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.


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

The Ultimate Nicaragua Packing List

The Ultimate Nicaragua Packing ListSo you’re coming to Nicaragua and you’re trying to decide what to pack. Your suitcase or backpack is filled to the brim and still you feel like you’re forgetting something. We understand. 

Maybe you’re unsure of the difference between the rainy and dry season.  Or you just want to make sure that you’re being culturally sensitive and causally comfortable at the same.  Don’t worry, regardless of when you plan to visit or whether you’re traveling for 7 days or 7 weeks, this list has you covered.

We’ve created a specific Nicaragua packing list for you to ease your mind.  You can print it out and check-it off, save it as a pdf on your computer or e-mail it to a friend.

[Read more…]

What’s the one thing that ex-pats living in San Juan del Sur have in common?


All expats living here now lived somewhere else before they starting referring to San Juan del Sur as home. It’s the common thread among expats of course. And in some way, it creates a camaraderie among people living in a country that once felt foreign.

Some enjoy reflecting upon this ‘past life’ experience, while others would rather forget it. Either way, there was a calculated decision that weighed the loss of familiarity against the unknown. A decision that took courage, sacrifice, strength and faith. In most cases it was a choice in favor of a better quality of life, at the expense of higher income, job security and the closeness of family and friends. [Read more…]

4 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Moved Out of the US

San Juan del Sur Nicaragua | Moving Overseas | Expat Living [Photo by Lauren Stocker]

Photo by Lauren Stocker

You’ll know what to do when the time comes. Just follow your heart and what will make you happy” wrote my grandmother in an email to me three months before I made one of the most defining decisions of my life: The decision to quit my job with a Fortune 300 company and move to Nicaragua.  

My mind was a wrestling match between excitement and fear.  Fortunately the lure of adventure beat out the fear… just barely.  

I didn’t leave California and take a 75% pay-cut in my salary thinking I wouldn’t return for years, or maybe ever. I left thinking that I could come back home at any time.  That I’d return just as soon as I checked off a few personal goals – such as volunteering in an orphanage, learning to surf and speak Spanish.  That mindset was enough for me to take the next step and buy a one-way ticket to Nicaragua. 

That was back in 2007, and to this day I can honestly say that I have never, not even once, regretted that decision.  Note to reader: That does not mean there haven’t been moments over the years when I’d miss my friends or crave first world conveniences like super fast internet and fancy restaurants. It just means that the highs always outweigh the lows.  

So given the choice to do over, I’d choose a lifestyle of freedom and service again and again. Here are a few things I wish I’d known before I made the leap of faith. 

[Read more…]

6 Reasons to Choose Nicaragua for your Destination Wedding

Photographed by the talented Two Of You Photography team, Nicaragua provides stunning natural backdrops and charming antique architecture for the perfect destination wedding.  Click to view 6 Reasons to Choose Nicaragua for your Destination Wedding. #SanJuanLive http://sanjuandelsur.org/reasons-to-choose-a-nicaragua-destination-wedding/

Two Of You Photography

Getting married?

Why not consider tying the knot in an exotic locale away from your hometown?

Nicaragua’s got my vote and here are 6 great reasons why:

1. Do the Math

You can’t ignore the low price tag of a destination wedding in Nicaragua.  Run the numbers and you’ll probably find that traveling to Nicaragua with your partner and close loved ones will cost much less than the typical 150 guest wedding on your home turf.  Many resorts in Nicaragua offer attractive all-inclusive wedding packages combining lodging, dining, wellness services and a memorable celebration. Even after you add the cost of air-fare for friends and family, the expenses could easily be less than saying “I do” in the US.  For example, check out this unbelievable wedding deal from Villas de Palermo starting at just $1,000.

[Read more…]

Escuela Adelante: A New Kind of International School

Free smiles.  Giving time and money to making a difference in the world.  Check out this A New Kind of International School : http://sanjuandelsur.org/escuela-adelante-school/  [Awesome photo by Jessica Gildersleeve]

Photo Credit : Jessica Gildersleeve

Escuela Adelante developed organically from free English classes based out of the Biblioteca Mobile. Co-founding director Carrie Valladares, an attorney for Microsoft in Seattle, envisioned bringing international education standards to San Juan del Sur in the form of a new type of international school. With program guidance from co-founding director Jamie Hunter, an American teacher and San Juan del Sur resident with a masters degree in education and child development, and the support of a dedicated teaching staff, the program has blossomed into the vibrant bilingual language learning center that it is today.

The program is a 2 year English language course taught in congruence with the ESL course at UPOLI (Universidad Politecnica de Nicaragua) with books sourced from the Oxford University Press.  The school is accessible and has a locally tailored fee structure to establish a sense of worth to the program but without prohibiting attendance from any eager local student. [Read more…]

The Art is in the Streets

San Juan del Sur isn’t exactly known for its booming art scene.  But what it lacks in art galleries it makes up for in brightly painted homes, wall murals and creatively decorated storefronts.  Walk through the streets and you’ll see signs of artistic expression on just about every block.

So keep your eyes peeled and mind open.  This is one creative town.  Here are a few of our favorites…

Gato Negro

El Gato Negro

[Read more…]

A Jewel on the Emerald Coast

view of wavesYou can’t put a price on the sound of the waves.

But that’s exactly what you get when you stay at Aqua Wellness Resort.  It’s just part of the experience when you book one of their treetop villas set above a lovely white-sand beach in a secluded bay.  

[Read more…]

A History of San Juan Del Sur

SJDS flag

Sure, San Juan del Sur is a surf-orientated region with beautiful beaches and landscapes. But did you know that San Juan del Sur also has a rich history with roots stretching back to the 16th century when Spanish conquistadors made use of the protected anchorage?

Then in the mid-1800 San Juan del Sur’s days were filled with gold prospectors eager to travel to California to seek their fortune.  A little later, waves of foreigners arrived to work with the Central and South American Telegraph that laid a submarine system of cables.   And in the early 1990’s San Juan del Sur’s train station was built connecting the town by rail to San Jorge, Managua and Granada. [Read more…]

7 Mouth Watering Delights in San Juan del Sur


01 Super Frutto Gelateria

It’s difficult to beat Italian ice-cream on a hot sunny day in San Juan del Sur.  Super Frutto serves up dozens of seasonal flavors all made in-house with fresh natural ingredients. Cup or waffle cone, mix and match, pick your topping.

02 Red Velvet Cupcakes at Gato Negro

The queen of all cupcakes has made its way to San Juan del Sur.  We heard it first directly from the mouth of owner/visionary Kelly at Gato Negro. Romantic red cake sponge with chocolate chips and homemade cream cheese frosting.  And for you chocoholics and coffee lovers, it’s worth noting that their Expresso Fudge Brownie combines four types of chocolate with lots of expresso.


[Read more…]

What I’ve learned from living in San Juan del Sur for 7 years

If you're thinking about moving overseas, you'll definitely want to read.  Click the link to find out What I’ve learned from living in San Juan del Sur for 7 years. http://sanjuandelsur.org/lessons-from-living-in-san-juan-del-sur/

Reflecting back on the version of myself that moved to town 7 years ago, I cringe at my naivety. Ignorance is most certainly bliss. I don’t think I even knew what dengue fever was when I moved here.  But in the same vein, I am thankful for all the things that blossomed with experience.  There’s a big difference between trying to make a living here and trying to make a life. 

A healthy life in San Juan del Sur is founded on authentic friendships, compromise and gratitude. It exposes weakness, disregards prestige and has no room for pride.   At times it calls for humility and others courage – sometimes in the same day.  Over the years my attitude has changed. It’s not better, or worse, it’s just different.  My filter of expectations has adjusted and I’m a lot happier for it.

So in no particular order, here are a few nuggets of wisdom that took me far too long to learn.  

[Read more…]