Managua is Nicaragua’s bustling capital city. Drive two hours southwest, however, and you'll find 12 verdant acres in the seaside town of Rivas, where Aqua Wellness Resort holds court as a Rain Forest Alliance–verified hospitality project founded and designed by Dan Rubano with help from Sorrenti Architects and Karin Eigner Architecture. Aqua was conceived like most in the wellness sector: It’s a place where visitors can unplug from the world, reconnect with themselves, eat organic, meditate, and do yoga and spa treatments. But there’s also a strong eye on sustainability.
Aqua's 22 guest villas are actually tree houses, structures built of FSC-certified cedro macho, a tropical cedar, and locally sourced terra-cotta roof tiles, all supported by wooden stilts some 50-feet high. The stilts allow for minimum impact on the forest floor—no trees larger than 4 inches in diameter were felled—and for visitors to be literally immersed in the canopy of trees. Inside, furnishings, simple yet luxe, almost Japanese in aesthetic, were also crafted of FSC-certified woods by Simplemente Madera, a local company. Other resort structures—the yoga pavilion, the spa, the restaurant—sport roofs of thatched palm leaves, a traditional Nicaraguan architecture that was carried out at Aqua by local craftsmen.
Working with Project Bona Fide, Aqua also prides itself on guarding its natural surroundings—and has even won two awards from MARENA for its habitat preservation. Among the protected animals are the resident howler monkeys and the green and leatherback turtles that roam the resort’s private sandy beach along Redondo Bay; in fact, special low-wavelength low-height LED lamps glow along beach pathways at night so as not to disturb them. Low-consumption drip-irrigation systems maintain the lush landscape, which includes organic gardens. Those gardens produce the citrus and lettuces, and eventually most ingredients, used in Aqua’s restaurant.