My love affair with Nicaragua
06 Jun 2022
As of July 13th 2021 I've officially moved to Nicaragua. I've sold or donated
most of my things in Los Angeles, put a few more items in storage, and made the
jump down to this gorgeous Central American country.
Note: I wrote this post over a period of several months. So it will be
written as if I'm in multiple places, which is actually true. Whenever I wrote
a given paragraph I very well may have been on the other side of the planet
than when I wrote the paragraph before. I left it this way because I think it
helps paint my picture of Nicaragua.
This has been a long time coming as I've been coming to Nicaragua since 2014
and living here half the year (doing month here, month in LA type of schedule)
for a few years prior to moving.
I fell in love with the country on a trip looking for beach property. I can't
afford it in LA so I had to go looking else where. I also wanted a change of
culture, etc. A true vacation home I guess. I was not expecting to leave LA
permanently at the time.
Once I saw the lifestyle potential here I thought, why not? I jumped in and
started a land development project called Colonial San Martin with the
idea of making enough profit to recoup my investment and eventually build a
beach house for "free." You can read a bit more about the story of how I ended
up in Nicaragua on the CSM About page or check out this drone footage
of the project below.
The timing is never right for this type of move. Sometimes you have to evaluate
everything and just take a leap of faith. That said, there were a few factors
that led to the move in my case.
Both of my daughters are now adults. My oldest daughter is now living in
Europe. My other daughter is busy being a full time college student, working
her job, her boyfriend, and her hobbies. So in terms of fatherly duties, my job
is essentially done and there is no real reason for me to be physically in LA
anymore. Obviously I will be visiting both girls frequently and supporting in
every way I can but they both have their own lives now and don't need - or
want - me hovering over them anymore.
My awesome ex-wife would have to care for my house when I was out of the
country half the year. This was also taking a toll on her because she would be
having to maintain two houses during that time. It really wasn't a fair scenario.
Especially during the earlier years before our daughter had a car, etc. I owe
her a lot for all the help through the years.
I already have a whole life here in Nicaragua. I have my girlfriend, home,
truck, large group of friends, staff, land development projects, and even a
corporation here. In terms of logistics inside the country, I'd already done
all the ground work so it really was as simple as just flying in and going
I'm very fortunate that I can run my businesses from anywhere. Just need my
trusty laptop and an internet connection and I'm at work. I'm also lucky
in that I can earn USD and live in a place where that exchange rate is
There are a lot of pros to living in this situation (though there are some cons
as well, I'll discuss those below) and obviously the money goes a very long way
here. After all, this is the second poorest country in the western
For example, what I would pay monthly just to keep a roof over my head in Los
Angeles would easily allow me to live like a king here in Nicaragua. There
are a few factors here that help with that though:
- I already own my home in Managua outright (btw, this same house if
transported directly to my old neighborhood in LA would cost 700K+ USD
without a doubt)
- I live in a zone that is on the south end of the capital city and in a
smaller jurisdiction. This was pure luck and not planned. Utilities in this
jurisdiction are a lot cheaper than in other areas.
For a utilities example, here is my average monthly cost:
- Electricity: $90 USD. This is with an AC running every night to sleep and
a different AC running all day while I work from my home office.
- Internet: $65 USD. This includes cable, house phone, etc. Speeds of
- Water: $5 USD. That's not a typo.
- Cell Service: $16 USD. That's for about 12gb of data, 160 minutes of off
network calls, and can call the US and Costa Rica without charge. If I never
need more data (which has never happened as I'm connected to wifi 99% of the
time) I can just purchase more straight from my phone.
There are a lot of other items that are unbelievably cheap for the quality you
get, compared to the USA. For example:
- Meats. I don't actually eat meat, or any animal products, but Nicaragua is
known for having amazing beef. Sure you have the production farms here but
those are almost exclusively for export to the US. Most meat bought at the
markets here is farm raised, grass fed, and pretty damn good. Also a lot
cheaper than comparable quality meats back in the US.
- Fruits and veggies. They're natural, organic, usually grown from the people
you buy them from. I generally avoid buying these from the grocery stores and
prefer to go to farmers markets or just my neighborhood street vendor. The
quality is amazing and I prefer to support a local family business. If you've
never eaten a tomato outside the US, I dare you to try one here. It's hard to
stomach veggies in the US once you've tried them outside the country.
- Labor is very affordable. Anything from help around the house, to general
labor, to a chauffeur if that's your thing.
While I prefer to eat at home there are many options for good restaurants in
the country. The diversity isn't here yet but it's growing. For instance, I
can't find a good Indian food place and as far as I know, it doesn't exist.
However you can find everything from Korean soon tofu soup to New Zealand baked
meat pies. So there is a variety, it's just not as large of a variety as many
bigger cities offer.
Also since I've been fully vegan for 5ish years at this point, I never really
have a hard time eating out. Sometimes it's very limited and boring but at
least it's cheap. In this part of the world, rice, beans and veggies are
everywhere you look. So I never go hungry. There are some new vegan restaurants
and even a vegan supermarket now, so that trend is growing here as well. Which
is good news for me.
This country produces some great beers. It's very hot here most of the time and
the beers are mostly light, smooth and refreshing. But I don't want to talk
about the beer. I want to talk about one liquor in particular:
Oh the rum. Rum rum rum rum rum. This country is home to arguably the
best rum in the world. A title it often wins in the annual spirits
competitions. I was personally never a rum person but that's because I didn't
know better. I thought good rum was Captain Morgan or Bacardi. How foolish I
was. This rum is so good that we often have to remind ourselves how spoiled we
are here in Nica in terms of rum and how affordable it is in the country.
Not that everything is alcohol but Nicaraguan people are very social and to be
frank, heavy drinkers. Much like my Korean friends, pretty much any social
gathering will involve some form of alcohol. Maybe a white wine or local beer
with lunch or maybe a small bottle of rum to unwind with friends after a long
day. Often times though, that small bottle turns into a larger bottle as the
night goes on.
Such is life in the tropics.
Nicaragua has some of the best surf you'll find anywhere in the world. It's
pacific coast is loaded with world class waves. From the famous Popoyo, the
outer reef is dubbed "Pipeline of Central America", to "The Boom", to the
dozens of other waves, Nicaragua is literally a surfers dream. I won't go on
too much about it but check out this video showing some amazing surf in the
I'm biased but my favorite beach in all the country is Guasacate beach, which
is very close to my land development project (Colonial San Martin) and
right next door to the Popoyo wave. Because Popoyo is such a popular wave,
there is a cool little community that's grown around it and this includes the
community of Guasacate. Lots of restaurants, hostels, etc. but still is, and
feels, very remote.
What an unbelievable beautiful country Nicaragua is. The landscapes can be
There are dozens and dozens of postcard caliber virgin beaches up
and down the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. This is what originally made me fall
in love with this place. I love the beach and I can't think of a better place
in the world, that I've been to, that has more to offer in this area than
Volcanoes. This country has a lot of volcanoes. In fact, the active volcano
Vulcan Masaya is about a 15 minute drive from my house. If you can
stomach the gasses in the air, you can scale to the top of the volcano and look
inside. It's quite a sight and something I recommend everyone do at least once.
Especially at night.
Forests, mountains, farms, Caribbean islands plus coffee and cigar plantations
show off the many sides of this country.
Warm, hard working, and funny are descriptions you'd often hear about the
Nicaraguan people. They have a fighting spirit that is truly admirable. As I
mentioned above, Nica's are typically a very social people. It doesn't take
much to get a gathering of friends together with some BBQ and beers.
Like pretty much anywhere, the further from the cities you go, the friendlier
the people. And like anywhere else, you do have your a-holes floating around.
I truly believe that people everywhere are good. Of course there are bad apples
but my experience in my travels is that people generally want to be helpful
and Nicaragua is no different.
I'd like to add a caveat to the above. When you throw a Nicaraguan person
behind the wheel of a vehicle, it's like all decency is thrown out the window.
The style of driving here is very aggressive and virtually zero respect for
other drivers or pedestrians. The funny thing is that they drive so unbearably
slow as well. That's something I've yet to adjust to. My friends say I drive
crazy because I drive so fast but to me, it's normal driving in Los Angeles.
So yea, if you're not just as aggressive in return, you'll never get anywhere.
I no longer pay for health insurance in the USA. Instead I opt for a world wide
coverage with a policy from BMI insurance (which has an entire network of
coverage in the US as well). I pay roughly $1700 USD per year for up to 1
million dollars per year in coverage.
The plan I chose has a high deductible of $5,000 USD so I think of this plan
for emergency situations only. That 5K would quickly be spent in a single day
in a hospital in the US. Also, since I'm not spending $800ish/mo on insurance
within the US any longer, even if I had to pay that 5K in an emergency, I'd
still be out less than if I had my normal US plan. This plan also covers air
ambulances, etc. So if I need a procedure that is done in the US, Panama,
Europe, wherever, transportation and the costs in the foreign country hospitals
are all covered.
For annual physical or doctor visits if I have the flu or whatever, I just pay
cash for them. It's not very expensive and everything I spend goes towards my
annual deductible. I just pass my spend receipts over to my agent who marks
them in their system.
Here are some hard numbers of costs. I just got my blood work done this morning
for my annual physical that I'm in the process of doing.
- Lab work for 6 different panels: $126
- Cost of doctor: $70
I should note this is in the most expensive hospital in the country called
Vivian Pellas and my doctor is excellent and also speaks perfect
Back when I had COVID in 2020, I finally had the strength to go to the
doctor. In this case I chose the new military hospital. It was very nice,
modern, etc. I paid a whopping $50 USD for the "concierge service" - where I
literally had a concierge take me to each station, nurses, and finally the
doctor. BTW, the doctors fees are included in that $50. With the cost of
filling the prescription, I spent less than $80 in total.
You also have the option of government run clinics and hospitals. They are
completely free or extremely low cost. Even if you're a tourist. I can't speak
to the quality of the care but people I know in the expat community here say
it's just fine for their needs.
So all spectrum's are covered here. From the "expensive" to the free. Of
course, expensive in this case is nothing compared to costs in the US.
What's the climate like in Nicaragua? Hot! We're in the tropics after all.
There are really just two seasons here: Wet and Dry. Half the year it's Dry so
the landscape changes to be slightly more brown but still holds onto it's
tropical green undertones. Then the second half is rainy and wet and the
landscape turns lush basically overnight. The greens are just beautiful and
more than once I've pulled over just to take photos of a mountain side or
You need to invest in a gardener here if you like having a garden. Unless you
have the time and green thumb anyway. The foliage grows so fast it's actually
Dry season starts more or less around the end of October to around early May.
Then the rains pickup and there will be a few weeks/months where the rains fall
so heavy that the streets turn into rivers in many towns and cities. Sometimes
the weather can create disaster zones for remote areas. This is obviously not
unique to Nicaragua but I seem to feel it more here because of the lack of
resources the government has to help. Usually funds are raised by their
communities to help the families in need.
I prefer the hot weather versus the wet but the landscapes during the wet
season are much more beautiful. Still, when it's hot and dry I can take a dip
in the pool or ocean to cool off. When it's raining, not much I can do about
that. Usually though, the rain is for bursts of hours, then the sun shines
again. There are periods of days of gray rainy days but that's only a handful
of times a year.
Crime & Politics
If you've followed anything within the country then you know that in 2018 there
was a large uprising against the government here. I won't get too into the
political side of things but I will only speak about what I see personally
here in country.
Is there political unrest? Yes, definitely. Is there any chaos in the streets
or anything like that? Not at all. Aside for a few months in 2018, things are
always very peaceful in the country. I'm not trying to say there aren't issues
but I am saying that as an immigrant here, it really doesn't affect me.
I'm aware how this may come off but it's true. I'd say this is true for most
average Nicaraguans as well. I have friends from all sides of the local
political spectrum and I haven't noticed a change in their lives at all. Some
of the younger Nicaraguans are bit more vocal but again, they pretty much go
about their daily lives.
Also, as part of the rules of my legal residency, I can not be involved in
politics or political speech. So when I say it doesn't affect me, I also mean,
it legally doesn't concern me either.
As for crime, in my life it's virtually a non-issue. In Nicaragua there are no
drug cartels, no violent street gangs, no MS-13, no groups of thugs robbing
people, etc. The most common crime here is petty crime. If you accidentally
leave your cell phone on the table in a bar, even if it's just 30 seconds
later, you'll be very lucky if it's still there.
Petty crime is driven by extreme poverty. And you definitely see that here.
From children begging for money to women with a baby in her arms trying to wash
your windows for pennies, poverty is on full display.
Violence is so rare that I don't even think much of it. I wish I had the answer
as to how the police and government has kept the violence plaguing the
countries to the north and yes, also the south, out of Nicaragua. I know that
they're very strict on any attempt to organize gangs here. I heard of an
example from a year or two ago where some MS-13 gang members came into
Nicaragua to organize here. They lasted a month before the government had
locked up some and deported the rest back to El Salvador.
Of course, there are exceptions but in general, pick any major US city and the
crime rate and danger level will be higher than the worst corners of Managua or
anywhere in Nicaragua.
In short, I feel very safe here. Of course, always use common sense but, so far
I've yet to have an issue.
Since COVID started Nicaragua has implemented some fairly strict, and odd,
rules to enter. A lot of people are often confused about this. So here are the
- A negative PCR test taken no less than 72 hours prior to entering the
country. Vaccination status does not matter, a test is required 100% of the
time. It must be a PCR test.
- If you're flying, then you must provide your negative PCR test to your
airline at the latest 36 hours before your flight departs. This means you
have essentially 36 hours to take your test, get your results, and submit
them to the airline. This is because of the 72 hour listed above. Your
airline will provide you with instructions but sometimes they screw up so
pay attention. You will not be allowed into the country if you don't do
these basic steps.
- If you're coming from South America you will need proof of yellow fever
vaccine to be allowed to enter the country. I always carry my international
vaccination passport with me and recommend you do the same.
Because of the rules Nicaragua has placed on airlines to enter the country
many big airlines have stopped service into the country. This has been the bane
of my existence ever since.
Unfortunately the best option to enter the country is Avianca airlines. I'd
love to say never ever ever fly with them but unfortunately, often times there
is no choice. Slowly more airlines are coming into the market and Avianca
pricing has improved a bit, but not much.
A great option for tourists is to fly into Liberia, Costa Rica and take a
shuttle to the border and cross by land. It's about a 2.5 hour drive from the
Liberia airport and the border is about a 30 minute drive to San Juan del Sur,
Nicaragua, which is probably the biggest tourist destination in the country
I'm writing this final section from Paris, France. I'm currently traveling
and as much as I love Europe, there's no place like home. I desperately miss
Nicaragua and still have a bit of time before I return. I only mention this
missing feeling because it shows how much I love Nicaragua and how at home I
It's a special place and I don't pretend that it's perfect or even a good match
for most people, but it's definitely a fit for me. That may change in the
future but I continue to believe the country's best days are ahead and look
forward to doing my small part to help it grow.