The Funky Beach Town of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Situated on Nicaragua’s southern Pacific coast, San Juan del Sur is a funky beach town—with around 1,500 expats from all over the world.

With a year-round hot climate (about 85 F on average) and nice sea breezes, the lifestyle here is the proverbial beach life made famous by the original surfing kahunas who found the waves first and spread the word. No sleeves or long pants needed.

It won’t cost you much to live in Nicaragua. All told, a budget of $1,500 a month is doable.

The highly publicized “South” side of the Pacific coast has had San Juan del Sur standing bright as its beacon of investment since the 1990s. San Juan del Sur proper and its surrounding beach communities, spanning roughly 18 miles from Costa Rica on up to Tola, make up this region.

San Juan del Sur has successfully secured its title as the tourism capital of Nicaragua’s entire Pacific Coast. In 2013, the Nicaraguan Tourism Board reported over 1.2 million visitors traveling to Nicaragua and it’s likely most of those visitors made a stop in San Juan…it’s not a location to leave off the itinerary.

The town center of San Juan del Sur is laid out over three-square blocks, all bursting with quaint wooden homes, local and international restaurants, little shops stocking tropics-wear, beach gear, artisan jewelry, banks with ATMs, Internet cafés, fitness studios, real estate shops, tour operators, locally-run convenience stores, a central market, Spanish schools, coffee shops, hotels, bars, and much, much more.

For such a small town, it has many international restaurants and coffee shops as well as great original Nicaraguan beach fare restaurants.

Since the 1850s, enterprising people have wound up in San Juan. Back then, it was the fortune-seekers on a quest to join the Gold Rush of Northern California. They stopped in San Juan after traveling by boat from the east coast of the U.S., down through the Caribbean, up the Rio San Juan, then over land to catch another boat in the Bay of San Juan, for the final leg to San Francisco.

When many of those gold-rushers arrived in San Juan they decided they had found what they were looking for and stopped there, marking the beginning of the first big commercial boom in San Juan’s history.

Today, it’s a booming town with activity fueled by a mass of eclectic, fun-loving tourists and expats proud to call San Juan home. In the last 10 to 15 years, San Juan went from a sleepy fishing village and port town licking its wounds from the civil war of the 1980s, to a fun-loving, fun-living city in paradise.

Depending on the night of the week, you can hear live music or join in at an open-mic night in various venues around town. On major holidays, traveling discos make the journey from the big cities to set up tear-down dance clubs along the bay.

If you’re more into relaxing than party-going, not to worry. The countless surrounding beach communities offer a true sense of retreat and reconnection with nature. And with 22 beaches surrounding the town (and not in the guidebooks), San Juan del Sur also offers deep-sea fishing, diving, boating, and has world-class surf beaches that host international competitions.

From the northern limits of the lower zone, on down to the Costa Rican border, the richness of the landscape and wildlife brings balance to the tourism hustle and bustle of San Juan del Sur.

Overall, San Juan del Sur is a thriving beach town with breathtaking scenery, a laidback lifestyle and a great climate — ideal for any expat looking for the best of beach living.