It didn't START out awesome... but it ended that way.

We arrived in November, which (we learned later) is notoriously bad for mosquitoes (since it's the end of rainy season.)

And we were really ready for a house after our rough week in El Salvador.

Nicaragua was cheap, at least food and other commodities. But housing... well, let's just say it was less expensive than beach rentals in El Salvador, but not as cheap as housing in Panajachel, Guatemala.

In our eagerness to get settled, after 3 days in Nicaragua, we took the first house that was in our budget.

It turned out to be a trash hole...

The first couple of days in Las Peñitas were spent camping at a great little place right on the beach. We went beach combing and took sunset walks and ate great Nicaraguan food.

Las Penitas Beach Sunset

It was wonderful.

Then we moved in to our place.

The truth is, Las Peñitas doesn't have a lot of options for nice places. It's kind of a run-down, up-and-coming beach town, with tons of potential. It's small, it has great surfing, and it's got a nice, kid-friendly beach (you do need to be careful of the rip at high tide.)

It's where we wanted to be.

But it's lacking in housing options. There are trashy places, and decent places, and 'nicer' places... but if you want something nice (there's only one or two options), it's about $1100 a week (a little out of our price range 😉 )

The place we rented was okay, although it was dirty. The landlord said he would come clean it up. He came... and had someone sweep the floor. That was about it. Then I (the 6 months pregnant lady) cleaned out all the rooms and the beds and made them and sprayed them all down with essential oils. When he left, there were still piles of his junk left around. Not my definition of clean.

But we settled in and made the best of it. At least we could unpack. However, as time wore on, we realized several problems.

First, we were on the wrong side of the street (the not-beach side of the road.) That meant more mosquitoes. That also meant no ocean breeze, and no escaping the heat. By 10 a.m. I had to put on my swim suit and take a cold shower (I don't usually do cold showers. Ever.) I spent most of the time like that. In front of a fan, mostly naked, taking cold showers every couple hours.

Next, the house was 'outdoor living' style, meaning that it wasn't totally enclosed, meaning that stray dogs liked to come in and eat our dog's food, birds liked to come pick crumbs off the table, and mosquitoes (did I mention those?) SWARMED, I mean swarmed! There was no escaping. It's a miracle we didn't all catch dengue.

Look at Greg's back after sitting in a rocking chair to work on the computer for an hour (with a shirt on.)

Greg finally created some 'havens' for us... mosquito nets where the kids could play, and one for us to work under. It saved us.

The next problem with the house was in the kitchen. The plumbing didn't work well, so it STUNK!  And the fridge didn't freeze, or stay cold. We kept stuff in the freezer just to cool it off a little. We had lots of food go bad.

Of course we still took fabulous beach walks each evening, and these moments made it worthwhile.

But being 'at home' was becoming unbearable. I hated cooking in our stinky kitchen (we drank LOTS of smoothies.) I was too hot to do anything but sit under our mosquito refuge in front of a fan and work. The kids spent lots of time making things out of clay under their little tent.

A boy and his two hounds chasing a coon made by Parker (we were reading 'Where the Red Fern Grows' at the time, his 'favorite' book.)

We had to move.

We really liked the area, the little surfer town with a great beach for kids, and León nearby, a great city with all the amenities we needed.

So we went on the hunt, again. We found a place on the way in to town that was $100 more than we were paying. It was very nice, clean and had a pool. But it wasn't right by the beach. And that's why we were here.

There was a place right by the beach, only $50 more a month, but it had no stove or fridge, dangerously steeps stairs and was next door to a popular bar/restaurant (owned by an American who made snide remarks like, "When you havin' more kids?") and right across from 'weed rock'. Not exactly the most kid friendly environment.

Finally we found someplace that might work. It had been vacant for two years, but it was large (four bedrooms), it had a working fridge, a large stove with oven, and it was right on the beach... and at the far other end, quiet and peaceful. And it was the same price we were paying for our current trash hole.

We took it.

It wasn't perfect. It did have bats, although we never saw them (just heard them), but they were better than mosquitoes (which we only saw at night at this place,) and the oven actually did not work... but you couldn't beat the location.

The days were spent working building websites while ocean breezes blew in the open windows and palm trees swayed outside. At sunsets we walked on the beach. Greg and the kids took some surfing lessons, and once or twice a week we'd drive into León to do some shopping, watch a movie at the theater, go to church, watch a play (that was an interesting experience) or participate in local festivities.

It was a good life. But everyday I was getting closer to having this baby. Would it, could it be here? That was still to be determined...

Where's your favorite beach town?



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18 Responses

  1. mytreasuredcreations

    Hey RAchel, we just returned from Brazil. After much struggling, we finally made back to my home country after 8 years. WE spent 20 days there and it was awesome. Although we were in a big city (Curitiba) the warmth of family, food and the heat of summer were very enticing. We are seriously considering moving there. How do we take the jump??? We feel like we are trapped in a wheel here in the US, but we like the comfort. It felt like I was on the mission field again – where what I actually said counted for something; where my knowledge was valued. 

    As for my favorite beach place: Gulfshores, AL. I like the clear blue waters and sandy white beaches. Love it before and after the summer season when the beaches are empty and there is no traffic. 

    I had a similar experience to yours with mosquitoes, once in Brazil in a remote beach town in Bahia. It was a beautiful place but we were miserable with so many mosquitoes and no air conditioning. My baby girl 3 y.o. looked just like your kids: she had so many mosquito bites!!! It was pitiful.

    Can’t wait to hear where you are having your baby! 🙂

    • Rachel Denning

      Twenty days in Brazil would be awesome! Can’t wait to visit there.

  2. winatlast

    At age 70 I live with dreams of this type of travel.  You keep my hopes up.  Are the kids home schooled?  Do they speak Spanish?

    • Rachel Denning

      Awesome! Way to go. It’s never ‘too late’ 😉 Yes, the kids are home schooled (or ‘world schooled’) and they speak Spanish.

  3. Chelsea

    you are killing this pregnant lady right now with that photo of fried plantains and cheese!!! I ate plates and plates of those in our month in Nicaragua and now I am craving it!!! haha, i will try to find a recipe and make my own:) have so much fun! xoxo ,Chelsea

  4. CliffHsia

    Wow, reminds me of our time in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua…scary stuff with the mosquitoes. Yikes. Just came across your blog…Traveling with all those kids…you guys are an inspiration to keep going with our kids.

  5. Emily Shea

    Wow, I’m so glad you moved to a better location–that first places sounded miserable.  With all this moving around, in decent places and less decent places, I’ve learned how simple it is to just make a move.  A few days of hassle is most certainly worth it for happiness and peace.  
    We are getting bit up here in Granada (especially since we have a garden in the center of the house), but the bug bites don’t itch!

    • Rachel Denning

      Yes, I was glad to get out of there! How are you enjoying Nicaragua?

  6. paulinaslobodan

    I haven’t been back on your blog in a while and it put a huge grin on my face to see the title of this post – Las Peñitas is definitely my favourite beach! It was my first adventure out of high school where a friend and I stayed, surfed and fell in love (with the place) for a couple of months. I also just (finally!) returned last month, and it was amazing to be back, visit friends, and be a lovely, warm, familiar place.
    The mosquitos sound/look insane!! I was there the first time in November, too, and I remember it was bad…but that looks unbearable 🙁 León is such a lovely city, too. 
    Thanks for sharing all about this, I’m so happy you ended up enjoying it, and those sunset photos are to die for!! Best sunsets of my life. Probably my favourite surf sessions were at sunset…it feels surreal, how beautiful it is. 
    Anyways, nostalgia! Thanks so much for sharing your adventures. My friend and I are headed back this fall (driving from Vancouver, Canada, actually) and I can’t wait!

    • Rachel Denning

      It is a great beach, although some people think the town is a little run down, but I think it’s progressing.

  7. paulinaslobodan

    (And I will definitely be coming back more for reference as I plan out more the driving part of our journey. Thanks for being such a great resource, and so fun to read!)

  8. Eric

    I really enjoyed a beach in Bali, Indonesia but it was partly luck. We stayed about a week in Ulu Watu and visited Padang Padang beach. One day, the cliffs over the water and the tide were perfect so that kids and parents could swim in the shade. Another day, the locals were having a Hindu ceremony. Since Annalise (3) was napping in the shade on the sand, they let us stay sitting in the area where the ceremony was taking place so it was very interesting to experience the cultural event.
    Another beautiful, shaded beach is on Railay in Southern Thailand. The cliffs above the water are great for climbing and those without gear can do bouldering. There are two shrines that add to the amusement due to the quantity and size of the phallic objects which are featured at each shrine.


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