Tola, Nicaragua

Photo: Rancho Santana
Photo: Rancho Santana

Want to be among the first to check out a new resort in Central America? This stylish hideaway sits on the often-overlooked Pacific coast. It’s rugged and adventurous, romantic and luxurious all at the same time. But it’s not in Costa Rica, where you would expect to find it. This time you’re heading farther north to Nicaragua.

Rancho Santana in Tola, on the country’s southwestern coast, isn’t a new destination. The seaside property has privately owned garden-view casitas and ocean-front villas. But with 2,700 acres—including two miles of shoreline—there was plenty of room to add an inn. The recently built Inn at Rancho Santana maintains a homey feel. The driveway, off a dirt road, winds by stables, organic gardens, and the entrance to hiking trails. The two-story building may be new, but it looks like an old hacienda with wooden floors and heavy doors. A brick archway leads to an open-air courtyard that’s used as the lobby. While none of the 17 rooms are the same.

You fall in love with your room immediately. With a vaulted ceiling, wooden beams, and rounded arches, how could you not? Everything in it has a personalized touch. The iron curtain rods are handcrafted. The bathroom tiles are hand painted. Locally made pottery and a colorful map of Nicaragua decorate the mostly white space. Plus a cool ocean breeze is weaving its way past the covered terrace and the French doors.

Photo: Rancho Santana
Photo: Rancho Santana

After unpacking and taking a few photos of your gorgeous room before it looks lived in, you’re ready to check out the rest of Rancho Santana. The Clubhouse, where you’ll return for cocktails and dinner later, is the inn’s social hub. The pool, shaped like a sand dollar, and its thatched-roof bar, sit just outside. Beyond that are the beaches. Yes, plural. There are five beaches, each with its own distinct personality, on the property. And you won’t know which is your favorite until you’ve seen them all.

Playa Santana, right in front of the Clubhouse and the pool, is the social beach. Here you can surf among some of the best waves in the world and play horseshoes and bocce ball in the sand. Playa Rosada, a little beach littered with seashells, will be the perfect place to watch the sun set. South of Playa Rosada, Playa Escondida is a quiet beach where you might be the only snorkeler among the colorful coral and the schools of fish. A steep climb to Playa Duna will be rewarded with stunning rock formations and absolute privacy. While fish tostadas and a bucket of beer are waiting for you at the Beach & Surf Club at Playa Los Perros, the southernmost beach.

You had planned on going on a nature walk to see monkeys and sea turtles, listening to the waves crash while practicing your yoga poses at the Pool House, and visiting the nearby hot springs in Las Salinas like most tourists do as soon as you arrived in Tola. But finding a perfect inn and five gorgeous beaches quickly changed those plans and your outlook on Nicaragua. Rancho Santana is already starting to feel like home.


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