We’ve taken a family trip to a tropical locale every New Year’s for the last seven. It’s always my wife and I, our six-year-old, and his two grandmothers — Grannifest, we call it. We’ve been to Mexico, Barbados, Puerto Rico, and Costa Rica three times. We always rent a house — and a 4x4 SUV — and all the homes have been beautiful, but none as perfect in their settings and situations as Casa de Mono Encantando.
My mother-in-law is 81 and a Manhattanite, so she has a very particular set of expectations: some access to cultural centers and handicap access being prime among them. The design of Casa de Mono helped her tremendously, and was far more friendly than any of the other houses we’ve rented in the tropics. We took day trips to Granada and the surrounding towns and beaches, where I surfed while the grannies sunbathed.
Being right on, and over, the Pacific, with Gorilla Head always there sticking his tongue out at Costa Rica, offered an otherworldly beauty. The road up is precarious, but that comes with the territory, and it affords the views and the seclusion, while making for a quick, albeit steep, ride down into San Juan del Sur, a vibrant beach town with restaurants and shops that aren’t overrun — yet — by tourists. And secure.
Concerns about safety in Nicaragua came quickly to feel like propaganda or paranoia or both. The Nicaraguans are welcoming and hospitable, though it helps to have a smattering of Spanish. The only danger we encountered were the scorpions — my wife was stung on her pinkie toe — and we were prepared for the worst. Toe sucking to save a life. Possible paralysis. Probable amputation. All this concern, only to find that scorpions are the Nicaraguan equivalent of wasps.
We were there for 9 days, and we ate fruit and veggies and salads and rare steaks, bought bottled water and bagged ice, brushing our teeth, and occasionally drinking, the filtered tap water. I’m usually good for a couple of days of Grannifest gastroenteritis — which I attribute not to the grannies but to spending hours a day in the ocean, where most developing-world sewage winds up, untreated — and none of us got stomach upset on this trip.
Casa de Mona has live-in caretakers in a little guard/laundry house on a corner of the property near the main house. The husband and wife, Edgar and Aracely, were lovely — if early risers — and our six-year-old spent a good bit of time playing with their children. Aracely wound up feeding our son while fixing breakfast or lunch for their kids. The pair of them, Edgar and Aracely, seem invaluable — Edgar was our handyman; Aracely our housecleaner — and they managed to be both discreet and available.
Casa de Mono Encantando will quickly become a home-away-from-home. Rest assured, if you rent it, you’ve chosen wisely. The homeowners, Dan and Donna, are ideal in their attitudes, responsiveness, trust and taste. They picked the right place — house, coast, host country — and they’re eager and enthusiastic to share their excellent choices and their wonderful good fortune.