Nesting in Nicaragua

We’d been designing the house for months, but as soon as we found out that we had a baby on the way, we quickly finalized the plan and soon broke ground on what will be our home (scroll to the bottom of this post for a video tour of the house in progress).

For the past three years we’ve been living in a cozy 12’x20′ thatch-roofed cabana with a comfortable shady porch and sleeping loft, located on the grounds of the eco-lodge where we run the majority of our women’s surf and yoga retreats.


While it is very convenient to live at a hotel with a constant supply of friends nearby, a very easy commute to work, and the opportunity to share in communal town runs to avoid unnecessary 45 min drives for a few small items, there are downsides too. It’s not very private – we share a bathroom and shower with one of the hotel cabanas – and not an ideal place for a newborn. It’s also small, with steep steps leading up to the sleeping loft and not much extra room, even for a small baby.

Just before Christmas 2013 we finished building our beach house, right on the sand in front of the bay where we host the surf lessons.
morning house xmas morning surf check
One reason we built the beach house was to have a comfortable, shady, out-of-the-sand place for the baby to hang out while we’re working. Like our hotel cabana, since it’s right on the beach it also lacks privacy, but the main reason we don’t consider it an option for full-time living is the fact that it doesn’t have power. While the government claims they will run power to the beach lots soon (they’ve been saying that the last several years), currently the nearest power pole is over 800m away. Solar panels would help, but it’s hard to create a solar system powerful enough to operate a refrigerator. Call me a kook, but I really like like refrigeration. Water is also an issue with a well onsite that ranges from slightly salty in the rainy season to very salty when it’s dry.

We also own a gorgeous 1/2 acre lot in a small community overlooking the bay. Originally, we had intended to build our first real home there.
However, the paperwork process has been slower than expected. The lot has water via a drilled well that we had installed, but also suffers from a lack of power making it not yet ready for easy living. We did build a storage bodega that has already been really helpful in storing and preparing materials for our other projects.
When we started getting serious about planning to have a baby we knew we needed to find a lot that was ready to build with finished paperwork, running water, AND power nearby. We found a 3/4 acre, flat, easily build-able lot in our price range with all the amenities we needed in another community. As a bonus, the lot happened to be within walking distance of the surf spot that first made me fall in love with Nicaragua.
brisas-1-our-lot BROOKS_Holly_04
So when we saw that plus sign, we knew it was time to begin construction! Now it’s a race between house and baby. The baby has a two-month head start, but we are cautiously optimistic that the house will be able to catch up.

Check out the video for a tour of the construction site and house in progress recorded a few days ago:

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6 Responses to Nesting in Nicaragua

  1. Stephen says:


    You can totally run a 12 volt DC fridge off of solar as long as you build or buy one that is super insulated. Most 12 volt DC fridges use the same Danfoss compressor so the key for saving energy is to either build a super insulated chest fridge/freezer box yourself (they have “plug and play” fridge/freezer units now) or buy one like the highly insulated chest fridges at I have no affiliation with them except that I discovered their fridges when doing research for the kind of fridge to put in the Toyota motorhome that I’m rebuilding in order to travel Mex, Central and South America.

    • hollybeck27 says:

      for sure, but unfortunately you can’t buy 12 volt DC fridges down here and they’re tricky to import. i do have a friend who hand carried one down, but it was a small one and the airline hassled him severely for it. he ended up making it work and that would be better than nothing, but it doesnt totally solve the problem.

      • Stephen says:

        Yeah its a hassle. If you were driving back from the states you could smuggle in a Sundanzer if its full of food because it would just look like an ice chest. A fridge/freezer kit isn’t that large so would be easy to smuggle in if you were building your own box (easy to build) and IF you can buy 4×8 sheets of poly iso foam insulation down there (its cheap at Home Depots up here).

        I’m rebuilding a little Toyota Sunrader motorhome and when I’m done I’m going to meander south and surf my way through Mexico, Central America and South America so maybe I’ll see you guys along the way.

        CONGRATULATIONS with the baby and your new home! 🙂

  2. steve thomas says:

    Great post, Holly. I have no doubt you guys can pull this off. As far as fridge at the beach house, my parents use an RV Fridge in their solar powered Mex house. The RV fridges can run off propane or electric which is really cool. They are a little smaller, but may be perfect for your beach house if you can get one down there.

  3. Gerald Obermeyer says:

    You probably checked this but…..

    econds) Search Results

    1. *Solar power running fridge* – YouTube ► 3:37► 3:37‎ YouTube Mar 17, 2013 – Uploaded by fliping720 My 215W solar system *running a fridge*, 107 amp hours of batteries *…*The Off Grid Camper I *Can* Finally *…* 2. How many *solar panels* would it take to power say a *refrigerator*, a/c *…*‎ For one Lennox (AC) is currently advertising a system that *will run*its AC from *solar power*. There are serveral systems that power up even the larger *…* 3. What size (or output) *solar panel* to *run a fridge*? @ ExplorOz Forum…/What_size_or_output_*solar*_*panel*_to_*run_a_frid* …‎ Jul 9, 2007 – 11 posts – ‎10 authors It *runs* the Danfoss 35 compressor. Do I have to *run* a battery between the *solar panel* or *can* I hook the *fridge* up direct? If I need a battery, *…* *Solar power* camping HELP!! @ ExplorOz Forum 8 posts 27 Feb 2012 what size thumper/*solar will run* 40lt engel permanently *…* 10 posts 27 Mar 2011 *Solar* charging 40litre Engel *fridge* @ ExplorOz Forum 9 posts 17 Apr 2010 80Watt *Solar Panel*-40ltre Engel *Fridge* @ ExplorOz Forum 9 posts 19 Oct 2007 More results from 4. *Running a fridge* – *Solar Panel* Talk › Off grid solar› Solar living ‎ Feb 23, 2011 – 10 posts – ‎5 authors Hey guys, If i have 30 amps in 6 x 12V 5A *solar panels* wired in parallel *running* to a 500w inverter rated at 65 amps, *can* i plug a 240V *fridge* *…* Thread: Batteries, Engel *Fridge* and Panel 4 posts 25 Aug 2013 *Can I run* a thermoelectric *fridge* directly from *solar* … 6 posts 24 Dec 2012 Off-grid solar system problem: not able to start a *fridge* … 6 posts 11 Jul 2011 Thread: Solar *Refrigerator* 10 posts 27 Feb 2011 More results from 5. *Solar powered fridge* freezer – DIY *Solar Panel* Kits › Online Catalogue› Fridge freezer ‎ How many *solar panels* do you need to *run a fridge* or freezer. *…*another two in parallel is ok and *will* give us 6720 Watt hours to *run* our *fridge*/freezer. 6. How many Batteries/*Solar Panels* do I need? What *will* it cost www.*fridge*-and-*solar*.net/howmany.htm‎ Feb 5, 2013 – How to work out how many Batteries/*Solar Panels* you need. *…* Things like the way most people operate their *fridges*, lights, TV’s and *…* day you *will* need to *run* each item, then *can*get an idea of how much power you *will* be *…* 7. How many watts of *solar panels* to *run a refrigerator* – Ask Community › All › Building & Construction ‎ Aug 4, 2013 – *Solar panels* with 150 watts would be required to *run a refrigerator*. *…* Your solar collector *will* only be operable for about 1/3rd of that *run* time *…* 8. *Solar* FAQ’s – REDARC Electronics › About Solar › The Benefits of Solar ‎ A 12V *solar panel* is designed to output at least enough voltage to charge a *…* The power rating of your inverter determines what appliances you *can run* *…* You want to *run* the *fridge* 24 hours a day, and the camp light for 6 hours each night. 9. FAQ & Handy Tips – Waeco CFX‎ You need to ascertain how much power your *refrigerator will* consume on *….* You *should* always use the *solar panel* to charge a battery, not to *run* the *fridge* *…* 10. How many electric *solar panels* do you need to *run* your *refrigerator* › … › Energy › Renewable Energy › Solar Power ‎ The warmer your location, the worse *solar panels* work. If your area is over 85 degrees, your panels *will* not produce as well. 3. What size panels? Panel ratings *…*

    On Sat, Mar 1, 2014 at 4:23 PM, hip-E habit

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