The idea of buying any property abroad is exciting. But it’s hard to think of anything more exotic than owning your own private tropical island. The sense of being on your own—and the feeling that you really own your own piece of the earth—is unlike any other.
For centuries, owning a private island has been the dream of the rich and famous. And in most of the world today, owning a tropical island is indeed prohibitively expensive for most of us.
Yet there’s one place left in the Americas where you can still own a private tropical island for less than US$78,000.
Las Isletas is a group of small islands that caught my eye on my first exploratory trip to Nicaragua, and they still hold my attention today. They’re located in the giant Lake Nicaragua, adjacent to the historic colonial city of Granada and about 45 minutes from the airport in Managua. Las Isletas is actually an archipelago consisting of 365 islands, which was formed when the nearby volcano Mombacho erupted in prehistoric times and blew much of its cone into the lake.
If you’re thinking of island ownership, this island group offers a few special advantages over islands located in the ocean. Although Lake Nicaragua feels like the ocean—it’s almost half the size of New Jersey—you’re actually on an inland, freshwater lake. This means you don’t have to worry about the tides, hurricanes, complete isolation, or other natural hazards that go along with open-water island dwelling.
Since the islands are just offshore, many of them have excellent views of historic Granada…yet they’re far enough away that you still enjoy the feeling of privacy that comes with private-island living. Many islands also have views of mountains, volcanoes, and, of course, the expansive lake with its other islands.
Perhaps the biggest advantage is that you’re just offshore from Granada, one of the oldest Spanish Colonial cities in our hemisphere. As you stroll through its clean streets and marvel at the beautifully restored colonial homes, you’ll be surprised at the facilities here, including well-stocked supermarkets and a broad selection of fine restaurants along with local open-air markets and tiny local shops.
Las Isletas is noted for the islands’ lush vegetation and abundant birdlife, with egrets, cormorants, ospreys, kingfishers, flycatchers, parrots, and parakeets. And I also enjoy watching the frolicking white-faced monkeys as much as they seem to enjoy watching us.
Electricity is nearby anywhere in Las Isletas and is already servicing many of the islands. Water supply, perhaps the biggest challenge for offshore island-dwellers, is not an issue here, as many people simply filter the lake waters or install a freshwater well.
Of course there are disadvantages to living in Las Isletas, too. One is that some of the islands are fairly close together, so it’s not as private as you might picture when you conjure the image of living out in the ocean somewhere. Also—and this probably goes without saying—island living is nowhere near as convenient as living in Granada. You can’t just pop around the corner for a loaf of bread; you need to get into your boat (or call the water taxi) before you head into town.
Despite being so close to shore, you’ll find a unique subculture among the islands. Many of the locals make a living as caretakers for the homes built there, while others live off the land and the lake. Because the school, cemetery, restaurants, and bars are all on different islands you’ll see locals and expats commuting in rowboats or hitching rides from the tour boats. You’ll often see local fishermen in dugouts throwing their nets to take their share of the lake’s abundant fish.
The island properties are popular with people who enjoy all types of watersports and especially those who enjoy fishing.
As an expat, you won’t be alone in Las Isletas. You’ll not only be in the company of families of wealthy Nicaraguans who’ve known about the islands for a long time, but also a fair number of North American expats—both those who live on their island as well as some who have homes in Granada and use their island as a vacation home or weekend getaway.
Some of the islands have no improvements at all…while others have beautiful homes with pools, tennis courts, and all the amenities of a luxury setting.
The private tropical islands of Las Isletas are definitely a fixed inventory; nonetheless, I wouldn’t buy here to make a quick buck in the near term. Island prices have gone up steadily but slowly and gradually during the past 10 years. I’d recommend that you buy here to enjoy the island lifestyle at a price that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
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