5 Must Do’s Granada

Granada photo credit // Kathy Linch

Granada photo credit // Kathy Linch

The brightly colored buildings, cobblestone streets and historically preserved colonial architecture will capture your eyes the minute you arrive. Central America’s oldest Colonial city is nestled between Lake Nicaragua and Volcan Mombacho, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region.  There’s so many things that will tug at your attention in this city. In no particular order, here’s my top 5 things to do in Granada if you’ve only got a few days to spend. 

1. Eat your heart out at the ChocoMuseo 

Follow your nose to the CocoMuseo (Chocolate museum) inside the Mansion de Chocolate.  The museum style chocolate factory offers “Bean to Bar” chocolate making workshops and full day tours to nearby cacao plantations. Here you can learn about the history of the cacao bean from the Mayans and Aztecs. You’ll also get a chance to break and grind the cacao beans by hand. No trip to the museum is complete without tasting the array of chocolate delicacies on display. From coffee bean chocolate bars to jalapeño infused chocolate sauce, the CocoMuseo is truly a chocolate lovers paradise. 

Granada Cathedral, Nicaragua2. Visit all three major Cathedrals 

It’s not surprising that most people leave the city only having visited the frequently photographed Cathedral of Granada in central park. It’s central location and recently refurbished yellow exterior will draw you in.  However there’s at least two other cathedrals that are beautifully preserved and packed with history all within walking distance of the city center.  La Merced was one of the most revered churches in Granada for almost 300 years until its main tower was destroyed in 1854.  And Iglesia de Guadalupe was once used as a fortress by William Walker in 1856 during the infamous American filibuster. 

3. Buy a hammock at Tio Antonio’s Central Social 

It’s easy to miss the brightly colored hand-woven hammocks in the doorway if you’re just passing through the city.  Step inside and you’ll find hammocks being woven by nearly a dozen people that are deaf and hard of hearing. Tio Antonio’s Central Social sells an incredible variety of swinging chairs and hammocks to suit any size – all hand made by people with impaired hearing. Visitors can learn about the history of the social mission, add their contribution to the largest hammock in history, and try weaving a hammock of their own.  When you’re finished learning and shopping, be sure to grab a bite to eat nextdoor at Cafe de las Sonrisas. The friendly restaurant staff will greet you in sign language and offer ear-plugs to get a feel for their world without sound.  Tio Antonio’s center to empower and employ people people with disabilities is worth going out of your way to visit. 

Granada Isletas, Nicaragua

photo credit // Kathy Linch

4. Cruise the islands on Lake Nicaragua 

There’s an entire water world that exists among the 350+ volcanic formed islands in Lake Nicaragua along the outer edge of Granada. Some islands are getting snatched up by wealthy investors and turned into private estates or boutique hotels with boat only access. Among the “isletas” there’s a local school and a small cemetery too.  Jump on a panga with a local boat captain off the malecon and you’ll quickly see another world unfold where laundry is hand-washed on cement corrugated washboards and fisherman dive with nets. (Note to travelers – Please don’t feed the monkeys, they are dangerously overweight.)

5. Swim in Laguna de Apoyo 

Nicaragua’s deepest swimming hole is actually a water filled crater of the now extinct Apoyo Volcano. The lake is an estimated 200 meters deep and 4 miles in diameter. The dry tropical forest that surrounds the volcanic crater is home to over 500 species of flora and fauna. Indigenous artifacts and petroglyphs have been discovered within it as well.  Nicaragua’s Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA) declared the crater lake a national nature reserve in 1991.  Established resorts and hostels like the Monkey Hut, offer kayaks, inner-tubes and swimming access to floating docks for aspiring travelers and lake lovers.  

My Journey to Nicaragua Was Well Worth The Effort


This is a guest post from Ross Campbell who relocated to Nicaragua from the USA. If you would also like to write for San Juan Live, click here for more information on guest posting.

Nicaragua is a country of unparalleled beauty, and it’s so affordable to live in as well. After taking a couple vacations here, I finally decided that it was the right place for me and where I wanted to settle down after retirement. When the day finally came, I was overjoyed, and nervous all at once. I began planning the move and started working out how it was all going to happen. The planning process spanned over many months, and even now I’m still trying to tie up a few loose ends here and there from my life in the United States, but I don’t regret the move one bit.

Making the Move

Deciding to move to Nicaragua was a point of great excitement for me, but it was also the main cause of some serious stress. I’ve spoken to a few others who have moved or retired to Nicaragua and hearing about their love for the country helped ease my stress a bit. I had to consider what belongings I would bring along and what I would leave behind. After much careful deliberation, I decided to leave behind most everything, other than my clothing and a single laptop computer. It’s costly to import most things into Nicaragua and I knew my carry-on space and luggage space would be limited when making the move.

I took the flight over to Nicaragua on a chilly Tuesday morning, and arrived in a warm and welcoming climate with two luggage bags carrying all my worldly possessions. From there I headed to the local hostel that I booked for the next three weeks. That was my place to stay until I could find a long-term rental, and I ended up having to extend my reservation an additional week before coming across a good rental that I was ready to commit to.

Finding My Rental

One of the most difficult things about moving to a new country, is finding a place to live. This is doubly true if you don’t have any family members around to help you learn the local market or to connect you with a reliable real-estate professional. While I could find a place to rent over my first few weeks in Nicaragua, I knew I would have to do a bit of research to track down a long-term rental at a more reasonable price.

I relied on two methods at the time to finally come across my beautiful studio apartment rental that I currently pay about $400 USD for each month. The first thing I did was regularly take long walks around Playa Marsella and surrounding communities. During my walks, I regularly came across for rent or Se ALQUILA signs that seemed to be posted up on a weekly basis. I also looked at community bulletin boards and local classified ads for homes. I prefer to rent, although buying a home in Nicaragua is an option for many living in the country.

What I soon realized was that the properties with posted for rent signs were almost always cheaper than the locations that were being advertised by other means. By taking the time to locate these properties myself, I could see much more affordable options overall and snag my very affordable studio apartment. The apartment comes with security, cable TV, parking, cleaning and it’s partially furnished, giving me everything that I’m looking for.

Bringing My Car Over

There is a decent public transportation system, and I picked a rental near enough to the city center to make biking or walking comfortable, but there are plenty of opportunities throughout Nicaragua that are just better when you have a car of your own. That’s why I committed to shipping over my 2012 Nissan Altima. I love my car and didn’t want to sell it off before leaving, even though I knew it would be a good bit of work to import it into Nicaragua. Fortunately, I found a great overseas car transport company to help me through the process with A1 Auto Transport Inc.

The first step was to get the title and all my US paperwork around for the vehicle. Then I had to clear it with U.S. Border Customs to make sure it was good to move outside the U.S. Finally, I filled out a huge selection of paperwork around the vehicle, showed off my identification and payed taxes and the shipping company to get my vehicle to Nicaragua. After working with an Expat insurance company to secure local insurance, I could register the vehicle and start driving it around, and boy did it make exploring the local towns more enjoyable! I used my car to find some favorite new beaches, and a cool shopping town nearby that I didn’t even know about. It was a lot of work to import my vehicle, but it was worth it for all the perks that I enjoy by having a vehicle of my own.

Overall my journey to Nicaragua has been an exciting one, and it amazes me how little money I need to live comfortably here, but there is work involved when moving here from the U.S. You’ll have to fill out paperwork, deal with unfamiliar customs, like month-long leases and it will likely take some time to settle in, but it’s all worth it, or at least it was to me.

Questions? Comments?  Sound off below.

How to Reinvent Yourself in 2017

photo credit// @pineapples

photo credit// @pineapples

As 2016 fades away behind us, I’ve been reflecting on ways to reinvent myself, my business and my non-profit (again) in 2017.  I find myself nearly overwhelmed with a combination of both grief and gratitude.  How can so much good and evil co-exist in the world? Can any one of us make a difference? Is there still hope remaining? 

I need to believe that the new year provides an opportunity for self and communal reinvention.  I have faith that humanity has the capacity to forgive, heal, change and grow.  I believe that in the end, love and peace will eventually win.  

So while new year’s resolutions may simply be a man-made impetus to start over, this year’s resolution feels extra important. Here are 4 intentions to reinvent yourself in 2017:

1. Be an advocate for a good cause. 

There’s never been a better time to support a grassroots organization in San Juan del Sur. Non-profits are feeling the financial squeeze left over from lingering feelings of fear and scarcity. And yet, the town continues to develop while the cost of living for locals rises.  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we encourage you to make a financial contribution this year to improve the quality of education that locals have access to.  In 2017, let’s make it our mission to empower these Nicaragua non-profits year-round.

2. Live in the moment.

The power of now is one of Nicaragua’s greatest life lessons. Time is measured differently in a region where entire communities lack access to electricity, running water and private transportation. Subsistence farmers and fishermen know there are no guarantees for tomorrow.  Let’s make it our intention to make the most of today. 

3. Simplify

In a society that glorifies wealth, minimalist living goes against the flow. We are inundated daily with advertisements that promote consumerism and a lifestyle of abundance. Making a conscious choice to spend less money, own less possessions, create less waste and commit to fewer obligations can be wildly freeing. Change your priority to time with loved ones and see what that does for your perspective this year. 

4.  Do something brave. 

Maybe you want to learn how to surf or finally book a plane ticket and learn what life is like in Nicaragua on one of our relocation tours. It could something big like buying real estate in Nicaragua, or something important like simply having a hard conversation with a loved one.  

For me it’s being more vulnerable in my writing. What’s yours?  We want to hear it!






The Festive Funding Flash Mob is here!

FESTIVE FUNDING FLASH MOB POSTIt’s that time of year again. We’re ringing the bell on the holidays early this year to provide much needed financial support to NGO’s actively working to empower the lives of locals in San Juan del Sur.  These NGO’s work tirelessly to improve the wellbeing and contribute to the development of the local community.  You’ll find a program with a heart for just about every need here. 

At San Juan Live we believe in helping our neighbors, which is why this holiday season we’re hosting another “Flash Mob” of festive funding and everyone is invited to join! 

Here’s how it works:

[Read more…]

The San Juan Live Black Friday Sale Starts Today


The Black Friday Sale has now ended. Thank you.

Can you believe it’s almost December?

In the spirit of the holidays, we’re dropping the price of the Insider Guide To San Juan del Sur and The Real Estate Market Report for San Juan del Sur and the Emerald Coast starting right now…

Until this Tuesday you can get:

  • The Insider Guide to San Juan del Sur for $4.99 – That’s a saving of 37%. So if a trip to Nicaragua is in your future travel plans, now is the time to get the guidebook on San Juan del Sur.
  • The Real Estate Market Report for San Juan del Sur and the Emerald Coast for $4.99 – So if you’re interested in buying property here or you have property to sell, now is the time to get the Real Estate Market Report.
  • Both the Insider Guide and the Real Estate Market Report for just $6.99 – That’s a saving of more than 50% if you bought the two separately. So get the discount while you can.

On midnight, December 1, the prices will go back up.

Happy Holidays!

The Black Friday Sale has now ended. Thank you.

Keep Giving Thanks

November has been an emotional month.  The recent presidential elections in the United States and Nicaragua have stirred up emotions and feelings of uncertainty about the future of both countries.

One thing is clear, we’re experiencing a season of change. And in times of change, it’s often helpful to name and rededicate ourselves to the causes making a positive impact in our local community.

So this Thanksgiving I’m giving thanks to these grass roots organizations dedicated to educating and empowering locals. [Read more…]

Planning to Retire Overseas: Is Nicaragua Your Best Choice? An Interview With Author Margit Streifeneder

retire-overseas_nicaragua-bookOwner of Retirepedia and author Margit Streifeneder took time out from her busy schedule to talk to me about her new book Planning to Retire Overseas: Is Nicaragua Your Best Choice?

My goal for the interview was to pinpoint exactly who should read her book, why and exactly what they would get out of it.

Take a look:

Why did you decide to write a book on retiring in Nicaragua?

Nicaragua is a wonderful country to live or retire in, but it’s not for everyone. I wrote my book to help people make an informed decision whether Nicaragua is the right choice for them. I also wanted to give them a proven roadmap to test-drive and finally move to this country, if they decided that Nicaragua was indeed the right country for them.

My book is packed with the experiences and the information I gathered since coming to Nicaragua in 2010. It also includes an FAQ section where I am answering the questions I received from my website’s readers over the years. [Read more…]

Key Steps to Purchasing Real Estate Safely: Interview with Eduardo Cabrales Cuadra

The process of purchasing property as a foreigner in Nicaragua is not the same as in North America. For starters, there’s no multiple listing service or easy access to public records on recent sales prices.

Hiring a local attorney is critical in order to check the title history, ensure there are no liens or encumbrances on the property and to register the title in the local registry. Miss one step and the consequences could prove costly and time consuming to resolve.

In an exclusive interview with Eduardo Cabrales Cuadra, managing partner with Garcia & Bodan Law Firm, Eduardo explains the key steps to purchasing real estate in Nicaragua.

Understanding the process of purchasing property in Nicaragua is critical

In this video Eduardo breaks down the five key steps to purchasing property: (i) private sales agreement, (ii) designation of a third-party to escrow the funds, (iii) legal due diligence by an independent attorney, (iv) closing and finally (v) title registration.

For more detailed information on the main conditions included in a typical purchase and sale contract, check out this article in our Seller's Learning Center.

The 4 Steps of Title Research

In this video, Eduardo dives further into the details of the title research process for property investigation. These 4 critical steps of the title research process could impact your ownership rights, uncover potential conflicts of interest and ultimately save you a lot of time and money. Have a look at his exclusive interview below.

Pair these videos with the answers to frequently asked questions in our Buyer's Learning Center.

Next step: Sign up for our Free Insider Tips Series for Nicaragua Real Estate Investors.  And track the most up-to-date real estate listings in Nicaragua on our owner updated real estate marketplace.

Why a sense of belonging is the secret behind Rancho Chilamate’s success

Have you ever been to a place that you instantly clicked with?

A place you felt you somehow belonged.

Great feeling, isn’t it?

Well, here in San Juan del Sur there’s one place that more than any other makes people feel at home.

That place is Rancho Chilamate.

It’s brought so much joy to so many people that I’ve got a big smile on my face as I write this.

Technically it’s a 10 acre horse ranch in the south western corner of Nicaragua.  A ranch with rivers, mountains, forests, haciendas, big skies, beaches and surf-breaks… as well as lots of horses and cowboy hats.

But the attraction of Rancho Chilamate isn’t just about these tangible aspects.

It’s about the atmosphere of the place and its personality. It’s about the smiles of the people you meet when you visit.  It’s about living in relationship with the local community and giving back to it. It’s about Blue, the owner and original cowgirl, and her careful stewardship of the land.

Something in the air, under those big skies, makes you feel at ease.

Talk to people who’ve visited and they’ll rave about epic horseback rides along the beach.

They’ll tell you how they felt thrilled, soothed, pampered, deliriously happy and filled with possibility.

They go back to the ranch again, and again.

Because long after the adrenaline rush has faded they still feel drawn to what Rancho Chilamate represents.

That want to feel like they belong again. [Read more…]

Sharing Rainbows and Spreading Smiles

IMG_0330Against the backdrop of beautiful beaches, colorful wildlife and world class surf breaks, it can sometimes be hard to remember that Nicaragua has the highest poverty rate in Central America. Studies show that 47 percent of Nicaragua’s 5.7 million people survive on less than 2 dollars a day.

Despite the poverty level, Nicaragua is transitioning into one of Central America’s most popular vacation destinations.  And in an effort to bridge the gap, we’re constantly coming up with new partnerships and innovative ways to give back to the local community.

[Read more…]