Marsella Valley Nature Center, Nicaragua

After four fantastic days visiting with Colleen, it was time to move on to our next location.

P1030023Our friends at Girl Gone Galaventing had recommended the Marsella Valley Nature Center to us. Located just 5 miles from San Juan del Sur, the reserve is in the perfect location for those wanting to explore both Playa Marsella and Playa Maderas. Each beach is 1km away from the Center. Walking to Marsella was a breeze, but there are some pretty intense hills getting to Maderas. Luckily, anyone who sees you walking up them will likely stop and offer you a ride.

Our Cabin

Our Cabin

The centre has several cabins for both short and long term-rentals. The majority of the rooms we’ve rented have consisted of a bed, bathroom, and shared kitchen, so the novelty of having a fully stocked cabin all to our selves was irresistible.

Our room was huge, and consisted of a double bed, kitchen table, small couch, coffee table, and lots of storage space.

Our Porch

Our Porch

Our kitchen was just outside our unit and had all the amenities we needed to make a couple decent cook ups. Outside of our cabin we had a little garden, and a large porch with several places to sit.

Aside from their accommodations, the Nature Center also offers their guests and visitors a wide variety of unique experiences. The property is huge and those visiting can spend time walking through the vast array of hiking trails. You will undoubtedly encounter all sorts of interesting flora and fauna along the way.

The most unique part of the Marsella Valley Nature Centre is their Disc Golf course. Yes, that’s right…Disc Golf! You better believe that Shaun and I rocked a Disc Golf tournament during our stay there. More on THAT later!

The only downside to our stay here was the heat and the bugs: two factors that simply go without saying when you are staying in Central American in March. We had several very hot nights here in Marsella, and mosquito netting was definitely a must. Shaun also kept getting bit by something that his body did NOT like. He woke up one morning with baseball mitt hands, and the next morning with Angelina Jolie lips. No, I did not take photos!

Despite the heat and bugs, this was a really unique and nice place to stay. If you are looking for a cheap place to stay that has all the amenities, including Disc Golf, Marsella Valley Nature Center is a great spot. Just make sure you back the bug spray!

What is the worst thing you’ve ever been bitten by?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

 

5 Tips for Building a House in Nicaragua

Five years ago my fabulous friend Colleen told me that both her and her Mom had bought a lot of property in Nicaragua. Considering that I didn’t even own a car yet, this seemed like a pretty impressive investment.

Who would have thought that all these years later we would be meeting up in Nicaragua, and I would get to see all the finishing touches being put on their gorgeous casita.

I’m so happy that Rose and Colleen have agreed to share their story, and offer some advice to those who may be thinking of building a house in Nicaragua, or other foreign countries. So without further ado…take it away ladies.

Construction of Casa Rose, San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua.
Building a house in a foreign country is no small task, language barriers, differences in building styles and recognizing cultural differences, all play a large factor in success. Our project is a small, one bedroom casita with a large deck and a view right in the small town of San Juan del Sur.
Nicaragua has had a terbulant past. Government corruption

Part of the interior- bathroom, and bedroom around the corner

Part of the interior- bathroom, and bedroom around the corner

and natural disasters has made property ownership in this country an issue. This is all in the past the future is looking great with stronger government, international support and awareness we felt this was a great place to invest. Since we purchased our property 5 years ago we have learnt a lot but we’ve narrowed it down to the following five tips. These are the most important points for anyone considering building in this country:

1) Don’t Expect Anything to Happen Quickly: This is not a quick process, we started the building process a year and a half ago and still have a couple large obstacles to overcome.
2)Be Flexible. Things may not go as planned. There are always options available but they might not be clear right away.
3) Find Someone you Trust as your General Contractor: Ours was from the states and understood our expectations, he also had a good understanding of the local area and was realistic with us. Ours has worked closely with the locals, we have found that this has helped to find solutions to obstacles, Same goes for the city!
4)Network: Read and post on local forums and blogs. There are usually expats doing the

The huge deck! Railings were going in next

The huge deck! Railings were going in next

same thing as you that will have lots of advise. In fact – do this BEFORE you buy so you can learn more about the area and pitfalls to building there. Then once you purchase the land, plan on spending some time there to hang out and meet people.

5) Plan on Being There as Much as Possible During the Building Process: Yes, if you have a good contractor you can do a lot remotely. We have. Our contractor sends us updates and pictures as new work is completed. But nothing beats being there to check in on what is going on and nip any unforeseen problems in the bud.

6)Be Vigilant: Don’t think the real estate/legal system will protect you in the same way as in the US. Be extra vigilant to get a references and a good lawyer to handle the land purchase transaction to ensure your title is safe and clear.

This has been an amazing experience with some stressful moments and some successful ones. As long as your expectations are in line and you have done your homework the reward will be worth it! 

The AMAZING view!

The AMAZING view!

 

And with a view like this, how can it not be worth it! Thanks guys!

If you have any questions for Rose or Colleen, leave them in the comments below.

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

 

Our Favourite Places in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

With fewer and fewer places left to explore, we are nearing the end of our series of favourite places.

Luckily, there were three pretty neat places in San Juan del Sur that I want to share with you guys! So lets get right into it shall we!

P1020989The Loose Moose: The name alone would have sold me on this bar, but then I found out it was owned, operated and themed by and for Canadians. A little slice of home right in the middle of San Juan del Sur. Who would have thunk it “eh”?

The small and cozy reminded me of lots of the bars back home (I guess that’s the point right?) The walls are adorned with gorgeous murals that reminded me of the west coast. Above the bar you will find all sorts of Canadian swag including lots of hockey jerseys and other memorabilia. It didn’t seem to matter who your team was, everyone there was on Team Canada.

What this bar lacks in size, it makes up for in P1020963party. The minimal seating inside doesn’t deter people from hanging out and the party often spills out into the street.

The bar has two big claims to fame, authentic Canadian poutine, and delicious caesers. A novelty for some, but for us it made us feel right at home. They also have a pretty impressive sushi menu as well.

If you are Canadian and looking for a place to get your Canuck on, or just wanting to indulge in a little good ole fashioned Canadian hospitality check out the Loose Moose.

P1020990El Gato Negro: Another place whose name attracted me instantly. Since we had left our big black bear cat at home, a coffee shop called Black Cat obviously caught my attention.

You can imagine my delight when I discovered this was not just any coffee shop, it was a coffee shop/bookstore. I can’t tell you how many times Colleen and I stopped in for a coffee and some girl talk and I would be instantly distracted by reading all of the titles of the books. Not having my selection limited to what I find in a dingy corner of a hostel was intoxicating.

P1020993It wasn’t just their books that made this place a favourite.They use local beans and have a roaster on the premises.As a result, their coffee is amazing. They also have a wide variety of breakfast and lunch options. They focus on offering healthy alternatives and even offer a huge smoothies menu with all sorts of superfoods you can add to them to give them a nutritional boost.

El Gato Negro also has an assortment of products on sale, including tarot cards, organic dried fruit, clay art, and their coffee beans. After indulging in so many cups of coffee I was very tempted to pick up a bag of beans to bring home. But alas, the thought of lugging them around for a month and a half won out.

El Gato Negro is an institution in San Juan del Sur. No trip to the town would be complete without stopping by and checking it out. If you are a coffee drinker, make sure you pick up a bag of their beans. You’ll regret if you don’t!

P1030034Cafe Revolucion: Okay, so this one is a bit of a cheat. Cafe Revolution isn’t actually in San Juan del Sur, it is on the beach in Playa Maderas. Despite the fact that it is 9km away from the town, I just couldn’t leave this funky beachside bar/coffee shop off the list.

Cafe Revolucion has a little bit of everything: cold beers, brick oven pizza, coffee bar and lots of things in between. It really is a one stop shop for whatever your post-surf cravings are. They even offer board rental and camping space for those who stop by and just decide not to leave.

 

P1030037The thing that really attracted me to Cafe Revolucion was the view. I could sit on the bar stools, write my blog, sip on a Cappuccino, enjoy the warm breeze while watching Shaun surf. I’ve visited a lot of need places in my travels, but this was an experience that was hard to beat.

So, if you are staying in Playa Maderas, or just heading there for the day, stop  by Cafe Revolucion and enjoy their laid back vibe. Be prepared though, some people arrive and then they never leave!

There ya go and there ya have it, another list of our favourite places. As always, if you have any questions about these or other places we’ve visited, come check out our Facebook page or leave a comment below.

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

 

Villa Isabella, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Aside from being able to hang out with some of my favourite people, visiting with Colleen and her family in Nicaragua had one awesome additional bonus…staying in some very fancy digs.

P1030001After months of hard mattresses, flat pillows, and no a/c, we found ourselves in the lap of luxury, at least for out standards!

During our four days in San Juan, we stayed in a little apartment at Villa Isabella, a lovely B&B right in the heart of town. The apartment we stayed in had its own kitchen and two bedrooms. I probably had some of the best sleeps of the trip on those comfy beds, and the a/c was an amazing perk as it was HOT while we were there.
P1030004

When the heat got the best of us, we could just head downstairs into their pool. Alternatively, you could lounge in the shade, indulging in the free coffee that is always on in the lobby. I spent many mornings lounging after breakfast drinking way to much coffee and enjoying every moment.

Speaking of breakfast, the free breakfasts were SUCH a perk. The menu varied but often

consisted of Gallo Pinto, Omelettes, Eggs and Toast, waffles and most famously pancakes. Guests can choose from plain, banana or chocolate chip pancakes.

The infamous porch

The infamous porch

Shaun ate them pretty much every morning. I tried to convince him on multiple occasions that he should ask for a combination of banana and chocolate chip, but he never went for it!

I wasn’t just the a/c, comfy beds and free coffee that made this place awesome, it was the people that made it such a hoot. The first thing you’ll notice when you walk into Villa Isabella is the porch. Wicker Chairs, hammocks and couches are set up in this nicely shaded area. Combine that with strong WiFi, and this becomes THE hang out area for most guests and regulars. Walking in and out of the hotel became a social occasion, as there was always someone there you could stop and chat with.

This certainly isn’t the normal type of place we right about here on Hostels and Hot Rollers, but it was just too lovely not to review. Aside from the apartment they also offer smaller and cheaper accommodation options. Plus, the nice thing about Nicaragua is it is far less expensive then Costa Rica, so if you are travelling around, you can probably afford to drop a few extra Balboa’s on your accommodation.

Want more accommodation reviews? Check out all of our reviews here.

Pura Vida!

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

 

 

Hiking to the Christ of the Mercy Statue in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

One of the first things I noticed when exploring San Juan del Sur, was the colossal statue of Jesus that sits high on the hills overlooking the beach.

There it is!

There it is!

From the beach it looks like it is miles away, so when Colleen mentioned she wanted to try to climb up to it, I thought she was loco. But, Colleen and I are FAMOUS for our attempts at adventure (insert story of how we once randomly ended up on the set of the X-Men move). Given our history of adventure success, I figured we would give it a go.

P1020902

There were lots of jokes about our tans that week!

We decided to try and beat the heat, and got up bright and early to start our trek. We knew there was some sort of path as Colleen’s Mom had taken an ATV to the statue in the past. So we wandered in the general direction of the statue, glancing up occasionally to ensure we were still on the right path.

ya, it got a little steep

ya, it got a little steep

As our adventure progressed, the road started getting steeper, and steeper. I guess that is the thing with going to see a statue that rests high up on a gigantic mountain, you’re going to end up with some hills to climb. As the heat and the hills continued to climb, our little stroll turned into a  full on sweaty workout. As you can imagine, some of us (me) were more excited about that then others (Shaun and Colleen). I ran up a couple of the big hills, and it took 3 days for my calves to fully recover. Woops!

 

 

We made it!

We made it!

After an endless winding road of hills, and lots of sweat, we turned a corner and saw the backside of the statue looming before us. We found a sign the explained it was a 2 dollar entrance fee to go in. We sort of hummed and hawed as to whether we were going to pay to go in, but after doing such a big hike, we sort of felt like we had to.

In the end we were so glad we did. The view was absolutely breathtaking.

The statue looks out over the beach and entire town of San Juan del Sur. It was the perfect vantage point to see the town that we would spend the next four days exploring. Colleen and her Mom are just putting the finishing touches on their house in San Juan. We were able to spot it from way up on the hill.

Checkin out the view

Checkin out the view

The money from the entrance fee is used to maintain the area surrounding the statue as well as the small church/museum underneath the statue. It was really great to be able to learn a little bit about the statue, and the whole process that they went through to build it.

The statue was built in 2009, and has quickly become one of the most notable statues of Jesus in the world. It’s about 25m high, making it one of the largest in the world.
P1020927It is without a doubt, one of the more impressive touristy attractions I’ve seen during this trip. When you stand at its base it simply towers over you.

We spent about 30 minutes wandering around, exploring and enjoying the gusty wind that was rushing by. It was a perfect way to cool off our sweaty selves before the walk back.

I would say it was about a 2km walk from the heart of San Juan del Sur to the base of the statue. Leave early in the morning so it is not to hot, and wear good walking shoes. The road is paved, so it is an easy hike, but the hills make it a doozy. Make sure you bring lots of water too!

P1020944All in all, I would say this is a very worthwhile little adventure. If walking is a problem, lots of companies in town offer ATV tours that will take you up to see the statue. Regardless of how you get there, I would say that walking up to the Christ of Mercy statue in San Juan del Sur is well worth it.

 

Have you ever seen a statue that is really impressive? Where?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

Exploring in and Around San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Alright lets really get down to our trip to Nicaragua shall we?

San Juan del Sur is often described as a “surf town”. It’s proximity to the Costa Rican border makes it a popular destination for both surfers, and people looking for a quick get away on their Visa run. Located about 1km from Lake Nicaragua, San Juan del Sur is home to a gorgeous 3km horseshoe shaped beach with fun beach side restaurants dotted along its shore.

The beach of San Juan del Sur

The beach of San Juan del Sur

The town itself has everything you need for a good time. Lots of bars, coffee shops, tour companies, souvenir shops and hostels. There is a great market in the centre of town where vendors sell all sorts of fruits and vegetables. The only thing that San Juan del Sur is missing, is the surf. There is actually no surf in San Juan..none at all.

San Juan del Sur tends to be the epicentre for those who are interested in surfing, as it has the most amenities.But the closest surf beach, Playa Maderas, is about 9km away.

Colleen and I on the shuttle

Colleen and I on the shuttle

There are tons of shuttles, vans and taxis that you can catch that will take you to and from San Juan to Playa Maderas. The cheapest option is by far the shuttle that leaves every few hours from Casa Oro. This tourista cattle car is 3 bucks for one way or 5 bucks for a round trip. Certainly beats the 15 dollars that the cabs will charge you!

I don’t blame the poor cab drivers for charging so much though, the road to Maderas is pretty brutal. Pot holes, tight squeezes, low hanging branches and extremely steep hills can make it seem more like a faulty ride in Disneyland then a commute to the beach.

Busy surf in Playa Maderas

Busy surf in Playa Maderas

Once you get to Playa Maderas, you will be greeted by a small but dedicated surfer community. There are a couple of hostels, restaurants and board rental shops on the beach, but other then that, it is pretty remote. You can certainly find a place to get a beer, bed, meal or coffee, but there are no grocery stores or other amenities nearby.

During our stay, the beach at Playa Maderas was always really busy. We aren’t sure whether it is always like that, or if it was because the other surf beaches nearby were really flat. Either way, with so many people trying to catch waves in a very small space, I opted to partake in a little beach side coffee time instead of attempting to surf. Although we left Shaun’s board back in Costa Rica, he did rent a board and go out one afternoon, but with the amount of people in the water and the lack of decent waves, he didn’t last long.

If you are an avid surfer, and are wanting to catch some decent waves, I suggest doing your research. There are tons of nearby beaches that have great waves, alot of which are relatively undiscovered. Playa Maderas is certainly the easiest surf beach to get to from San Juan, so I think that may be another  reason it attracts so many people.

A much less busy Playa Marsella

A much less busy Playa Marsella

If crowds and surf aren’t your thing, there is another beach option. In between San Juan and Maderas is another little beach called Playa Marsella. The lack of surf makes it far less busy then Maderas, but it is perfect for swimming or lounging in the sun. It also boasts several little hotels as well as one beach side bar. There is also a great authentic Nica restaurant on the road to Marsella.

We spent 9 days in Nicaragua, 4 in San Juan del Sur and 5 just outside Playa Marsella. There is lots more to come about our adventures there,  but I figured this was the perfect post to get everyone up to speed of the area I’ll be talking about for the next couple days.

What are you experiences with surfing? Ever tried it?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

Beers of Nicaragua: A Taste Test

After the success of our Panamanian Beer taste test, it seemed only fitting that we imbibe in another round in Nicaragua. I would like to thank Colleen for stepping up to the plate and being our third judge in this little adventure.

So without further ado…The beers of Nicaragua

P1020951

P1020952Victoria Frost: Alcohol Content 4.9%

Kate: Watery but still hoppy with a little after skunk. Tastes a big lighter then the other Nicaraguan beers. I could drink a few but would still prefer something lighter and with a lower alcohol content

Colleen: Super light and dangerous

Shaun: Pretty good, but bit of a chemical beer taste. Something may be a bit off with this one.

 

P1020953Victoria Classic: Alcohol Content 4.9%

Kate: Way thicker and hoppier. Hits you between the eyes like its saying “drink lots of me and I’ll make your morning a doozy.” It has a bit of a skunky aftertaste. Tastes like something I would drink out of a red plastic cup at a party.

Colleen: More like a Molson Canadian. Heavier then the frost. Don’t care for the chemically after taste

Shaun: Good name (Victoria), Pretty Good. Could slam back a few, less after taste then the frost but would need to be very cold. It’s pretty bad when warm

P1020955Tona: Alcohol Content 4.6%

Kate: Stronger smell. Thick, like molasses beer. A hint of lime at first. I’m not opposed to this beer but would only drink one on a really hot day and only if it was ice cold. Nice to not have that skunky finish though.

Colleen: Heavier than the other two. Harder to chug!

Shaun: Seems like a heavier beer in comparison but refreshing. Good but not as poundable. More of a winter beer then hot climate beer.

P1020956Cerveza Premium: Alcohol Content 4.5%

Kate: Stinky! Tastes like water compared to everything. I keep sipping it up thinking there might be more to it, but its just bubbly yeast water. Let’s be honest, this is a Kate beer. Fluffy, light, nothingness. Perfect for my delicate dainty palate

Colleen: Not sure if this is even from Nicaragua, what does “Made in Central America” even mean. Not a huge fan. Overall would prefer anything else

Shaun: Judging by the name it must be good. Not very good. Reminds me of a Pacific Pilsner…Terrible

So there you have it! We knew going into this that Nicaragua is certainly not known for its beer. That fact was defininetly reinforced with our taste test. It should be advised, that beer taste tests often result in situations like this.

P1020961

Yes, that is a delicious street side burrito. I regret nothing!

The Costa Rican beer taste test will be finale. We are waiting for the perfect moment though, because we 9 different varieties to try, we may never recover!

Are you in Costa Rica and want to partake in the finale beer taste test? Message us on Facebook!

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress