Let’s Get Real about Retiring to Nicaragua

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, And that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.”
― Dr. Seuss


December 2019 update

We left Nicaragua in July 2018 because of the Civic Rebellion that continues to this day. The economy is in a tailspin, 100,000 Nicaraguans fled the country, unemployment is high, the heavy repression of the Nicaraguan people continues, and the Nicaraguan people continue to suffer under a ruthless dictatorship. We cannot return to Nicaragua to live until the dictator and his VP wife are convicted for human rights’ violations and high crimes, until the people who fled their country feel safe to return, until the repression stops, and civility is restored to the lovely people. At this time, we can do more from afar to support our Nicaraguan friends and families.


I am grouchy. The April heat is almost unbearable. It hasn’t rained for six months. My internet sucks because too many people are using the bandwidth on my server. The new paint on my plunge pool blistered and we had to drain it. The power and water are unreliable. The entire community of Urbite has run out of water. The city well is dry.  The roaming cows and pigs searching for something to eat knocked down our fence to munch on the sparse tufts of grass that are wilting in our yard. My neighbor had her thyroid removed and she can’t afford the thyroid pills she has to take for the rest of her life. Do you want me to continue?

When I read articles of fantasy such as the one linked below, all I can do is laugh. Fantasy Retirement? Living in Paradise? Let’s get real about living and retiring in Nicaragua. Life here is not all about surfing, drinking Toñas, and watching the beautiful sunsets. Living in Nicaragua isn’t for sissies.

In 2004, we used to enjoy going to San Juan del Sur. It was a quiet, little fishing village. Then, the cruise ships came, the throngs of tourists, and hundreds of expats moved to Nicaragua searching for paradise. Now, prostitutes, thieves, and drug addicts bus from Managua to where unsuspecting tourists are scammed.  Then, they hop back on the buses to sell their loot in Managua. Yes, it is even happening on our little Ometepe Island.


2004 sunset in San Juan del Sur

My friend once told me that once you get used to the garbage in Nicaragua, you have arrived.

garbage on Easter

2015 garbage filled beach in San Juan del Sur during Semana Santa

This nonsense wakes up my fried brain cells. Do you want to know the naked truth about living in Nicaragua? I say ‘naked truth’ because I’m sitting at my laptop naked and drenched in sweat and it’s only 7:00 am.

Life is challenging here.
Always expect the unexpected.
Live without any expectations. It’s survival mode at its finest!

I’m going to fill-up our plunge pool today. I don’t care if we use our entire reserve tank of water and all the paint peels off the pool. Then, I’m going to sit in the pool and drink my wine, while looking at life in Nicaragua through the wrong end of a telescope. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient of living in Nicaragua. Maybe, just maybe I’ll be able to laugh at life’s realities or at least survive until the rains start.

How to Live Your Fantasy Retirement Life in Nicaragua

Post Note: Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up! I couldn’t fill the pool today because we had an attack of chayules (aquatic mites). They always swarm when the wind blows across the lake from the Northwest.  I got my trusty electric blower out, after I received a frantic message about an hysterical pregnant woman who awoke to a giant cane toad on her stomach seeping it’s milky white toxic goo all over her belly… a sign of doom for a pregnant woman in Nicaragua,  and then blew as many of the chayules as I could out of the house. All is OK in the land of the not quite right. 🙂  The chayules will be gone in two more days.

I know this sounds like a tall tale, but it’s real life in Nicaragua…all day…everyday. It keeps me on my gypsytoes.

50 thoughts on “Let’s Get Real about Retiring to Nicaragua

  1. We have read many publications and outright fabrications about the wonderful “utopias” elsewhere around the world at a fraction of US prices. Although Nicaragua remains one of our favorite countries you’re right, it’s not for people who expect perfection, easy living and western standards. Some days grumpy may be about as good as it gets! Anita

    • hi!
      do u live in nicaragua now?
      yep ,,no place is utopia ,,anywhere !!!!
      Im moving there within the year and actually look forward to not having to hear about another shooting in and around the small florida town i now reside in,,which happens now on a daily rate of 2-5 shootings a day!
      not to mention …road rage….!!!!!!

    • You GOT my post, Anita. Thank you, thank you! My complaints were not so much about ME, as complaints about the outright fabrications in some articles about living in Nicaragua. Seriously, it is time to get real! Our rainy season has begun. Woopie! My plunge pool is full and I’m floating around, peeling paint and all. And I’m stocked up on boxed wine. Life is good. 🙂

      • Came into this a bit later, but the International Living person sounds very different when she’s on the San Juan del Sur board complaining about the lack of police response to crime.

        I like it here as much as I like any place, but if people come here looking for paradise, I get the impression that they don’t do reality testing well and really resist hearing that Nicaragua isn’t a simple, tranquil monoblock o’ happy.

        Come with few expectations and you’re be surprised and delighted with what is good about the place that you didn’t expect.

    • Happy to read your comments. We have lived in Nicaragua for six months now. Boy are the summers HOT and we live in then mountains. Internet here stinks and I hate the phone system. But I love the people and the low cost of living.

      • Thanks for your comments Rosalie. I hear you. There are pros and cons to every place in the world. We are vacationing in New Zealand now and boy is it COLD. I can’t wait to get back home to warm up. Lol but, the internet is really fast and the people are friendly, so I guess that makes up for the cold, rainy weather. 😀

  2. I feel for you Deb, one at a time issues are much easier to handle than the bombardment you’ve been dealing with. And I understand you can only make so much lemonade. Great article , and one I’m sure IL wouldn’t post. Hang in there sweetie. Hugs

  3. hahahaha,,,me to0 ,,
    i will be at via verde…
    do u know eileen wall????

    i haven’t been to santa fe panama,,,,,,but read about it ,,,,and did some research…
    i went all over panama looking around ,,,wasn’t my vibe ,, especially bouquete and bocas del toros ,,,, bocas is pretty ,,,but the town sucks!!!!!
    but i had a great time!!!
    i read that sante fe is pretty ,,,,
    but still too yawn,,,for me,,,,,,,,,,,,
    their cutting a road now thru there to the ocean ,which is cool ,,,,but i just read that,,,sooooo who knows ,,,
    no where is great ,,,they all are shit ,,,hahahahahahahha,,how bout ,,,,,mars???
    only place not polluted……..YET!!!!!!!!!!

    • No, don’t know Eileen Wall, but I don’t know that many gringos here. I don’t want to live in Boquete either, too chilly and too many gringos, like living in a little US mountain town. The town of Bocas is pretty funky but the area is beautiful. it’s too remote for living though, IMO. David is working out great for us. It’s a working town but everything we need is right here, and we can easily get to the more touristy areas when we want to.

      It’s suffocatingly hot here today too, hot sun, humid, blech. It’s clouding up and I hear thunder in the distance so maybe we’ll both get some welcome rain!

  4. We’re doing the happy dance today! I think our rains have finally arrived!

    I agree, April has got to be the worst month of the year, checking the skies every day for the whiff of a rain cloud and suffering with heat and everything that goes with it. Now I’m waiting for the newbies to start complaining about the bugs that are sure to follow.

    I think that most of us who have “walked the walk and talked the talk” agree that IL has one good scam going on. You really have to do your own research, in your own time with boots on the ground. Paid “relocation tours” fall into the same category. If you aren’t brave enough to explore on your own then relocating to Panama (or Nica) is not for you.

    Hang in there, this is just a little bump in life. We all have “those” days. 🙂

    • Now, I’m doing the happy dance. The rains have started early this year. What a relief. For weeks, we watched the moisture build up and the humidity rise. Every morning, Ron would say, “I think it’s going to rain today.” Well, this morning the rainy season began. The Howler monkeys are roaring with delight. The parrots are chattering with relief. My tin roof is sparkly clean, and little tufts of green grass popped up in my dusty yard overnight. YEA!!!!

      • yeahhhhh!!!!! i goofed and sent my reply to a lady who used to live in sarasota,,, she lives id david now,,,,, whose also on your blog….whoopsie!!!
        do u know Eileen Wall from villa verde ,,,,its an organic ,,,farm there ,,its where i will be staying …
        i have a question ,,do u like Balque,,?
        i read of a few good little restaurants there …
        i will be there beg of june ,,will it rain all day??
        and guess i should bring an umbrella????
        have a fun rainy day,,,,sounds heavenly!!!!
        light , heidi

        • Haha! Actually, Kris and her husband from Panama were our housesitters. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if she knew Eileen. Yes, I’ve known Eileen for years, although we rarely see each other. We hardly ever go to the other side of the island. I really like Balgue. There are some great restaurants there, especially El Campestre. Ben, the owner, grows all the veggies and lettuce and smokes his own bacon. It is hard to tell if it will rain all day. Usually, the rains are hard and last for less than 20 minutes, then the sun pops out. But, our climate is changing. Bring an umbrella, you never know. 🙂

      • I know how you feel… 🙂 Lovely cool breezes blowing tonight but for some reason we were without power and water for almost eight hours today. Of course the puso needs the electricity to drive the water into the system so it all comes down to the electricity. 🙂

  5. Oh my; how I remember those moments, and I hope hope hope that my respite from the frustrations continues. The goats are my biggest pest, and they surely are capable of as much sudden damage to a garden as the pigs are to yours.

    How well I remember when my internet worked well, and then one day it dropped to horrid.. I ran antivirus, roll backs, etc to try to figure out the problem.. and a few weeks later i took a road trop and realized the problem was not my computer but the connection. I realized later that the internet provider had added on a new area.. He said ‘that has NOTHING to do with it…’ but it does.

    The first rains in Guanacaste usually arrived around Semana Santa, so yes, you’re overdue for a life-giving rain. Our rainy season here in Ecuador was at least two months late, but we’ve received some nice rains in the past month, gracias A-Dios…

    I’m so sorry that SJDS is no longer the idyllic little sea port. The image of the litter was so disturbing. Sigh. We need a new planet for disenchanted earth-loving pilgrims.

    • Lisa, can we take your magic carpet for a long ride in search of a new planet for earth-loving pilgrims? lol But, the rains started this morning! For me, waiting for the rains to start is like having a long month of PMS. What a relief. I actually have goose bumps this morning. 🙂
      My point in writing this post was not so much to complain and look like a wimp, but to stress the fact that there is no utopia, no paradise, no fantasy retirement. Utopia is an internal thing, definitely not external, right?

      • exactly; sometimes people forget that any new spot is a great experience.. until the honeymoon is over and the flaws start becoming as obvious as the positive parts… am in town again b/c a second vulture lit in the wrong place — two transformers blown in one week.. before then, zero in 7 years!

  6. Here in Panama we say TIP for “This Is Panama”, so I would say that you have TIN for “This Is Nicaragua”! Both mean the same thing, “This too shall pass!” Hang in there, the rains WILL come, not soon enough, but they will come and then we can relax just a little. Have another glass of wine and whine a bit to the dog, chitras, the cow next door, anyone or anything that will listen. Chau, Mikkel, The Pedasi Pundit

    • You’re so kind, Mikkel. I’d whine to our dog, but he spends the day under our bed in the dark room with a fan. 🙂 Anyway, I was really trying to make a point that there is no paradise in this world. I’m not usually a whiner ( yet, this heat makes me want to whine away), but I want future expats to see the realities of living in a developing country. It’s certainly not all boxed wine and roses.

  7. Oh my! You sound desperate for cooler weather, rain, or both. I know you can hang in there if you stay naked, keep putting your head in the freezer, stock up on that box wine, and wait the three days to refilll the plunge pool. You were looking so forward to that plunge pool too to get you through April. I’m not sure what to do about the internet but maybe if you have enough wine you won’t care.

    Your post was so funny that you had me laughing. I apologize for that because I know you’re suffering and sound like you’re at your wits end. All places have their issues and, as someone pointed out, you have to make your own paradise. I’m glad you didn’t sugar coat things and wrote how it is. That’s good for anyone reading who is contemplating moving there so they know where things stand. I know the bad situation will pass eventually, but sometimes it’s nice to get things off our chest.

    Hang in there.

    • Sunni, I can’t stop laughing. I was just getting ready to call it a night, and I thought I’d check my post one more time for comments. I’m laughing so hard at your comment that tears are rolling down my face. Hmmm..they are kind of refreshing. I think I’ll stock up on my boxed wine tomorrow. Thanks for the laugh. I feel better already. Hugs.

  8. Sheesh amiga, I hope the rains come to you too! Things have changed here so maybe change is on the way to you too. The chayules though?? Now? what you have so many other things to deal with? How rude.
    Who had their thyroid removed? Marina? Is there anything that can be done to help? Can we help?
    Heidi Lane – we lived in Sarasota before moving to Panama. Thanks for the reminder of all the things we are happy to leave behind! Life in Latin America has its challenges, but also many joys.

    • Well, let me try this again. Someone is using all of the bandwidth, and my internet keeps cutting out and refuses to load a page. Sigh! Thanks, mi amiga. Actually, besides being really, really hot, I am happy. I wanted to make an extreme point about the linked article. Although, I am not exaggerating at all. It’s been one of those days. Marina had the rest of her thyroid removed last week. You are so sweet to ask how to help, but we have her covered. She is like part of our extended family, and we’d never let her go without her meds. Ron was looking at Santa Fe, Panama today. Have you been there? I think we’ll head your way next April.

      • International Living approached me about doing an article, or an interview actually so they could write the article and it actually turned out very very well. Maybe there is some hope for them yet.
        Tell Marina I am thinking of her. I know you wouldn’t let her go without but if you ever need some help just holler. I feel like we made so many good friends in the time we were there, her included.
        No, I haven’t been to Santa Fe but I hear it is very pretty there. It’s on my list of things I haven’t seen yet and need to visit.
        Hang in there!

  9. I believe you’ve had it, Deb. I hope the wine and soak in the pool are helping. The clincher was your post note. 🌴🌴🌴😎🌴🌴 🌴 Wishing you better times ahead.

  10. Reminds me of the end of snow season when everyone gets depressed and says “ENOUGH” Sometimes we would light the Tiki torches, open up the beach chairs, bring out the space heaters, and declare it to be a beach party. WooHoo. Of course the tequila helped to lighten the mood.

    • I love this. Misery likes company and it is making the best of a dreary situation. Reminds me of when I had my high school students come in with Hawaiian shirts and their beach poetry. We had sand, beach chairs and umbrella set up in the front of the classroom. They loved it and it was still snowing outside. And minus the tequila. 😎

  11. geeez deb…..u sound like ur really fried right now…..u always seem to find a way out of that mindset somehow….think of it this way………maybe it will scare the chinese away…..(ducking to avoid the flying wine bottle) u can make lemonade out of this….hugs

  12. Pingback: Let’s Get Real About Retiring in Panama | Chiriquí Chatter

  13. I lived in San Juan del Sur in 2001 and 2002. At that time it was a laid back fishing village with some world travelers who would come and go. At night It was safe to walk home from one of the bay front bar/restaurants and not have to look over one’s shoulder. I then moved to Panama. Recently I visited by email with a friend who lives in SJDS. He said it has changed a lot. A younger crowd has moved in with their drug culture and loud, noisy drinking parties especially week ends and holidays. When I was there begger children use to show up from Managua. The local powers would put them on the bus back to Managua. No street beggers were around.

    I would advise those considering moved to Nicaragua to come down as a vacation. Visit with ex pats. You can learn only so much over the Internet. Nothing beats first hand knowledge. Come once in the dry season and once during the rainy season. If you come do not buy property right off the bat. Rent for one year. Check out about you medical care and prescription drug needs.

    Re: The International Living article. They only write about the roses and never anything about the thorns.

    When I lived there they had two small derelict wooden fishing boats on some barrels as you came into town. To me it was the city limits. Just after passing them you could see the water in the bay. When I came back for a visit in 2004 they had removed the boats. Somehow SJDS just wasn’t the same with them gone.

    I do miss the sunsets during the rainy season.

    • Excellent points, John. My intentions were to tell the naked truth in writing this article. I get so tired of articles that depict any place in the world as “paradise”, “utopia”, or “a fantasy retirement”. I’ve been asked several times to write articles for International Living. But, the funniest part is that they are never published. Once I even received a check for my article, but I couldn’t find the article I wrote. I think they are afraid I’ll scare away potential real estate customers. jeje. The title of one of my articles was, “You Ain’t in Gringolandia No More.”
      I may have gone a little overboard in this post…but it is the real Nicaragua. Good or bad, I still love living here. Well, except for April…but I can hang in there for 2 more weeks, then we’re headed to the states for a real spring. I can’t wait.

  14. Well we have been back in Canada after another wonderful month Spent in Nica! Have been going for 6 years now, And let me tell you, I would return in a heart beat! It’s April 28th, and as I look out my window, it’s SNOWING!!! AGAIN! We have had sooooooooooooo much snow this year that it is crazy…It’s Spring, It’s Snowing and FREEZING here! So…Want to trade places??? lol!

    • Sonya, I’ll make you a deal. You can come and house sit for us in April, and we’ll go somewhere cooler. 🙂 Where do you spend your time in Nicaragua? Seriously, it’s a wonderful country…and a fabulous place to hang your hammock. Wishing you melting snow, daffodils popping up, and bathing suit weather soon. 🙂

    • Yep! There is no sugar coating the truth in my post. 🙂 Even if I tried really, really hard to only say good, happy things about Nicaragua, I’d be deceiving everyone and myself. Well, the plunge pool idea has to be postponed for a couple of days. You didn’t see my post note. We had a giant chayule swarm, and we can’t fill the pool until the chayules all die…only 3 days, though. I think I can hang in there until then…there is always the wine. Thanks for your sweet thoughts.

  15. Hang in there! I know you’ll bounce back and so will all life in Nicaragua once the rains come. Everywhere has its ups and downs. This is one of best times in Minnesota as everything is green and blooming after long winter – so we paid for it. Guess it just means the only paradise anyhere is the one you canmake with friends and loved ones.

    • I love your comment about paradise. Paradise is really all about friends and loved ones. You always know the right thing to say, Jon. I saw the FB photos of spring popping up in your garden. THAT really made my day. I crave green, rain, and cooler weather like the Nicaraguan cows crave green grass. It won’t be long now. And, I can always find a way to get cool, even if it means sticking my head in the freezer until we can fill the plunge pool. Hugs.

  16. Well said Debbie. Often times it gets so ridiculous here we just have to laugh.
    Hold on the rains are coming.

  17. Fantasy is looking through the wrong end of the telescope here in Sarasota , Florida too…..
    Baltimore in flames with the same old racial wars,,,,weather heating up too soon which may cause huge hurricanes this season ,dealing with unethical condo people in charge ,,,inflation and a political system as screwed up as anywhere… including health care …having to take my 81 year old mother to Nicaragua when I move there ….(reasons i will tell u later) wondering how Im going to get my thyroid pills there too…if your friend needs help , let me know ,,,email me,,,
    being charged up the ying- yang for” breathing ” here in the states….more shootings ,,,a young boy shot his younger brother and his parents…more shootings ,,,road rage ,,another shooting down the street…overdosing teens and pre- teens ,, suicides cuz their gay or transgender ,,,need I go on,,,,cuz I can…….!!!!!!!
    so , I too look through my own telescope,,,hmmmm…..and see a NEW adventure,,,by the name of ,,, Nicaragua. I’m already laughing!!!!

    • Heidi, I can’t wait to meet you. I love the tune you play in life. Keep laughing. And thanks for the wise thoughts. I wish I could say I was exaggerating in this post…but it is the real Nicaragua. I wouldn’t have it any other way. See you real soon.

      • YES ,,,a new place is fun,,,!!!!!!! FINALLY,,,,UTOPIA!!!!!!
        i remember moving to south beach ,,,(in Miami) ,,,,6 years later……. gross!!!!!
        but tons of other new people loved it….!!!!!
        and yep u see and notice all that ,, u never saw before…..hmmmm
        grossness ,,
        happened to me in N.Y.C,,,same ole shit ,,,
        then…. in Sarasota ,Florida ,,,same ole ….same ole ,,,
        got more crowded…. more polluted …..more dangerous ,,,,

        tourists come here ,, and then move here ,,,,,,and guess what???

        ,,,they start to see the same ole ,,,whiteness,,no diversity ,,very wealth conscious shit ..same ole crap…all over again….geez!!!!
        and so they move out ,,go back to Wisconsin or Cleveland….

        hahahahah ……its the SAME ,,,,everywhere ya go!!!

        until ya die!


        LIGHT ,

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