Few places have left me speechless and Rancho Santana left my senses stimulated and relaxed all at the same time
Looking out my plane window, all I saw was green as far as the eye could see. In route for Nicaragua, my brain didn’t trust my eyes. “Was this really happening?” I asked myself dreaming about the week ahead with my girlfriend; surfing, catamaran ride, farm-to-table meals, hiking on a volcano, feeding monkeys, massages, horseback riding on the beach, mountain biking… a dream trip.
As the plane rubber skid across the tarmac, we touched down in Costa Rica (yes, you read that right), collected our bags, and met our prearranged driver who would be taking us to the Nicaraguan border where we would snag our final ride to Rancho Santana, our temporary Nicaraguan home.
Logistical side note, if you are thinking to yourself, “Wow, that travel sounds confusing, why would you do that?” It’s quicker and very simple. Rancho Santana is located in the southwest corner of Nicaragua, which doesn’t have a close Nicaraguan airport, so Rancho Santana has developed and dialed this transportation across the border. We shaved off roughly four hours of travel by doing this, which equates to four more hours surfing!
The Property of Rancho Santana and Its Endless Opportunity:
Arriving at Rancho Santana, two immediate thoughts came to mind as I stepped out of the car onto the cobblestone drive:
- The development team took their time designing Rancho Santana, it’s exquisite!
- Rancho Santana is massive. 2,700 acres of Nicaragua’s vibrant Emerald Coast, to be exact.
Now, take a deep breath and collect your thoughts because we are about to overwhelm you with just a handful of the opportunities you can select from and notable places to bookmark on property before arriving to Rancho Santana:
- Five beaches to explore (two offering stellar surf)
- Five styles of stays to chose from: The Inn, The Residences, Ocean-View Homes, Puerta del Mar Villas, and Garden View Casitas
- Four restaurants
- Four bars
- A massive garden you can walk through
- Three pools
- Cold plunge and hot tub grottos
- A grocery store
- Surf lessons and gear rentals
- A turtle sanctuary
- Sand boarding
- An ornate church on the top of a hill
- Miles of hiking and biking trails
- Horse stables
- An ocean-view yoga studio
- Snorkeling areas
- Farm tours
- Not to mention the myriad of off-property experiences!
Now, if this list didn’t make your internal FOMO vibrate, I don’t know what will. The good news, when planning your trip there is help! If you give Rancho Santana a call, they are more than willing to talk you through your options to make sure you satisfy your adventure desires while in Nicaragua.
The Perfect Week In Paradise (At Least In My Opinion)
My girlfriend and I had planned a week-long trip to Rancho Santana and, I might be bias as I share our adventure-packed trip itinerary, but, our trip was amazing! Rancho Santana is a paradise escape, promising a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure, offering an immersive experience that not only tested our physical abilities, but, reminded us of the importance wellness plays in living an intentional life.
Day 1: Arrival, Ocean Time, and a Dinner to Remember
Arriving at Rancho Santana, we had half a day to play. After settling into our room, we booked a room with an ocean-view at The Inn, and slipping into our swim suits, we answered the call of the ocean. Splashing around like two kids seeing the ocean for the first time, we sat waist-deep in the warm, water of the Pacific Ocean. Enjoyed ourselves as we rocked back in forth in with the ebb and flow of the tide. As the fear of sunburns and the growl of our stomachs grew, we headed back to the room for a change of clothes before dinner.
Sitting outside for a delightful dinner at La Finca y El Mar, the fine-dining restaurant located beach side, we relished in the evening warmth and humid air as we indulged in locally sourced seafood, home-made burrata, chicken, and farm-to-table salads—all infused with Nicaraguan flair.
Day 2: Exploring the Beauty of Rancho Santana
Waking up to the sounds of paradise, day two began with a sunrise surf, for me, and relaxing morning for Kristin. Coming back together with a leisurely breakfast at El Café filled with fruit and a delightful smoothie bowl with local pollen and cacoa nibs, the day was off to a great start.
Our main adventure for the day was the Las Cinco Playas Tour, guiding us through Rancho Santana’s five breathtaking beaches—Playa Santana, Playa Rosada, Playa Escondida, Playa Los Perros, and Playa Duna. Each beach with its own unique flare, offering visitors something different, it’s hard to chose a favorite, but, I think I enjoyed the viewpoint of Playa Duna the most. Stunning!
Grabbing a late lunch to-go at Playa Los Perros restaurant, La Taqueria, we went back to our room for a quick shower and headed to our rejuvenating spa treatment at The Spa in El Bosque. Shocking our bodies in the private hot and cold pools before the massage set the stage for our couple’s massage to leave the both of us blissed out. Walking out of the tree-house style massage room, greeted by the sounds of the surrounding forest, my body felt like a noodle.
Day 3: Surfing, Mountain Biking, and Sunset Views
I came to Rancho Santana with the goal of getting barreled while surfing. So, on day three I headed out with a surf instructor to Playa Los Perros for a sunrise surf, looking to achieve that dream. Micro-adjustment after micro-adjustment, my guide had me in the perfect spot, ready to catch my first barrel. Dropping in on my weak backside, I tucked down, grabbed my rail, and was hanging out in the green room, until I got tomahawked by the lip, tossed upside-down, and passed through the washing machine like punishment of learning to surf barrels. Popping up, I was stoked! Now, I just needed to learn how to pump while inside the barrel so my sinus cavities didn’t have to be flushed out with every ride.
Another breakfast at El Café with Kristin, we shared stories from our morning. She mostly laughed at me and the water constantly draining from my nose. But, our morning quickly turned to afternoon and a mountain biking ride awaited. Zipping around the miles of trails, we explored the local flora and fauna when catching our breath.
By now, our massages from the day before were out the window, but we unwound with a farm-to-table meal at sunset.
Day 4: Mombacho, Lake Nicaragua, Granada, and Volcano Masaya
By day four, it was time to venture beyond the boundaries of Rancho Santana and see what else Nicaragua had in store for us. With an early morning, we headed off property for a full day adventure. Starting with a thrilling zipline experience at Mombacho. With more than 12 ziplines to cross, this adventure was not only a thrill but an opportunity to learn about coffee. Underneath our feet, we soared above a coffee plantation with each crossing. We even got to snack on the fruit surrounding the coffee bean!
Next was a boat ride around Lake Nicaragua, complete with hand-feeding rescued monkeys and a lunch in Granada City. Our guide took us to his home town to see how traditional Nicaraguan pottery is made by hand. A process I knew nothing about until today. You won’t believe to tools they use to craft these pieces of artwork, a true delight to see the process done in-front of your eyes.
Ending the day at the perfect time, just after nightfall, at Volcano Masaya. This active volcano glows bright red at night, as the magma boils below the viewpoint. What a day!
Day 5: Farm Tour and Sunset Horseback Ride
After a casual morning, day five began with a tour of the ethically raised animals on the property through the Santana Farm Tour. Milking a cow, holding baby goats, walking among chickens, and listening to the chaotic snorting noise of pigs left me with a realistic understanding of where the food comes from at Rancho Santana, something I don’t understand back in the United States.
My favorite part of the farm tour was understanding the efforts Rancho Santana goes through to to be organic (but without the certification) and zero waste. From what you would expect of making compost to the unexpected like capturing methane to fuel fires around the property.
Back to our room for some lounging and poolside fun, the day moved quickly. Before we knew it, we were a top a horse, trotting down the beach for sunset. These horses are very well trained and specialize in Nicaragua’s unique Stallion Dancing—a spectacle often featured in local parades called hipicas.
Day 6: Catamaran Adventure
Snagging one more sunrise surf, we took day six as a recovery day… for the most part. Snacking poolside and going for beach walks, Kristin and I enjoyed ourselves until I cut my foot open on a rock. I’m accident prone, so what can I say. The good news, the front desk had everything we needed on hand. So, we were back in action in no time.
As the day went on, the anticipation built for the upcoming Catamaran Adventure, a highlight of our trip for me. Departing from the resort, we set sail along the breathtaking Emerald Coast on a private luxury yacht. This several-hour experience is not merely a sailing voyage, but an opportunity to see Nicaragua from a new perspective. Heading south to start, we passed islands and found a snorkeling spot. Diving off the side of the boat (mostly for the fun of it, they had stair going into the water) we plunged below the surface of the water, seeking out the world below the surface. Arriving back to the catamaran, they had ceviche ready for us and offered a wide variety of drinks.
As the day transitioned to dusk, we headed to the from of the catamaran to sit on the nets over the ocean. Sailing back to the bay we started in, Kristin and I cuddled as the sun dipped below the horizon.
Day 7: Departure – Until Next Time!
The bittersweet arrival of the final day marks an early check-out time of 5:30 a.m. marking the end of our perfect week in paradise. But, there was one more surprise in-store for us. After crossing the border back to Costa Rica and seeing we had some time to kill, we asked the driver if he knew of any places to eat. He thought for a second and then got a big smile, “Yes, I know of a great spot!”
After a little bit of time, he turned off the highway into a town for a hole-in-the-wall breakfast spot that looked out upon the canopy of green that met the blue waters of an ocean bay. Eggs, rice, and beans, a simple, yet perfect way to end the trip.
Until next time becomes a promise rather than a farewell. Rancho Santana, with its allure and charm, remains etched in our memories, inviting you to return and create new chapters in the book of adventures. As the plane carried us away, I looked out the window, already dreaming of returning to the warm water, catching barrels, and more Nicaraguan experiences. Until next time, Rancho Santana!