San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Hotel Piedras y Olas Sets the Standard in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

SAN JUAN DEL SUR, Nicaragua –Less than 10 minutes after arriving at ourhilltop villa overlooking the fishing boatsin the bay, my girlfriend Cecilia wasalready taking digital photos from everyangle of every detail of the house.“Someday I want to have a home thatlooks exactly like this,” she explained.It was hard to disagree; the spacious,high-walled rooms are done in a stylishcombination of strawbale constructiondetailed with hardwood beams, cane ceilingsand colonial tile floors. That, combinedwith a state-of-the-art kitchen, air conditioningand the Red Sox playing onsatellite TV in the living room, made thevilla more comfortable than my home.Once the matter of firming up thearchitectural plans for Cecilia’s futuredream house had been sorted out – and thememory chip on her camera filled – weheaded down to the poolside restaurant,where the view overlooking the bay is noless spectacular, and the food is locallyfamous. The bartender agreed to put theSox game on the TV behind the bar.HOTEL Piedras y Olas – perhaps betterknown as Pelican Eyes – set new standardsfor tourism in San Juan del Sur whenit opened in December 2003.A year and a half later, the success ofits restaurant, hotel and turnkey developmentproject with property managementservices has shown the rest of the countrythat San Juan del Sur can, in fact, support ahigher-end tourism market.Located on a 28-acre hillside overlookingthe bay, Piedras y Olas has seven hotelrooms, nine villas and two casita villas,with more development in the works.Owner Chris Berry, originally fromSan Francisco, California, and now aNicaraguan citizen, sailed down to SanJuan del Sur in 1988 in a 42-foot Gulf Starnamed Pelican Eyes. He anchored in thecove of this once-sleepy fishing town andstarted offering sailing charters.When, years later, he opened the restaurant,pool and hotel, he gave each a differentname, but the name Pelican Eyes seemsto have stuck to him and all his projects.TODAY, while not everyone seems toagree on the name of the hotel and restaurant,no one appears at odds over thequality of either.The restaurant and the hotel, which isgay-friendly, attracts a wide range of peopleand does good business all year long, evenduring the off-season. The horizon pooloverlooking the bay and gourmet restaurantare a favorite meeting spot and hangout forexpats and tourists from all walks of life.“We tried to develop a profile of ourclients, but we’re still not sure who theyare,” Berry said with a laugh. “If you hadtold me that 30% of our clientele wasgoing to be yuppie surfers, I would havelaughed at you. But that’s who many of ourclients are.”DESPITE the enticement of the hotel and restaurant facilities, Berry encourageshis clients to go down off the hill and get toknow the town and more of Nicaragua.He has also gone to great lengths todevelop positive relationships with the surroundingcommunity.Through the hotel’s connection to theA. Jean Brugger Education Project, Berryhelps provide scholarships and educationalresources to underprivileged children inthe community.After a decade of living in San Juan delSur, Berry has seen a lot of area kids growup and bloom.And they could say the same thingabout his business.

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