It sounds a bit corny but… it’s been a long time since I’ve seen so many stars.
It’s a good indicator of just how undeveloped, quiet, and sparsely-populated it is on the southern Pacific coast of Nicaragua. I spent a good half-hour laid out on the beach taking in the night sky during my recent trip to the region, with the rumble of the crashing waves as my soundtrack.
It was a great ending to a day spent watching a few surfers hit the water when waves were up…locals fishing for dinner from the rocks when the tide was low…with seabirds diving for a meal throughout the day. Sunset was spectacular, a daily celebration for the people who live in the area. It isn’t just a time of day. It’s a place to meet friends and unwind. Cocktails optional—but very welcome.
At one time this stretch of coast was the haven of surfers content to camp on the beach or rent simple cabinas from locals. But word got out and, over the past several years, travelers and potential expats in search of a more permanent home have made their way here.
I’m on Playa Santana, in the region of Tola, at one of the handful of high-end communities that have sprung up over the past several years to meet the growing demand from North Americans seeking warmer climes.
Rancho Santana (a resort owned by International Living’s parent company, Agora) is one of the largest of these developments, with plenty of amenities like a spa, yoga, and a gourmet restaurant. You may be remote, but you’re not roughing it down here. Nearby are Hacienda Iguana, with a nine-hole golf course, and newcomer Guacalito de la Isla, a residential development, with a super-luxury resort on site—a first for the country.
Tommy Gordon, 62, from Long Island came to the area eight years ago. It was supposed to be a very temporary job helping with a new real estate development.
“I came down on a whim. I’d never been to Central America before,” says Tommy. “They offered me a three-month job. Three months turned into eight years. I fell in love with the people, climate, lifestyle, and the slower pace.”
No wonder Nicaragua has drawn so much attention from the mainstream press in recent months, including a major spread in The New York Times.
This new wave of visitors comes to vacation… or to retire… or at least to find a part-time escape from harsh winters. They’re drawn by the warm weather, beautiful scenery unspoiled by large-scale development, and low cost of living.
Expats report that they can spend as little as $1,000 per month per couple to live comfortably. Spend $2,000 a month and you live very well.
In some cases, those expats tell me, they were able to retire early because their expenses here are so low.
The low cost of living is a massive appeal… and the friendly Nicaraguan people seal the deal.
It’s so tranquil and quiet here. Those seeking an active nightlife and restaurant/bar scene look to the beach town of San Juan del Sur about an hour and a half south. For big shopping trips you can go to Rivas, about 45 minutes south.
So you’re close to the conveniences. But far enough away to enjoy the peace and solitude. For those that have come to call this place home, it’s the perfect combination.
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