Each day International Living uncovers some of the most desirable–and cheapest–retirement havens on earth, including Nicaragua. In International Living’s free daily postcards, you can learn about retirement, property, travel and lifestyle opportunities from around the world.
An article of mine was recently published as an International Living postcard and I’m pleased to able to share it with you!
Life in This Beach Town Keeps Getting Better…
By Elisha MacKay
With our toes in the sand and mojitos in hand, my husband Gordon and I clink our glasses to another spectacular San Juan del Sur sunset. The sky is a brilliant hue of orange, yellow and red. Our four-month-old miniature schnauzer puppy lies at our feet, spent from her romp on the beach. Sixteen months have passed since we left our home, our jobs and friends and family in Alberta to start a new life in Nicaragua.
Our Nicaraguan adventure began in Poneloya where we rented a lovely little house on the beach. From there we moved to a guest house in Leon. Three months later we were living large in a luxury apartment in Granada. Opportunity knocked and we found ourselves living with three dogs, two cats and a goat in a beautiful six-bedroom lodge in Laguna de Apoyo.
And finally here we are in San Juan del Sur.
Not long after establishing roots in San Juan we knew we had found the place where we wanted to settle down.
San Juan can be touristy at times, but maintains a great mix of locals and expats. Within a month of living in San Juan we had formed a large network of friends. And it’s easy to get by here with little Spanish.
A budget of $1,400 per month allows us to live very well.
Affordable rental homes are fairly easy to find—$500 covers our rent for a very nice three-bedroom, two-bathroom home; cable TV and Internet are included. Electricity is extra, with monthly bills averaging around $50.
Our monthly grocery bill averages between $250 and $350. We eat very well. In addition to the fruit and vegetables that are delivered to our neighborhood daily via a farmer’s truck, we enjoy fresh fish from local fisherman and grass-fed filet mignon.
We have a vehicle, but could certainly get by without one. Living in town allows us to walk almost everywhere we need (and want) to go. We spend an average of $60 per month on fuel.
Neither one of us surfs, but San Juan has plenty to keep us entertained.
Tuesday evenings are reserved for Trivia Night at our favorite expat bar, Republika.
The Saturday morning Farmer’s Market at Big Wave Dave’s is a great place to catch up with friends. It’s here where we pick up delicious baked bread, smoked ham, cinnamon buns and other tasty treats that we have difficulty finding elsewhere.
If we’re in the mood on Sunday evenings we can catch a flick under the stars at the newest, coolest place in town—Howler Bar. It’s also become our favorite place to go for live music.
When we want to cool off we visit one of many nearby beaches. Sometimes we head south to Playa Hermosa.
Other times we go north to Playa Maderas. Both are within 20 minutes from our home and have beach bars that serve some of the tastiest fish tacos around.
The “Palm Island Pool” and swim-up bar (literally a bar you swim up to) at the Surf Ranch resort is our preferred place to catch some rays while sipping cheap, frosty Tonas (the local beer).
Gordon and I have really grown to love the laid-back coastal lifestyle San Juan del Sur offers. And as each sunshiny day passes, life in Nicaragua just keeps getting better and better.
Other International Living Postcards that may interest you:
Leaving behind a large network of girlfriends and starting over in Nicaragua hasn’t been easy. Regardless of how much I enjoy spending time with my husband Gord, being with your significant other 24 hours a day isn’t healthy for any relationship. And although Gord tries, he just can’t seem to relate when I complain about having a bad hair day.
That being said, I’m so thankful to have crossed paths with Mandy.
Mandy is originally from North Carolina. She’s been living in San Juan del Sur for the past four years with her husband Cory and she is my new Nicaraguan bestie.
Mandy is an animal lover, shoe-aholic and Mom to one dog, one cat and two parrots.
Aside from Jack Daniels, Diet Coke is her drink of choice. She loves Eskimo ice cream and pool days just as much as I do.
It wasn’t long after meeting Mandy I realized that her personality matched her appearance. She’s a true beauty.
Mandy is fun to shop with and easy to be with. I love how she says “y’all” and appreciate that she helps me with my Spanish.
This brown-eyed babe can usually be found at Republika (the bar her and her husband own) mixing mean drinks or popping caps off ice cold Tonas. Whether you’re a traveler passing through or new to the expat community of San Juan del Sur be sure to stop by and say hello. I guarantee she’ll greet you with a warm and friendly smile.
With a belly full of food from Elizabeth’s and a gallon jug of water in hand I set out for what would end up being a long, hot, sticky day. Jon and Quinn took me to a few of the rental places that they had looked at when they first arrived in San Juan del Sur. Some of them were no longer available and none of them had wi-fi so we carried on up the road out of town to look at a few others. Some of them were a little rough around the edges and once again none of them had wi-fi.
Jon and Quinn stopped at the Pali grocery store to grab a few things and I soldiered on with my mission.
Two hours, a gallon of water and a bucket of sweat later I arrived back at Elizabeth’s hostel with very little to show for my effort. I was physically drained and to be totally honest, emotionally drained as well. On the up side, I did have a couple of appointments to look at rentals that were coming available over next few days, but nothing I had seen up until this point had made me very excited.
I realized that ambling around the streets without a plan was not working out so well, so I took the search tactical. On day two I started at the street that runs parallel to the beach and walked to the end of the street, went up one block and walked all the way back. I continued this pattern until I had zig-zagged my way across every single street in San Juan del Sur.
By the end of the day I had found two apartments that would work, but neither of them felt right. What to do? Just commit to one of the places so I didn’t miss out or roll the dice and continue house hunting for one more day.
That night I went for a beer at my favorite bar – Republika – to visit with the owner and friend Cory. Cory works at the Remax Real Estate office here in town so I asked him if he had an inside scoop on any rentals not on the tourist trail. He promised to look into a few places for me the next day, but also mentioned a place he just noticed that afternoon.
I have no idea now I missed it because it was not more than fifty meters from where I laid my head at night. Maybe the rental sign wasn’t up when I walked by it early that morning.
It was my third day in San Juan and I went back to meet the landlord Salvador. He had just completed the interior construction of the apartments that morning and proudly showed me around. To avoid a price increase I did my best at hiding my excitement. When you’re white and don’t speak Spanish you’re already at a disadvantage without gushing about how much you like a place.
The largest apartment was already rented out, but the small one on the second floor wasn’t. With one bedroom, one bathroom, a small kitchen and a living room it was perfect for me. The monthly rent includes electricity, gas, water, cable TV, a small LED TV and wi-fi all for less than half what we were paying in Granada.
I showed up at 9 o’clock the next morning to pay my rent just ahead of another couple that took the third and last apartment. Their first choice happened to be my apartment, but luckily I beat them to it.
Special thanks to Cory for helping me find this place. It it weren’t for him I might still be aimlessly zig-zagging the streets of San Juan del Sur in search of the perfect place.