Status of the beach and the community in Salinas Grande, Nicaragua

This is a first-hand report on the status of the beach and the community on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua at the village of Salinas Grandes.

My wife, Barbara and I arrived at our casita on the beach on the afternoon of January 16, 2013 after an uneventful trip from Toronto, Canada. As usual the trip had taken only five hours, including the layover in Miami. On the 90 minute trip from the airport in Managua we had stopped at one of the major “supermercados” to buy provisions – and a few bottles of Tona, the excellent local beer.

After an uneventful, but very scenic 90 minute drive on the excellent TransAmerica Highway, we turned onto the 11 km (7 mi.) road to the beach. Like most rural roads in Nicaragua the road to Salinas Grandes is “paved” with local limestone and volcanic rock that is turned into a form of gravel by the occasional crushing action of a very large diesel roller and the subsequent action of the local traffic. In the case of our beach road this approach has resulted in one of the better rural thoroughfares. It is wide and generally quite navigable with only a few spots that are mildly challenging to our rented Toyota Corola.

It is definitely an all-purpose road since, on the average trip to or from the highway, you will encounter many of each of the following modes of transportation: bicycles (often with one or more passengers), motor bikes (ditto), cars, trucks of all sizes, and the local busses to the nearby city of Leon. In addition, the road is usually inhabited by every type of creature usually found on a farm – in particular the very large indigenous and very docile cattle – with each herd slowly migrating its way along the road under the supervision of a real-life wrangler on a horse.

As we approached the beach we passed through the area of “salt flats” where sea salt is harvested for refinement and export. In addition to fishing and shrimp farming this is one of the main local industries. This area is comprised of hundreds of small, rectangular plots of seawater separated by dikes and access paths. It is not an unattractive feature and does provide an element of visual appeal due to its unique nature – like farmland where the fields are all ponds.

The beach community of Salinas Grandes occupies a typical “barrier island” that is several kilometers long but only about 600 meters wide. It is separated from the mainland by the salt flats which have replaced the original lagoons and a causeway for the road. On the Pacific side of the island is the magnificent beach that stretches, unblemished for the entire length of the island and basically constitutes up to one half of the area of the island.

The non-beach part of the island contains the attractively wooded and picturesque beachfront lots, the road and a strip of land reserved for future public use and as a buffer between the residential area and the salt flats.

On the beach road we drove to our property near the northern end of the island near one of the lagoons which forms the mouth of one of the country’s many rivers to the sea. A short distance across the lagoon we could easily see the many pelicans that congregate daily on Isla Juan Venado, a well-known federal nature preserve and sea turtle hatchery. At low tide it is easy to wade across the calm waters of the lagoon to explore the island.

As expected our property was as we had left it months before in the hands of our caretaker family. In nine years of ownership we have never experienced an incident of abuse or misuse of our property during our prolonged absences. During that period we have had the unfailing services of our house keeper/cook , Jessica, and our caretaker couple, Pablo and Lesbia.

After a good night’s sleep I awoke at dawn with the local rooster and hundreds of birds that gather each night to roost in the huge trees behind our guest house. After 45 minutes of incessant bird talk they leave for the day to return again for another 45 minutes of babble as the sun sinks into the ocean at 6 pm.

If there ever was a “perfect beach” this is it. I am certainly not an authority on beaches – but I cannot imagine a better one. It is comprised of nothing but pure sand over it’s entire length of several kilometers. At low tide it is several hundred meters wide and becomes as smooth as a super highway along the water’s edge. Bicycles, cars and feet barely leave a mark. There are no holes, rocks or weeds and, at present almost no humans. Near the lagoon the occasional shell collectors can find carpets of small attractive shells for the making of jewellery and other items.

A few local residents stroll to the water’s edge with a net to catch their breakfast – or bring it to me to earn a dollar or two. On one occasion this year I bought a plump fish that was brought to my rocking chair where I expressed my appreciation. The next day my enthusiasm was rewarded by another freshly caught fish so large that it arrived in a wheel barrow – as the only passenger. Our caretaker filleted it and we had to invite several friends for lunch.

The beach is like a living entity – it is constantly changing – often in very impressive and surprising ways. In the lagoon an acre of sand can disappear entirely only to return a few months later along with an extra acre or two.

One of the surprises that I appreciate the most is the ability of the beach to create wonderful swimming pools that are “surf-free”. These tend to occur near the lagoon at our end of the beach. This year’s pool was more magnificent than usual. It was about the size and shape of two Olympic pools placed end to end. At low tide the pool was waist deep and land-locked. At high tide it was shoulder deep and had a passage to the ocean at one end. It contained nothing but warm tropical seawater, a pure sand bottom, and the occasional tiny fish that could nibble at your toes.

I should also note that my friend Bill and I have become expert surfers – of the mental variety – by studying the techniques, and lack thereof, of the increasing numbers of wannabees – often from such surfing “not spots” as Ontario, Canada.

On Sundays a few local families would enjoy the pool – and, in six weeks of observing, I never saw anyone wear a bathing suit. Now, in case you are about to accuse me of being a voyeur – I must hasten to inform you that every single person including our caretakers, simply jumped in and swam in their street clothes. Evidently this extends the cooling effect during the balance of the outing – and helps with the laundry.

So – if you were planning to open a bathing suit emporium in Nicaragua – think again!

Would you like to learn more?

Or contact Rick Hilborn to arrange a tour of our new model beachfront home in beautiful Salinas Grande, Nicaragua.