Luxury Travel in Latin America is given a boost by three top tier resorts in four very different destinations. If you are considering a Latin America vacation and care to turn it into an experience worthy of bragging rights you will want these top landing spots to be on your list: Villa Manzu in Costa Rica; Mukul Beach, Golf & Spa in Nicaragua; and Vik Retreats in Uruguay and Chile.
Luxury Travel in Central America: Villa Manzu for Celebrity Stays
An easy getaway into the pristine tropics and cascading shorelines of the Pacific, just four hours flight time from the U.S., is Villa Manzu in the Papagayo Gulf of northern Costa Rica, in the northwest province of Guanacaste. Magnificent enough for the family of Kardashians, smooth enough for Beyoncé (who stayed in the La Lora Suite) and suave enough for Justin Bieber, this eight-bedroom manse is big enough to throw a sensational party, private enough to keep a secret, near enough to the U.S. to spark spontaneity, all-inclusive enough to satisfy the most demanding of guests. And it is wild enough to make a luxury vacation to Latin America into an adventure.
The 30,000-square-foot spread offers eight master suites that can sleep up to 22 guests, along with plenty of lounging space and pool-focused comforts presenting 180-degree pans of the Gulf and Pacific – the beach is just steps away. Villa Manzu has two swimming pools (including an infinity salt pool), a spa, a movie theater, party rooms, a gym, yoga platform, dedicated executive and sous chefs, butlers, a full on-property staff. But guests looking beyond the manse will find a Range Rover, a Ford Explorer SUV, and a Jeep Wrangler in the garage, all available with private drivers to take guests wherever their curiosity leads.
Recommended: an afternoon of zip lining, especially the Witch’s Rock Canopy Tour just 10 minutes from Villa Manzu. The ropes here have supported the weights of Bill Gates, Steven Tyler, Beyoncé, Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf and Cindy Crawford, and others choosing to cross the forest from on high.
A wine cava and humidor is on hand for relaxation lifts. The en suite bathrooms of onyx and marble are as intriguing as the bedroom décor as the large villa is stocked with discussion pieces acquired in Africa, Indonesia, India, Malaysia and Thailand. Sleep with a cast of whale vertebra or walls of woven sugar cane fibers under beaded chandeliers.
Guests can avail themselves of the amazing golf course/zoological sanctuary nearby. The Four Seasons Resort and several other marquis brands share an 18-hole, Arnold Palmer-designed golf course, where 14 holes have dramatic ocean backdrops, abutted by forests of ceiba trees housing howler monkeys and white-faced capuchins.
The Villa Manzu is reachable by a 40-minute drive from the Liberia, Costa Rica International Airport (LIR) where guests will be met by villa staff and whisked to their vacation castle on the ocean.
Luxury Travel in Latin America: Mukul Beach, Golf & Spa
Luxury travel in Central America can now be found in Nicaragua, considered to be the next must-go spot for luxury travelers with such resorts as Mukul to attract this set. The resort’s location on the Emerald Coast, a 20-minute flight or 120-minute car ride from Managua, attracts honeymooners, families, golfers, surfers and gal pals for pampering, nature and adventure.
As Mukul translates to “secret” in Mayan, the 1,670-acre Guacalito de la Isla private resort remains a best-kept secret to sun seekers who love the secluded beachfront and exclusive amenities in an otherwise wild land known more for volcanoes, lakes and rum than for exquisite Latin American luxury resorts.
The 37 thatched-roof villas that surround the resort’s open-air Beach Club area are all private and opulent in their own right with views from terraces overlooking the Pacific. Décor is distinctly Nicaraguan, showcased in hand-crafted furnishings and creative folk art touches seen in the use of carvings of local, sustainable and fallen trees.
Stay in a 621-square-foot bohios or expansive beach villa (measuring 2,000 to 3,000 square feet). Enjoy outdoor showers gardens shaped in lava rock; dip in a private infinity-edge swimming pool, dine and lounge in specially purposed rooms and spaces as personal butlers go in and out delivering morning coffee or evening cocktails.
The Spa Mukul provides its own reward with six private sanctuaries, each offering its own themed journey. Wellness retreats he championship, David McLay Kidd–designed, 18-hole course set along a coastal forest. There are snorkeling trips, turtle hatchling releases, and scenic hikes to be taken at Mukul. Would-be surfers head to the Tres Ceibas Beach Club for surf lessons or try stand-up paddle boarding.
Sojourns beyond Mukul might call for exploration of top surfing spots in Nicaragua. But a visit to the colonial city of Granada offers some unexpected time travel. The city is the oldest preserved colonial city in the Americas with its narrow streets and 17th-century houses, crumbling courtyards and ornate churches. The Parque Colón buzzes with artisans and street food sellers.
A visit to Lake Nicaragua should also be on the list, with a day spent kayaking, paddle boarding, and swimming in the company of spider monkeys, sloths and tropical birds.
Volcanoes provide worthy hiking destinations, but the cloud forests of Nicaragua make the experience heavenly. Tropical forests cover the terrain around the country’s tallest volcanoes and they keep a persistent low-level cloud cover that makes walking through these virgin forests about as close to heaven as it gets on earth.
Luxury Travel in Latin America: Art, Design & Wine on a Vik Retreat
Vik Retreats is practically synonymous in these parts for luxury living at the edge of an explosive movement in regional art, up-and -coming legends in local cuisine, emerging labels in wine and a certain brashness in the way architecture mixes with nature.
Vik Retreats, the work of innovators Alexander and Carrie Vik, brings four bold boutique retreats: three of them in the bohemian chic José Ignacio, Uruguay and one of them in Chile’s Millahue Valley, which offers views out across the vineyard and surrounding nature, with the Andes Mountains in the distance.
Cool came to the sleepy fishing village of José Ignacio over the past decade and the A-list crowd discovered that the Vik Retreats destinations, which include Playa Vik, Estancia Vik, and most recently Bahia Vik answered the call quite perfectly.
Estancia Vik lies slightly inland from the water as a Spanish colonial hacienda in the rolling hills, where polo takes precedent over the surf and sun.
Twelve suites adorn this retreat, and guests get to play gaucho for a day, riding horses around the verdant acreage, or even indulge in a game of polo, the sport of kings.
Just down the road, find Playa Vik, where three stunning suites are located in the central sculpture building, and six small houses, or casas, which surround the main structure.
Each guest room, as well as the retreat itself, is a celebration of Uruguay’s vibrant culture. A central masterpiece is the cantilevered pool that extends 32 feet over the beach, with a fiber-optic light celestial map of the Southern Hemisphere’s night sky.
Bahia Vik is a true beach retreat with 10 suites in the main building and 11 bungalows spread on the sand dunes. The property offers a library, a game room, a spa and gym as well as four swimming pools, a restaurant, and personal concierge. The busy beach town of José Ignacio is just a five-minute walk and La Susana, Vik Retreats’ buzzing restaurant and beach club is just steps down the beach.
Then there is Vik Chile in Chilean wine country of the Millahue Valley, just two hours from Santiago by car. Vik Chile, too, swells with stunning modern art and unique, cutting-edge furnishings among 22 suites in a destination that feels as private and special as it is.
Floor-to-ceiling windows create a background of natural surroundings in all the guestrooms and the works of local and international artists fill the rest of the interior spaces. Chilean wines take a front seat at this retreat, and the vineyard produces its own wines on site. Cuisine is fresh and seasonal, fusing Chilean culinary traditions with gourmet finesse.