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We spent much of January on the beach at Rancho Santana in Nicaragua. The longer we stayed, the more we liked it. It was warm and dry on the Pacific coast… but we woke up to the sound of rain on the roof this morning.

“Lake Arenal has a different climate,” our overseas real estate scout, Ronan McMahon, explained. Ronan is a young Irishman with long dark hair, a sunny disposition and a thick County Cork accent. He also advises members of our family wealth advisory, Bonner & Partners Family Office, on where to find the best real estate deals.

 

na-lake-arenal-sunsetThe Arenal volcano near Lake Arenal in Costa Rica, an artificial lake at the bottom of which the two old towns of Arenal and Tonadora lie abandoned. The lake is surrounded by a rainforest that is home to an estimated 2,000 plant species, 300 bird species and 120 different mammals, including jaguars and tapirs.

Photo via vacationscostarica.com

 

“We are up high enough that it is naturally cooler. And clouds get caught in the mountains and drop their rain on us here.”

By way of introduction to Ronan… we asked him where he had been.

“I’ve been traveling since the first of January,” he replied. “I spent a few weeks on the Costa Maya in Mexico, near Tulum.

“That’s an incredible place. It is beautiful and people love it. The growth has been spectacular. It began with Cancún. But now the whole coast is being developed. People who bought property there just a few years ago have made a lot of money.

“I went all down the coast, exploring and talking to developers. Then I went over to the west coast of Nicaragua, north of Managua.

“That area is undeveloped. I had been told that the coast was not very nice. But I found it is gorgeous. And you can still buy productive farms right on the ocean.

“You pay a little premium over the cost of farmland, for the ocean frontage, but not much. I think we’re going to see some good projects in that area.

 

rancho-santanaAerial of Rancho Santana in Nicaragua

Rendering by Altevers International

 

“Then I came down to Rancho Santana for the Bonner & Partners Family Office event…. and to bring you up here to Costa Rica to show you this lake property.

“It’s a completely different story here. It is beautiful, like Lake Chapala in Mexico. But it’s not crowded with a lot of North Americans – yet.

“I think it will be eventually, because it is so pretty. There are blooming plants everywhere. Stunning views down to the lake. And the climate is so healthy. Temperatures in the ‘70s and ‘80s all year round. People come here and fall in love with it.

“From here, I’m going down to the south coast of Costa Rica. There are some lovely properties there. Worth having a look. And then on to Ecuador. There are some great places there too.”

“You mean, you spend months traveling from one holiday spot to another? And they pay you to do this?”

“Yes, of course.”

 

terrace at rancho sTerrace in Rancho Santana

Photo credit: ranchosantana.com

 

Distinctive Style Needed

Ronan also writes for International Living magazine. He also has his own overseas real estate advisory, Real Estate Trend Alert.

“I look for properties – some retail, some wholesale – that are especially cheap. And I recommend to my readers that they have a look.”

We could see why Ronan’s Path of Progress might take a real estate investor to Lake Arenal. There are few places like it. Rolling pastures and forests come right down to the lake. It looks like Switzerland, but with tropical plants and no winter.

 

arenal-lakeA map of Lake Arenal – Nuevo Arenal was established before the old town was flooded – click to enlarge.

 

So great is the resemblance that at least one immigrant built a Swiss-style hotel, as though it were in the shadow of the Jungfrau. But almost all the rest of the architecture is boring and clunky. We gave the local real estate agent some advice:

“You need a distinctive style – an Arenal vernacular that can serve as a model for local builders and architects. Otherwise, the houses don’t embellish the landscape; they blemish it.”

We doubt this advice was much appreciated. But at least he was polite about it.

 

Quetzal01The Resplendent Quetzal, one of the bird species found near Lake Arenal

Photo credit: D.Hatcher

 

The above article originally appeared as “People Who Bought Property Here Have Made a Lot of Money…” at the Diary of a Rogue Economist, written for Bonner & Partners. Bill Bonner founded Agora, Inc in 1978. It has since grown into one of the largest independent newsletter publishing companies in the world. He has also written three New York Times bestselling books, Financial Reckoning Day, Empire of Debt and Mobs, Messiahs and Markets.

 

 

 

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