The International Living Podcast

Episode 53: Is Nicaragua Still a Viable Retirement Destination?

November 29, 2023 International Living
Episode 53: Is Nicaragua Still a Viable Retirement Destination?
The International Living Podcast
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The International Living Podcast
Episode 53: Is Nicaragua Still a Viable Retirement Destination?
Nov 29, 2023
International Living

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Lifestyle Editor Seán Keenan joins the podcast from Central America, on location as he researches his next feature story for International Living magazine.

His first stop is Nicaragua, once a high-profile expat destination, now slightly under the radar. Times change, fashions change, but Seán’s travels in this fascinating country bring him from the delightful Spanish Colonial streets and plazas of lakeside Granada to the upscale opulence of the region’s premier gated community—Rancho Santana.

It’s a journey of discovery and contrast as podcast host, Jim Santos, speaks to roving editor, Seán Keenan in this week’s episode.

If you’re enjoying the podcast, we would really appreciate it if you could leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform:

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Send us a Text Message.

Lifestyle Editor Seán Keenan joins the podcast from Central America, on location as he researches his next feature story for International Living magazine.

His first stop is Nicaragua, once a high-profile expat destination, now slightly under the radar. Times change, fashions change, but Seán’s travels in this fascinating country bring him from the delightful Spanish Colonial streets and plazas of lakeside Granada to the upscale opulence of the region’s premier gated community—Rancho Santana.

It’s a journey of discovery and contrast as podcast host, Jim Santos, speaks to roving editor, Seán Keenan in this week’s episode.

If you’re enjoying the podcast, we would really appreciate it if you could leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

[00:10] - Jim Santos

Hello, everyone. I'm Jim Santos and this is the International Living Podcast. In this podcast series, we introduce you to a bigger world full of communities that are safe, welcoming, beautiful, and sometimes undiscovered. A better world too. A friendly, warm, great value world where you can live richer, travel more, invest for profit, and enjoy a better life. So let's get started. Hello everyone, and welcome once again to the International Living Podcast. Today we'll be looking at a country that has not been talked about much for a few years. For reasons we will soon explore, however, the Central American country of Nicaragua is once again starting to attract attention. With coastal properties on both the Caribbean and the Pacific, a warm tropical climate, year round colonial cities, and beautiful nature preserves, this small country nestled between Honduras and Costa Rica has a lot to offer. Joining us today for this is a frequent guest of the show, international Living lifestyle editor Sean Keenan. Sean, as you know, tirelessly travels the globe looking for interesting and sometimes out of the way destinations to report on. We've talked to him about northern Spain, Greek Isles, and Italy on previous shows.

[01:32] - Jim Santos

Recently, he's been exploring Central America and joins us today from Costa Rica to talk about his two very different experiences in Nicaragua. Sean, welcome back to the International Living Podcast, and thanks for speaking with me today.

[01:45] - Sean Keenan

Thank you. It's always a pleasure. And once again, I'm in a wonderful you know, if I get to do this, if getting to do podcasts is an excuse for me to go off to wonderful places in the world, well, then I'm going to take that.

[01:59] - Jim Santos

I understand you're in Costa Rica right now.

[02:53] - Sean Keenan

I am in Costa Rica, and I'm in a very interesting part of Costa Rica. I'm actually on the Caribbean coast, which is the bit that most people kind of forget or overlook. I'm in a town called Puerto Viejo, which is very interesting because it's where a lot the town was started and settled originally by a bunch of Jamaicans who came over here to work in a banana plantation that was set up in the 1920s and 1930s. And actually this turned out not to be a great place to grow bananas and they ended up then becoming coffee workers. And anyway, eventually but the little town that was settled by the original Jamaicans that came here is still very much kept its Jamaican culture. So while we're in Costa Rica, and it's very much a blend of cultures, you do find the Costa Ricans with the Hispanic Costa Rican Latin American culture, but you'll also meet a lot of people here, particularly the restaurant. Owners and the business owners who've been here for a long time and their families have been here for a long time, who are of Jamaican origin. So they speak English with this beautiful patois, beautiful accent.

[03:13] - Sean Keenan

And it is a little bit like being on a Caribbean island actually, despite being very much on the mainland of Costa Rica, it's heaven.

[03:23] - Jim Santos

I guess anywhere you find a Caribbean coast, you're going to have a mix of cultures and people just because of the history of the Caribbean.

[03:31] - Sean Keenan

Yeah, exactly. And that history changes in various different places. For example, in Belize and southern Belize, you have what's called a Garafuna culture down there, which was set up by a bunch of slaves who escaped from cotton plantations on some of the islands of the Caribbean that are around there or close to there. But in fact, this one down in Costa Rica is interesting because it doesn't have a background of any background of slavery. It was actually workers who came to work on the banana plantations. And in fact, Marcus Garvey, who is historically very important for the African diaspora, as a political activist, he lived in this town for a period of time, and he worked up in Limon, which is the next big city north of here. It's only about an hour north of here. And Marcus Garvey actually was a resident here, which is kind of really interesting to have these big historical figures know, lived in these tiny little places.

[04:36] - Jim Santos

Well, I'm sure we're going to be talking more about Costa Rica in a future episode, but for Day, we wanted to look at your previous stop, another country that also has a Caribbean coast and a Pacific coast, and that's the country of Nicaragua. I know for a while International Living was reporting on Nicaragua and then kind of backed off a little bit. Most people tend to associate Nicaragua with, of course, Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas. Have things changed that much in Nicaragua in the past few years?

[05:06] - Sean Keenan

Well, there's a big point in which you can point out, which is 2018, when there were some protests which were very strongly suppressed, violently suppressed.

[05:18] - Jim Santos

A lot of student deaths.

[05:20] - Sean Keenan

A lot of student deaths, yeah, exactly. And some of the people will tell you there that one of the reasons that got out of control was because Ortega was not actually in the country at the time. He was getting cancer treatment, I think, in Cuba at the time. And his supporters, I guess you would say, will make the point that the moment that he got back to Nicaragua, the violent suppression of that student protest was stopped and he kind of rolled it back and he called the police off and so on. So you've got to take all this stuff with a pinch of salt because everybody basically in Nicaragua, you have to sort of have a political stance, really, when it comes to Ortega, because he's the one political figure that really is dominant there. He's been the leader, the president of the country for decades at this point. And he's getting older. He's not getting any younger. He's well into his 70s. He does have cancer. The question is not so much really what is nicaragua like now. Nicaragua is absolutely lovely now, but the point is, what's going to be like in ten years time or however many years time when Ortega does die, which he's not immortal, that's going to that.

[06:35] - Sean Keenan

Every person who asked that question has got a different answer for you. Some say his wife is going to take over, and some say effectively she is the de facto president at the moment, anyway. Others say no. Nicaragua is far too much of a country to be able to tolerate a female know. It's one of those things. We can't tell what the future is going to be. All we can really look at is Nicaragua desperately needs hard currency coming into that country, no matter what happens and no matter what regime happens after Ortega. When you don't have a tourist industry and they don't really have a tourist industry in Nicaragua, when the next best thing you've got is logging and fishing and a little bit of fruit export or something like that, I think you've really got to look at the tourist industry as being a major cash earner there. And I don't imagine whatever regime comes next, I don't imagine they're going to do much to alienate tourism because that is likely to be the biggest earner possible. So my feeling and it is obviously you can quote me on this, but I can say it's nothing more than a feeling or a supposition.

[07:46] - Sean Keenan

I can't see the future any better than anybody else can. But my feeling is that actually it's probably going to become a more viable proposition in the years to come. If you have a tolerance for not really knowing for sure what's going to happen the next ten years, it could be a really good place to invest or it could be a really good place to get yourself a property or to move to because it looks like Costa Rica. It feels a little like Rica. It's way, way cheaper than Costa Rica. And I think basically that cheapness is based on that affordability, is based on the fact that there is a little instability and a little bit of nobody's sure what's going to happen in the future. But as everyone that I talked to there said, where can you go that you can be sure of the future?

[08:37] - Jim Santos

That's true.

[08:38] - Sean Keenan


[08:39] - Jim Santos

So you spent a lot of time in the city of Granada?

[08:41] - Sean Keenan

I did spend a lot of time in Granada. Well, a couple of days before I even got there, actually, I was in Managua for a morning, which was a very interesting experience and probably really worth mentioning because when I flew in from San Jose and Costa Rica, I flew in on a little sansa. The Costa Rican national airline do a 07:00 in the morning flight that goes to Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, and it's in a Cessna Caravan, which is I don't know if you know them. It's a single engine, fantastic experience. It was like right behind the pilot. There's no bulkhead between you and the pilot and the copilot, so you can sit and peer over and look at the instruments. You could probably lean over and start flicking switches if you really had a death wish.

[09:31] - Jim Santos

Yeah, that's how we got between islands in the Galapagos. It's fantastic sitting right behind the pilot. It wasn't too reassuring seeing that he had a garmin GPS device taped to the dashboard that he was using.

[09:44] - Sean Keenan

At one point, we were flying into Cloud and they just put onto Autopilot and you could see a guy gets out his phone and you could see that he was checking Facebook. There's nothing he could do while going through the Clarence. But it was a great experience anyway. Wonderful views over Lake Cosibolca, I think it's called, which is this great big lake that covers a huge portion of southern Nicaragua. But we landed and I got out of the airport. I just didn't really want to take a taxi. I just said to myself, okay, I want to take the local bus. I'm just going to cross this street and get out into the highway. So I got out over across the street onto the highway and saw some people clustered underneath a tree in the shade. And I sort of walked over and stopped and said, look, is this where I get the bus into Managua? And they were saying, yeah, but there's a couple of different busses. You got to take the 114. Do you have money for the this is all in Spanish. The mother and daughter started talking to me and saying, do you have money for the fare?

[10:40] - Sean Keenan
And I said, yeah, look, I took out some notes from my pocket and they were looking at them going, no, put those back in your pocket. Those are 1000 cordable notes. You need, like, two and a half cordables to take the bus. And they said, do you have that? I said, like, no, I'll go and see if I can get change. And bless them, she just rid into her purse and pulled out two and a half quarterbacks and said, Here, take that. And I was like I was just stunned. I was thinking, no, this is how it's going to be. I mean, this is wonderful. So I got onto the bus and this mother and daughter combo said, do you know where you're going? And I said, well, look, I'm just going to go and go into the main center and see can I take a bus to Granada? And they're going, well, look, okay, we'll take you where the busses are. So we went on the bus and then we got off and they said, look, have you been to the market here? I said, no, look, I'm just off the plane. They said, Come with us.

[11:34] - Sean Keenan

Come to the market. Come to the market. So we went into this oriental market, mercado oriental in Managua, which is the enormous, enormous market. Mostly covered very, very labyrinthine. Very kind of scary when you're new in a country. I was wandering around there with hands tucked into my pockets, just going and we started going deeper and deeper and deeper into this market. And I was thinking, oh, my gosh, is this a scam? Are these people taking me to my death at this point? And I was working out. I was going, no. I approached them. They didn't approach me. So we went deeper and deeper and anyway, got into this food area where there were, like, big cauldrons of soup being boiled on open flames. Like open flames, wood fired. The smell was amazing. So we sat down anyway, I bought them lunch anyway, as it happened. But I was there for a while sort of thinking, oh, gosh, how am I going to get to Granada? And to be fair to them, they did that thing where they basically ate their soup and they said, come on, we'll take you to the bus. And they took me to the bus and more or less popped me onto the Granada bus and waved me off.

[12:40] - Sean Keenan
And I'm just wandering off to Granada thinking I've just made a couple of new friends. It was wonderful. Those experiences, those are the ones you really hope for as a traveler because you've got to learn to trust. Sometimes those kind of things go bad. Obviously you can get minor petty thefts and things like that but most of the time they don't go bad. And if you can reach out to people and locals who are as we've said before in the past, people are the same all over the world. In general. You'll look after a stranger if you meet one and everybody's the same. Everyone looks after their family and all those things. So it was a wonderful experience. And then it got to Granada, which Granada is Managua, the capital of Nicaragua is not pretty by any means. It's vibrant and it's vigorous and it's colorful and it's noisy and it's all those wonderful things, but it's not pretty. Whereas Granada is one of the most beautiful cities anywhere. It's utterly captivatingly beautiful. It's old Spanish colonial, probably 17th, 18th century, most of it. It's not super old. It's not like, as old as, say, Mary La in Mexico.

[13:55] - Sean Keenan
But it has a uniformity of architectural style that you don't find.

[14:01] - Jim Santos
When I was looking into this, I saw that Granada is also sometimes called La Grande sultana because it has a lot of Moorish influence in the architecture. I thought that was pretty interesting.

[14:12] - Sean Keenan
Yeah. So let's unpack that a little bit. So sultana isn't necessarily just a dried fruit, but sultana is what would you say? The wife of a sultan's? Wife. And Granada's architecture is partly the way it is. Sorry. Granada in andalusia in Spain, the architecture there is the way it is because for hundreds of years it was the capital of the Moorish empire in northern Africa and southern Europe. So there's this huge Islamic style which Magrebi style, which kind of infiltrated the Spanish architecture down there. So the people who settled Granada in Paragua brought with them their architectural style, which it's funny. Exactly. So you've got this 17th century Spanish style architecture andalusian style architecture in Granada. But there is a detail which I found interesting, which is slightly different, which is they have very, quite wide overhanging roofs. The eaves of the roofs come out slightly further, maybe about two or three foot out from the walls, from the vertical walls of the house. And that's because of the rainfall that you get in Granada. And you certainly don't get that in the Spanish Granada. So it's actually got its own little variation on the style because Granada in Nicaragua is a tropical town, so it can get rain there, certainly in the rainy season.

[15:46] - Sean Keenan
I saw it raining there one of the nights I was there, and it hammers down. If you were to have those typically flat roofed no Eve's andalusian style architecture there, it would become soaked immediately. So it does have its variation, and it's a variation that you don't it's also different in that respect to Merida in Mexico, for example. But it has a lot in common with, say, Santa Marta in Colombia or even the Casco Viejo in Panama City. Casco verjo in Panama City is very beautiful and beautifully restored. But it is restored, whereas in Granada it's never actually fallen into disrepair because people have just been living in it solidly since in those houses since the 17th century. Since the 16th century. And the funny thing is, if you can get to a high point, if you can get up the cathedral and climb up to the bell tower in the cathedral, which you can do, it only costs a dollar to do that. You can see down into the courtyards of all these various properties because from street level, you only see a flat fronted walls and doors of houses. Whereas when you get up up from a distance, when you get up to a height, you could see that each of them, or a lot of them, are built in an open sort of like a square doughnut, let's call it.

[17:11] - Sean Keenan
So they all have these lovely courtyards in the center, sometimes with like fruit trees and little fountains and so on. Not every house has that because it's not a rich city. There's a certain degree of poverty. There's no absolutely grinding poverty in Granada. Compared to some places I've been. The rich poor divide isn't as huge there as it is elsewhere, probably because of the government that they've had for the last 30, 40 years. The sand and Eastern government has done a lot to try to protect people from the absolute grinding poverty at the bottom. But it hasn't done very much to progress. The economy of the country at the top. It fits a more middle ground there. So not everywhere is as rich as maybe some of those places you might see in the other colonial towns in Latin America. But it's a wonderful place to be. I think it's one of the favorite places I've been in all my travels, actually. Yeah, I find it beguiling because it just doesn't the closest I've been was maybe El Salvador, which had a similar thing in that it really hasn't been influenced by North American or Western culture in quite the same way as somewhere like Panama or Costa Rica has.

[18:31] - Sean Keenan
Costa Rica has moments where you really don't feel terribly like anything is that different from if you were in certain parts of Miami, for example. And that's a good thing, because it shows that there's a certain leveling of economic prospects here, even more so here than in Nicaragua. There's not really much in the way of visible poverty in Costa Rica unless you go to very specific areas of downtown San Jose, for example. But Nicaragua, I didn't feel, hasn't had the cultural homogenization that you find in most of the world, really. And I found that, similar to El Salvador, that it's very culturally itself, Granada. And it's a wonderful place to be because it just has these warm, warm days. During the daytime it can get a little bit hot and sticky, humid. In the evenings, it just becomes know, warm winds and silky warm air. And yeah, it's very pleasant place to be. Yeah.

[19:36] - Jim Santos
I suppose the weather is moderated a little bit by the very large lake, Nicaragua that Granada sits very near.

[19:43] - Sean Keenan
It certainly is. And you can get a breeze which comes off that lake and whistles up the Calzada, which is the main sort of walking street of Granada. And that can be quite refreshing, actually, even during the day. I met a group of expats there who were playing pickleball. They meet every Friday morning to play pickleball at a court, which is just by the lake. And one of the things that was nice about that for them was that the breeze does actually keep things slightly fresher. They go very early in the morning. They meet at 06:00 in the morning before it starts getting hot and play until about nine. And then they all go for breakfast in a little hotel called Hotel San Francisco, which one of the expats there owns. So it's got quite the little expat social scene they're going on in Granada, too.

[20:29] - Jim Santos
I was surprised to learn that that lake is the only lake in the world that has sharks in it. Quite a distinction.

[20:38] - Sean Keenan
Oh, my gosh. You think you say sharks in fresh water? I didn't know that. That's new. Thanks, Jim.

[20:47] - Jim Santos
Well, apparently the water is not all fresh. There's some brackish areas of the lake.

[20:52] - Sean Keenan

[20:53] - Jim Santos
So you have a wide variety of sea life in it, including.

[20:58] - Sean Keenan
Manatees, I think, as well, I'm not sure. I think there may be manatees.

[21:02] - Jim Santos
So the expats you found in the region were mostly around the lake, or did you see other expat communities there?

[21:07] - Sean Keenan
Well, the expats I met in the region in Granada were mostly well, some of them were living in Granada Town, but some others of them were living outside of town where they can have like, a larger property. The ones who are interested in if you go to live in Granada City, you really have to kind of decide, okay, you're going to buy an old colonial place and probably do repairs on it and make it your project. And a lot of the expats who lived in Granada City, that was specifically their project. It's something that you would go and do there just to own one of those wonderful, wonderful places.

[21:47] - Jim Santos
And a foreign national can own property in Nicaragua.

[21:50] - Sean Keenan
Certainly can. Yeah, many of them did. The other ones had larger places out of town where they can have larger gardens and maybe have fruit trees, that sort of thing. They're very pioneering, kind of adventurous sorts of expats. There are, of course, for every type of person there is out there, there's a type of expat which fits that profile. So some expats are much more sort of trailblazer types, and others wish to have much more of the comforts of home and basically live in something that feels more like the place that they left, where I feel that the Granada ones were more pioneering types. Then I went after Granada. I went to completely opposite sort of an experience, which was I went down to stay for a couple of nights in Rancho Santana.

[22:50] - Jim Santos
Yeah, I looked that up on the web, and I was quite surprised at the contrast there. The contrast is this incredibly slick website, a very upscale resort.

[23:02] - Sean Keenan
Very upscale resort. And as I said to somebody, I was talking to one of the marketing guys there, and we were talking about luxury. And I was looking around myself, and I was sitting on a big, heavy hardwood chair at a big heavy hardwood table with tiles on the walls which could have come from a Moorish palace in Granada, in the Spanish Granada. And I was looking around myself and I said to, you know, this isn't about luxury. Any fool can do luxury. You just throw money at it to do luxury. But this is about quality. And the quality is just immense. It was a little like being in one of those old colonial clubs that you would get somewhere out in the British Raj in the 18 hundreds. You had these wonderful ceiling fans and just no expense spared. But their furniture is made on site. They have sawmills on site where they grow their own produce on site. Everything that ends up on a plate was produced or grown there on the property. It's an enormous ranch, and they have like five beaches within that ranch. They have like 2 miles worth of coastline and five beaches and there's a chapel on site and there's no single home, no single residence in the place.

[24:29] - Sean Keenan
They won't build unless it's got an ocean view. But you almost never have a view of any other residence in the place. It's just done on a level of quality which is so, so rare.

[24:40] - Jim Santos
According to the website, it's on 2700 acres. You mentioned the five beaches, 21 miles of trails, four restaurants on site, farm to table restaurants.

[24:49] - Sean Keenan
Yeah, it really is. It's a very different world from Managua. Although one thing I noticed in Managua, actually, when I was in the market in Managua, in the Oriental Market, was there was a little section devoted to furniture where they were making furniture, and you could see that they were drying out hardwood planks, and you could see everything from the planks going right through to these beautiful, heavy set rocking chairs that I would have. Oh, gosh. If there were any way of putting one in a backpack and getting onto a plane, I would have grabbed one then and there. It was the most wonderful thing. But that sort of vibe and that sort of atmosphere and that sort of what would you say? Sympathy to the locality was very much a part of the Rancho Santana experience. I'm more cynical than the next man. I was about to say I'm as cynical as the next man, but I'm probably more so. It takes a lot to get me sold on the idea of a gated community. But what they have done there is amazing because they've basically provided employment in a region of Nicaragua that had no employment whatsoever.

[25:56] - Sean Keenan
They brought the entire community in there to the extent that they have a school, they have a primary school and a high school on site, and within that, they're educating the kids of the region to learn English so that they can have service jobs in Rancho Santana and speak English. To them. Their attention to detail and their sympathy for place and community is know. I obviously went nosing around trying to find the cracks in the veneer, trying to find the things that I could hate about this place, but no, there's nothing to hate at all about Rancho Santana. It's lovely. It's a lovely experience. But if your conscience bothers you about anything like that, it doesn't need to bother you in Rancho Santana because they're doing it in a very non exploitative way. It was heartwarming, actually.

[26:49] - Jim Santos
It did look like they were marketing pretty much exclusively to non Nicaraguans. It wasn't a local vacation place.

[26:56] - Sean Keenan
I would say that's just really about a price point rather than any sort of sense of exclusivity based on your ethnicity or your nationality. I think if you've got the money, they'll take your money.

[27:08] - Jim Santos
Now, is this an all inclusive resort?

[27:11] - Sean Keenan
No. You paid for what it was that you paid for any meals or drinks that you bought there. I didn't think it was terribly expensive, actually, compared to what I was expecting. I was paying maybe $20 to $25 for good main courses, really nicely prepared food from farm to table, as we mentioned before, and that's including the service charge. So on the menu it will come out as maybe 2022 for beef tenderloin, for example. For a beef tenderloin plate, not just obviously comes with your carbohydrates and so on as well, and your salads and so on. By the time you've paid your service charge on that, it's coming up to 25, 26, something like that. Drinks were a glass of wine was maybe somewhere around about $8. Then by the time the service goes on to that, about $10. So not quite even getting on for North American prices, similar to North American prices, but maybe a little bit less, which for a resort like that where essentially you have no other option but to eat on site. You're actually quite a little away from the closest village. Reevis is the closest town to Rancho Santana, but to get there you're talking about half an hour, 45 minutes drive.

[28:35] - Sean Keenan
So once you're in on the Rancho Santana property, you're really going to have to pretty much eat there. You'll have kitchen. They do have a store as well where you can buy supplies. It's slightly limited so they could guide you. I mean, it would be very easy for them to gouge you for the prices and so on, but they don't actually, I don't think that they did at all.

[28:58] - Jim Santos
Yeah, I saw they were selling fractional shares, condos, homes, villas, and also lots if you wanted to build your own there. Do they also have rental accommodations?

[29:10] - Sean Keenan
I think you can organize rental accommodations with them. I think that you're more like the case being that if you're a private owner out there and you have a place, you can rent that place out via Rancho Santana. So Rancho Santana will certainly organize a rental for you for whatever period of time you want to take it out there also. And you just mentioned the fractional ownership as well, which is a very interesting deal, I thought. And now they explained it to me in great detail.

[29:42] - Jim Santos
I'm sure they did. I've been at some of those meetings before.

[29:46] - Sean Keenan
You need a pen and paper to really figure it out because it all really depends on how much time you choose you're going to be spending there and which weeks of the year you're going to organize for yourself. And there was this little thing that if you organize, say, Thanksgiving week, and if you stay there for Thanksgiving week, you've automatically got the right to take that week next year as well. And, oh gosh, there's a list of characteristics to the deal that are the length of your arm, but it actually looks at a really nice way of owning a. Property in a place like that at a very kind of affordable level because it starts at 159,000. And really, when you think about it, the thing about it is that you can block out your time in the fractional that you have, but you can actually rent your place out for a period of that time. So if you've bought three months worth of the year or as a fraction, you don't have to be there through all those three months. You could be renting that place out for two of those months and you just take one month.

[30:52] - Sean Keenan
And being as someone who owns a property overseas, I own a second home in France and it sits wasted for most of the year. Last year I got for one week. And I would be very tempted by the idea of owning fractional. I know sort of romantically in most people's heads, like, if you're going to buy a place overseas, you want it to be yours and only yours. But actually, I think owning a part of a place overseas and actually really only needing to pay for the bit that you actually use, that makes a lot of sense to me because I'm certainly not getting good value out of my place overseas. Although that's my own silly fault because I'm not using it and I've got too much of a romantic attachment to the place to bother renting it out for money. I'm not typical in that respect.

[31:41] - Jim Santos
That's a shame because I was going to offer to rent it from you for a month or so.

[31:45] - Sean Keenan
Yeah, maybe on an under the table deal. We'll talk about that after the podcast.

[31:52] - Jim Santos
Now, did they happen to mention anything like maintenance fees?

[31:55] - Sean Keenan
Yeah, they have maintenance fees. There's a whole year fees. I think the whole year fees for the whole thing for a whole year is somewhere around 8000 for your HOA fees and $8,000 8300 or something like that, which is actually it looks like a chunk on paper. But in fact, you could very much offset that by the fact that you don't have to worry about having a rental manager for basically it's got a cleaner comes in every day and just lock it and leave and just collect the cash. Really. It all works out. It all works out as a perfectly good deal, which Nicaragua desperately needs. It doesn't have the resources that it would need to be viable otherwise. Other than as a tourist nation, it's got everything it needs to be a really fine tourist destination. Some of the most beautiful beaches, an incredible surf, if that floats your boat, to mix a metaphor, if you're into surfing. And I got taken out surfing by a surf guide there who did that thing that well, what's your level? I was there sort of going, well, let's call me an intermediate. So his definition of intermediate was maybe a little more advanced than mine.

[33:12] - Sean Keenan
Took me out to some incredible waves, but my gosh, it was challenging. And we surfed for one session of 3 hours, another little session, another session of 2 hours. Now I'm 50 years old and while I still consider myself to be a surfer, most of my sessions these days are under an hour because obviously it's a very physical sport, very physical thing. But the waves were so good I just had to stay out there.

[33:39] - Jim Santos
Are there other towns on the Pacific Coast?

[33:41] - Sean Keenan
There's a bigger one called Tola, which now I drove through it momentarily. I would say Tola has probably got a population of somewhere in the region of about 5000 people. Those are about the biggest places on the Pacific Coast. Rivas, slightly bigger, is not so far from Rancho Santana, but it's inland. It's actually on the lakeshore because a lot of the towns are actually built on the lakeshore rather than on the coast.

[34:14] - Jim Santos
It sounds like in Managua and Granada you got along very well with the local population.

[34:19] - Sean Keenan
I had a wonderful time with the local population in Granada and Monagua. Now I will say you have to speak Spanish there, you're not going to get away with English. Granada has a little bit of tourist infrastructure, so those people in the service industry will speak English to you at a very limited level in terms of just asking you for your drinks and your order and so on, and perfectly polite. But if you can speak Spanish, there are very open people, very open, very willing to talk to you about everything except the government. They clam up when you ask them about the government. So yeah, other than that, I had wonderful conversations with people who I just met in the town square and people I met just basically wandering around. I went to the market as well in Granada, which is another great experience, very much the genuine sort of local experience. I went in there to eat a couple of times because I always find wherever I go that the markets tend to be the best places to eat.

[35:22] - Jim Santos
Or at least I love markets. That's my soft spot, local markets. I just love local markets.

[35:27] - Sean Keenan
Exactly. And the local markets will need to always have a restaurant in there and it's usually plying the trade for the market traders and they've usually bought something from the market that day for whatever they're serving that day. So I think that's a travel tip to always take away with, you know, eat in the markets if you possibly can. So I talked to people there as well and all local Nicaraguans, all very friendly. At no point did I feel that I had to be wary over my personal safety. I mean, I'm not saying that I wasn't wary over my personal safety because that's just instincts. When you travel a lot, you just do tend to cover your back. But I didn't feel it well. There was no need for me to have done so because it was never under any threat at any point. And it's still one of those places that gets few enough tourists that they are actually still curious about your life. They still want to know, where did you come from? What's like there? Why have you come to Nicaragua? What do you think of it? They so much want to be told just something along.

[00:36:31.280] - Sean Keenan
They just so much want to be flattered like anybody does. They want to be told, yeah, I really like your country, I really like your city. It is beautiful. And then, of course, they start to glow and you start to ask them about their family and they ask about yours. And it's a wonderful place. I really did feel I connected in a way with the Nicaraguans. You find that the places where you are a novelty as a tourist, those are great places to go because people do want to speak to you. People do want to talk to you.

[36:59] - Jim Santos
Well, we've been chatting with Sean Keenan, lifestyle editor of International Living Magazine, about his recent trip to Nicaragua. Now, I'm sure you can look for future articles and videos in future issues of International Living magazine. And don't forget to check out the newly designed Sean, thanks for joining us on the International Living podcast.

[37:18] - Sean Keenan
Thanks, Jim. I hope it was useful.

[37:29] - Jim Santos
The International Living Podcast is a production of International Living. If you enjoyed this episode and you'd like to help support the podcast, please share it with others, post about it on social media, or leave a rating and review. If you have an idea for an episode or a question you'd like us to answer, email us at And don't forget to put podcast in the subject line of your email. That's We created the International Living Podcast to help showcase the ideas we explore in the magazine and our other publications each month and to grow our community of travel lovers, expats, and experts who believe, as we do, that the world is full of opportunity to create a more interesting, more international life. You don't have to be rich or famous to do that. You just need to know the secrets. And that's what we bring you at International Living. If you haven't become a member yet, you can do it today with a special discount offer for podcast listeners. You'll receive our monthly magazine, plus a bundle of special extras. You'll find the link in our show notes, or you can go to podcast.

[38:37] - Jim Santos
That's podcast. Be sure and join us next week for another new podcast episode. And until then, this is Jim Santos with the International Living Podcast reminding you there's a bigger, better world out there just waiting for.

Checking in From the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica
What’s The Current Situation Like in Nicaragua?
Exploring Granada
Granada's Architecture and Culture
Expats in Granada and Rancho Santana
Rancho Santana Resort Experience
Ownership Options at Rancho Santana