Location, location, location!

Lately we’ve been receiving a lot of emails from followers with questions regarding real estate in Nicaragua. We are far from experts on this subject, but we have learned a lot in the last sixteen months that we’ve been here. 

One thing in particular we’ve learned is that locale is paramount for us being happy long term.

Prior to making the move to Nicaragua our home was in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. We were a one hour drive from the beautiful snow-capped Rocky Mountains, but a ten hour drive from the ocean. 

Rocky Mountains

Canmore, Alberta, Canada

Our plan when arriving in Nicaragua was to move around a bit in the first year, so that we could get a feel for where we wanted to settle down. And that’s exactly what we did. 

Our first rental home was situated on the tranquil beach of Poneloya. Falling asleep to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore was amazing. 

This way to the ocean...

– Having the sand right at our steps was even better

But unfortunately it didn’t take long to learn that life in Poneloya wasn’t for us. This lovely little beach town was too tranquil for our liking. After a couple of weeks there we were already craving more stimulation. 

We also learned that owning a beach house doesn’t come without drawbacks. Salt air does major damage to a home. It causes electronics to expire long before they should. And, unless you paint it multiple times throughout the year, metal will rust.  Wood work also needs to be stained or painted annually.

After one month in Poneloya we moved into a guest house in the bustling city of Leon. 

Dining Tables

– An affordable and comfortable housing option in Leon

Although there’s a lot to do in Leon, there aren’t many expats living there. Getting to know a few locals was great, but we soon realized we needed at least a couple of friends with similar interests, outlooks and life experiences. 

Another downfall of Leon is the unbearable heat. 

During the last month of dry season temperatures soar upwards of 40 degrees Celsius (that’s 104 Fahrenheit for y’all Americans) with nearly 100% humidity and no breeze for relief.

When there is wind, it comes from the inland volcanoes rather than the ocean. It blows across the dry, dusty fields and into the city.  There were days in Leon when we felt like we were standing in a giant hair-drying sand blaster.

Granada was the next city we called home.  It’s similar to Leon in size and pace, but offers cool lake breezes. 

Granada, Nicaragua

We loved the location of Granada. It is close to Managua, the airport, Laguna de Apoyo and the National Handicraft market in Masaya.

Granada also offers more westernized options to coincide with the plethora of expats. But unfortunately for us, our parents fit in much more naturally with the age group of most expats who are currently living there.  

Mojito Friday at Grill House

– Mojito Friday with the gang at Grill House was always a good time!

Next stop? The coastal town of San Juan del Sur.

The Bay of San Juan del Sur

The Bay of San Juan del Sur

Originally we thought San Juan del Sur would be too small a place for us to settle down in, but boy were we wrong.  Within a very short period of time the town had won us over.

Even though San Juan del Sur is touristy, there is a great mix of locals and expats in all age ranges. The expat community here is very diverse. 

Location, location, location!

– Here in San Juan del Sur we have many great friends from all over the world

The house we currently rent is located in town about three blocks from the beach. We are up on a hill so we can take advantage of the cool breezes from Lake Nicaragua. 

Sounds great?  Right? 

Well, it probably would be if dogs and roosters weren’t barking and cock-a-doodle-doing all day and night. Last week they were competing to be heard over parades, firecrackers and the techo beats of Semana Santa. It seems as though every second week there is a holiday accompanied by a celebration, that can sometimes last for days.

After sixteen months of moving around we think we finally have figured out it. 

The San Juan del Sur area is definitely where we want to settle down. We have been (and still are) passively looking for a property to call our own.

In a perfect world our ideal location would meet the following criteria:

  • Close to town
  • On a hill (so we’ll have breezes)
  • Ocean view
  • Jungle-”esque”
  • Close to a beach
  • Priced right
  • Away from dogs, roosters, parades and fireworks
  • Flexibility and options for house construction

Our list is long, but amazingly enough we think we’ve found something that gets a check in all the boxes. 

We are super excited to be meeting with a friend (and developer) later this week to learn more about his plans for his 100 acre development located just outside of town.

Posted on April 3, 2013, in Daily Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Thank you for this piece. It concurs with my long-distance research. I suspect I will start out in Granada and fetch up in San Juan (because I’ve always loved being close to the ocean, and lakes smell wrong!).

    I’m from Vancouver, B.C., so I had mountains and ocean 10-30 minutes away. Grew up in the U.K.–never more than 50 miles from the sea. It’s still the most soothing place for me.

    I’m older, so your parents’ age group in Granada may suit me, but I’d rather be around expats of all ages (though, like you, away from the roosters and partyers).

    I’ve watched the weather in Leon, Granada and San Juan del Sur for several months, and Leon has too many days of “smoke”, “sand whirls” and “sand” for my taste. I presently live in the southern California desert and can’t wait to get somewhere with a bit more (not a lot more) humidity.

    Please write more about the expats *and* locals in San Juan as you get to know them. That will help me know if I could feel at home in the community there.

    Hoping to make the leap in the latter part of 2014. Keep writing about your experiences–they are so helpful!

  2. Yeah for you Elisha!!!! Let us know what transpires with your buying, building and settling in your new “home”!!

  3. yes great information–keep us posted on your next move……

  4. William (Bill)

    Hey Guys,

    Sounds like you have done your homework very well. My wife and I have researched for over 10 years from the US including lots of visits to Nicaragua. We finally ended up buying a house just outside of SJDS and it has just what you have described:

    Close to town
    On a hill (so we’ll have breezes)
    Ocean view
    Jungle-”esque”
    Close to a beach (about 3 mile drive)
    Priced right
    Away from dogs, roosters, parades and fireworks

    We wish you well on your endeavor and hopefully will meet you when we visit our place.

    • Hi William,

      Thanks for your interest in In Nica Now.

      Where is your place exactly?

      Drop us a line the next time you’re here and we can grab a couple of Tonas!

      Cheers,
      Elisha

  5. Great information! I’ve enjoyed reading your blog and appreciate all of the valuable insight that you’ve provided to those of us who are still dreaming of escaping the rat race.

    My wife and I (and our one-year-old son) are making plans to relocate somewhere in Latin America within the next 12-24 months. We’re not sure where that might be yet, but San Juan del Sur sounds pretty enticing!

  6. Thanks for the awesome pics and a brief background. I sure hope one day I will be able to live there also.

  7. When you do find the home of your dreams in SJDS, make sure you have a couch! No telling who might show up for a weekend!

  8. Thank you for sharing your escapades throughout Nicaragua with us. I too am interested in retiring there as I am a dedicated surfer from California. I’ve been to most of the towns you have written about and would love to hear more about the development your interested in building in. The house your staying in SJDS now doesn’t look to bad either.

    Good luck to you both.

    Clark

  9. Looking forward to seeing pictures of your new place.

  10. That’s an excellent and thorough report on different locations and very useful for people thinking of moving there. Great work and keep it up guys!

  11. Great article! so informative. My family an i are considering moving to Nicaragua and SJDS sounds great. We have two teenagers- are there any bilingual schools there? Have you met or seen many expat teeñs?

    • Hi Tami,

      The only bilingual school for expat children San Juan is San Juan del Sur Day School.

      http://sanjuandelsurdayschool.com

      Unfortunately they only teach children from 18 months to eight years old.

      We know of one expat-teen living in San Juan del Sur and he studies online through a distance learning program.

      Cheers,
      Elisha

  12. Hey guys..
    Well another canadian from the east side .. a french one ahaha

    BEEN to Nica and loved it.. ready to buy around sjds ..
    any connections for jobs .. my gf tourism industry and me construction
    Slash air conditionning tech..

    Ready to move next fall…
    all the best
    See you there…

    • Hi Yanick,

      Thanks for your comment.

      As a foreigner it is actually illegal for you to work in Nicaragua. The country has huge unemployment and poverty issues, so any foreigner who is working is essentially taking a job from a local.

      There is also the wage factor. Most Nicaraguans will work for under $10 USD per day, which isn’t enough for most expats to survive.

      There are many opportunities for entrepreneurs to start businesses here and it is very easy to set one up. Expat business owners are relatively well respected as they create jobs for locals and often bring new and interesting opportunities.

      I would suggest moving here with enough capital to be able to take some time to watch and learn what businesses are needed. It will take some time to get an idea of what will work and then some more time to develop the contacts needed to get setup.

      Savvy business owners are making a good living and not working themselves to death. They enjoy this beautiful country and the quality time they can spend with friends.

      On the other hand, many business owners did not heed the advice of other expats or even worse didn’t ask for any. They set up business that are not successful and pay way too much in start up costs. They struggle every day just to squeeze out enough revenue to live a simple life.

      My suggestion would be to move here with the mind set that you know nothing and want to learn everything. Take note of all the opinions and “facts” you hear and use your intelligence to learn what the lessons really are.

      If you do it right you can have an amazing life here in Nicaragua.

      Cheers,
      Gordon

      • Hello Gordon..

        Thanks for the fast reply..
        Thank you for the advice , i’m planning to be around
        next fall around october ..
        if i can’t make it before because i.m looking to buy either
        a cheap land or a very small house..
        i.m in contact with Marc from Aurora…
        if you have any contact for a deal keep me posted..
        All the best

        Have a good one!!

        Yanick

  13. Hi,

    My wife and I are about to take our first “trial retirement” in January of 2016, returning for 4 – 6 weeks.

    We have been thinking we want to be in Poneloya or Las Penitas and would appreciate any advice you may have regarding finding a good monthly rental etc.

    We have been to SJDS but are thinking it may be a little more tourist oriented than we want, as well as pricey, plus we know some people a little further north in Chinendaga so want to be a little closer to them.

    Any advice would be appreciated. Great blog BTW, oh and age wise I guess we’re between you and your parents – 47.

    Thanks.

    • Hi John,

      Happy to hear you’re enjoying the blog.

      For some great tips on how to find affordable long term rentals in Nicaragua check out this article.

      For your search in Las Penitas and Poneloya area you may want to try reaching out to the members on the Expats in Leon, Nicaragua Facebook group to see if they know of anything.

      On occasion we’ve also seen Greener Leon posting some rental listings.

      I would love to hear what you think of the Las Penitas and Poneloya area after you’ve had a chance to spend some time there. For Gordon and I this area was just a bit too quiet when we are there a few years ago. Almost all the homes in the area seemed to be owned by wealthy Managuans. The only people we met were maids, gardeners and the odd traveler. I’m curious to know if/how the area has changed.

      Cheers,
      Elisha

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