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.

Everyone’s got a different reason for coming. But we all came from a different place. It’s the differences that are most intriguing.   To learn a little more about our neighbors, we’ve asked a few expats around the community what they did before moving to San Juan del Sur. Some of their answers may surprise you.

Kenny Nakaibo, Owner of Wrap n’Roll and Tropical Concierge Services

This ninja’s done it all, from ski patrolling and restaurant management in California to dolphin training and tow-in surfing in Hawaii.  Kenny spent 5 years in Hawaii (1 on Oahu and 4 on the Big Island) working in the food and beverage industry as chef and manager of both restaurants and resorts. You can find him now at Tropical Concierge.

Julie Speier, Founder and Director of the San Juan del Sur Day School

Staying true to her passion for education and learning, Julie was a teacher, administrator and coach at Cincinnati Country Day School before moving to New York City to be with John Crilly where she worked as a private tutor and bartender.  She founded the San Juan Day School in 2009.  For more on why Julie decided to set up a school in San Juan del Sur check out this video interview.

Dave, Owner of Big Wave Dave’s

In his previous life Dave was an academic educator for a telecom company focused on distance learning. He opened up his legendary beach side roadhouse in 2002.

Will Pattison, Owner Grupo Max Construction

Will worked in an Amgen Biotechnology lab as a molecular biologist and later on as a project manager bringing potential therapeutics through the development process.  We recently interviewed Will about his experiences with building in Nicaragua.

Glenn Graham, Co-Owner Cha Cha Cha

Glenn and his brother Steven opened and ran the Time Out Tavern in Escazu, Costa Rica for almost 6 years prior to moving to San Juan del Sur and opening Cha Cha Cha.

John Goldenberg, Co-Founder / Owner Nica Life Realty & San Juan Surf

John was the head women’s traveling tennis coach for Japan from 1995-98 and had a tennis academy for competitive players in the Cayman Islands from 98-2004.   Check out some of the great real estate listings Nica Life Realty has for sale in the region.

Sarah Fahey, Co-Founder of Mums & Bums

Sarah worked in public television for 6 years and then went on to be a school guidance counselor. She also worked in a homeless shelter for pregnant and parenting teens before moving to Nicaragua and starting Mums & Bums baby renal gear service with her business partner Rosi Slogrove.

Brooke Rundle, Co-Founder / Owner San Juan Live

Professional volleyball player for OK Benedikt, Slovenia and Volco Ommen, Netherlands.  Realtor for Orion Realty Group of Fidelity National Financial, a Fortune 300 company in Santa Barbara, California.

Tom, who just wanted to escape.

Here’s Tom’s story.  Yes he’s a fictional character but, as you’ll see from the comments, his story resonates with many of us.

P.S. If we can do it, you can too. Quit your job and move to Nicaragua.