Finding Opportunities in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Five years ago, fun-loving Canadian cowgirl Blue van Doorninck was searching for a place to put down roots. “I had been living in Vietnam, but there weren’t good opportunities to own land. And I wanted to be in the same time zone as my family. I also wanted to be in a culture more similar to my own. Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama all made my short list,” says Blue.

“I did my research, and in Nicaragua you can get clear title to land and find opportunities to live off-the-grid, in a country with an emerging tourism market and good business potential.”

And so Blue took a leap of faith and became a Nicaraguan property owner. She bought a nine-acre parcel in the Las Fincas development, just 10 miles south of the beach town of San Juan del Sur.

“Touring the property on horseback made the decision that much easier,” says Blue. “I had horses in Canada and knew I wanted to have horses in Nicaragua. So I bought two and shortly thereafter bought two more—this way, I could invite friends to ride with me,” says Blue. Friends invited their friends to tour with Blue, and before she knew it she had reviews on

That’s how Rancho Chilamate Adventures on Horseback was born. It quickly became a revenue-producing venture.

A typical tour with Blue and her team starts with pick-up by truck in San Juan del Sur. Thirty minutes later guests find themselves at Rancho Chilamate, where they are provided with boots, hats, and bandanas before getting saddled up.

“We guide riders through the local community, into open fields, and over hilltops for spectacular jungle and ocean views. We see howler monkeys lazing about in the trees. It’s a great way to get some insight into how the locals live, their farming practices, folklore, and information about the natural habitat,” says Blue.

After crossing the river several times, they stop at a secluded beach for a refreshment break. A photo shoot, more riding fun, cowboy shots of Flor de Caña rum, and a ride back to town are all included in the package. Blue charges $69 to $79 per person and caters to groups of two to eight people. A percentage of the fees goes into a community-development fund.

Day-to-day life for Blue in Nicaragua is busy—”as busy as it was in Vancouver,” she says. “But with one major difference—I am doing what I want to do.”

Back in Vancouver, Blue was your typical big-city Canadian workaholic. She acted as owner/operator of a major tourism attraction in Vancouver. And she spent weekends at her horse ranch in central British Columbia. Between these two responsibilities, Blue didn’t have a minute for herself.

Then, like many people who uproot their lives and change them radically, something happened to Blue that acted as a catalyst. In her case, it was the loss of a loved one.

“It really shook me up and forced me to look at my life from a new perspective. I realized that I only have one life to live. I asked myself, was I really living it to the fullest?”

For Blue the answer was a resounding “no.”

“When you’re a stressed-out workaholic, there is no room for self-awareness. There is no time to stop and smell the roses,” she says.

But these days Blue enjoys yoga, has a garden, and, instead of hiring someone to manage her websites, she’s learned how to do it on her own.

Now, no matter how busy Blue is, she takes some time each day to get centered and reflect on her journey through life. Every morning before staff change she enjoys morning coffee on the deck overlooking the jungle. It’s her daily ritual—her time to take a few moments to be calm and pause.

And, as the sun goes down at the end of the day, you’ll find Blue pool-side with her favorite cocktail in hand and her two dogs by her side.

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