What's Happening in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua?

Welcome to San Juan Live - your guide to one of the most authentic, relaxed and sunniest spots around.

The exquisite views, dramatic headlands and sandy coves will draw you in at first. Then you'll find it's time to discover the vibrant surfing scene, the recreational opportunities in the interior, the seafood restaurants on the sand and the welcoming personality of a small fishing village set on a perfect crescent of sand that's rapidly putting itself on the map as Nicaragua's most important lifestyle destination.

Apart from the occasional cruise ship that anchors in the half-moon bay, this is not a coast of glitzy mega-resorts, high rises and air-conditioned buses packed with camera-toting tourists. San Juan de Sur with its brightly painted wooden houses and red tin roofs retains a refreshingly rustic charm that draws in visitors seeking a low-key spot that eschews pretension. The town still has some rough edges and unlike many other tropical getaways, you'll find life here very affordable.

Over the years nomadic surfers from California, retirees, US and Canadian snowbirds, artists, and even the occasional celebrity have snapped up property and put down roots, making way for a growing expatriate community. But despite the snazzy homes starting to dot the hillsides, the region remains casual and unassuming.

We keep you informed about the events, activities, restaurants, volunteering and real estate news you need to get the most out of San Juan del Sur.

Plus our community profiles, relocation information and the 180 page content-packed Insider Guide to San Juan del Sur will give you a deeper flavor for the kind of lifestyles and experiences on offer. Use our categories at the top of the site as a starting point, sign up for our free updates, or head to the home page to learn all about what San Juan del Sur has in store for you.

Meet your editors, Brooke and Claudia

Brooke Rundle

Brooke moved from California to San Juan del Sur in 2007. As a sales agent with Coldwell Banker Nicaragua from 2007 – 2014, she’s led dozens of real estate tours through every neighborhood and mountain range in the region. Since 2011 she stepped into a sales and marketing role at Villas de Palermo Resort and over the years she’s organized and hosted numerous types of surf, sports and service tours throughout Nicaragua with various visiting schools, churches and tour operators.

San Juan del Sur is a town that inspires adventure, creativity and service.” She says, “I originally came seeking surf and adventure. I’ve stayed all these years because of the people.”

She co-founded the Casa Llanta Fund providing English classes and scholarships for students in the neighborhood of El Carizal and assisted with the founding of a sustainable women’s cooperative called Condimentos del Carizal which produces and sells homemade jams. She also co-founded Manos Unidas, a cooperative for adults with disabilities to make and sell handmade tote bags from re-purposed rice bags.

Claudia Gonella

Claudia first ventured to Nicaragua in 2000, initially living in Granada, then Managua and finally in San Juan del Sur.

I finally found the Nicaragua I love,” she says. “San Juan del Sur brings me closer to nature, closer to community and closer to fun than any other place I know”.

She ran a real estate brokerage in Nicaragua for over a decade and today is a freelance writer, editor and trip designer dedicated to help others learn more about this authentic, quirky and beautiful region.

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Carreterra San Juan del Sur, km 139
Palermo Neighborhood
San Juan del Sur
Rivas
Nicaragua

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.  

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!

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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

BLACK FRIDAY

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…]

See what your life could look like in San Juan del Sur

Picture this: you wake up in the morning and walk out to your balcony to feel the gentle breeze from Lake Nicaragua and listen to the tropical birds. The sun is shining, so you put on your swimsuit, grab your surfboard and head to the nearby beach.

You follow it up with a dip in the pool and order a fruity cocktail with a plate of plantains and fried cheese (tostones con queso) plus a side of fresh salsa. After soaking up the sun by the pool, you return to your villa to read a magazine in the rocking chair on your private porch overlooking the bay. Your friends pop round in time to watch the sun slowly dip into the ocean.

It doesn’t have to be a dream. Take a peak at what your life could look like:

Right now, 2 bedroom ocean view villas are available at Villas de Palermo starting at $110,000. That’s a lot of house for your money. Take a look.

In a recent article by Dwell, Award-winning landscape architect Margie Ruddick explains landscape architecture as the discipline in which, “the sometimes murky but exquisitely beautiful world of ecologists intersects with design“.

For nature enthusiasts who want to be as close as as they can get to the wild outdoors without compromising comforts, the villas at Palermo Hotel & Resort are the best of both worlds.

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Meet the locals: Who is the real Chuka?

I’d heard rumors about the artist from San Juan de Oriente who comes to San Juan del Sur on weekends only to sell his art.  I’d followed his trail of Pre-Columbian spiritual inspiration mixed with a modern Day of the Dead flavor hanging on walls in trendy places like Gato Negro and King Curry. There are plenty of street vendors on the malecon trying to get an extra buck by selling imposter paintings. But who is the real Chuka? We tracked him down.

Chuka“I was born in San Juan de Oriente. I am a descendant of indigenous people in my pueblo. To understand me, you must understand the roots of my ancestors.  [Read more…]

Meet the Locals: Richard Morales

Welcome to “Meet the Locals” – a new series of posts where we introduce you to San Juan del Sur locals (#Sanjuañenos) and chronicle their stories. We know our readers are going to love reading about other people in the community so we’re excited to make the introductions.

Ricardo Morrales

“I was born in Las Delicias and raised by my mother. She worked as a cook on a military base earning 350 cordoba each month. It was not always enough to feed us.  I dropped out of school in 6th grade because I felt that I had to help support my family. [Read more…]

Celebrating the Best of San Juan Live 2015

Favorite posts from 2015As the new year approaches, we wanted to celebrate the highlights of the one about to pass.

It’s been a big year here at San Juan Live. Our traffic has doubled compared to the previous year, we’ve added hundreds of new subscribers to our email lists, we launched the San Juan Live Real Estate Marketplace, completely overhauled our learning centers, and hosted our first funding flash mob to support local non-profits.

We also published a wide range of content to help our readers get the most out of San Juan del Sur and Nicaragua. We feel fortunate that so many people are turning to us to learn about the experiences and lifestyles on offer in this sunny part of the world.

And so, without further ado, here are our favorite posts of 2015: [Read more…]

Giving Thanks

Giving ThanksWriting a post for things we’re thankful for in San Juan del Sur has become a Thanksgiving tradition at San Juan Live.  It reminds us to feel grateful not only for the warm waves and beautiful sunsets that Nicaragua consistently delivers, but also for the day-to-day dedication of people that often goes unnoticed, for the silver lining in experiences that didn’t quite go as planned and for the changes in town that we can reflect upon as signs of positive progress.

So as is customary at Thanksgiving, we’d like to keep the thanks alive in San Juan del Sur.  Here are 5 more things we’re grateful for: [Read more…]