We looked, we waited, we pondered, we returned, and by our fourth time in Nicaragua, we decided it was time to buy. We had come a long way since our maiden trip to the country. On that first trip we experienced a whole lot of frustration, were against the housing developments and their attached real estate agents, and weren’t even sure we would ever return. We imagined ourselves far away from people in a rugged wave-rich utopia but came up empty. Fortunately, we did return and eventually fell in love.
After quite a bit of exploring we decided that maybe the real estate industry wasn’t so evil. The best waves happened to be in front of the nicest developments, and with people and security came a more comfortable investment.
Ryan, coming out of a tube at the Rancho Santana beachbreak
Appreciating the pool on my way to the bar at Rancho Santana
The beach in front of the pool at Santana is a fun Sebastian Inlet style wave that bounces off the rocks and throws out a quick tube, but also features more peaks further down the beach. It picks up quite a lot of swell and is the first spot to check if the waves are small. The peak is usually best on higher tides. It does get crowded. Watch out for ripping locals and the guys from Surf Sanctuary who own the peak when it’s on.
We enlisted the help of Rancho Santana’s sales agent, Tom Gordon, to show us some lots in our price range. Since the beginning of our land hunt that price range was steadily increasing. Originally we had hoped to spend no more than $30k, but little by little we realized that a little more money bought a lot more quality, so Tom showed us lots in the $60k-$80k range in a section of Santana called Bella Vista.
Bella Vista is a ridge accessed by steep, graded dirt and cobblestone roads, featuring lots in the half to just under an acre size range with breathtaking views up the coast towards Popoyo and the Outer Reef.
A tree-lined Rancho Santana road
Hunting for real estate in Nicaragua is a sweaty activity! I had to take a break in the shade. The concrete square in the photo is the water hook-up for the lot and can be used to easily see the lot boundaries.
We really liked this lot. I believe it was called Bella Vista #029. It was larger than some of the other lots, relatively flat, making for easier building, and had a 360 degree view, including the sight of neighboring Costa Rica in the distance. It was offered for $80k and was our first choice, until Mark Brown from NSR suggested we look at a few lots in the Playa Rosada section of Santana. We hadn’t been interested in that section previously since the lots there were more expensive, but agreed to let him show us a few for sale.
The cove of Playa Rosada is the most beautiful i’ve encountered in Nicaragua. The sand is sprinkled with tiny pink shells which give the beach a rosy hue. Mark Brown, his wife, two daughters and their golden retriever named Oro, have built their house on one of the best beachfront lots. The wave is a fun but short left that can be hollow. There is also a beach club with a pool that is accessible to homeowners and renters.
There is another deeper cove around the corner without any surf but excellent for spear fishing.
The streets and hills in this section of Rancho Santana are not nearly as steep as those in Bella Vista.
Mark showed us this lot labeled K2. It is only a 1/4 acre but very gently sloping and easily build-able. It is a re-sale offered for $100k. This was obviously out of our intended price range but Mark was able to convince us of the much increased value for several reasons.
First, the flatness would make for cheaper building. Second, the proximity to the beach would make for a higher rental value, and third, the feeling of luxury in being a part of the more intimate and exclusive Playa Rosada community would add to the resale value.
While the view didn’t give you the same feeling of being so high and overlooking as the lots up in Bella Vista, it was still magnificent with the Outer Reef and Popoyo easily visible. We speculated that a second story would be able to see the surf at Rosada as well, which would certainly add value. Finally, the fact that the lot was on a ridge that dropped away in front and behind, guaranteed that there would be no house immediately in front that could possibly block a view, as well as no neighbor behind peering into windows.
Ryan went home, talked his college buddy Jordon Inkeles into sharing the burden of the investment sight-unseen, and the two of them officially joined the Nicaraguan land owners club.
A month or so later, Jordon came to Nicaragua to check it out for himself. The development next door to Rancho Santana is called Hacienda Iguana. Where Santana is large with multiple altitude changes and long rolling hills, Iguana is completely flat. Santana is bordered by a series of coves while Iguana has a river and a long stretch of flat beach. The only lots at Iguana featuring an ocean view are the ones lining the beachfront, but there are river view lots as well as lots lining the only golf course in the area.
Ryan, slotted comfortably in another perfectly offshore tube.
While Santana boasts a wide variety of surf spots, Iguana can lay claim to quality. Not to say that the waves at Santana aren’t great, just that the beachbreak at Iguana is one of the best beaches in the country, producing very shapely and hollow waves if the rivermouth sandbar is right.
Here’s me, bottom turning and about to hit the lip on a less tubular but definitely rippable wave.
For rental info, see the NSR link on the right side of the page—->
The prime vacation rental in all of Nicaragua in my opinion is the white “NSR house” that sits directly in front of the main peak. Stay here and you are guaranteed to get epic uncrowded waves. Speaking of crowd, the high quality definitely attracts a high number of surfers. Fortunately for Hacienda Iguana landowners or renters, there are only a few ways in. Own a lot, or rent in the development and you get access whenever you want. Own or stay at Rancho Santana and you can drive to the furthest South point of the development, called Rancho Los Perros, park and make a long hot walk down the beach. It takes a solid 20min and is done in the full heat of the sun and soft sand, but is definitely doable and worth the effot. If you stay anywhere else you must boat in. Since the boats usually don’t show up ’til around 9am and must leave plenty of time before sunset, and the walkers usually don’t arrive ’til later and must leave early too, staying at the NSR house means you can time your session based on the crowd.
On this trip we were staying at Santana and making the daily walk. Fortunately we were able to make friends with the crew of guys staying at the NSR house and they were nice enough to allow us to hang out in between sessions and use their fresh water shower.
Here’s one of the guys, Dean LaTourrett, author of the Surfer’s Journal article on buying land in Nicaragua, and currently working with the Save The Waves organization (see link on left side of page) caught just slightly too far back on another perfect one.
Jordon and Ryan discovered a beachfront lot for sale with the help of Mark Brown. It was about a 1/3 of an acre, called A19, and was offered for $260k. While that was well outside our original price range, Mark didn’t have to do any convincing of the quality, rental, and resale value. (In fact, now a year later, there was an offer made by someone wanting a beachfront lot and willing to pay $360k! Not a bad return on investment if they wanted to sell.)
The view from the lot to the surf.
Looking down the beach in the opposite direction is the peak called Panga Drops. I’ve actually never surfed it, but i’m told it is a friendlier, more longboardable peak that picks up a lot of swell and can be more fun than the main peak if the swell is small.
Jordon and Ryan were sold. They brought in a third friend to help with the investment and added a prime beachfront lot to their collection.
Hopefully the building process will begin soon.