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Subscriber Giveaway: The San Juan Live Deal Directory


We all love getting a deal.

But not any old deal.

What we really want is an awesome deal on a quality product.

Awesome deals on quality products

We’ve just compiled our first Deal Directory and it’s full of them.

We’re not just excited about the deals but who the deals are from

If you’ve read The Insider Guide you’ll know that we want to do our bit to help put quality local businesses in San Juan del Sur on the map. That’s not only because spending locally helps strengthen the local economy and community, but because it also gives you a more direct and authentic experience of this sunny corner of the world.

Flip open the Deal Directory and you’ll find deals on local hotels, restaurants, Spanish lessons, spa services, canopy tours, fishing tips, surf rentals and more… The deals are from great local businesses run by local residents passionate about providing the best products and services.

A free gift to our subscribers

The Deal Directory is a free gift to our subscribers and our way of saying thank you for your support and for taking the time to read San Juan Live. We hope you’ll stick around, because there’s much more coming in 2015.

So if you’re a subscriber, look for an email next week with a link to download the Deal Directory.

Not a subscriber?

How about signing up for email updates as well? C’mon, you know you want a good deal on the best places to eat, drink and have fun in San Juan del Sur.

Just click on this link and add your email.

That’s it, once you’ve added your email, BAM, you’re subscribed. You’ll receive the Deal Directory and also get weekly updates about San Juan del Sur.

Best of San Juan del Sur: Results of the Readers Poll

We’ve just wrapped up our first readers poll on San Juan del Sur.

The goal? To find out find out what folks think are the best places to eat, drink and have some fun in San Juan del Sur.

Nearly 100 people responded and the results are pretty interesting!

So interesting in fact that we compiled them into a shareable infographic which you can check out below.

If you want to embed the infographic on your website we’ve included the code at the bottom of the post.


Add this infographic to your website by copying and pasting the following embed code:

Want to discuss the results?

We’d love to hear your thoughts. And if you write a blog post about the readers poll, let us know so we can take a look.

Thanks everyone for participating!

Black Friday Sale on Insider Guide to San Juan del Sur

BLACK FRIDAYIn the spirit of the holidays, we’re discounting the price of the Insider Guide by 40% for 10 days only, starting today. If a trip to Nicaragua is in your future travel plans, now is the time to get the guidebook on San Juan del Sur.

While other Nicaragua guidebooks only have a handful of pages on San Juan del Sur, every page of The Insider Guide showcases experiences that only San Juan del Sur can deliver.

The book is dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism by highlighting locally owned small-scale businesses and products made by social enterprises and co-operatives that have a social mission. And for every book sold on San Juan Live we’ll make a $1 donation to Comunidad Connect, a non-profit striving to protect the environment, educate youth and generate future employment for local people in San Juan del Sur.

If you don’t have a copy of the guidebook yet, now is the time to buy it. You won’t see savings this generous again.



Keep the Thanks Alive: 10 More Things to Be Thankful for in San Juan del Sur

Be ThankfulIf you’re living or traveling in Nicaragua, chances are you’ll start craving turkey, stuffing and gravy around the fourth Thursday of November.  San Juan del Sur isn’t exactly known for changing leaf colors and gourmet holiday delights during Thanksgiving, but it does deliver countless things to be thankful for.  And often it’s the day-to-day things that we take for granted.

So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we’d like to keep the thanks alive in San Juan del Sur.  Here are 10 more things we’re thankful for.  Some are big. Some are small.  But they are all worthy of giving thanks.

  1. Coconut water directly from a coconut.  There’s something special about drinking the water fresh out of a chilled coconut on a hot Nicaragua day.  Look for the coconut vendors walking the streets with their mobile coolers filled with ice-cold coconuts. And don’t forget to crack the coconut open to eat the meat inside after you’ve finished drinking the water.
  2. Bonfires on the beach.  Where I’m from in California beach bonfires are mostly banned or highly restricted.  In San Juan del Sur beach bonfires are permitted and the undeveloped coastline of Nicaragua’s Pacific is ripe for bonfire building. So pick up your marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate from Pulperia Sanchez and don’t forget to bring your guitar.
  3. The Del Sur. It is so easy to take this newspaper for granted.  Del Sur is the town’s trusty source of news updates, event announcements, tourist advisories, classifieds and more.  It provides a wealth of information for visitors and locals in both Spanish and English. So we’d like to offer a big thank you to Kelvin and Maria for your tireless appetite for news, education and truth on matters that impact all who live and travel here.
  4. The San Juan del Sur Day School. This quality, international English speaking school is unique in San Juan del Sur.  We are thankful for the hardworking and inspiring teaching staff, the visionary founding director and the scholarship program which serves to educate those that can’t afford enrollment.  If you share our gratitude for the school, make a donation to the scholarship program here.
  5. The Parque Deportivo. Widely overlooked by tourists passing thru, the “parque deportivo”, (aka sports park) is San Juan del Sur’s one and only true sports facility.  Managed and maintained by Comunidad Connect, it’s where all basketball, futball sala (a version of soccer) and volleyball games take place. It’s also directly across from the beach.
  6. Daily outdoor yoga classes at Zen.  Believe it or not, yoga did exist in San Juan del Sur before Zen.  But never before has there been a consistent daily schedule with a variety of levels and classes.  No matter the day of the week, you can enjoy this oasis of calm in the heart of downtown San Juan.  And there’s something special about getting to practice yoga outdoors year round.
  7. The wildlife.  We don’t just mean monkeys.  We mean all the incredible wildlife that surrounds San Juan del Sur in the ocean, rivers, tropical dry-forest and nearby lakes.  Things like the “Guardabarranco”, Nicaragua’s colorful national bird and humpback whales that migrate between January to April each year.
  8. The fish-market at the harbor.  Daily fresh fish caught by local fishermen.  Where else can you get a pound of fresh lobster for $7-$10 or a pound of mahi-mahi for only $3.30? Located behind the port there are 4 acopias or fish stalls selling fish direct from the fishing boats.  Look on the chalkboard for the catch of the day.
  9. Year round surf in warm water at uncrowded beaches.  No wetsuits needed to keep you warm.  Dozens of nearby beaches to choose from.  Diversity in the type of breaks.  And still relatively uncrowded waves.  All the ingredients of a surfers paradise and we get to call it home.  For this, we are very thankful.
  10. Everyone who purchased our Insider Guide.  We spent nearly a year bumping down dirt roads, collecting information and interviewing local business owners to provide people with a guidebook that promotes sustainable tourism and fully showcases all that San Juan del Sur has to offer. And we are deeply touched by those of you who have bought and shared the book.  Through book sales we’ve already been able to donate $100 to Comunidad Connect and we’re hopeful to hit our next 100 mark soon.  By the way, it’s not too late to get your hands on the guide book. You can grab the Insider Guide here.

How about you?

Whether you’re celebrating U.S. Thanksgiving or not, it feels great to take a minute and think about what’s made your life better this year.  What are you thankful for?

Republika: Tradition Reinvented

Republika BarIf I had to describe the Republika Bar in one word only it would be beloved.

Since I moved to San Juan del Sur almost 8 years ago, I have watched the bar go through four generations of ownership.  I think it’s safe to say that Mandy and Cory Dwyer put the bar on most people’s radar, winning the hearts of expats with the combined vibe of laid back surfers, sports enthusiasts and Southern hospitality.  They established Trivia Night Tuesdays, had a regular weekly poker following and made Republika the go-to spot for watching sports events.  Their departure left a hole in the hearts of many San Juaneños and big shoes to fill. 

Today the torch has been passed to Caroline Dooms and Adrian Le Clercq.  Originally from Belgium, with 2 years of living experience in San Juan del Sur, they spent enough nights on the other side of the bar to recognize the importance of Republika’s traditions.  But they also realized that it needed more than a face lift to breathe life into it again. Upon purchasing the bar in May of 2014, they wasted no time in painting artfully designed wall murals and creating a tasty new menu. They hired back old bartenders and quickly re-established the bar’s loyal following.

The breakfasts include simple yet delicious food options for both healthy and hungover travelers.  From homemade Belgium waffles with powdered sugar to pork pitas with hummus and homemade bread, all lunch and dinner servings are large and the ingredients fresh.  Among our favorites are Caroline’s famous salad with glazed chicken and the Republika burger with hand cut fries (don’t forget to add the bacon and double cheddar). And whisky lovers will be pleased with the upgraded selection of Bookers, Maker’s Mark and Knob Creek that line the shelves.

Tuesday night Trivia has been revived.  Poker night is competitive.  You can always catch a game here in good company.  And their ‘Name That Tune Trivia’ on Fridays is raging in popularity.

So in a sense, the soul of Republika lives on, it’s just got a bit of a French accent.  New ownership, familiar faces and tradition reinvented.

You’ll find Republika a 1/2 block east of Barrio Café on Avenida Central. You can also follow them on Facebook here.

San Juan del Sur Day School Growing Pains

Day SchoolBack in 2009, the San Juan del Sur Day School was a 1/2 day preschool for children aged 2 to 4 years. Over the last several years we’ve watched it blossom into a quality, international school educating kids from 18 months to 9 years in levels Pre-K thru 4th grade.

The teaching faculty is highly qualified and diverse, with teachers regularly putting in extra hours to re-decorate classrooms, paint playground equipment and develop new, inspiring curriculums.  The student body is growing – both in age and in the number of students per class. A Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) was formed in March 2014 to strengthen commitment and collaboration between families and staff.  And plans for the construction of a new campus are underway. No matter how you measure the history of this school, it’s growing.

In the words of Founder and Director Julie Speier:

The mission at San Juan del Sur Day School is to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and compassionate young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through understanding and respect. SJdS Day School encourages students to become caring and lifelong learners through a curriculum designed for inquiry, critical thinking, open mindedness, cultural understanding and sustainability.

What most people don’t realize is that in addition to providing a quality education to the children of families who can afford enrollment, the school also provides scholarships for local children in the community whose parents simply don’t have the money to send them. 

The school currently provides scholarships to 28% of their students.  But there are several more children on the waiting list – eager, qualified students who want to obtain a high quality English education to improve the opportunities and connections for their future.  The school’s goal is to provide 50% of their students with scholarships based upon need. To do this they need help to secure additional funding.

PatrickOne of the students currently in need of a scholarship is Patrick, age 8 (pictured here).  Comunidad Connect enrolled Patrick in the school just over a year ago.  In that short time, he’s attained a proficient grasp of the English language and become an integral member of the day school community.

Translated from Spanish, Patrick’s father, Alfredo, had this to say about his son’s learning experience.

“Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to learn English but it wasn’t within my parents’ reach.  Now, I’m a single father of three beautiful boys, Patrick, Nick, and Alfredo. I wanted Patrick to learn English. I knew he would love it. He’s always been enthusiastic about.  He used to tell me, ever since he was really little, that when I was ancient and he was big he would take care of me and his brothers because he would earn a lot of money because he would speak English. As a father my wish is that he learns this incredibly valuable tool, English and that he triumphs and becomes a professional, a person who looks out for others and is a credit to his society, and is a respected bilingual…I know that soon he’ll master English. I’m so proud of him. Good teachers and teaching are the foundation of everything.”  

At San Juan Live we’ve been able to watch first hand how this school has transformed the lives of the students, their families, the teachers and the surrounding community.  The continued steady growth of enrollment and expansion of this school is key to a healthy community. So we’re encouraging our followers to consider making a contribution.  We realize there are many worthy causes in this country.  We just want to make sure everyone knows that the scholarship program at the San Juan del Sur Day School is one of them.

We think growing pains are a good thing.

To make learn more about the school or making a donation, visit the school website here.

Best of San Juan del Sur Readers Poll

Thank you to everyone who has cast their vote to help define the Best of San Juan del Sur.  The poll is now closed and here are the results. Thanks everyone for participating!

Everyone’s got an opinion. If you’ve read our Insider Guide or you follow our blog then you’ll know our top picks in town.

But now we want you to tell us yours. So we’re taking a poll of readers and residents to discover the Best of San Juan del Sur.

To make this fair, we’re laying down some ground rules for the vote. Don’t worry, there are only 2 of them:

  1. You must fill out at least 10 questions to enter. This is to prevent people from voting for their business only.
  2. Only 1 vote per email address will be counted.

Here’s the form to cast your votes:

Make traveling easier with Tropical Concierge

Coach Kenny

Photo credit

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


As Brooke and I were writing 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.