Opening the front door of your very own hotel, you step out and dig your toes into an unspoiled, black-sand beach. You’re looking forward to your morning walk along the shore, enjoying the warm sunshine and listening to the gentle hush of the rolling surf. Afterward you’ll head back to the hotel, enjoy a breakfast of fresh fruit, and maybe chat with the guests for a bit.
This is how Val and Ryan Klassen enjoy every day in the little beach town of Las Peñitas, Nicaragua, just a short drive outside the buzzing, cosmopolitan city of León. Five years ago, the Canadian couple purchased a hotel tucked away in a tranquil tidal bay on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast.
Over several months, they renovated the property, adding a bar and restaurant, and renamed their new establishment The Lazy Turtle. According to the couple, to start a business like this in the States or Canada would have been cost prohibitive.
Of course, low costs aren’t the only reason to open a hotel on a Nicaraguan beach. Here in Las Peñitas they never have to worry about cold weather or shoveling snow again, with temperatures hovering comfortably in the 80s F year-round. Plus, they have the added benefit of the warm Pacific waters at their doorstep and love nothing more than soaking up the sun on the beach.
“We love working in the restaurant and socializing with our guests,” says Val. “We’re not going to get rich here—until we end up selling; it’s also a property investment—but our income is sufficient to cover our costs and have a social life.”
After work, Ryan and Val usually take a walk along the beach, stopping for a cold beer, mojito, or pina colada at one of their friendly competitors. Bar prices—at just $1 to $3 for drinks—make this a low-cost indulgence. And with the cosmopolitan eateries and trendy bars of León just 20 minutes away by cab ($12), they can enjoy a night on the town any day of the week. “At one of our favorite bars in León, you can buy the VIP section for $4, with sofas and table service,” says Ryan.
Ryan and Val say that the overall cost of living and doing business in Las Peñitas is low. As restaurant owners, most of their shopping is bought in bulk at a modern grocery store in León. However, they get their fresh fruits and vegetables from the local fruit truck, where you can get a big bunch of bananas or large melons for just a $1. Even the cost of electricity is offset by mild weather in the evening, when a small fan is all you need.
“Healthcare is so reasonable you really don’t need insurance,” says Val. “For example, once a month I go for a vitamin B shot which only costs $8. Major dental work is also affordable.”
If you’ve ever dreamed of opening a similar business, Ryan has this advice for you: “Fill a niche, do something no one else is doing, this is what has made us successful.”
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