited except for lush flora sheltering wildlife such as Nicaragua’s native monkeys and some its 703 bird species.
Spanish discoverers called Lake Nicaragua (or Lago Cocibolca) “La Mar Dulce” - The Sweet Sea, and it comes only second to Titicaca as the biggest freshwater Lake in Latin America.
If Nicaragua hasn’t been on your travel list in the past, Jicaro Island Ecolodge might just change that! It’s a magical island experience filled with peace and tranquillity; a beach and jungle trip that is quite extraordinary.
For couples and honeymooners, a hideaway on this exotic and private island is one of candle-lit dinners on a floating deck, gorgeous sunsets and reconnection on a romantic escape.
The Jicaro Island Ecolodge experience is recommended for adults and children 12 years and up. Children aged 8 and upwards are welcome on selected dates.
Be an Earth Changer:
Visit Jicaro Island Ecolodge
Hang out in a hammock, kayak from your casita or retreat into wellness & gastronomic bliss, safe in the knowledge of a super sustainable stay.
More details below.
Recommended stay a minimum of 3 nights – for the experience and better rates too!
You can also donate to their community initiatives via partner charity Earth Equilibrium.
Through the vision of founder Karen Emanuel and architect Michael Falkiner, all the buildings at Jicaro Island blend into this environment promoting a sense of being at one with nature.
Accommodation: Your luxury two storey “casita” is raised up above the ground like staying in a treehouse. Indeed it is made - along with the furniture - from beautiful local Rainforest Alliance-certified wood.
You’ll feel right at home in nature with the shade of the trees keeping your casita cool, along with ceiling fans and cross ventilation through the large doors and windows’ stunning views of Lake Nicaragua.
Upstairs, a king size bed-room. On the first floor, bathroom and spacious living area opening out to the terrace, including hammock and comfy deck furniture.
It’s just a short walk to the restaurant, wellness centre and all-natural pool built into the existing rock with an amazingly picturesque backdrop of the lake and Mombacho volcano.
Early morning coffee and late afternoon 'sundowner' delivery is available upon request. It really is idyllic.
Meals: A fresh, tasty, organic, gastronomic delight! All meals are a la carte with a strong focus on local ingredients and Nicaraguan cuisine creatively cooked simply for an extraordinary culinary experience.
Watch the master chef sculpt his local organic creations in the open kitchen next to the restaurant, sitting next to Lake Nicaragua with spectacular views from this secluded island. A real treat.
All meals and non-alcoholic beverages are included in room rates.
Wildlife: Add rainforest to the close-by inactive Mombacho volcano’s elevation and the result is one of the world’s few cloud forests - usually found 1000m or more above sea level so shrouded in cloud – and one of two locations in the entire Pacific where this is found.
This extremely rare ecosystem is home to hundreds of species, some found nowhere else in the world (endemic), such as the Mombacho salamander and Mombacho butterly. There are 700 different plant species, including hundreds of orchids and flowering bromeliads, and inactive craters of nature reveal trees covered in ferns and tens of other epiphytic species that grow harmlessly upon them.
Keen ornithologist? There’s a colourful array of birdlife at Jicaro: Guardabarranco, the bluey-green and pink national bird of Nicaragua; Magnificent Frigatebirds; elegant Snowy Egret herons now protected by law but previously hunted for their plumage; hunting Peregrine falcons and nocturnal Spectacled Owls; Purple-throated Mountain Gem hummingbirds; Hairy Woodpeckers; Vermillion Flycatchers…
Tours & Activities:
Get exclusive insights into the operations of a sustainable luxury ecolodge with the popular Behind the Scenes Sustainability tour.
Treat your body’s stress and exhaustion, embrace serenity and reconnect to yourself at Wellness and Spa Centre including daily yoga class with the in-house teacher on the deck overlooking Lake Nicaragua.
Get out on the water and explore the natural history and wildlife by kayak or Stand Up Paddleboard.
Honeymooners and loved-up guests - a daytrip to El Jicaro's secret sister island, Níspero, all to yourselves - a romantic dream for two! A totally exclusive and memorable experience of beach lounging, gourmet picnic and barbecuing, and ultimate privacy. With optional open-air massages and comfy hammocks too.
Zipline over the tropical rainforest canopy! Just 25 minutes from the lodge – exhilarating fun!
The Mombacho Volcano Natural Reserve and 2,500 acre cloud forest offers a pleasant climate for walking and nature spotting. The lower slopes’ cool climate allow for optimal growing of some of the world’s best coffee beans. The top (2.5 hours), incredible views of the city of Granada (10km away) and all the islands below. Visit the Mombacho Biological Station to learn more about the unique species living in the area.
Hike up to “La Roca” lookout for one of the most beautiful views of Granada’s Island, Zapatera, and the volcanoes in Lake Nicaragua.
Masaya Volcano National Park is one of the few places in the world to observe an active volcano crater close up! A day trip also takes in open-air Masaya market for Nicaraguan handcrafts, and Apoyo Lagoon natural reserve, for a dip in some of the cleanest water in Nicaragua.
Try Volcano Boarding for a fix of adrenalin! Hike up Cerro Negro volcano, and sand board down – like snowboarding but on a harder base - geared up with helmet, goggles, sturdy shoes and full clothing.
Explore fabulous Granada, the oldest colonial city on mainland America and considered one of the prettiest cities in Latin America.
Weather: Located in the tropics, close to the Equator, in a humid tropical forest area, warm temperatures are characteristic throughout the year (high 60’s to high 90s). Nicaragua’s Dry Season is from December to April and (rainy) Green Season from May to November. The rainiest months are September and October.
The people of Nicaragua and local to Jicaro Island Ecolodge are very friendly and hard working. Their main activity is the artisanal fishing, and agriculture including different types of fruit, and the sustainable agroforestry of coffee on the lower slopes of Mombacho volcano.
From the outset, owner Karen was committed to building Jicaro Island Ecolodge as a local asset, with the purpose of being a key support to the local people and economy. A vital initial local recruit was Howard Coulson the General Manager, who arrived before the hotel opened and is still there to this day – unusual in hospitality.
Howard is supported by a team of local staff on site plus Cayuga Hospitality - specialist sustainable lodge management pioneers. The “Cayuga Way” blends luxury and sustainability with the concept of “Experience, Learn, Connect and Relax”, a perfect fit.
Because of Cayuga’s expertise with other sustainable lodges, they have a wealth of experience and learnings. Importantly, they have a commitment to providing year around employment to a 100% local workforce. They offer staff fantastic hospitality training, sustainability training and they take people from one hotel and train them in another to see how other hotels run. Their sustainable hospitality management applies attention to all details, such as banning plastic water bottles and providing only bamboo straws.
“Although I didn't really know that type of organisation existed when I first started the project, boy am I glad it does!”– Karen Emanuel
More often than not it’s the people who make a stay: the waiters, the chef, the guides, drivers… One such example and a great ambassador who shows how tourism can support local people, is Experience and Sustainability Manager, Jorge Luis Lopez Carcache.
Carcache, as he is locally known, originally joined the construction team. Local, he became ‘the only man on the island’ – at night keeping guard when all the other workers returned to the mainland, with just Jorki the dog and a cat without a name to keep him company.
When the lodge opened, he became the maintenance manager, but he was concerned – he had never worked at a hotel, never really had contact with foreign guests, didn’t speak English, never worked in a management position, and didn’t feel his previous Agricultural Engineering studies or experience in sugarcane fields or nature refuge sea turtle care were good enough to prepare him.
But knowing every rock on ‘his’ island, he did an incredible job and was soon promoted. He learned English and started to give guest presentations. He’s passionate about the place and implemented amazing sustainability projects that guests visit, and celebrate his accomplishments for the community.
His love for what he does is evident, it’s not a job, it’s a passion. To see the joy it brings the guests to see the joy it brings the community, is what motivates him to excel. He loves to share his knowledge – with staff, guests, locals – and wants to stay here until he retires. He spends his leisure reading about the world in English, and with his family – supporting his children now studying.
Like Diamanda, who started as a waitress and is now the lodge’s Food and Beverage Manager, to Carcache, Jicaro is the Nicaraguan “American Dream”, where staff level employees can become managers and work in one of the best hotels in the country. He’s grateful for the opportunities and for what he’s learned from General Manager Howard to be more focused and organised.
Carcache is just one great example demonstrating how at Jicaro, sustainable management is about so much more than recycling and linen change: it’s about tourism for local people and sustainable development. For guests, the exceptional and kind staff will really make your stay unique!
Since its inception by founder Karen Emanuel, “Nicaragua's top nature eco resort” has always shown itself to be innovative and progressive, built on the premise of sustainability. Its vision aims to integrate the community in sustainable initiatives that can benefit them; to be a part of the community rather than just a commercial hotel.
Jicaro Island Ecolodge, with management company Cayuga, partner with US-based charity (501c3) Earth Equilibrium on an ongoing basis for environment and community benefits, locally and further afield.
The lodge was built as sustainably as possible and so as not to disturb the natural form of the island including retaining large trees and boulders.
Consequently, the casitas were raised above the ground, giving the feeling of being suspended amongst the foliage and part of the island, whilst keeping you cool in the shade without the need for energy-consumptive air conditioning.
Built using local materials, rough stone bricks and recycled materials including FSC / Rainforest Alliance-certified tropical hardwoods were salvaged from what Hurricane Felix left behind in 2007. All staff are local and all produce too.
Ironically for a lake setting, being surrounded by water doesn’t mean you have access to water. At least, clean, fresh, drinking water. Jicaro draws its water from the lake for its plumbing requirements but waste water produced could not be disposed of back to the lake! Jicaro’s wastewater treatment system enables water to be treated before safe reuse for garden irrigation, plus all soaps, detergents and spa products are organically based and biodegradable and the hotel pool is kept clean using a chlorine-free system.
Together, these initiatives ensure Jicaro is reducing its own water and energy requirements and preventing harm to any plant and wildlife. In addition, a solar thermal system, allows the hotel and its guests to have hot water without the need for fossil fuel.
A lot has been achieved given Jicaro is just a 9 room ecolodge, who provide ongoing training, education and financial support for new initiatives and infrastructure:
Local business: Jicaro buy local to not just support but also involve the local community and culture. For example, the freshly caught seafood supports the local fishermen economically, to learn about sustainability approaches, and creates an opportunity for cultural exchange with guests who are more than welcome to observe and learn the local and traditional methods of fishing at sunrise and dusk.
Freshwater: Jicaro has installed a filtration system as people were drinking out of the lake, to provide safe drinking water not just for the school but also the 600-strong community. This also cuts the need for expensive bottled water consumption and unnecessary plastic bottle waste.
Power: The lodge installed community solar panels, so now they have electricity that they didn’t have before, including for the water pumps.
Education: Jicaro is proud to give back to the community and support the Padre Nello School, a short boat ride away on the mainland shores of Lake Nicaragua. Students from the isletas come to school by boat and the teachers come from the city of Granada. With 88 pupils (Mon-Fri, 7am-noon), it has a kindergarten, and 3 classrooms of one teacher for two grade levels of elementary education simultaneously.
Jicaro has helped decorate classrooms, upgraded the equipment, utensils and, with the solar power, helped make the school usable after dark for adult education, activities and as a new community health centre, enabling medical professionals to operate vital equipment needed for medical exams.
The lodge staff have also created a new initiative, to fight malnutrition among students who each receive “a glass of milk” (the project’s name) and a snack before classes.
Jicaro will be expanding to help other schools in need in the area through the “Learning is Change” environmental education and “Books to fly” library and reading programmes.
Empowerment: Jicaro also support a group of local women to set up a business sewing clothes for sale and arranged health visitors to help parents cope with the daily challenges that they and their children face.
Biodiversity: Jicaro has started a tree nursery conservation program to reforest the Asese Peninsula with native trees.
"I would encourage people to visit our projects – we love it when guests take an interest in the sustainability of the hotel and how we're trying to help the community - and our local hosts really do appreciate it".
- Karen Emanuel, Owner,
Jicaro Island Ecolodge
Options & Rates
Fly to Managua, Nicaragua: Direct (eg. American Airlines, Continental Airlines and Delta have daily flights) or via international flight to San Jose or Liberia in Costa Rica and connect via Nature Air, a carbon neutral domestic Costa Rican Airline (4 times a week).
Private ground transfers from the Managua airport, any other hotel or even Costa Rica can be arranged.
To enter Nicaragua, the visitor must present a passport valid for at least 6 months. Entry visas are currently not required for U.S. and European Citizens.
To leave Nicaragua by air at the International Airport, there is a departure tax of US $10. (subject to change).
Individuals travelling to Nicaragua should ensure that all advised vaccinations are up to date: Please check with your personal medical advisor.
Included: 2 person Lake-view casita, 3 daily à-la-carte meals, non-alcoholic beverages & daily yoga lessons.
Excluded: Alcoholic beverages, additional tours & activities; local tax of 17%
Rates are in US Dollars, per room per night, not including local tax of 17%.
Additional person per room per night, all seasons, $180
- High Season: 06 Jan - 30 Apr 2017 $450 to $620
- Green Season: 01 May - 30 Nov 2017 $350 to $440
- High Season: 01 Dec - 19 Dec 2017 $450 to $620
- Holiday Season: 20 Dec - 05 Jan 2018 $750 to $950
- High Season: 06 Jan - 30 Apr 2018 $450 to $620
- Green Season 2018: 01 May - 30 Nov 2018 $350 to $440
Awards & Accreditations
2017 Winner - National Geographic Award “Earth Changers” award, with Cayuga Hospitality.
2013 - Grand Award winner - Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report, January.
Trip Advisor – Certificate of Excellence + Green Leaders Platinum level.
Without a sustainability accreditation scheme in Nicaragua, with the input of Cayuga Hospitality, Jicaro Ecolodge has been developed to – and surpassed - the top hospitality standard of Costa Rica.
Terms & Conditions:
Pre-Payment: Jicaro Island Ecolodge require a credit card as a guarantee for the total amount of the reservation. Pre-payment of the total amount of the reservation is required prior to the arrival date:
• High Season: 6th January – 30th April; 1st December – 19th December: 60 days
• Green Season: 1st May 30th November: 30 days
• Holiday season: 20th December – 5th January: 90 days
- In addition, a non-refundable deposit of US$750.00 is required at the time of booking to guarantee Holiday Season. No credit is available for this period.
Cancellations: 100% of the reservation will be charged if a reservation is cancelled within this time prior to arrival date:
• High Season: 60 days or less
• Green Season: 30 days
• Holiday Season: 59 days or less
50% of the reservation will be charged if a reservation is
• Holiday Season: cancelled within this time prior to arrival date: 60 to 90days
• Holiday Season: Modified or nights reduced: 90 days or less
Deposit non refundable
• Holiday Season: If a reservation is cancelled after the Holiday deposit has been paid.
Cancellation policies may apply if a reservation is modified prior to the arrival date by:
• High Season: 60 days or less
• Green Season: 30 days or less
“No-shows” are non-refundable: 100% of the total of the reservation will be charged.
• In case that the rooms can be resold, a 100% reimbursement will be made.
Children & Additional Guests
The Jicaro Island Ecolodge experience is recommended for adults and children 12 years and up;, children 8 years old and up are welcomed at the lodge from March 15th- April 15th and from July 1st - August 20th. No children below 12 are allowed at the lodge outside these specified dates.
The rate for additional person and children (8 years and older) is based on two adults in Casita sharing the room with the additional person or child. All children pay full rate for room and meals.