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Make traveling easier with Tropical Concierge

Coach Kenny

Photo credit DanCesar.com

Tropical Concierge offers a wide range of concierge services, along with reliable and affordable personal assistance for residents and travelers in San Juan del Sur. It is your one stop shop to a custom vacation package.

Owner and founder Kenny Nakai has expertise and local knowledgeable staff to assist with everything from gourmet chef services to surf instruction.  Any activity you want to do in San Juan del Sur can be booked right here. Kenny understands that your vacation is treasured time and he knows how to help you make the most of it.

Tropical Concierge FoodWhether it’s 5 course wine dinners or cocktail parties and BBQ cook outs at your vacation rental home, his door to door chef services are sure to enhance your holiday.  And when it comes to surf instruction, Kenny is an expert.  He’s got years of coaching experience in both Hawaii and Nicaragua. His deep knowledge of the local breaks and background in water safety make him one of the best instructors around.  But above all, Kenny has a passion for teaching and is one of the nicest guys you’ll meet.

When you’re vacationing in a foreign country, it’s all about peace of mind…. and we can assure you that you’re in good hands with Kenny.

Tropical Concierge is located downtown at Wrap n’ Roll, 15 meters north of Casa Oro. Ask for Kenny. Or contact him on Facebook here.

How well do you know San Juan del Sur? (Part 2)

san juan del sur churchIt’s trivia time again.  Another chance to test your knowledge of San Juan del Sur.  For this round we’re going to dig a little deeper into the country, the culture and every day life in Nicaragua.

If you’ve spent enough time in San Juan del Sur, you should already know some of these answers but we’ll bet you will learn something new from taking this trivia quiz.

  1. Flor de Caña Gran Reserve 7 is aged for seven years in charred oak barrels from what type of alcohol? We’ll give you a hint. It comes from Tennessee.
  2. If someone puckers their lips in one direction what does it mean?
  3. Manzana is the Spanish word for apple but do you know what else the word means? Okay, another hint…it’s a measurement term used in real estate.
  4. What record does Nicaragua hold in The Guinness Book of World Records?
  5. When is the best time of year for off-shore fishing?
  6. What native Nicaraguan fruit grows on a cactus and blooms only 1 night per moon cycle?
  7. What is the significance of Nicaragua’s coat of arms?
  8. Which hotel in Nicaragua was once owned by British immigrant William Cross and later the Somoza family, and also visited by both poet Ruben Darío and Mark Twain?
  9. There are 2 types of macuás in Nicaragua.  One is a native tropical bird and the other is…?
  10. What does FSLN stand for?

Here’s the Quiz Part 1

7 Books About Nicaragua Worth Reading

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As Brooke and I were writing the The Insider Guide to San Juan del Sur we started to compile a list of books to help our readers learn more about Nicaragua and its history.

While these books won’t help you decide what to do each day, where to stay or how to get there (that’s what The Insider Guide is for) they will help round out your knowledge about the country.

All the books on the list are great so we have no problem recommending them to you (and using our affiliate link which will take you to Amazon).

We’ve kicked off the list with Rubén Darío as he leads the way in Nicaragua’s literary tradition. But if reading poetry is not your style there are options for you to consider:

Rubén Darío, Stories and Poems/Cuentos y Poesías: A Dual-Language Book, edited by Stanley Applebaum, offers a good introduction to Darío’s body of work. An English translation is provided next to the Spanish text.

Salman Rushdie visited Nicaragua at the height of the Contra war and his account, The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey, offers an accessible glimpse of this defining time in Nicaragua’s history.

If you are keen to dig a little deeper into the Somoza era and the Sandinista Revolutions, Walker’s Nicaragua: Living in the Shadow of the Eagle provides in-depth coverage and exposes the breadth of US influence on Nicaragua.

The Country Under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War, written by Nicaraguan born Gioconda Belli, describing her experiences as a member of the revolutionary Sandinista movement.

Blood of Brothers, is a story of “Life and War in Nicaragua” written by Stephen Kinzer. Praised by the New York Times Book Review as, “a graphic account of a country torn in half.”

Thomas Belt, The Nationalist in Nicaragua. A combination travelogue and natural history book first published in 1874. Follow the author as he navigates the tropical rivers, valleys, forests, and lakes of Nicaragua.

501 Spanish Verbs by Christopher Kendris provides 501 commonly used Spanish verbs. The verbs are conjugated in all tense forms, arranged alphabetically by infinitive, and defined in English. It is essentially the bible of Spanish verb books and should be in every household of any expat that lives in Nicaragua.

We’ve only just started building this reading list and we’d love to expand it into something more definitive.

So what’s on your bookshelf?

Please leave a comment recommending your favorite book on Nicaragua.

We’re Officially Ringing the Bell on the Holidays

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you’re thinking of spending this Christmas or New Years in San Juan del Sur, then you’re running out of time to book your accommodation.  That’s why here at San Juan Live, we’re officially ringing the bell on the holidays.

We’ve already had to turn down so many inquiries for New Years that we decided to save our followers time by pointing out where you can still find lodging in San Juan del Sur.  Don’t worry, there are still some awesome options available but you’ll need to pull the trigger on a booking soon.

Here’s 5 great places to stay in San Juan del Sur during the holidays.

1. The Eco Guest Ranch at Rancho Chilamate

If you’re yearning to escape the busyness of town and craving a unique holiday adventure, don’t look any further than Rancho Chilamate.  The masterfully designed guest ranch consists of four rentable rooms, a casita and the owners barracks complete with pool, horse stables, wifi, cowboy showers and a “boot room” for horseback riders to gear up for the trail. The entire ranch is solar powered and a percentage of every ride gets donated back a local community development fund.  You’re not just getting a once in a lifetime experience at a great price, you can feel good about where your money is going.  Rooms are $180 to $195 per night all inclusive of food and beverage.  Contact Blue now to book your room.  This offer will not be available for long.

2. Casa Romanica, a Privately Owned Luxury Home within Pelican Eyes Resort

If you only need 1 bedroom, but still want a semi-private pool, Casita Romantica is an excellent choice. The bedroom and large bathroom with double sinks are on the upper floor, with private kitchen and dining area. A private pool, large patio with outside dining and lounging area complete the picture.  It’s walking distance to town and the main beach.  The price per night is $380. Book it now.

3. El Jardin, a Superb Panorama

Located 10 minutes out of town El Jardin makes a stylish base for people preferring tranquility and relaxation over the noise and hustle of town during the holidays. Perched on a hill overlooking Nacascolo Bay, this 11 roomed boutique hotel has one of the best views of the area.  The large swimming pool is surrounded by sprawling terraces to relay and enjoy the “winter” sunshine. Those seeking a shadier spot can steal away to smaller seating areas dotted around the place, or retreat to their private terrace (most of the rooms have one).  We’ve only heard rave reviews about the onsite restaurant that caters only to hotel guests.  Only 3 rooms still available.  Book at El Jardin now.

Surf Ranch4. Surf Ranch, an Action Sports Resort

San Juan del Sur’s first and only action sports resort complete with climbing wall, skate park, air pad drop, paintball, swim up bar and more.  If you want an active vacation blended with a party scene, Surf Ranch offers both.  Standard rooms are $70 and villas are $115 per night plus taxes. All rates include breakfast.  Villas sleep up to 4 people.  Check out their website to book now or get more details.

5. A Vacation Rental in the Center of all the Holiday Action

Stay here for the holidays and the party will come to your doorstep. Recently remodeled, the house is fully equipped and fully furnished. It’s got a full kitchen with granite counter-tops, air-conditioning,  a BBQ, hot water showers and a TV/DVD . You also have a fully enclosed yard, perfect for firing up the grill.  It sleeps 4, but if you have a larger group the sleeper sofa can accommodate two more. Holiday rates are $145 per night or $870 per week plus metered electricity and a $12 cleaning fee.  A security deposit is required.  For photos and more information, go here.

Once you get here, have a look at these 7 things you must not miss on your vacation in San Juan del Sur.

Buena Vista Surf Club: Surf, Yoga and Natural Beauty

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Imagine sitting on a tree top balcony sharing a fruity rum drink with your special someone as you watch the waves roll in at Playa Maderas.

As the owners of Buena Vista Surf Club like to say, “You don’t have to be a surfer to stay here, but we can help you to become one!

You also don’t have to be a yoga practitioner to book a room, but you’re likely to become one after an extended stay and a few sessions on their beautiful ocean view yoga balcony.

Girls doing yoga

Dutch resident owners Marielle and Marc have been hosting guests since 2005 and have stayed true to their vision for an eco-lodge built in harmony with nature. The lodge is completely self sufficient, water is drawn from the on-site well and all of the energy to support the lodge is sourced from the sun.

Located only 8 kilometers north of San Juan del Sur and directly overlooking one of the most consistent surf breaks in the region – Playa Maderas – the lodge is perfectly positioned for an escape from reality.

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Meals are family style and all dishes are home cooked using many fresh ingredients from the on-site garden. Lodging consists of 6 cozy, free standing tree-houses.

Stay for a few days, slow down and you’ll find that you’re in the perfect spot to enjoy the raw natural beauty of the Maderas area of San Juan del Sur.

We suggest you leave your cell phone at home.

cabana2*

Price: $65pp based on double occupancy
Location: Perched atop Playa Maderas
Neighborhood: Maderas, San Juan del Sur
Website: buenavistasurfclub.com
Insider Guide Top Pick: In the Insider Guide to San Juan del Sur, Buena Vista Surf Club is a top pick for the Maderas neighborhood.

16 Nicaragua Travel Tips from the Rockstars of Travel Blogging

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You don’t have to be the world’s best traveler to have an amazing vacation in Nicaragua. But if you’ve never visited before it’s easy to make mistakes that could derail your vacation.

Thankfully, you can avoid common mistakes by getting travel advice from experts and insiders who know the place well.

So we started with Nomadic Samuel’s list of 100 top travel blogs.  It’s effectively the Who’s Who of travel blogging.  When we checked we found that around 1 in 4 of the blogs had articles about Nicaragua. (Yes, it’s a small number, but we think that’s a good thing.)

From the shortlist we compiled 16 travel tips and personal reflections to help you when you arrive in Nicaragua so that you can get started immediately on having a great time.

In no particular order, here they are:

1. Nomadic Samuel

Nicaragua is another country that’s often overshadowed by its neighbors – in this case, Costa Rica.  But the ‘land of lakes and volcanoes’ in Central America has plenty to offer tourists if they’re willing to explore a country that’s off the beaten tourist track.  One thing I’d love to do in Nicaragua? Go volcano boarding down the Cerro Negro. Think snowboarding or sledging, but down the side of a volcano.” –  From Nomadic Samuel.

2. Globetrotter Girls

The national drink of Nicaragua, Macuá is a sweet cocktail with Flor de Caña rum and several fruit juices. Fabulous!” – One of “33 things we love about Nicaragua” from Globetrotter Girls

3. Life as Vagabonds

The real winner in San Juan del Sur’s repertoire is the sunset. The sun sets out at sea with golden orange rays finally cascading down below the horizon, but not before illuminating the boats, water, sand and a statue of Jesus presiding high above the town on a mountain top.” – Michael from Life as Vagabonds

4. Pause the Moment

If you’re in Leon, Granada, or any other Nicaraguan city that has a professional baseball team, do yourself a favor and go catch a game! I highly recommend it and it is quite possibly one of the most authentic Nicaraguan experiences I’ve had as of yet. My total cost for the game (ticket, water, slice of pizza) came to $3.06 USD. Pretty incredible, right?” – Ryan at Pause the Moment

5. 2 Backpackers

There are several beaches you can visit near San Juan del Sur for surfing. If you are looking for something else, try renting a quad or bike on the beach, charter a fishing boat or go searching for turtles. We booked a canopy tour on zip-lines with Da’ Flying Frog Tours the next day. We had amazing views of the forest canopy and the coastline all for $30 a person, a fraction of what you will pay in Costa Rica.” – From 2 Backpackers

6. Bacon is Magic

I love tamales and ate them often in Mexico. So when I learned that Nicaragua has their own version, aptly called the nacatamale, it went straight to the top of my to-eat list.” – From Bacon is Magic

7. Go Backpacking

Granada is to Nicaragua as Antigua is to Guatemala. It’s here on the shores of Lake Nicaragua that most tourists choose to base themselves, and it’s not hard to see why. Colorful buildings, a large central park, horse-drawn carriages and old cobblestone streets evoke life in Spanish Colonial times.” – Dave from Go Backpacking (You’ll find lots more travel tips in this article)

8. Wandering Earl

If you want an adrenaline rush that involves moving at 50 mph, eating rocks and slashing open several parts of your body, the perfect sport has finally arrived. It’s called volcano boarding and there is also only one place in the world where you can do it – Cerro Negro, an active volcano near the town of Leon, Nicaragua.” – From Wandering Earl

9. Nomadic Matt

Visit Ometepe Island – This extraordinary island is located on the Lago de Nicaragua and is formed by two joined volcanoes, Concepcion and Maderas. Hiking, kayaking, cycling, and healthy food are the island’s main draws. Hiking the volcanoes is as hard as it appears; you’ll need to start really early or the mid-day heat will slow you down significantly (I learned this lesson the hard way).” – From Nomadic Matt (Matt lists 14 other of his favorite things to do in Nicaragua)

10. Unconcerned Market

This visit to Nicaragua happened to coincide with Purisima, a Nicaraguan celebration for the Virgin Mary. Festivities include local families fashioning altars in their living rooms. On the final day (December 8), many families open their homes at 6 PM to allow people to view the altar, sing songs and in return for their participation, receive candy, food and gifts. When we showed a little curiosity outside of a local home in San Juan del Sur, we were whisked in and invited to share in the celebration. When we left, the family literally ran after us insisting we take our Purisima gifts — maracas, noisemakers and lots of food. Generosity of spirit at its finest.” – One of 14 Nicaragua memories from Uncornered Market

11. Wild Junket

It seemed like only a moment ago when we were peering at the beach from above. Now we were trotting by the sea, with the hooves of the horses softly sinking into the sand beneath. The hoof prints were prominent in the light sand, like the imprint the waves had left before retreating into the sea. The horses took their time strolling on the beach, giving us time to enjoy what we had left of our horseback riding experience.” – Elica from Wild Junket

12. Johnny Vagabond

We’d just called for the check when the Moment happened. I’m not sure if I’ve ever spoken of the Moment, but it’s the time when everything comes together and you really understand why you’re here at this place and at this time. It’s magic. It may last a half-second or a half-hour. After three years on the road, I’ve finally learned that it is what I truly seek — not enlightenment, not understanding. I crave the Moment, when everything makes sense. Maybe that is enlightenment of a sort, but it’s just a taste.” – From Johnny Vagabond

13. Dave’s Travel Corner

Suddenly a loud gulp sounded high above us in a macone tree. I stretched my neck and attempted to see through my steamed up glasses.  Then I saw it.  A howler monkey with spindly brown arms outstretched between two branches, watched us from the top of the world, its head cocked to one side. Her vocalization sounded like she swallowed a ping pong ball on a microphone. Gulp. Gulp.” – From Dave’s Travel Corner

14. Raising Miro

I love Nicaragua, much more than Costa Rica. There is a real passion in the people, the streets, the culture that contrasts with Costa Rica’s gringo influence. Nicaragua is country with is fatigued with much internal fighting and the corruption of politics and in general, the people here are very poor. On the other hand, they are so rich with passion, culture and history. There is almost a silent knowing among one another that they’ve gone through the worst, and things ARE getting better.” – Lainie from Raising Miro

15. Stop Having a Boring Life

Yesterday I spent one of the coolest days I’ve had on the island in the last 7 months and it involved a day trip to Otto’s Beach on the north western point of the island. Otto Beach Little Corn Island is a solid 20+ minute walk from town and it involves climbing the hill that sits in the center of the island and a march through jungle until you reach what I can only describe as paradise.” Rob from Stop Having a Boring Life

16. The Expert Vagabond

Do you want to travel back in time? It’s possible in Nicaragua. Venture into any of the many small towns to experience rural farming communities where water is collected with buckets, horses are the only way to get around, and even basic electricity can be hard to find. Living in Nicaragua for a while was a refreshing pause in my journey, and I became captivated by it’s magic.” – Matthew Karston from The Expert Vagabond

Want more advice from insiders?

If you’re planning a trip to San Juan del Sur then you’re probably going to want to look at our Insider Guide to San Juan del Sur. The Insider Guide will be really helpful to you because it not only provides you with the knowledge and inspiration for a remarkable travel experience but helps you avoid the mistakes that otherwise smart travelers make when they travel here. If you’d like to have a look, go ahead and click on this link to get the details.

How San Juan del Sur Makes You Feel

San Juan del SurPeople ask me all the time why I moved to San Juan del Sur.  And my answer is always the same… It’s how it makes me feel:

  • It makes me want to throw out my TV.
  • It makes me want to write a book.
  • It makes me want to climb trees.
  • It makes me want to dive into waves.
  • It makes me want to re-invent myself…again.
  • It makes me want to throw a music festival.
  • It makes me want to give to those who have less than me and it makes me less concerned about those who have more.
  • It makes me want to quit my job (oh wait, I’ve already done that).
  • It makes me feel thankful.
  • It makes me feel young.
  • It makes me feel alive.
  • It makes me feel free.

I’ve yet to see another video capture the emotion of San Juan del Sur in 2 minutes and 37 seconds as well as this video produced by David Kalani in 2009.  But the truth is that you have to visit to feel it. #lifeishort  #noregrets

Visit Nicaragua! – 100% San Juan Del Sur from david kalani larkins on Vimeo.

How to have an Amazing Travel Experience in San Juan del Sur

cover-300-insider-guideThe Insider Guide to San Juan del Sur just went live.  And we’re offering 40% off the cover price until 5th September, 2014.

So for just $4.70 you’ll have all the knowledge and inspiration you need to get best out of your trip to San Juan del Sur.

And if you’re still in travel planning mode the Insider Guide will help you work out if San Juan del Sur is the right place for your next trip.

Learn more about what the Insider Guide includes and secure your discounted copy here.

How to have an Amazing Travel Experience in San Juan del Sur

We can’t tell you how to travel well for every destination, but we can for San Juan del Sur.

For over 10 years we’ve been living and working here and over that time we’ve learned the intricacies of the place up close and in person. Plus we’ve come to understand the experiences that only San Juan del Sur can deliver.

Our aim is simple: to prepare you for a remarkable travel experience, using everything we’ve learned over the years.

Ready?

Purchase your content-packed 180 page guide today for the discounted launch price of $4.70.  There’s a 30 day money back guarantee that comes with the guidebook.  Here’s the special discount link.

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PS: Bonus: The guide comes packaged with a bunch of juicy coupons to top quality local businesses. If you use just one, the guide pays for itself.

6 Top Spots for Coffee in San Juan del Sur

coffee shopNicaraguan growers have been producing quality coffee since the 1850s, so it was only a matter of time before specialist coffee shops serving local beans started to open in San Juan del Sur.

So whether you’re a long time resident, interested in relocating to San Juan del Sur or planning a visit, I give you 6 great spots to get your caffeine fix (plus a bonus spot).  And best of all, San Juan del Sur is still a chain free zone.

1. Barrio Café – Even though the focus is not just on coffee, the Barrio Café baristas still serve a quality cappuccino. Each cup of jaza is uniquely decorated and topped off with milk foam art. The caffeinated patrons mix with people snacking on burgers and wraps or sipping ice cold Toñas at the bar.  The beans are from high altitude farms in Matagalpa.

coffee cups2. Café Mediterráneo – The ice-cold lattes served from this tiny, Italian owned café across from the market tick all our boxes. The coffee is creamy smooth with no bitterness and the service is quick.  While writing the Insider Guide to San Juan del Sur we crisscrossed the streets of downtown and ordered to-go lattes from here each time we passed.  If you have time, stay for the food. It’s also excellent, with some very original plates.

3. El Gato Negro – Coffee and books are such natural bedfellows, it’s no wonder that El Gato Negro has been such a hit in San Juan ever since it first opened its doors in 2005. The small batch coffee beans come from their own farm and from friend’s farms and are roasted every 2 days.

4. Café Revolución – Perch on one of the stools facing Playa Maderas and sip on a perfect latte while you check out San Juan del Sur’s most popular break. Sometimes in return for a great surf break you accept you’ll need to sacrifice some home comforts, like good specialty coffee drink options.  But not here.

5. Vintage Restaurant in Hotel Victoriano – Come here for excellent specialty coffees.   A hotel and restaurant, not just a coffee shop, but this iconic landmark was once Somoza’s beachfront escape and also visited by Mark Twain during his Transit Route. The java is delicious and you can’t beat the view of the bay directly across the street. Be sure to grab a seat with an ocean view and stroll through the photo gallery explaining its history.

6. San Juan Surf Crêpes and Coffee - Serving gourmet crêpes and coffee.  Yes, a timeless taste of France has landed right in the heart of San Juan del Sur.  Crêpes are delicious paired with a rich cup of coffee.  Stop by, order to go or have it delivered.

7. Bonus spot – If you want to pull your own expresso shot, fill a french press or load up the drip coffee maker, we recommend the organic coffee from Finca El Petén. The beans are sold at La Nica Orgánica a farm store located on the side of the main road into town at the entrance Finca Las Nubes.

We’ve plotted all 6, plus the bonus spot, on a map:

7 Things you Must Not Miss when you take your Vacation in San Juan del Sur

7-things-must-not-missWalk into any large travel agency and posted on the main walls are the glossy posters of big name attractions around the world. These are the anchor experiences that the travel agency is trying to promote.

For many people they are a destination in their own right, or a big part of the decision process in choosing where to go.

So how does this apply to a vacation in San Juan del Sur?

Like all vacation spots, San Juan del Sur has a set of top experiences and archetypical activities that represent the best of the place. The kind of experiences that make you think; “Only in San Juan del Sur“.

Residents know what these are, but we’d bet that none of them have ever graced the shelves of that travel agency we mentioned.

Read the rest of the article and sign up to discover the 7 things you must not miss in San Juan del Sur