As we were planning our move to Nicaragua I remember saying to Gordon,
“It’s going to be awesome! Once we quit our jobs we’ll have so much more time to travel. We can check out some more of Costa Rica. We can take a trip to Panama. What about Guatemala? We could even go to Colombia!”
Unfortunately I was forgetting one very important piece of the puzzle.
Vacations cost money.
When we moved to Nicaragua in 2011 we were living on $1200 USD per month. Even though we paid less than $400 USD for rent staying within that budget was hard. And at the end of the month there just wasn’t any extra cash for the “vacation fund”.
The reality is — aside from my annual trips back to Canada and one visit to see Gordon’s Mom in Arkansas — since moving to Nicaragua 4 1/2 years ago we have only taken two vacations together.
Our first was in October 2014; we spent two weeks in Mexico City. The second was to Medellín, Colombia in May 2016.
We flew out of Managua via Avianca. With a stop in El Salvador and a short layover in Bogotá total travel time to Medellín was 8 hours. Round trip airfare including taxes was $326 USD per person. There are more direct routes to Medellín from Managua, but since we got such a good deal on our flights we didn’t mind the extra travel time.
Where We Stayed
While many travelers to Medellín choose to stay in the more touristy and upscale neighborhood of Poblado we decided to stay in Laureles, a premier neighborhood for expats.
This chic studio apartment we found on Airbnb was just a 10 minute walk away from the metro station and provided easy access to downtown and all around for sightseeing. We loved that we didn’t have to walk far from our rental to find great restaurants, bars and coffee shops.
Our host Keenan was great. The apartment had everything we needed for a comfortable stay. Hence $50 USD per night for this place was pretty hard to beat.
The metro was a very affordable, easy and efficient way to get around the city. With a station so close to our apartment we used the metro almost daily. The cost for a one way ticket was a little less than a dollar.
Taxis were also an affordable way to get around. A 15 minute ride averaged between $2 – $3 USD.
Traffic in the city was fast paced and chaotic. For this reason Gordon and I agreed that we would not have wanted to rent a car and drive in Medellín. In our opinion public transport was definitely the safer bet.
Eating & Drinking Out in Medellín
We found the cost of eating out in Medellín to be cheaper than it is here in San Juan del Sur. Portions served at restaurants were very large; most times one meal would have been sufficient for the two of us to share. Generally speaking food quality was better than what we get here in Nicaragua.
For the most part a National beer in a restaurant or bar in Medellín ranged in price from $1 – $2 USD, which is similar to what we pay in Nicaragua. We did however, have a lot more options to choose from. And like other places we’ve traveled when we were in a more touristy area of the city food and drink prices were noticeably higher.
One of the highlights of our trip was the Graffiti Tour with Toucan Cafe & Tours.
A local hip hop artist guided us through Comuna 13, which was formerly known as one the most dangerous barrios (neighborhoods) in Medellín. We viewed some amazing graffiti, rode the famous outdoor escalators and learned how music and art influenced the transformation of this community.
The $16 USD each we paid for the tour was definitely money well spent.
Although I’m not a soccer fan attending a live match in Medellīn was a highlight for both Gordon and I. The energy in the stadium was infectious.
Gordon had read online that alcohol is not sold at soccer games in Colombia so we were quite surprised when we got to the concession stand and saw beer being served. We were even more surprised when we realized the “beer” we were drinking was actually the non alcoholic kind; needless to say we didn’t order a second.
The Medellín metrocable is a gondola lift system that was designed to connect some of poorer, less developed barrios to the city. With the purchase of our metro ticket we were able to ride the cable car for free. The ride offered impressive views of the city. Catching a glimpse of daily life in the barrio from above the homes in a cable car was pretty special.
Plaza Botero in downtown Medellín displays 23 bronze sculptures by Colombian artist Fernando Botero. Apparently the “Botero legend” suggests that rubbing the statues brings love and good fortune.
Mall shopping in Medellín, compared to anywhere here in Nicaragua was amazing! I found stores I recognized from home like Espirit, Forever XXI, American Eagle Outfitters, Zara and MAC cosmetics. From inexpensive knock offs to quality items they had it all. Pricing was similar to what I would pay in Canada. If you’re a shopper you definitely wouldn’t be disappointed by the malls in Medellín. They were anything but small.
During our trip there were a few times when we had conversations about what it would be like to live in Medellín.
Could we image a life there? For sure!
Are we ready to pack up our life in San Juan and move there? Nope, not yet.
Medellín certainly offered a nice break from day to day beach life, but as we approach the 4 year mark in San Juan del Sur we can’t imagine leaving our friends, the beach or our business!
Just because we live in a tropical paradise doesn’t mean we still don’t love weekend getaways and vacations.
We recently enjoyed a three day, two night stay at a luxury vacation villa with our good friends Debbie and Bastin.
Casa Culebra is beautiful 2000 square foot two bedroom, two and a half bath luxury eco-home.
It is one of eleven villas situated in the development of Balcones de Majagual (pronounced ball-cone-ehs-day-ma-ha-wall). This gated community is located just 12 kms north of San Juan del Sur.
At Casa Culebra you experience nature and tranquility without having to sacrifice comfort.
This vacation home has it all — king size beds and quality linens, hot water and wifi, a fully equipped kitchen, ocean views, jungle views, a gas grill, an outdoor shower and an infinity pool!
A thirty minute scenic drive from home — over a bumpy road known as La Chocolata — brought us to the gates of Balcones de Majagual.
Perhaps it was the anticipation and excitement of a mini-vacation, but the drive seemed to take no time at all.
We engaged the four wheel drive on our truck and made our ascent up the hill to Casa Culebra.
After quickly unloading our truck and unpacking our bags we were hot and sweaty. We grabbed some drinks and snacks and walked a few steps down to our 15 meter infinity pool.
The cool clear water was a little chilly, but incredibly refreshing. This was a nice change from the bathtub like water in our pool at home.
Howler monkeys lazed overhead in the trees a few feet away from us, while birds tweeted happily around us.
Much of our chatter centered around how fortunate we were to be “right here, right now” “living the life” in Nicaragua!
As the sun went down and day turned to night conversation ceased. We were hypnotized by a magnificent sunset.
On the menu for night one was fresh mahi mahi that we had purchased in town at the local market. The well appointed, fully equipped kitchen made meal prep a breeze.
A good part of our day on Saturday was spent at two of our favorite beaches, which just so happen to be a five minute drive from the house.
We parked our truck at Playa Majagual and from there walked leisurely across the white sand beach and rocks towards the popular surf beach of Playa Maderas.
In less than ten minutes we arrived at Playa Maderas. We found a quiet shady spot on the south end of the beach where we “set up camp”.
Here we kicked back, relaxed and sipped on a couple litres of Toña (local beer) that we had packed in our cooler bag.
Later on — while surfers ripped on head high waves — we chowed down on fish tacos.
Although we love the beach our walk back to Playa Majagual where our truck was parked was at a much less leisurely pace. We were on a mission as we envisioned a pool and sunset experience similar to the one we had the night before.
Sunset on night two did not disappoint.
After our fun filled day of sun, surf, more pool time, another delicious meal and a game of Dominoes we were spent. Our eyelids started to droop early in the evening as our comfy king size beds called to us.
As I crawled into bed crickets buzzed outside my window. The wind rustled softly in the trees and I was asleep almost immediately after my head hit the pillow.
Sunday came faster than we had anticipated.
Just a bit more time in this calm quiet peaceful environment (and maybe one more poolside cocktail) is all we wanted.
But sadly…as we know…all good things must come to an end.
We throughly enjoyed our time as guests at Casa Culebra and are look forward to returning again one day soon!
Your experience at Casa Culebra can be much of the same as ours — but with one added bonus — you’ll have your very own concierge — which just so happens to be me and Gordon.
We’ll meet you upon arrival in San Juan del Sur. After a quick tour of town and picking up a few supplies we’ll escort you to your home away from home and help you get settled.
We’ll tell you about our favorite sunset happy hour spots and make sure you know where to go for inexpensive and delicious seafood dinners. We can also help with recommendations and reservations for activities and excursions.
Balcones de Majagual
Nightly rates starting at $145 USD.
A 4 x 4 vehicle is required to access Casa Culebra.