Making Mukul: Inside the Creation of Central America's Most Beloved Escape

Upon first arrival to Mukul, an Auberge Resort, you may find yourself wondering what the process was like to build a familial resort in the lush canopy of Nicaragua’s Emerald Coast, a hideaway for the world’s most affluent and environmentally conscious travelers. With bohios nestled like treehouses within the jungle, you’re treated to views of Playa Manzanillo, magically set nearly 300 feet above the water’s edge, and it’s only natural to inquire how such a lofty project was erected.

Deriving its name from the Mayan word for “secret,” Mukul was created by prominent Nicaraguan entrepreneur and philanthropist Don Carlos Pellas, who is the developer and owner. He enlisted the expertise of lead designer Jeff Jensen, principal and senior vice president of AIA as well as architect and interior designer Paul Duesing of Paul Duelling Partners. Mukul was built with five leading design principles in mind, putting philanthropy, sustainability, connection to nature, ocean awareness, and multigenerational experiences first, a desire Pellas felt integral to the enjoyment of Mukul’s guests. Together with Jensen and Duesing, Pellas made this a reality by creating the first ocean front luxury property in Nicaragua, set in Guacalito de la Isla, a 1,670-acre, $250 million low density, private beach community near the southwestern city of Rivas.

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.
— Jeff Jensen

The resort features 39 spacious, beautifully appointed accommodations, including 12 one- and two-bedroom beach villas and 23 cliff side bohios.  Evoking a carefree approach to luxury, you’re sure to find relaxation in the property’s swimming pools, decks, outdoor-lounge areas, and gardens, a tactic developed by Jensen to create discrete and environmentally sound design architecture to match the natural surrounds. 

“There is an architectural tradition within the early wood and stone buildings that rim the Pacific Coast,” says Jensen. “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 utilizing both natural and earth-toned palettes to unify the built elements and re-invent tropical coastal architecture. Additionally, 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. 

Along with the structure of Mukul came the importance of building heart and soul into this legacy project. Dallas based architect and interior designer, Paul Duesing already had an impressive portfolio before signing on this lofty project including 97 five-star hotels under his belt. Trying to capture the essence of Nicaragua through local craftsmen and artisans was top priority for Duesing. He scoured the country for a year and a half to find furniture makers, textile mills, and other artisans to source the details that would make Mukul feel authentically Nicaraguan.

Duesing's arduous and rewarding process included sourcing volcanic rock from Masaya, designing headboards made from recycled Flor de Caña wooden barrels, enlisting local weavers for impressive tapestries, and returning from Granada with handmade tiles. Perfectly placed throughout Mukul, Nicaragua's local talent and beauty lives throughout the property, paying homage to the country that has so much heart.

The project translates the essence of Pellas’ family roots in Nicaragua, which date back to the 19th century. With Guacalito de la Isla and Mukul, Pellas’ quest is to establish his family legacy: a pristine sanctuary where guests enjoy a luxurious yet exotic living environment while connecting in authentic ways to the land, culture and people. The local community benefits from the project as well, resulting in jobs, improved infrastructure and schools.

#OnlyNicaMarianna Jamadi