In Mid-2013 the first nines hole of the design by Mike Young will open at the Montecristo Golf Club. It’s an integral part of a new 2,000- acre lifestyle community along the ocean, an hour west of Managua, Nicaragua.
Travel writer Brad King files this report after a recent visit.
MONTECRISTO BEACH, NICARAGUA (December 2012) – Lori and Jorge Estrada personify the description “visionary couple.” In the mid-1990s, the husband-and-wife team was living in a Chicago suburb. A native New Yorker, Lori was working as an orthopedic specialist. Jorge — a Nicaraguan whose ancestors include three of the Central American country’s former presidents — specialized in hospital management and administration, and later ran a real estate business. Together, the couple was raising three young children.
“Two words,” said Lori Estrada to describe their former day-to-day routine, “busy and hectic.”
Seeking a better quality life, the Estradas moved to Nicaragua in 1997 when their children were 14, 7 and 5. Their initial project was using their medical expertise to open Nicaragua’s first orthopedic facility. Later, they developed a number of award-winning community outreach programs.
Now, Lori and Jorge Estrada have turned their sights toward a dazzling piece of Pacific coastline just an hour west of Managua’s international airport. In this magnificent setting, the Estradas are not simply developing a world-class residential resort; they are creating their own Shangri-La: A tranquil, inviting and exciting beachfront community in which to live and raise family.
They named their dream community Montecristo Lifestyle Estates or, simply, “Montecristo.” Here, a lifestyle destination is unfolding, blending seamlessly with unspoiled elegance into 2,000 acres of Nicaragua’s most spectacular coastline. Montecristo offers its residents and guests a daily helping of sparkling blue seas, unlimited horizons, empty beaches, crashing surf and hidden coves.
Yet, what truly sets Montecristo apart from the competition is the individual touch provided by Lori and Jorge, who personally meet every guest and provide a guided tour. Then, through the purchase process to building and moving in, the Estradas are on site assisting property owners to make their transition as simple as possible. In addition, they tour the construction site regularly and add their personal touches along the way, helping each home become its own work of art.
“We pay attention to all the little details that make their home special — after all, they might be my neighbors,” said Lori. “We are always there for them and easy to find. This is our home and we are committed to this development on a very personal level.”
Vicki and Larry Davis came to Montecristo from Quincy, Ill., where Larry works as a family practice physician and Vicki as a teacher. Looking ahead to their retirement years, the Davis family also sought a slower pace and better quality of life when they first started searching for property throughout the Pacific coast. “It was all very nice,” said Larry Davis, “but the beauty at Montecristo is incredible and we fell in love at first sight.”
“Lori and Jorge had a huge impact on us from the very beginning,” said Larry. “They are wonderful people — trustworthy, very passionate about their country. They give us the feeling that we are part of a huge vision, a greater plan — a community, good relationships, good values — and a place where we would have opportunities to give back. It’s a feeling that you get when you are here.”
The Davis family constructed their home in Cumbres, one of Montecristo’s six unique yet cohesive neighborhoods designed to suit every type of lifestyle — from casitas, town homes and villas on the beach to spacious estate lots overlooking the golf course. The newest community, Laguna Del Mar, has broken ground and new golf cottages and beach casitas are under construction providing unforgettable views of the golf course and beaches.
With a vision and commitment to developing the leading oceanfront community in Central America, the Estradas insist upon the highest standard for even the smallest detail. Many of the concepts come from their own experiences and ideas, and as the owners of Montecristo, they are free to handle financing on a very personal level and construct agreements that work well for everyone. “We have tried to think of something for everyone, and in a sense we have designed it for us, to include what we would like to see as services, amenities, concepts,” said Lori Estrada. “That’s why we are contracting the experts to design it for us.”
The Montecristo team is comprised of engineers, topographers, architects, builders and land planners from both the United States and Nicaragua, each selected for their area of expertise. One of the first hires was Athens, Ga.-based golf course architect Mike Young, who has designed in Costa Azul one of Nicaragua’s only upscale, resort-quality golf courses.
Playing along a point where the Rio Soledad meets the Pacific Ocean, the 7,060-yard, par-71 Montecristo Golf Club takes maximum advantage of a site boasting more than 300 feet of elevation change. The front nine, scheduled to open mid-2013, is set on a relatively flat plain, with the river to the south and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The back nine, meanwhile, climbs up into the mountains providing spectacular views in all directions of the ocean, the river and the interior. And while the views of the water are breathtaking, the inland vistas — looking across mountain ridges and sprawling valleys — can be equally dramatic. Add the wind, which is certain to a constant factor, and Montecristo Golf Club promises to be as challenging as it is beautiful.
“The golf course is designed on a truly incredible piece of land,” said Young, architect of more than 40 courses in five different countries, who is working with his son, Ashley, on the Montecristo project. “Building a golf course on such dramatic property and using skilled American labor plus local, Nicaraguan workers mean things don’t always evolve quite as quickly as you would like, but in the long run the golf course is going to not only introduce a new way of life to this culture but also offer numerous opportunities to people here that don’t necessarily exist today.”
Montecristo’s amenities are designed to rival any world-class development. The Estradas share a passion for horses and own several Andalusian purebreds that will stand as subjects of pride and admiration at Montecristo’s planned equestrian center, where dressage and training clinics will be among the offerings. In addition, miles of picturesque riding trails weaving in and out of the community’s 2,000 acres are designed as an alternative, environmentally clean form of transport. Other community activities run the gamut from water sports and tennis to art and salsa lessons.
At Montecristo, property owners and guests move at their own speed during an early morning walk along the high coastal cliffs. They practice yoga with a local instructor, or just wiggle their toes in the sand as they watch the hills turn pink at sunset. They say Montecristo simply helps them live better.
“Montecristo is a magical environment,” said Vicki Davis. “It’s a feeling that you get when you are there. As beautiful homes begin to decorate the hills, there is still a very natural and pure atmosphere.”
Learn more at www.MontecristoLife.com.