De la Parroquia 1 1/2 cuadras al este
Crowning the festive beach town of San Juan del Sur, this charming hilltop sanctuary of flowing villas and fantastic views is smoothing out a few rough spots as it expands to even more luxurious heights.
More than just Nicaragua’s most popular beach resort—and the only luxury property within easy walking distance of San Juan del Sur’s broad beaches—Pelican Eyes is also a beloved pillar of this charming coastal community. The resort was originally founded to support several successful philanthropic programs, and has grown into a solid luxury property with more improvements on the horizon.
The unique resort is also a landmark, its harmonious, whitewashed architecture undulating across the hills above town with red tejas–tiled roofs and lush tropical gardens. The views from atop are predictably inspiring, over San Juan del Sur’s perfect horseshoe bay, embraced by rocky cliffs that protect yachts bobbing up and down in every foam–streaked sunset.
The hotel offers several types of accommodations. The least expensive rooms are part of the original hotel, built using a particularly adaptable type of “green architecture” called hay–bale construction. The technique is not only sustainable, but inspires creative, flowing design, here transformed into sensually curved accommodations that set the tone for the rest of the resort.
These whitewashed rooms, with their high ceilings, hardwood accents, and fine furnishings, are small compared to the newer vacation rental homes. These are more like regular hotel rooms, without separate living areas and full kitchens (though they do have microwaves, coffee makers, and minifridges), but are still spacious and comfortable. They are also the most accessible rooms, close to reception, the lower restaurant and pool, and the town of San Juan del Sur.
Newer units, scattered across the hilltops just above the original complex, are much larger vacation rentals, perfect for families or groups who plan to stay in San Juan del Sur for some time. They can be occupied as duplexes or even single rooms, but unless you’re pinching pennies, it’s well worth renting an entire villa for yourself — and don’t even think about skimping on a magnificent view over the crashing Pacific Ocean.
All of the two–floor, two–bedroom casas (houses) and smaller casitas (townhouses) are constructed with the same smooth, whitewashed style as the original hotel. They are airy and expansive, luxuriously outfitted with hand-carved furnishings, locally sewn linens, salto ceramic tiles, skylights, and delightful bedrooms overarched with adobe brick ceilings reminiscent of a Spanish wine cellar. All the units open onto marvelous private patios and porches; the casas have two.
Full gourmet kitchens, with hand–painted tiles, professional cookware, and an assortment of appliances (mixers, blenders, and more) are complimented with tasteful dining areas. Enormous, modern marble and glazed–cement bathrooms have rainforest showerheads and thoughtful amenities. State of the art climate control, satellite TV and DVD players, and (in most units) wireless Internet access, offer an entirely modern experience.
While these vacation rentals are several hundred meters from reception on an unpaved, poorly lit road, they are convenient to Pelican Eyes’ second restaurant, overlooking two huge, beautiful pools with views over the San Juan del Sur bay. (Note that casitas Ensueño, Dulce Vita, and Madroño are closest to the pools, and are often reserved well in advance by returning guests.)
The thatch–roofed, open–air dining room high above the city lights is considered one of San Juan del Sur’s most romantic dining destinations. The well–prepared, reasonably priced international and Nicaraguan cuisine brings in locals and regular vacation visitors. So do the popular happy hours and theme parties that both celebrate and explain regional holidays and traditions..
People with mobility issues should note that Pelican Eyes is a property of winding staircases and steep roads, many of them as yet unpaved and poorly lit. It must also be mentioned that, although complimentary transportation is provided, we could not reach reception when we required a ride to our casa, and hired a local taxi instead. We were also unable to place an order for room service, as no one picked up the phone.
The property had recently changed management, and we received copious apologies (much better than excuses) for the oversight. Still, if you’re not up for a short but steep stroll through the tropical gardens, it might be worth renting a car or arranging transportation in advance. Phase II, comprised of even more luxurious vacation rentals, is even farther up the hill, and will have a gymnasium, yoga center, and full spa.
In the meantime, stop by their two–room boutique spa, Casa Tranquila, offering several types of massages, scrubs, and facials made with local fruits and sugar, mint, coffee, and other locally grown ingredients. Another salon offers flower–strewn pedicures and manicures, hair care, waxing, and other services.
Pelican Eyes’ most famous amenities, however, is one of its first, a trip on their elegant, 42–foot Marconi–rigged sailing yacht; go for the sunset cruise.
While the hotel is now administrated separately from the many charities it benefits, Pelican Eyes is still intimately associated with the veterinary clinic as well as the Fundación A. Jean Brugger. Guests are still invited fill their luggage with school supplies to help with the foundation’s educational programs, or just stop by Galería del Sur, exhibiting work by local fine artists.
Web Address: www.piedrasyolas.com
Total Number of Rooms: 65 maximum: some larger units can be rented as rooms and duplexes
Published rates: $180 –$430
Review and photos by Paige R. Penland.
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