People didn’t really get it when I said I was going to Nicaragua for spring break. “Isn’t that dangerous?” “Oh, is it for a mission trip?” and “Where even is that?” were only a few of the questions I encountered when I announced my plans. No, it wasn’t for a vacation and no, I wasn’t scared. I was excited to experience a place so vastly different than my home and do so with my family.
We began the trip by flying into Managua, a crowded city containing about a third of the entire country’s population. Gazing out of my taxi, I passed people’s “homes” that looked like little more than shacks in my eyes. Behind the thick glass I felt sheltered and almost ashamed, but was humbled by the simplicity and joy I saw in the people I passed.
Finally, we arrived at the beautiful Rancho Santana, a resort as well as a residential community nestled into the west coast of Nicaragua. The breathtaking property contains 2,700 acres of rolling hills as well as coastline interrupted by five easily accessible beaches. Set right next to one of these beaches was a clubhouse with bars, a luxurious pool, and easily one of the best restaurants I’ve ever eaten at.
The restaurant, ‘La Finca y El Mar’ (spanish for ‘The Farm and the Sea’), was the destination of almost every meal during the trip. Admittedly I am not the most adventurous person in the area of food, but this spot enticed me to try new things almost daily and I was never disappointed. While everything was amazing, my favorite by far was the coffee rubbed pork with plantain hash.
While the resort and its amenities were wonderful, the simple beauty of Nicaragua is what resonated with me more profoundly than anything else I had ever experienced. Unlike the commercialized beaches I had seen before saturated with condos and brightly colored signs, Nicaragua was untouched, pure, and (in my eyes) perfect. Looking out at the huge waves and pristine sand I felt as if the Earth was sharing a wonderfully kept secret with me, and I’m honored that she did.
The simple perfection I found in Nicaragua’s beauty was almost parallel to what I found in the people. Even if communication was a struggle (lo siento, no hablo español), I found each person I encountered was excited to share with me this wonderful place they called home. It may not be as developed or glamorous as other places, but they were proud of the work they had done here and I was too. I laugh now when people ask if I ever felt unsafe , because I never met a person there who didn’t greet me with a welcoming smile and casual wave.
Departing from Nicaragua was painful to say the least. I missed it the second my plane left the ground and yearn to return almost every day. Though I dread the day it becomes exploited and flooded with tourists, I feel obligated to share this unique place with everyone I meet. I’m pretty sure I got a glimpse of paradise during my short time in this often overlooked Central American country and I highly recommend this experience to travelers of all ages and walks of life. It truly is unforgettable.
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