I have been a surfer’s wife for a good few years now. With this title I earn a husband who at the flick of a switch ditches his work-day chinos for board shorts and a rash vest. I also get holidays to far flung places in the quest for that ‘undiscovered wave’. This particular time we ventured back to Nicaragua, a country we first visited two years ago. That we went back speaks volumes, since my husband is not one to tread a path twice (something to do with being a surfer, I think). Also, this trip, we were accompanied by our 14 month old daughter which added a whole new dimension to our travels.
Nicaragua is often somewhat unfairly regarded as an unsafe country, probably because it was still in the midst of a Revolution as late as 1990. However, the AK47s have long gone and this is now a peaceful, democratic country. It attracts less tourists than its more popular neighbour, Costa Rica, but for those looking for a path less travelled, Nicaragua is a gem, with endless opportunities for adventure.
There are rainforests, volcanoes and the world’s only freshwater sharks swimming in an inland lake. In the search for the perfect wave, we found ourselves on the Pacific coast at Rancho Santana, a stunning 2,700 acre private reserve located around 50 miles North of the Costa Rican border. This exclusive reserve boasts many luxurious rental houses, either directly on the beach, or high up in the hills overlooking the ocean. We rented the most spectacular five bedroom house for $250 a night! The house came complete with Maribel, the housekeeper, who not only ensured the house was spotless, but for $35 per person per day, cooked three delicious hearty meals and kept the fridge continually stocked with beer and rum. This left my husband free to surf some of Central Americas best waves, and set me free to spend precious time with my daughter. It also meant we had no need to leave Rancho Santana and venture to the nearest town (which is a good hour or so drive away).
Within the reserve there is a clubhouse with a beautiful pool overlooking one of the most popular waves, a good restaurant (try the fish tacos) and a bar that buzzes with talk of the day’s surf and is filled with surfers, non-surfers and wealthy Nicaraguans alike.
You will also find a small shop with all the basics you could need (although not too much more), stables for horseriders and five distinctly different beaches. For any surfer wife, this is paradise. Not a grim surf shack in sight. We arranged our whole trip through Nicaragua Surf Report – Heather Tittle is in charge, and nothing is too much trouble for her. She arranged our transportation from Managua (sending two 4 x 4s instead of a mini-van after a wet few days meant the roads were impassable in a van), our rental house, the meal plan, the surf board hire (the boards were waiting for us when we arrived at the house), car rental (when we decided that a car would help us get back up the precipitous hill to our house after we had overdone it on $1 beers at happy hour), surf lessons for the brave girl in our group; she even sourced milk for our toddler. There is a babysitter service which we used – a lovely local girl who spoke excellent English arrived bang on time at the house. She was also a nanny for an American family living at the Ranch and given that I was leaving my most prized possession with an unknown in a third world country I felt safe and confident that she was in good hands.
There is plenty to do for non-surfers. Walk the beautiful beaches, hike up the hills or horse ride through the ranch. Rancho Santana is also a bird and wildlife watchers’ dream. Every morning at around 6am we were woken to a cacophony of tropical birds and the air was filled with flocks of parrots and other birds flying up the ravine.
Although this is a truly remote spot, there are a couple of great restaurants a short drive outside the ranch gates. Yolanda’s is most incongruous – it is located in Limon dos, the nearest Nicaraguan village. It is a roadside restaurant in the second poorest country in the Americas that manages to serve a very respectable wine with linen napkins and overly plentiful plates of really good food for just a few dollars. Yolanda herself, the cook and a grandmother of nine, greets every patron like a long lost friend. A little further is La Rana Roja (The Red Frog) which is a funky little pizzeria run by Argentinias and serves fantastic pizzas. The clientele is a mixture of American expats and visiting surfers.
An alternative to Rancho Santana is a bit further south near San Juan del Sur, a beautiful beachside town popular with surfers and holidaying Nicaraguans. On our first visit to Nicaragua we spent three nights at Buena Vista Surf Club, an eco-lodge in a spectacular spot about 20 minutes outside the town. The owners, Marc and Marielle, a wonderful Dutch couple, describe it as ‘not a regular place for regular people’. You can go to surf school at the beach at the bottom of the hill and return to a delicious meal prepared by Marielle – meals are served family style with the other guests. The view, again, is spectacular. There is an enormous hardwood deck on which you can enjoy an invigorating yoga class, a massage, star gazing, or just lying on a beanbag reading a book. There are just four ‘rooms’ which are actually tree houses which are open to the elements– no windows, just mosquito nets. You will be serenaded to sleep by Howler monkeys in the trees outside your room. You absolutely do not have to be a surfer to enjoy Buena Vista, or indeed Nicaragua – it is a perfect destination for anyone looking to unwind and escape from all the hassles of modern life.
Georgina Loxton is originally from the UK, but has lived in Grand Cayman for the past five years with her water-sports loving husband, and more recently their fourteen month-old daughter Poppy. She works full time as a fund manager but is fortunate that her job never requires her to work at the weekend, which is cherished family time. She is an avid runner, kitesurfer and loves to spend time on the family boat at the weekend. However, she is at her happiest at home, sharing her good home cooked food and good wine with family and friends.