The Cadillac of Beachfront Communities

Eric Fry Reporting From New York

About three years ago, your editor paid a visit to Rancho
Santana, a beautiful beachfront development in Nicaragua.
He fell in love…with the property, that is…not with any
members of the local populace.

Ever since that delightful visit, your editor has vowed to
return, at least as a tourist, if not also as a property

But before continuing to gush about the place, we must
mention a couple of important facts:

1) The same folks who issue your editor’s paychecks also
hold a substantial stake in Rancho Santana.

2) International Living and the Rude Awakening both
receive commissions on certain property sales at
Rancho Santana.

Given these two conflicts of interest, please feel free to
ignore the next 1,074 words.

Fortunately, your editor’s conflicts of interest present no
moral conflict whatsoever, because he truly loves the
place. On December 19, 2002, immediately after his return
from Nicaragua, he published the following impressions in
the Daily Reckoning:

"While it’s true that my body has returned from Nicaragua,
my mind is still drifting somewhere around the 12th
parallel north of the equator…It’s difficult to forget
the soothing combination of sun, sand, stunning views and
superb food, all of which Rancho Santana offers in
abundance…If Rancho Santana had been equipped with an
Internet connection, you would have needed a crowbar to pry
me out of the place…

[Editor’s note: A high-speed Internet arrived to Rancho
Santana shortly after my departure]

"On my way down to Nicaragua, I met Larry Holmes, one of
the very first residents of Rancho Santana. Larry spends
several months a year in his beautiful home overlooking
Rosada Beach. He also owns 11 other lots inside the
development. So Larry is something of an expert about the
place. When I asked him how he liked it down there, he
replied, ‘It’s heaven on earth.’

"I was skeptical. But after seeing it firsthand, I’ve been
converted. Even if Rancho Santana is not quite heaven on
earth, it is at least a spectacular purgatory…My long-
time friend, Hilaire, joined me on the journey. Every day,
we feasted on fried plantains, chicken and fish prepared in
various types of citrus and garlic-based marinades, thick
flour tortillas, heuvos rancheros and, of course, rice and

"Hilaire is a dedicated surfer who toted his ‘longboard’
along with him, all the way from Laguna Beach, CA. Laguna,
if you’re not familiar with it, does not exactly lack for
great surf. But Hilaire gamely decided to give ‘Nica’ a
try. After surfing perfect ‘left break’ for almost an
entire day, I asked him if the trip was worth the trouble.

"’Absolutely,’ he replied. ‘This place is awesome.’

"And now that I have returned to Manhattan, I can’t help
but recall another one of Rancho Santana’s principal
"awesome" traits – its utter isolation. There are no
casinos, no McDonald’s and hardly any people. Occasionally,
a couple of local fisherman would amble past…or a few
globetrotting American surfers. But otherwise, no one…"

The development at Rancho Santana has continued to thrive
over the past three years. So the place is not quite as
primitive as it used to be, but I would imagine that it is
just as beautiful…and as relaxing.

"The more often we visit Nicaragua," Bill Bonner once
remarked, "the more we begin to think that turning into a
banana republic wouldn’t be so bad. The weather is nice.
The fruit is fresh. And the cost of living is low. Besides,
people take their politicians less serious; they seem to
expect them to act like clowns, crooks and desperadoes.
They suffer few disappointments."

Bill, for one, has suffered very few disappointments in
Nicaragua. He has constructed two very nice homes in Rancho
Santana, and visits often.

Earlier this month, Lee Harrison, a writer for
International Living, filed the following report from
Rancho Santana:

By Lee Harrison

I wasn’t going to stop here. I shouldn’t admit this, but I
felt I’d heard all I ever needed to hear about Rancho
Santana back in the days when International Living had a
sales office there. I came back this time only because my
friend Gail Geerling has a home here where I could stay
while I was in the area – something I’m sure won’t happen
again once she gets my bar tab from the clubhouse. I’d been
here before, and frankly hadn’t been that impressed. Sure,
the coastline is beautiful…but, otherwise, I didn’t find
it really special.

But a lot has changed in the last three years.
When I arrived this time, I found what I immediately
thought of as the "Cadillac" of the beachfront communities
in Nicaragua. I’ve spent a lot of time in Southern
California, and on arriving here I thought back to the
exclusive gated communities near Dana Point or Laguna Beach
in Orange County, with their multi-million-dollar
properties looking out over the Pacific. Rancho Santana
today is also in that category – the cream of the crop –
and someday in the future will be priced like Orange County
as well.

I wake up here not only to the sound of crashing waves, but
also to the roar of howler monkeys and a symphony of
countless tropical birds – things that they don’t have in
Orange County now that I think about it. And as the total
property is over 3,000 acres, the view and the local
environment are secure.

Everything in Rancho Santana is complete, and it’s been
done in a first-rate fashion. An impressive clubhouse with
fine restaurant, high-speed Internet service, a new bar,
and a beautiful pool looking out on to the beach are just
the beginning. They also have a water plant providing pure
drinking water, their own cell tower, and all underground
utilities. Unlike most beach-oriented projects, you’re not
"betting on the infrastructure" here, but rather buying
into a first-rate community where everything’s up and
running…and it’s nice.

I was surprised at the number of surfers of my age who
reside at Rancho Santana. I knew the surfing here was
world-class, but have always associated surfing communities
with little shacks on the beach. Live and learn.

I looked at a section called Bella Vista while I was here
on this visit, and found about 60 lots available with
awesome ocean views. Bella Vista is back from the beach,
but high enough in elevation that you can see miles out to
sea. Lots in this area start at just $40,000 and go up to
$100,000 for the best 270-degree views. There are other
properties available at Santana, but I felt like the best
values were in Bella Vista, which also includes some
attractive ocean-view wooded lots. Sure, you can buy
cheaper on the coast in Nicaragua, but I personally value
the fact that you don’t have to wonder what things will be
like "when they’re done."

As sales manager Tom Gordon and I drove from Bella Vista
back to the clubhouse, we startled an eagle that had
roosted in an overhanging tree, reminding me that despite
all the fine amenities here, the natural environment has
been preserved.

Did You Notice…?
By Carl Swenlin

Since the beginning of July, 52-week new highs have been
contracting with each new NYSE Composite price high,
demonstrating that fewer and fewer stocks are participating
in the rally. Contracting new highs by themselves are not
always problematic, and can merely be a sign of an
approaching correction in an ongoing bull market; however,
when they are accompanied by expanding 52-week new lows, a
darker picture begins to emerge.

You will note that spikes in the number of new lows usually
occur at the end of corrections, giving notice that the
correction is near an end. Unfortunately, the recent spike
in new lows has occurred just as the NYSE Composite Index
has pulled back from an all-time high, and this is an
indication that, not only is upside participation fading,
but the tide may be shifting to the downside as well.

And the Markets…



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