The Top Resorts in Central America in 2017

Hacienda AltaGracia, an Auberge Resort
Photo: Courtesy of Hacienda AltaGracia

A restorative beachside massage or a waterfall hike? The thrill of a five-course meal or flying through the air on a zipline? At these properties, there’s no reason to choose between adventure and indulgence, beyond what speaks to you at that particular moment. Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as City or Resort based on their locations and amenities. Sleeping in a villa with views of a volcano is hard to beat — and it’s just one of the many reasons Costa Rica’s Nayara Springs is a perennial favorite with our readers. The adults-only lodge is located in the Arenal Volcano National Park, a rain forest that is home to capuchin monkeys, toucans, coatis, and jaguars. The grounds, meanwhile, are host to mineral hot springs that feed each room’s natural plunge pools. Also making the list is Nayara Springs’ sister property, Nayara Hotel, Spa & Gardens. The 50-casita hotel, though it accepts children, still prides itself on exclusivity and pampering. Guests can dine in three restaurants and indulge in a volcanic-mud massage at the spa — valid excuses right there for staying put despite the call of the wild rain forest. Fans of Mukul, a beach resort set along Nicaragua’s Emerald Coast, are hesitant to praise it only because, as one admitted, “I hope it stays the well-kept secret that it is.” Well, the word is out. What sets Mukul apart from other properties in the region are the 37 luxurious rooms decorated with furniture made by Nicaraguan craftsmen — not to mention the on-site access to surfing and deep-sea fishing. “So romantic,” said one reader, with another adding, “We felt like we were the only people in the world!” But the No. 1 resort in the region, surprisingly, isn’t on the beach. It’s in Costa Rica, in the high, remote mountains of Pérez Zeledón, a place relatively untouched by tourism. Here, guests can go horseback riding, tour a local farm, and try an ultralight flight across the countryside.

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5. Mukul, Rivas, Nicaragua

Courtesy of Mukul

Score: 94.00

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4. Nayara Resort, Spa & Gardens, Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica

Nayara Resort, Spa & Gardens
Courtesy of Nayara Resort, Spa & Gardens

Score: 94.34

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3. Inn at Rancho Santana, Rivas, Nicaragua

Inn at Rancho Santana
Courtesy of Inn at Rancho Santana

Score: 95.60

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2. Nayara Springs, Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica

Nayara Springs
Courtesy of Nayara Springs

Score: 96.14

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1. Hacienda AltaGracia, an Auberge Resort, Pérez Zeledón, Costa Rica

Hacienda AltaGracia, an Auberge Resort
Courtesy of Hacienda AltaGracia

Score: 97.33

Set on 865 acres of land in southern Costa Rica, this remote spot caters to its travelers from the moment of arrival — via its private airstrip, if you wish. Guests stay in stylish, earth-toned suites and casitas with fireplaces, and can enjoy horseback riding, biking, hiking, and an indoor and outdoor pool without leaving the grounds. The food is fresh and delicious (lunch might be a whole-grain veggie burger or hearts-of-palm ceviche, for example), and you can stay in a healthy mind-set during a fitness or meditation class. “We are hotel snobs,” wrote one reader, “and this place is our favorite.” Another upped the ante, adding, “Heaven on earth.”

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