Where the jungle meets the sea along a white sandy beach, there is potential for a big influx of tourists. However, despite it’s neighboring country being a tourist mecca, this little gem still hasn’t been completely discovered.
With it’s horseshoe-shaped bay, world-class surfing, and notoriously laid back and eco-friendly vibe, it’s surprising that more people haven’t wanted to move here. Situated just 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of the Costa Rican/Nicaraguan border, on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, lies the surf town of San Juan Del Sur. Welcome to Nicaragua’s undiscovered paradise.
With Nicaragua’s proximity to the equator, temperatures here hover around 85 degrees year round. San Juan del Sur Bay is the official name for the horseshoe-bay that sits in the middle of the town. There are waves here for beginning surfers. On other days, when the water is flat, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and fishing are popular. Nearby Playa de Madera (Madera Beach) is home to huge waves and surfers galore. Surfing is a sport year-round here. All beaches in Nicaragua are public so there’s never a worry about crossing onto someone’s property to catch a wave.
San Juan Del Sur definitely keeps its residents active. Not only is there surfing, but also many hiking trails, including one referred to as Nicaragua’s Golden Gate bridge. It’s a footpath over an inlet to the sea. Another option is to hike to the giant Jesus statue overlooking the Pacific, a mini-version compared to Christ the Redeemer in Brazil. The options for trails extend into the rainforest too, where howler monkeys can be heard and seen.
Cost of Living in San Juan Del Sur is one of it’s most appealing qualities. Like most places in Central America, not all rental places are listed online. However, some are making their way onto Craiglist. Jungle studios in San Juan del Sur (approx. 400 feet in size) cost $450 US per month, so just over $1/sq foot. One-bedroom units in the same complex, around 600 feet, cost $550/month. All units are dog-friendly and don’t require additional pet deposits.
These units can be rented month-to-month so a year-long lease is not necessary. The $450 US per month rental rate includes weekly cleanings and linen changes, air-conditioning, and unlimited wi-fi. Like most places in Nicaragua, the apartment is also furnished. Renting is a great option to consider before buying a permanent residence in a place. These units are located about 5 miles from central San Juan del Sur and the rental compound also has vehicles that can be rented for a small fee (less than $6 US dollars per day). I figure even if we borrowed the vehicles 10 times per month, we’d only be spending $60 for transportation. Most of the time, we’d probably just walk. Once in central San Juan del Sur, there is public transportation galore. Buses from San Juan del Sur travel all over Nicaragua, with bus fare to the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border costing less than $5 US Dollars.
Food is equally as cheap as rent in Nicaragua. Jugoso, a 5 star rated restaurant on TripAdvisor, costs between $4-10 US Dollars per person for the meal. They serve daily back-packer specials consisting of fantastic dishes like shrimp scampi and beef carpacio. Even if we ate there nightly, at a cost of $8 per person, we’d only spend $240 dollars over a one-month period. Grocery shopping isn’t very expenisve either, with lettuce costing less than $1 US Dollar per head, local cheese costing $1.89 US Dollar per bag, and local fruits costing less than $0.50 US per item. Often times, fruit can be found growing in many people’s backyards and is sold in small, roadside stands. Spending $250 per month on food could easily feed (if not overfeed!) both myself and my husband.
Another reason to love San Juan del Sur is because it has been hit with the craft beer craze. San Juan del Sur Cerveceria was started by three American Northeasstern guys s few years back. Beers cost $2-4 US Dollars. San Juan del Sur Cerveceria beers include the usual of an IPA, Amber Ale, and Wheat beer. But they also serve Jamaica Tart Wit with hibiscus, Mango Ale, and Passion Fruit Ale. Nearly every day, they also have a happy hour starting around 4pm. Other nights, they have live music. We would definitely make the 5 mile walk to here!
Spanish classes may not be a necessity. Currently we use DuoLingo, which allows us to practice Spanish for free. Since we’d be living in a place that speaks Spanish, we’d get to practice a lot outside of class, which means we’d need less, if any class time.
I tried to find the most well-reviewed classes possible in San Juan Del Sur. Turns out, they are also some of the most expensive. Spanish Ya came highly recommended and offers personalized Spanish sessions. The sessions consist of 20 hour-long courses per week for $165 US Dollars/week. Other pricing options are to do fewer hours and pay $15 US Dollars per hour-long session. I don’t think we’d do 80 hours of lessons per month (20 hours x 4 weeks) but doing 10 hours total per month between us sounds reasonable. Total cost for lessons would be $150 US Dollars.
Taking Random Classes
The array of available programs in San Juan Del Sur are endless. Yoga lessons, belly dancing classes, paddle-boarding and Nicaraguan cooking courses are all available. Prices for each course ranged from $4-10 US Dollars per session and most sessions are an hour long. Meeting both local and expat friends are a great bonus to attending these courses. I’d say we’d participate in at least one class for each of us. I’ll take the average of the classes at $6/session. If my husband and I each took one class per week for four months, our total spend would be $48.
It’s definitely possible to live well in this Nicaraguan beach-side gem. We hope to visit Nicaragua when we go to Costa Rica later this year. Getting two countries knocked out in one trip sounds like a great option for retirement hunting! It just depends on how much vacation I have come November 🙂
Total Monthly Costs:
Rent, Cleaning Service, Wi-fi, AC =$450 US Dollars/month
Car Rental for the Month: $60 US Dollars/month
Grocery shopping, Eating Out, and Beer= $250 US Dollars/month
Spanish Lessons: $150 US Dollars/month
Random Other Lessons: $48 US Dollars/month