Trouble in paradise? You could well apply such a phrase to the current tensions in Nicaragua - although "trouble" rather underplays the extent of what is an increasingly vicious political crisis in a country that had seemed to be finding a cautious stability.
In the last four months, the largest state in Central America (assuming you view Mexico as North America) has descended into a mess of protest, violence and oppression.
Unrest began in mid-April with a series of demonstrations by university students against the government of president Daniel Ortega, but the situation quickly deteriorated, with reports of police brutality, abductions and death. The Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights (ANPDH) claims that more than 600 people have disappeared since the turmoil began. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has put the figure at 317, as of July 30. The Nicaraguan government counters that these numbers are inflated.
Against such a backdrop, holidays are of scant concern - but the breakdown of everyday life is proving ruinous for a tourist industry that was slowly establishing itself on increasingly steady feet.
Nicaragua was once an emblem of asphyxiating internecine strife and guerilla machinations - it spent much of the Eighties mired in conflict between left-wing Sandinista revolutionaries and right-wing "Contra" rebels, the fire fuelled by funding and meddling from the United States. But since a relative calming of its affairs at the start of the Nineties, it has been able to redefine its image, existing more in the 21st century as a tropical oasis with shores on both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
Fast forward to 2018, and chic hotels have been opening in burgeoning numbers along these palm-fronded stretches. Not least Mukul, which gleams on the sands of Playa Manzanillo, on the country's Pacific flank, some 80 miles south of the capital Managua. A five-star oasis, it is said to have attracted A-listers including Beyoncé and Scarlett Johansson. But it may not do so again for a while. A report in the Guardian earlier this week found it all but shuttered, leaves gathering in its plunge pools. It shut to guests in June. "It’s because of the situation," one of the few retained staff members told the paper. "We hope they might reopen, in November, or December or January."
The country has also been in focus in this newspaper. It was one of "20 destinations for 2018" selected by this very travel section at the beginning of the year, placed alongside the likes of Botswana, Hong Kong and South Korea as a temptation that might attract travellers at some point this year. "Given that people under 40 can remember the country hosting the Sandinista revolution," the feature suggested, "it is remarkable that this Central American country has become a byword for luxury beach holidays, expat havens, safety and security - and even glamour."
Such words now seem like a bulletin from another epoch; a blast of optimism many years out of date. The closing-off of Nicaragua as a possibility for tourists is confirmed in unequivocal terms by the current advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which warns against all but essential travel to the country until further notice.
Is Nicaragua safe? | The Foreign Office's advice
The sadness, purely in terms of tourism, is that there is far more to Nicaragua than its beaches. There is a rich seam of Spanish colonial heritage in the regional cities of Granada and Leon - the latter's skyline is illuminated by the 19th century Our Lady of Grace Cathedral, a Baroque and Neoclassical blend with Unesco World Heritage status. There is tranquility aplenty in the 3,191 square miles of Lake Cocibolca, whose silver surface ebbs and flows as the largest lake in Central America. There is fiery geography in Ometepe - an island in said body of water, formed by two volcanoes (Volcan Concepción and Volcan Maderas; the latter dormant, the former most certainly not), where archaeological traces of pre-Colombian settlements can be seen.
An alluring mixture, in other words - and one that had been appealing to travellers beyond those simply seeking an exotic beach.
"Up until the protests and [FCO] travel ban, Nicaragua was rising in popularity, and had been doing so for some time," says Rafe Stone, the product manager for Nicaragua at specialist tour operator Journey Latin America (journeylatinamerica.co.uk). "People were starting to discover what a genuinely hospitable and beautiful destination it is. Just after April, when the protests started, we had further enquiries and interest - which continues still."
It is also, he says, a country which rewards those who choose to inspect it in detail.
"Nicaragua has a genuine feel for what tourists want on many levels," he adds. "It is accessible enough for visitors to be able to visit smoking volcanoes, wonderful beaches and deep rainforest within a few days of being there. The roads are well paved, and these days you can eat really well all over the country."
None of this matters in a context in which people are dying - and in a crisis whose length and breadth of destruction it is impossible to predict.
Ortega is nothing if not a survivor - he emerged as one of the leaders of the Sandinista uprising, and is now into his fourth term as Nicaraguan president. He was first elected to the top job in 1984, rode out the peaks and troughs of the Nineties when the political tide turned against his party (the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional; FSLN) - and has been back in power since 2006. In 2014, the National Assembly altered the constitution to allow him run for a third successive presidential term. The accusations against him are severe - in May, Amnesty International published a report declaring that "during April and May 2018, the Nicaraguan government adopted a strategy of violent repression not seen in the country for years." The current crisis may not be a short tremor, but the start of a long, dark era.
"We are very saddened to see the recent political unrest in some areas of Nicaragua," says Colin Stewart of the Latin American Travel Association (lata.travel), the industry body which helps to promote tourism in the region.
"In recent years, Nicaragua had seen a boost in tourism numbers, including a 19 per cent increase in international visitors in 2017. Thanks to its incredible nature, which accounts for seven per cent of the world’s biodiversity, Nicaragua has recently become a destination of choice for the intrepid traveller."
"The current situation is volatile and we would urge travellers to follow FCO guidelines. We are hoping for a quick and peaceful resolution to the current situation."
Central America travel guide – which is the perfect country for you?
By contrast, the Nicaraguan Tourist Board (visitnicaragua.us) is striking a more hopeful tone.
"Tourism was interrupted between April and July by the the political and social crisis," says Ana Carolina Garcia Tijerino, the board’s director of promotion and marketing. "However, four months on, tourism is recovering. Tourist areas are calm, there is free movement on the roads, and destinations that have traditionally been successful are ready to continue receiving visitors.
"Tourism in Nicaragua is a great success story, and a model of economic development. We are confident that we are on track to recover growth as a destination for the benefit of both tourists and the Nicaraguan people."