October 2, 2013
by Hilari Jones

Deriving its name from the Mayan word for “secret,” Mukul Resort, designed by HKS Hill Glazier Studio, is the first oceanfront luxury property in Nicaragua. Set in Guacalito de la Isla, the 1,670-acre, $250-million, low-density, private beach community near the southwestern city of Rivas on Nicaragua’s pristine Emerald Coast, is the vision of its developer and owner, prominent Nicaraguan entrepreneur and philanthropist Don Carlos Pellas. 

The luxury resort, which opened in February 2013, already has been the subject of numerous travel articles and features, including being named the top-ranking “Hottest New Hotel for 2013” on CNN’s Travel website, and listed on Travel+Leisure magazine’s “It List” for best new hotels of 2013. Mukul also is a finalist in the “Best Resort” category for the 33rd Annual Gold Key Awards, in which the hospitality industry recognizes the world’s best new projects.

According to Mukul’s lead designer, Jeff Jensen, AIA, HKS principal and senior vice president, the project embraces and celebrates the five unique design principles established by Sr. Pellas:  philanthropy, sustainability, connection to nature, ocean awareness and multigenerational experiences. “My explorations of Central American history and the indigenous architectural traditions of the region served as the inspiration for this project. It was critical that the completed resort portray those clearly identifiable roots to create a true sense of place. My underlying goal was to craft a magical place in balance with and inspired by nature, yet one that subtly communicates world-class sophistication,” said Jensen.

The Mukul development, quietly tucked into the northern corner of Playa Manzanillo, is destined to become the hideaway of choice for some of the world’s most affluent and environmentally conscious travelers. Mukul offers an exclusive sanctuary – a boutique resort experience infused with five-star Nicaraguan hospitality and values of social responsibility, set within the spirit of a gracious, welcoming Latin American family estate.

The resort features 39 spacious, beautifully appointed accommodations, including 12 one- and two-bedroom Beach Villas and 23 cliffside Bohios. Mukul’s carefree luxury philosophy is expressed in the villas’ spacious barefoot chic indoor-outdoor setting, complete with swimming pool, wraparound deck, outdoor lounging palapa and hidden garden with an outdoor shower.

“The discrete and environmentally sound architecture blends harmoniously within the lush and limitless natural beauty of the site,” explains Jensen. “There is an architectural tradition within the early wood and stone buildings that rim the Pacific Coast. These structures use indigenous materials throughout. They offer minimal vertical expression. In order to take advantage of the incredible views and temperate climate, these buildings have fewer walls, which make each structure feel completely open to the outdoors.”

Jensen and his team developed a sculptural family of buildings – simple, non-boastful forms co-mingling to create a collection of structures that respond to the rugged contours of the site.  Both natural and earth-toned roof palettes help unify the built elements and reinvent tropical coastal architecture.  Constructed of natural sustainable materials, the rich, organic palette recedes into the pure and indefinable beauty of the unspoiled land.  Hip and gabled roof forms take on pavilion-like character, while deep eaves offer protection from sun and rain.  “Every built element is designed to bring guests closer to the sights and sounds of nature’s theatre,” Jensen added.

Sustainable design principles are at the heart of the architectural approach, ensuring that Mukul is not only energy-efficient, but also employs sound environmental strategies to help regenerate the landscape. Structures are designed for optimal natural ventilation, and the resort was built with rainwater catchment systems, regional materials, sustainable timber, non-toxic paints, energy-efficient windows and a gray water program.  The buildings rest on stone, collected at the resort site, to anchor the structures to their surroundings.  Throughout the construction phase, environmental disturbance was minimal – workers replanted more than 1,500 trees during construction.  Electric vehicles are used for transportation around the site.

Resort amenities include Mukul Spa, with six private spa treatment casitas; Mukul Beach Club, featuring dining and lounging areas, a swimming pool and kids’ club; and the 18-hole Guacalito Golf Course

Pellas assembled a team of proven hospitality industry leaders to place Mukul among the top luxury boutique properties in the world.  The resort’s designers include HKS Hill Glazier Studio in collaboration with Frank Butler and Song Chia of FAB Studio; SWA Landscape Architects; and Dallas-based interior design firm Paul Duesing Partners.  This collaborative has teamed on several highly acclaimed resort destinations, including Las Ventanas al Paraiso and One&Only Palmilla in Cabo San Lucas, and Tucker’s Point Club in Bermuda. The Guacalito Golf Course was designed by David McLay Kidd, named the “hottest architect in golf” by Golf World magazine. The concept and treatments at Spa Mukul were created by Angel Vezina Stewart, the founding spa director of the Spa at Las Ventanas al Paraiso.

For more information about Mukul Resort, visit www.mukulresort.com.