Relocating to San Juan del Sur is a dream for people looking for reliable sunshine, a more laid back lifestyle and a lower cost of living. It may seem just like a quaint little fishing town but I have some facts about our beach community that may surprise you.
1. More than beach and bar
At first glance it may feel like there is not much more to San Juan del Sur than beach and bar. Yes surfers walk shirtless down the street and people drink in the bars throughout the day, but this is just the surface. Dig deeper and you’ll find that there are many activities to fill your days such as zip lining, hiking, volunteering, getting involved in local festivities, shopping, recharging and much more. In fact here are 101 activities to inspire you.
2. For real insight, talk to the locals
To get a feel for the place there’s no substitute for talking with local San Juaneños and learning what they cherish most about where they live. In time you will find that many of the locals are proud people who welcome foreigners and enjoy sharing their stories. It all makes for a warm feeling as you walk down the street and receive a smile and a wave.
3. On the map
It’s not just the locals you should get to know. There are always tourists from around the world visiting, expats who have made the place their home – many of whom consider themselves locals – as well as long term travelers. One day you may learn about the politics of Poland, while the next you could be sitting next to someone ten minutes from your hometown. Each day brings new people and new faces, all with something different to talk about.
4. There’s no MLS
San Juan del Sur has affordable real estate for those that are looking to buy lots, homes, condos or retail space. There are many real estate companies in town and as Nicaragua does not have a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) like the States, it’s wise to shop around to find the best list price and see everything that’s for sale. If you are not in the market to purchase, San Juan del Sur has a large vacation rental market available for any budget.
5. Get to know your landmarks
The way locals handle directions may surprise you. Very few streets have names and, even if they do have names, most people have no idea what they are. There are no stoplights, few street signs or numbers and even fewer physical addresses. Most people refer to locations in relation to other locations or landmarks. For example: “The pulpería is across the street from Barrio Café“, “The sports bar is half a block south of El Timón” or “The house is two blocks north of the Catholic church.” It takes a little getting use to, but in some ways it’s a more friendly way of living than just assigning numbers to everything.
6. An excellent English school
If you are relocating with kids, finding a place to live is just the beginning. The good news is that there is an excellent school in town. Founded by Julie Speier, San Juan del Sur Day School has a mission “To develop inquiring, knowledgeable and compassionate young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through understanding and respect.” The school is bilingual and offers students everything from mathematics to yoga.
7. Entrepreneurial opportunities abound
If you are looking for a new life, San Juan del Sur is full of opportunities. Each season new businesses open offering new services to the ex-pats and tourists. New restaurants with a different spin are always welcome as well as retail shops. There are a variety of services that the area could still use as well. All it takes is some creativity, an understanding of the local market and the dedication to get your idea off the ground.
8. Fido and Kitty are welcome
If you relocate with your fuzzy friends, San Juan del Sur offers competent and caring veterinary services. A visit to the vet will cost you a fraction of what care would cost in the States. Expect to pay somewhere around what you would pay for an office visit for complete care, including prescriptions and blood work. San Juan del Sur is also fortunate to be part of the regular circuit of World Vets. This organization provides low cost services to pet owners as well as care for street animals. This care is important to the town. The street dogs may still not have homes, but at least they are not running around spreading disease or lying sick in the gutter.
9. “Manana” does not always mean “tomorrow”
San Juan del Sur may be an active place full of things to do and opportunities but it is also a place to take the time to slow down and take a deep breath. Become familiar with the term “mañana”, as this is a way of life here. But mañana does not always mean “tomorrow.” It could mean tomorrow, or next week, or some other time altogether. Things do not happen when you expect, people often have no idea what time it is or for that matter what day or even month it is. Embrace living in the present moment.
10. …but the sunset is always at sunset
About the only time people seem to understand in San Juan del Sur is sunset. Locals gather in their doorways, ex-pats meet on the beach or in their favorite watering holes and everyone takes the time to catch-up on the day’s events. Each day brings different colors to the sky and brings to close another day in paradise.
Any other surprising facts out there? Drop them in the comments below …