Carlos Pellas, the richest man in Nicaragua, has created a spare-no-expense beach resort that's a relative bargain. Will it put this country on the world travel map? Writer Julian Rubinstein heads there to find out. But first—a serious rum detour.
Nicaragua has the shape of an ancient teakettle, and upon arriving at its inner handle, the capital Managua, I began having a vision of a beverage—only it wasn't tea. Displayed on the side of the customs booth, plastered on roadside billboards and now staring at me from the wall of the Managua bar into which I'd stumbled was a poster showing a generous pour of rum from the Nicaraguan distiller Flor de Caña.
It seemed an odd coincidence, as I'd booked my trip with the notion of visiting a place a few hours south on the Pacific coast, a luxurious new resort called Mukul, recently opened by the same family that owns Flor de Caña. As disco music thumped in the distance, I seated myself at a table at the outdoor bar. A waiter informed me he knew what I needed, and returned with a Toña, the national lager, which, frankly, was great. But I was still thinking about the rum. So in the morning, despite a forecast of driving rain and my plans to get to Mukul that afternoon, I phoned the airport and requested a direct helicopter flight to the Flor de Caña distillery.