Grocery shopping in San Juan del Sur takes a bit of effort. One stop shopping is unheard of. In this article we’ll attempt to make your San Juan del Sur shopping experience better by telling you where to buy what and how much you can expect to to pay for things.
Although Pali (owned by Walmart) is the largest grocery store in San Juan del Sur it’s my least favorite place to shop. The aisles are narrow and the selection is limited. Pali stocks the basics and essentials, but not a whole lot more.
Items like sesame seeds, peanut oil, rice wine vinegar, wasabi paste and extra virgin olive oil can be purchased at Miscelania Sanchez. Nutella, Kraft salad dressing and Frank’s Red Hot Sauce are part of the regular inventory. They also carry instant cake mixes, confectioners sugar, baking soda and brown sugar. If you want cheese this is the place to go.
I’ve been told by other expats if you don’t see a particular item you’re looking for at Sanchez just speak to the owner Gloria. She’ll do her best to find the item(s) you’re looking for and and bring them in for you.
Feta Cheese (171 g) – $4.65
Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (680 ml) – $5.27
Nutella (350 g) – $7.59
Peter Pan Peanut Butter (426 g) – $5.99
Kraft Macaroni & Cheese $1.35
On a side note many spices have been difficult to find here in San Juan del Sur (or any other place in Nicaragua – including Managua – for that matter). If you have favorites that you absolutely cannot live without you should bring them with you.
For your shopping convenience there are two Sanchez locations in town – one next to the market (shown above) and the other kitty corner to Barrio Cafe (shown below).
Aside from fruit and vegetable trucks that drive through our neighborhood, the market is the best place to stock up on produce.
1 Pitaya (Dragon-fruit) – $1.06
1 Watermelon – $1.27
1/2 dozen bananas – $0.21
1 Large avocado – $1.27
1 Pineapple – $0.85
30 eggs – $3.38
The market has the best selection, but if you can find what you need on the truck there are deals to be had.
Being so close to the ocean has it’s advantages. We know of four fish markets in town, but our favorite (shown in the photo below) is located just beyond the marina. To ensure you get what you want plan to make this your first stop, early in the day.
Lobster – $6.34 per lb
Shrimp – $4.65 per lb
Mahi-mahi – $2.96 per lb
For the best deal on beverages we go directly to the distributor in town. It is located on the main road as you’re coming into San Juan del Sur. It’s on the right hand side, just down past Pan de Vida Bakery, about two blocks from the beach.
24 – 350 ml bottles of Tona – $13.87
12 cans of Coca-Cola -$5.07
5 gallons of water – $1.78
Even though we have to drive thirty minutes to Rivas to get to the nearest Maxi Pali it’s my favorite place to shop. Maxi Pali is as close as you’ll get to a North American supermarket. The store is bright and clean and the air conditioning is chilly.
Maxi Pali offers a bit more variety when it comes to certain items. Here we can get green, red and yellow peppers. They also carry grapes, kiwi and strawberries. We prefer to buy our meat at Maxi Pali.
Filet Mignon – $3.38/lb
Ground Beef – $2.05/lb
Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast – $2.55/lb
Like other Maxi Pali stores in Nicaragua the one in Rivas has a pharmacy and a small clothing section. They also carry housewares and a few electronics. They even have a “dollar” section.
And last, but certainly not least is on my list of places to shop in San Juan del Sur is Pan de Vida.
Pan de Vida is located 100 meters West of the Uno. It is here is where you’ll find tasty bread and other delicious baked goods you won’t be able to find anywhere else in Nicaragua. Everything is baked in the brick oven.
To date I’ve only tried the foccacia bread, the cinnamon buns and the banana bread, but I can’t wait to sample more of their daily offerings.
Banana Bread $4.64
Foccacia Bread $1.48
Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread $5.70
Round Multigrain Loaf $5.06
Items at Pan de Vida are a bit on the pricey side for an expat on a budget in Nicaragua, but if having good bread means giving up a few Tonas per month – I’m in. These delicious baked goods are worth every penny!
When we add everything up we usually spend between $250 and $300 on groceries each month. We don’t eat filet mignon and lobster every night, but we aren’t eating gallo pinto every night either. We also eat our fair share of meals out.
Hands down we eat more healthy then we did in Canada. We are eating a lot more fruits and vegetables. And it’s rare for a week to go by that hasn’t included a nice thick tenderloin steak grilled on hard wood coals. Now that we have more time meal planning and prep is something we both really enjoy.
Life and food in Nica is A-OK!
As we turned the corner and approached the big yellow church in Granada we spotted them right away.
Our first impression was,
“Wow! She’s tall”.
Elisha waved and smiled as I looked for a shady spot to park the Galloper. We hopped out of the truck and walked over to meet Jon and Quinn, aka “Life Out of the Box”. We shook hands and introduced ourselves and headed towards the Calzada.
Elisha and I have a list of expat blogs that we currently follow. One of our favorites is Life Out of the Box. Life Out of the Box blog was created by a couple from California that moved to Nicaragua three months ago. They are both 25. Their names? Jonathan Button and Quinn Elise.
JB & Quinn currently live in San Juan del Sur and are experiencing many of the same things we did when we arrived in Nica 8 months ago. They have a great outlook on life and the country that they have chosen to call home. They are immersing themselves into the local culture and cuisine to a greater extent than we have – which is great to see!
Our epic meeting that took place a little over a week ago, came about after we read an article Jon had written and published on their blog. It was titled Shopping in Rivas, Nicaragua and partly centered around the challenges him and Quinn were having in their search to find locally made products.
It just so happens that Elisha and I are currently living in Laguna de Apoyo – just below the Pueblos Blancos – the place where most of the country’s handicrafts are made. It only seemed right that we invite them for a visit. After all, we did have 5 extra bedrooms.
Their response to our invitation was,
“How about tomorrow?”
It’s quite surreal meeting someone who already knows you and it’s pretty awesome meeting someone you already know well. There are no surprises when it comes to who they are as people and there’s no pretending to be someone you’re not. Although Quinn and Jon are younger than us we’ve discovered we have very similar core values, goals and outlooks on life. Their blog is an excellent representation of who they are. Keeping it real is what they do.
We’ve drank a few beers and enjoyed some meals together and shared a lot of laughs. We’ve also shared stories covering some pretty deep topics, including our personal definitions of happiness, which for the time being for Elisha and Quinn seems to be Season 8 of The Bachelorette.
Elisha used the words “friendship on fast forward” to describe this experience. Typically when meeting someone new you know very little about them. In the beginning you tend to see them sporadically. What’s cool about our friendship with Jon and Quinn is we understood who they were before we met. And once we did meet we spent a few days living (and working) together.
We already know and understand this couple the way you would with friends that you’ve had for years and to be honest with the amount of deep questions Jon posed over the last couple of days we actually feel like we now know ourselves a little better.
It feels good to have close friends in Nicaragua – the place we now call home.