#hosted by Rancho Santana; opinions are my own
What a wonderful week our family had on the beach in Nicaragua! I was looking forward to visiting Rancho Santana in Tola, Nicaragua for quite some time after discovering it from a fellow travel writing friend, @makinghomehere. And our visit did not disappoint! Follow along as we recap some of our favorite parts of our recent trip to Rancho Santana. The staff at this good hotel were so joyful, so kind to work with and were patient with us as we practiced our un poquito Espanol.
We were immediately smitten by the well-manicured grounds of Rancho Santana, with the Spanish-style architecture perfectly correlating with the flowers, plants and greenery. Everything was pristine and well-designed, providing amazing glimpses every evening of the Nicaraguan sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. The bright pink varieties of flowers glowed from the sun and it truly felt like a Central American paradise. The property is massive, offering 2700 acres for guests to enjoy and savor, many of which are untouched nature.
With several pools to choose from, the bros happily pool-hopped, cabana-lounged and walked in the shallow water of the ocean and tide pools until their hearts were content. We were also impressed by the Ranch on-site, providing us opportunities to greet some of their on-site animals. The Tienda there offered a spot where guests could grab snacks and heavier meal items like breakfast croissants and even uncooked meat to prepare in their Residence for dinner. One of the most impressive features is that the hotel offers an on-site school for guests’ children to attend while visiting – incredible!
Whether a guest chooses a stay at the on-site Inn or the Residences, the comforts of home are available for all. We enjoyed a three-bedroom Residence condo building which had beautiful, chic furniture, comfortable beds and three bathrooms and a living space along with a fully-functional kitchen. Without doubt, the views from the back patio overlooking the ocean and pool made for a wonderful trip and we all felt quite comfortable in our home away from home for the week.
We met several families who now call the Residences their longer-term home and we could without doubt imagine a longer stay with comfort at the Residences at Rancho Santana. Housekeeping and concierge ensured that everything at our Residence was provided, even providing the opportunity for us to have laundry services completed during our stay. We enjoyed having a fully-functional refrigerator to store our leftovers from the restaurants to help off-set some food costs during our stay, too.
The Complimentary Activities
We were so impressed by the offering of complimentary activities for guests! One of our favorite activities was the Sandboarding tour. We were taken on a guided tour to a different beach area where a Rancho Santana guide took us up a sand dune for thrilling sandboarding. The views walking the steps down to sandboard were some of the prettiest that we saw all trip! We highly recommend choosing this tour for an exciting experience as a family. It was the first time that we saw sandboarding offered as an activity at a hotel.
We also loved the Conectando Corazones complimentary experience, meaning Connecting Hearts, which was the main reason we chose Rancho Santana for our stay. Through this program, guests of the hotel are invited to learn more about how the hotel is giving back to their local community. We had a guide show us the buildings where the hotel is making a lasting difference for over 30,000 local Nicaraguans in nearby Tola and Rivas communities. It was such a special tour and shouldn’t be missed! Through this tour, guests will learn about the three main ways that Rancho Santana gives back: 1 – FunLimon: an after-school activity center offering activities like a gym, martial arts, a baseball field and basketball court and programs that provide locals enrichment; 2 – A clinic and pharmacy: prior to having access to these, locals had to travel very far to the city to access medical care and did not have a local ambulance; it is such a gift now for locals to be able to have on-site medical options and 3- CREA: a creative arts center providing additional therapies needed for children alongside a library which promotes literacy and programs promoting mental development.
Another activity that we did was unguided but that was a hit for our family was walking the on-site trails to Playa Escondido, a different beach that was a 40-minute light hike from the Inn. I’m so glad we took the time to do this morning hike as we saw beautiful views from the beach there. We were able to find sea urchins and little minnows in the tide pools and also witnessed several sea turtles about to hatch and make the trek to sea. This spot was also one of my favorite photo opps on the trip.
The grounds of the hotel offer other complimentary activities available like billiards, bocce ball, nature hikes, monkey scouting, birdwatching, garden tours, bonfires and meeting their animals at The Ranch.
A Kid-friendly Hotel
One of our favorite aspects of Rancho Santana was seeing how many young kids our bros could interact with every day! Without doubt a family-friendly spot, we had the pleasure of meeting several families who had kids our bros’ age. One of the boys became quick friends with our bros and he ended up joining us for on-site dinner one night without his parents. If you’re looking for a family-friendly getaway on the beach, Rancho Santana is hard to beat!
Something that we would have taken even more advantage of if our bros were a little younger was Rancho Santana‘s on-site Kids Club! We were so impressed by the cost of accessing the Kids Club, $20/child for several hours of care, while parents could enjoy the grounds without kids for a bit. In addition, Rancho Santana also offers babysitting services at your own Residence, perfect for those traveling with babies.
We were impressed by the on-site restaurant offerings at Rancho Santana. One of our favorites was La Boquita, which was a short concierge drive away from the Inn and Residences. There was something extra special about this restaurant, which offered a moonlit pool for night swimming for our bros and also the most delicious mango-wrapped sushi we have eaten! We highly recommend guests choosing La Boquita for their meals, especially if you like sushi or brick-oven pizza.
We also really enjoyed El Cafe, the quick-to-order breakfast spot that we frequented each morning. From egg-and-cheese breakfast sandwiches to açaí bowls, there was something to eat and stay or grab-on-the-go that we enjoyed each morning. We especially loved the chocolate croissants and the Power Greens bowl, because really, life is all about balance 😉
La Taqueria was an additional on-site, short drive away from the Inn, restaurant that was a taco-specific eatery. Our bros are always down for tacos so this was a fun, casual dinner option where we could play some beach games and grab a bite. La Finca y El Mar is Rancho Santana‘s fine dining, a sit-down option that offered wonderful seafood and steak dishes along with impressive appetizers, cocktails and desserts. One of the evenings we enjoyed a three-course dinner and enjoyed the more formal, sit-down and chat while we eat type dinner setting. Overlooking the sunset, we savored the Nicaraguan flavors and cheers-ed to more adventures at Rancho Santana.
I’m a bit of a spa snob after spending so much time traveling and experiencing some high-end and well-run spas. The bros and Logan surprised me with a facial at the The Spa en El Bosque, Rancho Santana‘s on-site spa. This spa experience was one of the best I’ve ever had! Bosque, meaning forest, set the tone for this spa’s environment with suites tucked in with trees and the sounds of the ocean nearby setting the most calming atmosphere. I highly recommend splurging on a spa treatment while here as it was a treat!
Go and Do Good
The best trips are the ones where we have the opportunity to serve within the local community and give back and so we were thrilled to work with the concierge team at Rancho Santana to coordinate a baseball-themed serving day. Taking it a step beyond their Conectando Corazones experience, our family coordinated a fundraiser in advance where we were able to raise over $1300 for the local community there. We heard of a need for two local baseball teams in Tola, Nicaragua that did not have adequate baseball equipment. Being a baseball family, we worked with a resident at Rancho Santana and fellow baseball lover, Tom, who lovingly took the funds to a nearby town where he secured new equipment for the kids.
We got to spend several hours at their FunLimon baseball field, with our boys scrimmaging alongside the local baseball players. It was so magical to see the excitement in the local players’ eyes as they each received their very own baseball, a meaningful gift to them, and new bats and gloves for their teams. Thank you to everyone who helped us raise funds for these boys in Nicaragua – the day spent with them is tattooed on our baseball-loving hearts forever!
It isn’t super easy to get to Nicaragua and Rancho Santana compared to other good hotels we’ve visited but is it worth it? Beyond a doubt. Our preferred airline, Delta Airlines, does not offer flights to Nicaragua and so we were required to think outside of the box for our travels. We ended up flying United Airlines to Managua, Nicaragua. From there, a private driver for Rancho Santana took us on the 2.5 hour drive to the hotel. When returning, we found the best flight option for us on Frontier Airlines but it left from Liberia, Costa Rica. What an adventure it was taking the 1.5 hour private driver ride to the Costa Rica border, crossing the border by foot and then being picked up by a driver on the Costa Rica side! Once we landed in Atlanta, we still needed to rent a car and drive to our hometown for Greenville, South Carolina. It was a long travel day and different for us, but we wouldn’t miss experiencing the good of Rancho Santana for the world.
Was it Safe?
When we decided to visit Rancho Santana in Nicaragua, my parents, among others, questioned our decision to visit this country alongside our young bros. Rightfully so, as the country of Nicaragua, in addition to other Central American countries, has made headlines concerning safety issues. We had traveled previously to Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Belize, all of which we have felt safe in and so we decided to continue on with our trip to Rancho Santana. While there, we met nothing but wonderful people, enjoyed breathtaking scenery and enjoyed meeting some of the locals.
While every family needs to decide the best travel destinations for them, we are so glad that we did not miss out on the beauty of the people and surroundings in Nicaragua.
To enjoy the goodness of Rancho Santana yourself, consider the following discount code MEG5, to stay for 5 nights and get 2 nights free which is eligible for stays at The Inn and The Residences. Includes breakfast, no inclusions apply to the offer, available for booking from February 8 – May 25, 2023 with travel dates until August 30, 2023. Blackout dates apply. Book your Rancho Santana vacation here.