Costa Rica’s neighbor to the north rolls out the red carpet for retirees and second-home buyers. By Melissa C. Gillespie
For years, Costa Rica has been the “it” place for international real estate investors and retirees. Now that the market in Costa Rica seems to have matured, Nicaragua, its neighbor to the north, is fast becoming a popular location for those second-home buyers and retirees who desire a coastal lifestyle at an affordable price. Lucky for them, the portfolio of oceanfront and ocean view choices continues to expand.
Ranging from the eco-luxe Aqua Wellness Resort to the super-luxe Guacalito de la Isla, the central and southern Pacific coastlines have recently welcomed dozens of new developments. Other properties popping up along this stretch include Milagro del Mar, Montecristo, Pueblo Santa Fe, Tamarindo Beach & Ocean Estates, and many more.
Furthermore, Nicaragua has made a commitment to growth and economic security, with a number of laws designed to attract investors and foreign retirees. Nicaragua’s minister of tourism, Mario Salinas Pasos, says many of those benefits include substantial tax incentives. “Under the new laws, retirees and foreign residents can import up to $20,000 worth of household goods for their home, duty-free, [as well as] import and/or purchase construction materials for up to $50,000, tax free, for the construction of a house.”
Nicaragua wants to be your second home or your retirement destination, and its stunning oceanfront real estate opportunities also extend a warm invitation.
Aqua Wellness Resort
Aqua Wellness Resort is a new eco-luxe development perched on a forested hillside overlooking a perfect crescent beach on Nicaragua’s unspoiled Redonda Bay. This eco-friendly development north of San Juan del Sur has received much attention for its very progressive and stylish architecture.
The development offers 25 eco-friendly treetop villas that range in size from 1,150 to 1,500 square feet, and there are plans and space to add 16 more. The houses are built on pilings amidst the tropical forest and made of sustainable local wood and stone. Aqua’s villas feature the finest contemporary furnishings, state-of-the-art appliances, and spacious terraces with ocean and/or forest views. Most villas have multiple bedrooms, plunge pools, and separate kitchen/dining bungalows, making them ideal for families and extended visits.
The kitchen/dining bungalows are divine, featuring top-of-the-line appliances, granite countertops, and stunning views. But should you chose to put away the pots and pans (and we recommend you do) the property’s restaurant, Bromelia, is an open-air dining delight that overlooks the beach. Beyond the ambience, the food is flavorful and healthy, and Aqua’s cuisine features fresh local seafood, as well as produce from the chef’s organic farm on the island of Ometepe.
Elaborate paths wind through the trees, leading to the beach and an 1,100-square-foot yoga platform. Onsite yoga and wellness instructors offer classes in a variety of yoga techniques, cooking, and nutrition. Plus, the property’s hillside location will give you ample opportunities to get your heart rate up.
From the outdoor yoga pavilion to the custom spa to organic cuisine, Aqua combines wellness with a unique connectedness to nature. The privacy, amenities, and pricing should make Aqua a popular vacation home option. Aqua Wellness Resort villas start at $395,000. Aqua offers several vacation and wellness retreat options for those who prefer to simply visit.
Guacalito de la Isla
Guacalito de la Isla is a 1,670-acre sustainable resort development emerging from Nicaragua’s Emerald Coast. Homesites at Guacalito de la Isla have been arranged along fingers of land to take advantage of the best ocean views in the country while also preserving individual privacy, intimacy with the natural surroundings and the protection of important conservation areas. Some cradle the ridgelines, while others fringe the beach or the golf course.
Perched high on a forested hillside at Guacalito de la Isla is the neighborhood of La Reserva, a private residential enclave which will be home to 46 families. Homesites in the La Reserva neighborhood range from 27,000 square feet to 120,000 square feet.
Adjacent to La Reserva is Guacalito’s 32 Verdemar ocean view villas, which will offer a relaxed lifestyle at the beach with immediate access to golf and the Beach Club. Verdemar residents can choose from a three- or four-bedroom villa. Clustered in a charming neighborhood setting, the villas will offer master suites with ocean views, private pools, expansive terraces, lush interior courtyards, and maid or nanny’s quarters for added comfort and convenience.
Casona Mukul, a luxury boutique hotel set in Guacalito, will open in December 2012. While enjoying luxurious accommodations and service in one of the hotel’s 16 oceanfront villas or 23 hillside casitas, guests can experience spa treatments in The Spa at Mukul, play golf on the 18-hole course designed by David McLay Kidd, or relax on the resort’s four miles of pristine white sand beach, which are dotted with honeymoon beds and chaise lounges.
Casona Mukul and Guacalito are the creation of Don Carlos Pellas, one of the most prominent entrepreneurs in Central America, whose businesses include sugar, automotive, and Flor de Caña Rum. Future plans include a small eco-sensitive dock that will serve as a launch pad for oceanic adventures.
Guacalito is being called a “game changer” for Nicaraguan tourism and real estate. We agree. La Reserva homesites start at $400,000 and Verdemar villas start at $700,000.
Milagro del Mar
Milagro del Mar Beach Club is currently under development within the existing Gran Pacifica Beach & Golf Resort enclave. Covering 2,500 acres, the Gran Pacifica’s homesites, condo developments, hotel, and rental properties have been carefully laid out, combining new urbanism with Spanish Colonial charm.
When fully developed, the Milagro del Mar community, a vision of U.S. developer Roger Keeling, will consist of more than 100 two- and three-bedroom condos, all with ocean views. Floor plans are spacious and feature an open layout, large terraces, tile floors, granite countertops, and fully-loaded kitchens. You won’t have to worry about importing furnishings for your abode–Milagro del Mar’s interior design group, NicaBella, offers several furniture packages.
Situated on more than three miles of gorgeous Pacific coastline, Gran Pacifica resort’s future plans include Nicaragua’s only 45-hole golf course. You can bring your clubs now, however, because several holes are currently open for play. If you’re ready to settle in at Gran Pacifica, there are a number of resales available in the development’s Las Perlas condos. Las Perlas features one- and two-bedroom condos with a third-bedroom lock-out option available with selected units, ranging in size from 506 square feet to 1,743 square feet. Homesites and casitas are also available within Gran Pacifica.Within the branded condo hotel resort, condominiums, condo-hotel suites, and private villas range from $199,000 to $499,000. Outside of the condo-hotel resort, homesites range from $40,000 to $199,000.
Pelican Eyes Resort & Spa
Numerous oceanfront condominiums, townhomes, and sprawling estates dot the cliffsides surrounding the bay in the seaside town of San Juan del Sur. A stop here warrants a stay at Pelican Eyes Resort & Spa, which offers personalized hospitality, architectural flair, and spacious units ranging from approximately 900-square-foot studios to more than 2,500-square-foot, two-bedroom houses. Design elements include soaring ceilings, graceful arched windows, airy terraces, and exposed natural woods.
The recently renovated Tranquila spa, perched high on the hillside, offers a vast menu of treatments to soothe your body and relax your mind. In addition to the lush gardens, infinity pool, and two restaurants with stunning views, Pelican Eyes has a knack for planning and will arrange nearby day trips, sailing excursions, and romantic escapes.
You’ll feel at home at Pelican Eyes, most likely because it is home to only a lucky few. Unfortunately for the prospective ocean view homebuyer, all of the residential units have already been purchased; however, the development plans to release new units next year. For now, we recommend a visit. Rates start at under $200 in the tropical season and $240 in the high season.
Tamarindo Beach & Ocean Estates
Vacation home seekers and retirees should put Tamarindo Beach & Ocean Estates on their radar. This beachfront community, located on the Central Coast approximately 30 minutes from the colonial city of Leon, has plans for 100 residential ocean and riverfront homes.
At the center of the plan, Tamarindo’s design and vision is to create a pedestrian-friendly and active community. From an ocean boardwalk with grass to multiple walkways and bike paths, Tamarindo will offer multiple opportunities for the active resident or visitor. The planned community will offer multiple amenities and services, including a hotel with 16 suites, restaurant, pool, weight room, lounging area, poolside bar, gift shop, parking, rental center, and administration. The “Red Snapper” Fishing lodge on the estuary with an attached marina will house fishing needs, and a nature reserve area is incorporated into the landscape plan. Homesites are currently available for purchase and are priced from $70,000 to $120,000 per oceanfront lot. Each comprises roughly a quarter acre.
Use a local tour guide company like ORO Travel to schedule your day trips and sightseeing activities in Nicaragua. According to the agency, the most popular requested day trip is the Granada City Tour. You’ll see why a visit to Nicaragua is incomplete without stopping in Granada, a city filled with of history and culture. A short boat ride from Granada, Jicaro Island Ecolodge is known as one of Nicaragua’s most upscale nature resorts. Set on a private island in Lake Nicaragua, this quiet respite is the ideal place to unwind and detach. Jicaro has spectacular views of the Mombacho Volcano and is surrounded by hundreds of tiny islands. We love that the resort is the only thing on the island, making it the ultimate in luxurious seclusion. Nine private casitas serve as the perfect setting for romantic escapes or group wellness retreats. Further down the coast and only 30 minutes from Costa Rica is the Pelican Eyes Resort and Spa in the charming fishing village of San Juan del Sur. During your stay, arrange for a trip on one of Pelican Eyes’ sailboats and explore the southern Pacific coastline aboard a 41-foot sloop. A full-day sailing trip includes swimming and beachcombing in the hidden Nicaraguan coastal bays of Brazilito and Costa Blanca, lunch served on a deserted beach, and wine and cheese at sunset. Also nearby is the Hacienda & Ecolodge Morgan’s Rock, which consists of 15 bungalows on a forested hill sloping toward the ocean. Be sure to include a farm-style breakfast in your stay; from collecting your own eggs to milking a cow, the experience is truly memorable. But, we must warn you: Once you taste the freshness of the farm-to-table food, you’ll begin to crave it.
Where to Buy All of these luxury residential developments are located on Nicaragua’s central and southern Pacific coastline. Aqua Wellness Resort, Guacalito de la Isla, Milagro del Mar, Montecristo, Pueblo Santa Fe, Tamarindo Beach and Ocean Estates
Where to Stay Hotel Plaza Colon (Granada), Jicaro Island Ecolodge (Lake Managua/Granada), Pelican Eyes Resort & Spa (San Juan del Sur), Hacienda & Ecolodge Morgan’s Rock (north of San Juan del Sur), Hotel El Convento (León)