Sitting at an outside table of El Sesteo restaurant at sunset with a watermelon mojito in hand, I watched the sky change into hues of purple and gold behind the domes of the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of Leon (the largest church in Central America).
The central park square in front of me was bursting with life: families, groups of teenagers, elderly couples sitting on benches, and children playing games. The night was full of fireworks, music, and singing. A slight breeze took the edge off the heat and every now and then a tourist or two walked by.
Leon is different from other Nicaraguan cities. The architecture is old, regal, ornate. Yet the vibe is young and vital. Students sit in the coffee shops, discussing the political or philosophical themes of the day while they drink the rich, roasted Nicaraguan coffee. Or they may be sipping the latest green smoothie from one of the modern healthy-choice restaurants. The city’s sophisticated restaurant scene is home to many tantalizing local and international restaurants, like Bodegon, a Polish/Cuban fusion restaurant where you can get a tasty pork and cassava dish for just $7.
If you need a beach fix, a quick getaway is just around the corner. Popular golden-sand beaches Poneloya and Las Peñitas are just 30 minutes’ drive from Leon. These vibrant beach communities offer a variety of fun water activities and great-value eateries, where $13 will get you a delicious coconut lobster dinner. You can still get a beachfront property in these areas for less than $200,000.
A couple on a budget can live in Leon for about $1,500 a month, including rent, food, utilities (including WiFi), entertainment, etc. Though many expats, like Katie and David Ruiz, opt to pay a little extra for one of Leon’s resplendent colonial homes. They’re hard to resist with Old World floor tiles, original roof rafters, and indoor gardens and pools.
Right now, Leon’s economy is on an uptick, as a new middle class emerges with a growing disposable income. Bigger brands have started moving here and creating educated jobs. This will feed the local economy and provide new and exciting business opportunities.
Right now, you can buy a beachfront lot nearly an acre in size, just 15 minutes from Leon, for just $92,000…but real estate prices won’t stay that low forever.
Leon is ripe for those who want to open a business, which is easy to do thanks to great Nicaraguan laws that make it simple for foreigners to open new businesses. In fact, David and Katie just opened their dream business, a bike and motorcycle shop, here.
With tourists and expats starting to arrive, there is no better time than the present to move to Leon. In the next few years Leon will need new restaurants, exercise and yoga centers, tour companies, and other businesses that expats wait for.
If you pictured your retirement in a colonial home with a garden courtyard in a vibrant city, with the beach only 30 minutes away, León is the place for you.
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