Nicaragua is on the cusp. It’s being gussied up. Yet it remains—for the moment—a place for in-the-know travelers and adventuresome expats. They’re drawn to the elegant colonial towns and the natural beauty of the Pacific.
Then there’s the super-low cost of living, real estate for a fraction of what you’d pay in the U.S. for similar locations, and the opportunity for a new way of life. “The people are laidback, not motivated by money,” says Brian Richter, 60, a nine-year resident. “It’s helped us learn we don’t need material things to be happy.”
A retired accountant and restaurant owner, Brian came with his wife Eunice, 59, seeking an escape from the cold weather of their native Calgary. “We have a hell of a lot more freedom here than we had back home,” he says.
They live in San Juan del Sur, a once sleepy fishing village just north of the Costa Rican border, that holds the main concentration of expats in the southern-Pacific region.
It’s not hard to see why. The malecón, or seaside promenade, runs the length of the nearly two-mile long protected bay where the town sits. Seafood restaurants line the beach, with fresh-off-the-boat fish. Steep hills rise sharply from the shoreline at the north and south ends of town. Local fishing boats share space with pleasure cruisers in the harbor.
The town is painted in a rainbow of bright colors. It’s charmingly shabby, with worn wooden buildings, faded signs, and palm-roofed, seaside shacks. Wear more than shorts and a t-shirt, and you’re way overdressed. In the heat of the day all you want to do is lay in a hammock in a shady spot.
But by early evening the malecón fills with strolling Nica families and expats headed to dinner. The nightlife is lively, and you’ll hear people in the street into the wee hours. No wonder most expats live outside the town center.
There are bargains to be had in San Juan del Sur. By the beach, you can get a cold beer for $1 and a heaping bowl of ceviche for $6 in Bar Restaurant Josseline. It’s the perfect spot for sitting in the shade, watching the water, on a hot day. And when the sun is going down, head up to the Pelican Eyes Resort to watch the magnificent sunset. (Fresh pineapple and Flor de Caña rum drinks are just $1 at happy hour.)
Despite this being a popular destination for expats, property remains reasonable here, too. A recent property listing here featured a two-bedroom, modern oceanfront condo for $150,000. And a 2,300-square-foot, three-bedroom villa, set on a hill with a view of the bay, just sold for $250,000.
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