Forget the Caribbean. Nicaragua Is Your Next Beach Getaway.
Escaping a New York winter for a trip to the eco-luxury resort Rancho Santana was exactly what I needed.
Barely escaping the first hint of winter in New York City, when my plane landed in Managua, I exhaled a breath I’d been holding for months. The temperature hovered at 90 degrees, and I felt thankful to be somewhere with sunshine and saltwater.
I was en route to Rancho Santana—a luxury resort community on Nicaragua’s Emerald coast. The team at Rancho Santana invited travel journalists to experience the soft opening of their new The Spa in El Bosque, and to get acquainted with the resort’s seemingly endless activities. Situated on an isthmus, Rancho Santana is flanked by water and seems to have a constant soft beach breeze.
Rancho Santa’s property is massive—2700 acres boasting five private beaches. The property offers a mix of private residences, Spanish-colonial condos, and boutique rooms at their Inn. With such a spectacular setting and the exciting new spa, it's the latest selection for our series on hotels, The New Room with a View.
The oceanfront hotel doesn’t have telephones or televisions in the guest rooms, suggesting maybe you should get off your phone and dip your toes in the Pacific instead.
The allure of the escape is the mix of luxury accommodations and natural surroundings: “rugged by nature, elegant by design” the website practically whispers.
Despite its size, most of the developments hug the shoreline and much of the land on the property remains untouched.
“We don’t want to develop anything that isn’t waterfront,” Alberto Marin, Director of Guest Experiences, told the Daily Beast. While the beaches are clearly the draw of the resort, the area offers dense forests, wildlife, and volcanoes nearby to explore.
“We’re not a hotel or resort per se, but a community for luxury travelers,” Marin clarifies.
He’s not wrong. Rancho Santana is both a community for residents and a resort for travelers, built to be fairly self-sustaining. It has its own on-site farm: 30 acres of livestock, 7 acres of produce, and an industrial kitchen that produces its own cheese, meats, and meals for the property’s four restaurants and small grocery store.
Brian Block, Rancho Santana’s Culinary Director, told the Daily Beast that the only meat partially outsourced is beef, and fish and shrimp are sourced from local partners in Nicaragua. Chickens, goats, pigs, and cattle are all raised on site.
Onions, garlic, potatoes, and cabbage don’t grow in the area so are also shipped in, but the majority of the food consumed is organically grown in the warm Central American climate.
The eco-friendly sustainability of Rancho Santana was born out of both mission and necessity. Block points out a wood shop, iron mill, and solar farm on our way to tour the farmland. Much of the area surrounding Rancho Santana is rural and lacking major highways, so getting supplies onto the property is surely a feat made easier by doing everything themselves. There’s a small airport nearby, but the majority of traffic comes through Managua—a bumpy 3-hour drive from the resort. Making as much on site as possible makes supplies more obtainable for residents, and employs 600 full-time Nicaraguans.
Several people likened the resort to a summer camp for adults. There’s a breadth of activities if you’re feeling active: surfing, sand surfing, horseback riding, hiking, fishing—and three pools and plenty of beachfront if you’d rather lounge.
I started one morning with an hour and a half of yoga: a blend of restorative Hatha with a twist of Vinyasa, led by a cheery blonde instructor named Britt Quinn. The intention for the class was gratitude, Quinn announced, being grateful for what you have and not desiring more. Spending a weekday overlooking the ocean, sending sun salutations toward the actual sun, it was hard to imagine wanting anything else.
Later I wandered to Playa Santana, the beach closest to the resort’s Inn. The sand is dark and coarse and speckled with driftwood and stones smoothed from the tide. The Pacific ocean was chilly. The beachfront isn’t manicured like an all-inclusive Caribbean resort, but it’s also not packed with tourists. On this particular afternoon, my only beach companions were two massive vultures, drying their wingspan, facing the horizon.
At sunset, two cowboys—Nicaraguan father and son, both named Lorenzo—lead a group of silhouetted horseback riders down the beach as surfers disappeared into waves behind them.
Nestled in the woods off a charming stone staircase, El Bosque, Rancho Santa’s spa, is a relaxing retreat from the sun and activities. Opening in January, the spa has luxury wooden treehouses for massages and skin treatments. Soft piano music and the white noise of the ocean breeze flows throughout the space, occasionally punctuated with chirping birds and sounds of the forest.
I opted for a “Nica Night Cap”—a spa combo experience that includes dipping in their hot and cold pools, a 80-minute Swedish-style massage, and chamomile body scrub that is more aromatic than exfoliating. The Night Cap ended with the option of a glass of rum or herbal tea, sitting in a plush robe, overlooking the dense trees. It was undeniably decadent, and I found myself scrambling to restructure my routine to somehow include more of this.
If you’re looking to unplug, Rancho Santana is an excellent option. If you’re looking to brag on Instagram or reinvent yourself as a luxe influencer, it's a goldmine.