Have you seen the Corona advertisements, ‘Find Your Beach’? I’m not a big fan of Corona as a beer, but I love these ads. You see, I’ve never been much of a beach person. Beaches are typically associated with relaxing vacations; lounge chairs, sunscreen, and a fruity drink with an umbrella.
But that’s never appealed to me. I can rarely relax on vacations – I’m always anxious to see, do, and eat as much as possible. To me, staying in one place doesn’t allow me to make the most of the travel occasion. I’ve tried it in the past, and I’ve never been successful.
Corona, in a move to reposition themselves beyond their ‘beach in Mexico’ association, appeals for thirsty consumers to find their beach wherever they can relax (with a Corona in hand, of course). But I’ve never found that place I could truly relax on vacation. As Corona would say, I had never found ‘my beach.’
Finca Mystica is a farm, restaurant, bar, and guest house on the island of Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua. The island is an isolated and rural place, and Finca Mystica is located deep within the island far from the main population centers. To get there from other major destinations in Nicaragua, it requires transportation including chicken busses, rickety taxis, ferries from another era, and a bumpy ride along a car sickness-inducing road.
I’m a city boy, and Finca Mystica was a kind of isolation I’d never experienced before.
The People Behind Finca Mystica
Finca Mystica is run by Ryan and Angela, an American couple who relocated to Ometepe to pursue their dream of a sustainable, eco-friendly farm in the fertile, tropical soils of Nicaragua. After globe-trotting for 10 years, they fell in love with Ometepe, bought a small plot of real estate, and began living off the soil.
What started as a piece of land in rural Nicaragua has turned into their lush farm through thousands of hours of their own blood, sweat, and tears.
Aside from being ardent advocates and supporters of their alternative lifestyle in Nicaragua, they also provide first class hospitality. During a power outage after a particularly bad storm, Angela gave one ill-prepared traveler (I confess, it was me) her spare head lamp. Ryan showed me all around his farm, telling me about his various plants and buildings, and was more than happy to take me kayaking through the Rio Istian, pointing out native wildlife along the way.
In running their farm, they have created numerous jobs for the local people of Ometepe who come to work for them. But their contribution to the island doesn’t stop there. Ryan and Angela have brought numerous provisions down from their native US, including clothing and baseball gloves for the youth in this baseball-obsessed nation.
Finca is Spanish for ‘estate’ or ‘farm’ and growing sustainable, organic plants on the land is the foremost purpose of Finca Mystica. The grounds are incredibly lush, offering more than 75 fruiting trees and plants, butterfly gardens, and massive tropical flowers. Mangos, bananas, dragon fruit, guanabana, pineapple, hibiscus, and more all grow on the grounds of Finca Mystica.
The farm used to be part of a large coffee plantation, but has since been transformed into a modern day garden of eden by its caretakers. And it’s not just made up of flower gardens and the fruit trees; there is a nature trail that carves its way through virgin forest, past the trees and plants native to the island. Here, families of howler monkeys bark at one another, blue morpho butterflies flit about the trail, and felled logs provide a home for various insects and fungi.
Ryan and Angela are well versed in natural building practices and have built all of the guest cabins at Finca Mystica themselves. Mud, straw, stucco, corrugated steel and recycled wine and rum bottles are the materials used in the natural adobe buildings, which seem to blend in naturally to the surroundings on the farm.
Bottle windows allow light to stream into the cabins and the downpours of the Nicaragua rainy season are diverted away by the corrugated roofs, keeping guests dry.
The rooms are rustic, but provide all the basic amenities – electricity and running water, comfortable beds with mosquito nets, a bathroom with a full size shower, and even a patio with chairs and a hammock for watching the sunset over Lake Nicaragua. Cabins can accommodate 1-4 people, and are ideal for solo travelers, couples, or small families. If the cabins are full, guests can camp or hang a hammock on premise as well.
While I was on the island of Ometepe, I ate almost all of my meals at Finca Mystica, and with good reason – the food was some of the best I’ve ever had while traveling. Hyper-local ingredients (many coming right from the farm) combined with the talent and skill of the kitchen staff at Finca Mystica lent themselves to the unique, inventive, delicious, and cheap meals served.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all served at the on-site restaurant and offer combinations of local specialties interspersed with selections from around the world. Gallo Pinto, banana pancakes, quesadillas, and veggie fried rice bowls comprise just a portion breakfast and lunchtime selections, while a rotating dinner menu features more tantalizing options such as coconut curry, spicy mango salad, and grilled chicken kebabs.
Beyond the standard meal options, the restaurant was always offering up fresh baked goods such as banana bread, peanut and cacao brownies, homemade chocolates and fresh fruit smoothies. I overindulged in the Banana-Cacao shakes made with fresh bananas and cocoa nibs providing a slightly bitter (yet delicious) alternative to the overly sweetened milkshakes back home.
In addition to Ryan, Angela, and the family of wild howler monkeys that live at Finca Mystica, there are two dogs living on the farm: Luna and her larger-than-life son, Sonny. Their friendly, affable personalities kept me company while I worked from the farm each morning. I couldn’t write this post without mentioning them and including their pictures.
. . .
I came to Nicaragua to work remotely and relax, and Finca Mystica provided an amazing environment for the two activities. I didn’t feel rushed to go out and explore the island all day, every day. I was happy to wake up, get some work done, go for a walk around the farm, and enjoy the amazing food and views offered.
My four days at Finca Mystica on Ometepe were the most relaxing days I’ve had in a long time, and probably the most relaxing days I’ve ever had traveling. The utter isolation, soothing atmosphere, and hospitality shown by Angela and Ryan made for a relaxed stay, something that was completely foreign to me.
I found my beach.
Disclaimer: Finca Mystica did NOT compensate my stay for this review. I paid for it 100% out of pocket and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Supporting great establishments like Finca Mystica is one of the reasons I travel.