I recently returned from my first trip to Nicaragua. I've traveled around the world and have stayed at many luxury and wellness resorts in both 3rd world countries and very well to do countries. Unfortunately, Aqua is neither luxury or a proper wellness resort.
My boyfriend and I are very adventurous travelers. We wanted to explore all of Nicaragua and include some much needed down time at Aqua. So we rented a car in Managua and explored the South of Nicaragua. Nicaragua is an amazingly beautiful country. Yes, it is poor, but the architecture, the landscapes, the beaches, and the people are truly first class. Having said this, I was so disappointed in Aqua. Another reviewer wrote that she felt like it was owned by backpackers that decided to create a resort. I wish I would of read her review before we stayed at Aqua. I could not have agreed more with her. The entire time I was at the resort I felt like I was staying in a "pretend" resort. I honestly felt like I was at a camp ground.
The resort is situated on a beautiful beach. Playa Gigante is not to be missed, but I recommend going directly to the public side of the beach, eating at the small restaurants and talking to the people. Then move on...
As for "luxury." The tree houses are very pretty situated in the woods, and the resort did a good job not disturbing the monkey habitat. You will see monkeys but, because of this your ocean view is not the best ocean view, but the ocean is view-able through the trees.
Each room has a deck. These decks have very uncomfortable handmade wood chairs. There were no cushions on our chairs which made it difficult to sit on and enjoy the sunset. There was also a lack of furniture. An outdoor sofa or hammocks would of been nice to relax. And a dining table would of helped. Our deck not only lacked comfort but had a view of our air conditioner and pipes, which made it hard for me to relax. The esthetics were just off. I noticed that some of the tree houses had bamboo covering their air conditioners and pipes, but ours did not. .
Our room had ants and a spider, but that didn't bother me. I get it, your in the jungle. However, in all the hotels we stayed at in Nicaragua we were given a cell phone by the front desk at check-in. We were not given a phone at Aqua. I first thought they did not have them, but when we got to our room I noticed a small piece of paper with mini bar prices (that were ridiculous for Nicaragua) and a phone number to call if we wanted room service. There is NO book in the room to tell you details about the resort, menus or info about trips, things to do, see, etc, only this one piece of paper. We decided that room service would be a good idea since we were tired so we went to the front desk to ask for a phone. They told us we were NOT allowed to have a phone because we were not staying at the resort for 7 nights. So apparently if you don't spend a weeks worth of money at the resort, you don't count. If an emergency happens or you want to order food, or make spa appointments you are out of luck. You have to somehow get to the front desk, which closes at 10pm. The real kicker is they give you a phone number for emergencies....only we were not allowed to have a phone. Luxury?
The stairs are ridiculous. I work out daily but found the stairs to be brutal. At night, it's impossible to see and the lighting they have is minimal, bring a flash light.
The food at the restaurant was very disappointing, especially since we had had many wonderful meals while traveling through Nicaragua. Nica may be a poor country but the locals know how to cook. Plus the grocery stores are stocked with good/healthy ingredients and good wine. But you won't find that at Aqua. To me, what makes luxury is amazing food that lifts your spirit and creates wellness because it makes you feel good! Not to mention that is what traveling is all about, to experience the amazing food of other cultures. I also felt the menu was lacking wellness in general. Yes, they have smoothies that are healthy and refreshing but that's were it ends.
The service at the entire resort is lacking. While some of the people were very sweet, others were almost mean. We only experienced bad service at Aqua. It's not typical at all for Nicaragua. Everywhere we went we met nice people that were very happy to help us.
As far as wellness, we did not do the yoga. We came to Aqua to spend time with each other and relax. We both have very stressful jobs. That being said I don't know what the yoga was like. We did use the spa and were both disappointed. The girls giving the massages were very sweet, but very young and inexperienced. I have been to wellness resorts in Bali and the Caribbean where they are staffed with men and women that can look into your eyes and know what is ailing your body. They are also full of knowledge to help advise you on diets and healing. The girls at Aqua barley spoke English. The Spa itself was lacking everything. Even the massage oils were off? AND you can't make appointments at the Spa. You can only do this at the front desk. Ohhh yes.. that means more stairs!!!
The worst part of our stay was at the bar. I run a non-profit animal welfare organization for dogs. I fight for animal rights daily and I came to Aqua to clear my head. One night at the bar a small dog named Pedro came to the bar area. He sat on the deck enjoying the sunset with us. He had a collar and the bartender told us he was the neighborhood dog. He was so sweet and we enjoyed having his company. Another table arrived and they did not want the dog around. I understand that some people are not animal people. However, instead of the bartender shooing the dog away or removing him, the bartender kicked him off the deck and Pedro flew through the air onto the beach. This broke my heart. I was so disturbed by the actions of the bartender we checked out of the hotel the following day.
There is no wellness at Aqua. In fact, I felt worse staying at Aqua. I was disappointed by the lack of humanity. How can one heal or rejuvenate their spirit by witnessing cruel actions? Not to mention the service is just depressing. There is no luxury. If you are well traveled, you will be disappointed. Additionally, other reviews said the resort is too expensive and I thought they may have just been budget travelers but after experiencing all the wonders of Nicaragua, I too felt this place was was out of line, especially because the quality is so low. I think I would of been fine with the pricing if we had experienced something great...
Aqua has a big gigantic mountain to climb to reach that status it would like to be. Ohh and if you are an animal lover and you go to Aqua, please give Pedro a hug and a kiss from me. He is so friendly and sweet. I spoke with his family, Aqua was gracious enough to find their email for me, and I told them of the events. They are on vacation and said they were going to have someone take Pedro back to his home.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Thank you for your comments and we are sorry that your stay at AQUA did not meet your expectations. Management is continually working to improve the quality and service of our resort. We appreciate your feedback and take it very seriously.
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AQUA is a co-operative of private villa owners who specially design and care for their properties. Because of this you will notice that no two villas as are alike; each with its own personality and handcrafted flair. Although this makes AQUA unique we are also working very hard to standardize certain aspects such as deck furniture and other eco-considerations (covering all pipes and hoses with bamboo as you noted).
We especially appreciate your comments in regards to information for guests. You will be pleased to know that we are currently in the process of creating and designing room guides which will be printed and placed in all rooms. This directory will contain information extremely relevant for our guests and will help tremendously.
Part of the overall wellness experience at AQUA is the time spent living in harmony with nature. Our villas are built to blend into the mountainside with minimal impact on our environment, and this means that there are indeed many stairs to your villa depending upon where you are located. If you desire to minimize your walking time outdoors during your stay we strongly recommend that you request a beachfront view villa upon making your reservation.
Our restaurant service is also undergoing some needed changes. As you mentioned, we are not perfect and are working to continually elevate the service of our restaurant/bar. We do however wish to make our guests aware of AQUA’s commitment to work with our small neighboring communities; training local Nicaraguan workers while providing jobs and partnerships. We appreciate the understanding and patience of our guests (particularly during periods of high volume) as we work to train our local staff from the ground up. Our staff is friendly, eager to help, and always ready with a smile and warm greeting for our guests. English skills are limited with many of our staff whom do not work at the front desk (Nicaragua has recently made the strong push to develop their tourism industry- which includes English training); yet all of our workers make a strong effort to interact with guests, sharing a friendly greeting in English or Spanish. If a guest at any time has a problem with the service at our resort, we ask that they inform the front desk immediately as we are happy to assist them with their concerns.
Regarding your comments with Pedro, whom we (and the local community in Gigante) all know well, while it's not our desire to make the restaurant or beach zone attractive to local stray animals, it's certainly not our intention to have staff deter them in a rough manner -- and we have spoken with them to guide them on the appropriate way to discourage the local community pets from hanging out in our resort area.
Again we appreciate the time you took to write this review and are more than happy to clarify any questions that our guests and potential visitors may have. Please feel free to give us a call or send an email to email@example.com We look forward to serving you in the future!
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.