Customs was much easier than I expected after deplaning from the four hour flight from Houston to Managua, Nicaragua’s small International airport.  A click of the stamp in my recently renewed passport and I was on my way to meet our driver, Ricardo.

Hanging around at Mango Rosa.

Ricardo and his trusty 4x4 Toyota drove us past brightly colored houses with tin roofs and school children donned in their navy blue and white uniforms; eventually we were out of Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, heading southwest towards the Pacific coast. 

We left a trail of dust in our path as Ricardo carved his way down the earthy and rugged roads.  After a strenuous and exciting two hours, the sign for the Mango Rosa Adventure Travel and Surf Resort appeared on the right.

Ricardo says, “Monos” (mono means monkey in Spanish) and points up to the tree.  The little black howler monkeys were on their afternoon trek through the monkey crossing that the owners of the Mango Rosa Resort would later tell me were specifically planted there for the monkeys to swing upon as if they were traveling on the mono highway.  Other than the swish of the tree branches and the shrieks of the monkeys, Mango Rosa was quiet and still.

The surf crew arrives at Mango Rosa.

We grabbed our gear and walked towards the giant palapa-style building covered with a thatched roof.  This appeared to be the epicenter of this eco-friendly adventure resort.  This was the Grand Rancho Bar/Restaurant.  It was there that we snapped up cold Nicaraguan beers —Tonas — and ordered some chicken tacos. 

We also met the owners of the Mango Rosa Resort, Greg Bamford and Chad Unser.  Greg and Chad are two amazingly cool dudes that have left the rat race behind to live the surfers’ dream.  They both live at the Mango Rosa and are a daily part of life.  You will also more than likely see Chad’s adorable little daughter playing on the grounds of the Mango Rosa, after all that is her home.  Greg with his big smile and Chad with his long hair, made our stay at Mango Rosa even better.  Having drinks at the bar with them or having them captain you out on their boat, made the whole experience more complete.

Chad gave us the rundown on the property, the surrounding beaches, and nearby town of San Juan Del Sur, and then handed us our key to G-5.  G-5 is the name of the 1600 sq ft ranch-style house that we rented for the next few days for surfing and relaxation.

The "Rancher" is a casa at Mango Rosa.

Mango Rosa rooms are clean with AC.

Waking up on day two in Nicaragua was like being in a National Geographic episode.  Hmmm, which alarm clock was better?  Was it the “cock-a-doodle do” of the rooster or the “yee yee eek” of the little black howler monkey? 

What time was it anyway?  6:45 a.m. - right on time to wake up in the rooster and monkey world.  I got up, ecstatic about what the day would bring.

Walking outside onto the open front porch of the “Rancher”, I was blasted with a gust of hot Nicaraguan wind.  I became graciously thankful for the air conditioning units that were strategically positioned in certain rooms of our house.  I set foot on the small path out front of the Rancher.  It was as if the maze of paths on the property were a series of capillaries flowing towards the beating heart and the lifeline of the Mango Rosa, the Grand Rancho Bar/Restaurant. 

Tired travelers refuel with Tonas.

By 7:30 a.m. the restaurant was filled with life, just the quiet Nican kind of life.  I had a cup of Nicaraguan “Joe” spiked with a shot of Kahlua.  I needed to get myself into Nica time and get out of the fast pace life of the States.  There were other adventure travelers sitting at the bar for coffee and breakfast.  We shared the usual traveler talk about our plans for the day and what we did the day before.  We had an excellent breakfast with eggs, beans, rice and potatoes.

It was our first full day in Nicaragua and of course we wanted to get down to the ocean. 

Hang Ten on Nica's Pacific Coast.

Mango Rosa is about a mile from Playa Maderas and Playa Marsella.  Playa Maderas is one of the reasons many people come to Mango Rosa.  It is one of the best surf breaks on the Southwestern tip of Nicaragua and is sandwiched between many other fantastic surfing breaks.  I am not a surfer although ½ of my traveling crew is, so that was the spot we staked out   The beach was clean, the water cleaner.  It was the windy season which was good because it tempered the intensity of the Central American sun.

Tired from the trek to the beach, we paid a local guy a few dollars for a ride back to Mango Rosa. 

We went back to the central lifeline which was bumping with a fun and energetic vibe and we decided it was time to try the Nica Libre.  No, it is not a typo for the Cuba Libre, it is what the locals call one of the national drinks of Nicaragua.  For the record, Nicaragua is not a tequila drinking country.  It is quite the contrary.  Due to its proximity to the Caribbean, rum is the liquor of choice and the rum of choice is the award winning Flor de Cana.  I had never heard of Flor de Cana until the lengthy journey from the Managua airport to Mango Rosa. 

Lining the rough roadways of the country are signs emanating with pride, advertising Flor de Cana.  It is considered one of the finest rums in the world and comes in many different varieties and ages.  An ice-filled glass, some Flor de Cana, a splash of Coca Cola, and a twist of lime are all you need for a good Nica Libre.  These thirst quenching Nica Libres quickly became the drink of choice, other than the occasional Tona.

We enjoyed the rest of the day lounging in the beautiful pool adjacent to the Grand Rancho. It has a sloping beach entry and is lined with beautiful tropical flora.   

Stay cool at the tropical Mango Rosa pool.

After all of those Nica Libres, we took a siesta in the Hammock Rancho which is a circular palapa-style building that has about a dozen inviting hammocks dangling from the posts in a circular fashion.

The Hammock Rancho is perfect for a siesta.

Rock away to the sights
and sounds of the jungle.

Our Rancher house at Mango Rosa was a sublime retreat.  Two large bedrooms, a full service kitchen, comfortable living room, and a large narrow bathroom were more than adequate living quarters for four.  In the almost two weeks in Nicaragua, it was the only place that really had hot water.

The environment is also important to Greg and Chad; they have taken measures by encouraging guests to use as little power as possible; they operate recycling, garbage reduction, and water conservation programs, and constructed a special sewer system that appropriately cleans the water to be reutilized on the grounds.

The "Rancher" is a cool place to escape the tropical heat.

The Saltillo tile not only was aesthetically pleasing, but was also kept the inside of the house cool.  Each room had its own air conditioner to save on precious energy.  One thing about Nicaragua is that the power can go out at a moment’s notice.  If that happens, do not freak out just adjust your plans accordingly.  The front porch was equipped with traditional Central American furniture, and of course a large hammock.  It is easy to see why the front porch is also where we spent most of our evenings.  Each Rancher has its own barbecue for grilling the earned catch of the day!

Mango Rosa has all of the comforts of home.

Sign up for daily Nica adventures.

Mango Rosa offers activities other than surfing, such as deep sea fishing charters, massage, yoga, canopy tours, and hiking.  These activities can all be arranged by Greg or Chad.  They even have a dry erase board that lists various activities out for any given day that you can easily sign up for.  They then will put the cost of the adventure onto your bill.

We put our names on the board for the Mango Rosa boat at Playa Marsella; we checked out the water, the shoreline, and of course searched for surf.  The rugged coast was dry and jagged, with the jungle oasis peeking out in areas.  It made for a pretty and unique looking shoreline.  We hit up Playa Colorado and some other surf spots along the coast before snacking on  homemade Ceviche that Chad brought onto the boat.

The nearby town of San Juan Del Sur is the most tourist populated area in Nicaragua.  It sits on a beautiful bay with many restaurants and bars lining the golden sand.  We went into town a couple of times while we were at Mango Rosa.  There are several different ways you can get there.  If you have a car-drive!  If you want a strange hippie adventure-take the Casa Oro shuttle for a couple of dollars, or hire a driver to take you for about $15.  I experienced both the second and third option.

Pals in Paradise.

One of the best meals that I enjoyed in Nicaragua was from a lady in San Juan del Sur, who was called the “Chicken Lady”.  Her street-side stand and grill was  just off the main road; she grills up savory chicken with red beans and rice.  You don’t need directions, just follow your nose!  We ordered four plates and four beers for under $US12.  Delicious!  It was so good that we ordered takeout plates for a midnight snack.

We found a driver, Joel who would pack us into his Toyota Corolla and take us back up the bumpy road called the Chocolata.  After the 20 minute ride, we arrived back at the Mango Rosa Adventure and Surf Resort for one last night of rest and of course the alarm clock sounds of the monkeys.

— Feature by Michelle Schoser, Jetsetters Magazine San Diego Correspondent;  photos courtesy of Lisa Clarr and the Mango Rosa Adventure and Surf Resort.

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