Located on a unique 18300–acre private nature reserve in southern Nicaragua (just under two hours from the international airport in Managua), Nekupe Sporting Resort and Retreat is a completely new concept in Nicaragua providing a level of international service and accommodations never really seen here before.
Perhaps the best way to describe Nekupe is as a kind of luxury African safari lodge meets high–end dude ranch meets old–school Nicaragua hacienda.
The first clue that Nekupe is different is the journey there—departing from their office next to the cathedral in Nandaime in a 4WD, and heading south, through farms and forests, splashing across the Ochomogo River. Finally you are transferring into an ATV, driven by your personal ranger, heading to the check-in area at the clubhouse.
The four villas are a short drive away (again in a chauffeured ATV). Designed to match and mesh with the surrounding environment, the spacious bedroom is equipped with modern sound, lighting, and air conditioning systems, and the wide window views all face Volcán Mombacho's massive silhouette to the north. There's even a volcano view from the bathtub. The porch vista directly over the forest canopy to Mombacho is even more impressive, especially at sunrise with a fresh-brewed cafecito in hand. There are other delicious treats in the minibar, including top–shelf local Flor de Caña rum and Don Julio tequila.
Nicaraguan philanthropist Don Alfredo Jr. and his wife, Doña Theresa Pellas, built and designed Nekupe. The name comes from the Chorutega word for "sky." In addition to the four villas, there is a massive, 24,000-square-foot main residence where guests stay in a dream home made up of 4 separate (but connected) suites, making it ideal for multiple families traveling together, or for wedding parties. The main residence is, of course, also packed with modern amenities, multiple swimming pools and Jacuzzis, a high-end media room, poker table, two immense kitchens, and many spaces to lounge and take in the views.
The Nekupe reserve and compound is centered around a gorgeous clubhouse, spa, and restaurant, where you'll have most of your meals and enjoy the main swimming pool. There are also horseback riding trails, a world-class shooting range (targets and clay pigeons), private chapel, birdwatching, hiking, mountain biking, yoga deck, ropes course, and fitness center with a gym and tennis court. All these amenities are cleverly dispersed throughout the dry tropical forest of the property. Your personal ranger will shuttle you around, pointing out the wildlife and helping you plan out your days of active leisure.
Most guests also save time to visit nearby Granada, about thirty minutes away, or the markets of Masaya. If you're active you may want to explore the hiking trails on Volcán Mombacho. For these off-site trips, the resort contracts some of the best bilingual guides and naturalists in Nicaragua. Another unique offering that Nekupe can arrange are a number of lessons, including cooking, marimba, and painting classes, and a guided rum and cigar tasting session.
The dining experience is as impressive as the scenery. The chef uses Nicaraguan ingredients and traditional dishes as a base to explore all kinds of creative possibilities. Don Alfredo's restaurant features lovely 4-course meals, many farm-to-table options, and gorgeous takes on Nica food like quesillo and pitahaya juice. Overall, the service ratio of 5 staff per guest makes for a pampered experience, and the personal ranger and kids services (childcare upon request and camp-like activities for older kids) take it up another notch.
In tandem with Mukul on the coast—a project also connected to the Pellas family—Nekupe is proof that Nicaragua is inching closer to its more popular neighbors in offering a true luxury hospitality experience. This expansive operation will delight even the most jaded guests.
Web Address: www.nekupe.com
Total Number of Villas: 8 (4 villas, 4 suites)
Published rates: Villas are $1500/night, all inclusive. 24,000-square-foot residence is $20,000/night
Review by Joshua Berman, author of Moon Nicaragua. All photos by Berman except the villa suite photo courtesy of the resort.