Granada Nicaragua: Where Expats Make a Difference
Away from Boredom in Granada Nicaragua
The town paints itself. Cement block buildings, boldly painted in bright splashes of red, green, and yellow. The clay tile roofs bend over the streets of Granada Nicaragua, then hesitate and separate for furious sprigs of bright, flowering plants, shaded parks, and clean, gentle streets easing by colonnaded buildings. In the air, is a feeling of excitement and energy.
Face it. The modern concepts of city planning have become boring. Look-alike houses, all painted the same color, with tiny lawns and only a number to separate one home from another, and a street sign to tell you you’re in the right neighborhood. Shopping malls, fast food diners, playgrounds, and parks all based on the same architecture. It’s little wonder creativity has taken a nose dive and a person’s favorite “real estate” is an Internet capable cell phone. Real-time adventure is limited to zip-lining over a rock quarry. Romance is a dirty word, associated with melodrama and cheap paperback books.
Yet there is absolutely no ignoring the fact that Granada, Nicaragua is romantic. How could it be otherwise? Founded in 1529, it’s not only the first colonial town built on firm land, its marked Baroque style is based off early Moorish architecture, giving it a unique flavor found nowhere else in Central America.
You Can Truly Get Away from It All
Secluded from the modern world by the miles of wilderness characteristic of Nicaragua, Granada slumbered peacefully through the Sandinista civil war in a backdrop of rich agricultural land, dry forests, and tropical rain forests and volcanoes. As though this pastoral setting wasn’t enough to keep the dreamer dreaming, it’s also located on one of the largest lakes in the world, Lake Nicaragua, or, as the locals call it, Cocibolca.
It is a natural playground for adventurers. It has three volcanic lagoons; Manares, Genirzaro and the famous Apoyo, the largest lagoon in Nicaragua. Due to its rough, unpredictable waters, as well as industrial pollution, swimming in Lake Nicaragua isn’t recommended, but tourists and locals take full advantage of the crystal clear waters of Apoyo.
You Can Also Take It with You
Although the area surrounding Granada is largely underdeveloped, with few modern conveniences, Granada, Nicaragua is no longer a sleepy little town. An initiative to preserve and restore the ancient colonial architecture that had begun to seriously deteriorate with Nicaraguan bankruptcy, resulted in foreign aid and investments, beginning in 1990. The Spanish government in particular, took a keen interest in the refurbishment of the city, even transforming the Calle La Calzada into Peatonal – a foot traffic only – street.
It didn’t take long for Americans and Europeans to discover the charm of the quaint city, and a real estate appeal much greater than owning a few cubic yards of lawn and a two car garage. It wasn’t long before they were buying the historic buildings, turning them into retirement homes, apartments, and businesses. The pace slowed down in 2007 with the global recession, but word had already gotten around. Granada, Nicaragua was the smart place to invest in, and after a brief lull, attention turned once more to the accommodating and entirely affordable town.
Modern day Granada wakes to the sound of hammers, saws, and mixers. The repaired city has cable and cell phone service, Internet cafes, luxury hotels with swimming pools and hot, running water, four star restaurants, a new supermarket, health food stores, libraries, gyms, and still plenty of opportunities for investors.
There are many advantages for investors in Granada Nicaragua. There are no real restrictions on foreign capital investment, and regulations concerning business development are minimal. There are no real estate taxes for up to ten years and supplies for starting your business are tax-free. You may import up to $20,000 in personal items tax-free. You may also import or buy a vehicle worth up to $25,000 without paying a tax.
The GDP growth rate in Nicaragua is one of the fastest in Central America. The economy has expanded at 5.2%, and construction is up 30%. Granada is one of Nicaragua’s fastest growing towns. Its recent overhaul has included updated utility services and major improvements in road maintenance.
Nicaragua’s low income base makes it once of the most affordable Central American countries to invest in, raise families, or retire. Although Granada is considered prime real estate, giving it a higher value than other locations within Nicaragua, the value of real estate and cost of living is still half what it is in the United States.
Granada is located within a forty minute drive of the capital city, Managua. Air flights from Houston or Miami to the Managua International Airport take about two hours. There are shuttles available for $15. Most of the shuttle services will drop you off at nearly any point in Granada. There are also taxis available for around $35. Recently, the small airport at Granada has begun offering services between the town and the Managua airport.
Granada, Nicaragua’s Solid Economic Base
Granada’s escape from major conflict during the Nicaragua civil war was largely due to its reputation as a place to relax and refresh your mind from critical issues and decisions. Businessmen, states people, and diplomats regarded Granada as a prime vacation spot. As the war settled to a close, it attracted a growing number of European and U.S. travelers as an ideal tourist spot.
However, tourism is not its only industry. Granada has long been a Nicaraguan hub for commerce, with a vigorous trade in timber, gold, and silver. It’s also rich in agricultural land, capable of growing a large variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, as well as cotton, tobacco, coffee, and livestock.
The fishing is good in nearby Cocibolca, keeping both the local fishermen and expat community happy. Fish include several species of mojarra and other cichild fish, sardines, tarpon, big and small tooth sawfish, and the unique fresh water bull shark. The shark, once considered a hazard to the public and nearly exterminated, is now a protected species.
It is believed the unusual appearance of the shark, tarpon, and sawfish in the Nicaragua Lake is due to a geographic event. Millennia ago, the lake was once a Pacific bay until volcanic eruptions sealed it into a landlocked body of water. As the water sweetened, the marine life slowly adapted to their fresh water home.
A Culture of Art
Its seclusion, its lakeside vantage, and its early colonial architecture aren’t all that attracts tourists. Even before it was established as a colonial settlement, it was a center for art, music, and philosophy among the indigenous culture. The music of Nicaragua is an energetic blend of Spanish and indigenous rhythms, progressing into modernism with the cheerful incorporation of jazz, hip-hop, rock, and rap. The multi-cultural blend has been the inspiration of international poets since 1929. Each year, there is a local festival of the poets in which marchers symbolically bury ignorance and intolerance.
There is no end of subject matter for artists, who have also been enthusiastically setting up their easels on the narrow streets of Granada Nicaragua. The scenery, the performing arts, the distinct cultural aspects are immortalized on canvas and fashioned into handcrafts.
The Expat Community of Granada Nicaragua
There are a variety of reasons why people choose to move abroad, but the greatest common denominator is opportunity. Just as many people from underdeveloped countries look to the Western countries as an opportunity to improve their lifestyles, Western citizens who have been severely affected by the economic slump are anxiously guarding their remaining assets and speculating on the increasing stability of the emerging countries.
Granada attracts a large number of youthful investors. With real estate available for as low as $60,000, and no restrictions on foreign ownership, opportunity holds a special meaning. Many bring their business ideas, their entrepreneurship, and their organizational skills, finding the restrictions in trying to generate self-income too discouraging in their home countries. In Granada, their modest capital can go far. All it takes is a little ingenuity and labor.
Opportunity also knocks on the door for teachers, environmentalists, agricultural specialists, botanists, anthropologists, and geologists. The field of foreign studies brings in students ready to gain hands-on experience in a volunteer project.
The expat community is close knit, with a strong sense of volunteer commitment. Many are engaged in helping Nicaragua meet its goal of higher education and health care standards for the rural communities. Although the infrastructure of Granada is excellent, with English/Spanish transitional schools, several hospitals and clinics, and a highly competent professional staff, the largely rural population within the Pacific district of Granada still suffer from limited education and inadequate health care.
The Best Way In
Those who consider uprooting and relocating to Granada Nicaragua are urged to try it out first. The average lifestyle in Granada is energetic, even among the retirees. They have a strong affinity to the outdoors.
In the tradition of Spanish/Moorish architecture, the colonial homes surround small, open court yards. Their living rooms and kitchens rest under awnings, looking out to their cultivated space.
The narrow streets encourage foot traffic and bicycles far more than automobiles. Those who own vehicles usually leave them parked in the garage unless they’re taking an excursion to Managua to buy supplies, or going on a cruise to one of the many wonderful nearby destinations. In Granada, it’s a short trip to the Pacific Ocean, or to the San Juan Rio.
The grapevine is the best way to find apartment housing, real estate deals, job opportunities, coming events, and bargain tips. By hooking in to the Internet community, you can break the ice online, and learn about expat meeting places, or you could just stroll around until you see a large congregation of expats spilling out in front of the coffee shops, sitting around small, shaded tables on the sidewalk.
Any Lifestyle Is a Good Lifestyle in Granada Nicaragua
If you talk to ten expats, you’ll find ten different opinions of the best lifestyle in Nicaragua. Many are proud of the newly renovated colonial homes, complete with swimming pools, air conditioning, Internet, cable television, guest rooms, and maid services. High-end homes can be purchased or restored for $150,000 to $250,000. Some who have invested in high-end homes rent their extra rooms for $400 a month.
Other expats build businesses or offices into their colonial homes. Their amenities may be somewhat more modest, but these budget-conscious venturers into small enterprise report a comfortable lifestyle with evenings out, restaurant dining, medical services, and automobile maintenance for $1,200 a month.
There are still others who gradually begin blending with the locals. They rent lower-cost housing outside the Central, buy products and groceries at the outdoor market and spend money at the street stands. They learn fluent Spanish and participate in the festivals and other activities. Many report living quite well on $800 a month.
The Great Motivating Factor
Opportunities exist throughout the emerging countries, but the opportunities that bring the expats together is marked by the spirit of self-determination. They visualize how things could be in a country truly open to free expression, and understand the liberties you ask for yourself are also the liberties requested of others. Free expression might be given with colorful explosions or in a musician wistfully playing a flute on a street corner. It might be flamboyant. It might be nothing more rhythmic and plodding than a farmer’s cart being pulled by a horse.
This free expression is what they embrace most. Whether they are starting a business, working a profession, volunteering services, or just planning that perfect retirement home, they thrill in the expression of their individual creativity and anticipate their roles in society. For them, anything is possible in this newly recovering country.
Granada mixes the ancient with the modern, hand-crafted items with sophisticated electronics. It is historically diplomatic, serving as a meeting place for scholars and a busy hub for commerce. The expats who choose to live there do because they believe in a future where individuals can make a difference and that Granada Nicaragua can help shape that difference.
Further Reading on Granada
For an in depth look at Granada check out our Granada Starter Kit, a 64 page book packed full of info on Granada.