A Pacific coastline with all of California’s beauty but none of its crowds: Welcome to Nicaragua.
Why Go: This stretch of Pacific Coast in southwest Nicaragua recalls pre-1950 Santa Barbara, with pristine beaches and bluffs, great waves for surfing, and jaw-dropping sunsets. When Rancho Santana opened in 1998, the 2,700-acre resort community had long-term ambitions. Homes were built as they were sold, most within sight of the community’s 2-mile stretch of coast and at least one of its five beaches. A clubhouse, a spa, a now-renowned farm-to-table restaurant, and a robust equestrian program were added to the community over the years. In March, the development welcomed a 17-room hotel, the Inn at Rancho Santana.
What to Expect: With a new airport on the horizon and a new luxury resort (the 2-year-old, 37-room Mukul), the Inn at Rancho Santana’s underrated location is gaining international attention. But for now, the prices are still low and the crowds are still only in the future. There are just 41 homes in the rental pool, plus the 17 new rooms and suites (from $250). Guests will recognize the build quality of the hacienda-like inn by the San Diego–based architecture and design firm Altevers Associates. Most of the iron- and woodwork (including furniture) was constructed by artisans on-site. The staff is well established and includes many English speakers. Surfers from around the world praise the local breaks for their all-day offshore winds. Aside from surfing (the Inn offers lessons for beginners), active guests can ride horses, hike, mountain bike, and kayak. Dirt roads accessible by four-wheel drive connect homes with amenities, and some beaches can only be accessed on foot or horseback.
How to Get There: Fly direct from the United States to Nicaragua’s capital of Managua or to Liberia, Costa Rica. The ranch is about 2 hours by car from either airport. Costa Esmeralda International Airport, just 15 minutes from Rancho Santana, is expected to open next year. (ranchosantana.com)