San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
San Juan del Sur is a melting pot of surfers, expats, backpackers, luxury getawayers, and locals. The town itself is walkable and curves around a gorgeous, calm cove where sailboats, local fishing skiffs, and the occasional mega-yacht sway to the gentle swells of the Pacific ocean. It is the jumping off point for a half-dozen picturesque beaches, each offering their own activities and unique beauty. Surfing, fishing, turtle watching, drinking, and sunsets are all SJDS specialties. It is not a bad place to get stuck for a few days or months.
City overview by
Where to Stay
What to Do
The nearest beach with good waves that break predicatably is Maderas. Pachamama and other hostels can book shuttles for you or take a taxi (15min ride). Maderas has 1 hostel and 3 restaurants but there are boards to rent there.
If you've never surfed before, it's hard to tell if your lesson is a good one or a bad one. We decided to take our first surfing lesson in San Juan del Sur. We practiced on beginner boards--20-foot boards--and had no problems getting up on the first wave we attempted. Apparently, our Spanish isn't too shabby either because the entire lesson was in Spanish, a good 2-for-1 deal! We paid something like $10 for the board and $10/hr for the lesson.
There is nothing in the world like watching turtles hatch. Everywhere underneath you, the ground is moving. Guided only by the moonlight and a red LED flashlight, we watched as thousands of turtles pushed their way to the surface and then rushed to sea. The best time to see the hatchings is from July to February. Tours can be arranged in San Juan del Sur at Hostel Casa Oro for $25, which includes a presentation on turtle-watching etiquette and transportation to La Flor. Part of the tour cost goes back to La Flor Wildlife Reserve.
Where to Stay
Bring a tent and camping is available for 500 cordobas OR chat to the rangers, a little Spanish required, and sleep in a hammock in the woods behind the beach for free! Or on the floor in their office if afraid of the dark.
Most people come to San Juan Del Sur to surf and or party. You can still acheive both and come home to a quite sleep. Hostel Casa Romano is a great choice. Located 2 doors down from patacha mama this place is well worth the money. 20 for a private room with bath and a fan. It's also one block off the beach. This place is very colourfull, quite, has a computer, free wifi, and a full kitchen at your disposal. The staff is all family and very polite and helpful to any information you need both English and Spanish speaking. One more to top it off the father of the house is a doctor and has a little office on site should something go wrong. Too easy to recommend unless ya want a party hostel.
There are several options for hostel in San Juan Del Sur. The most popular is PachaMama ( http://www.hostelpachamama.com/contact.html). They charge 8$ per night and always have a great group of people to meet. They arrange all types of tours and have a daily shuttle to Maderas for surfing. They are just off the beach on Calle Principle. They can be all booked up with a waiting list so if full try Esperanza, just around the corner to the left of Pachamama when facing the water.
What to Eat
seems to be no street food stands here in san juan del sur and im having trouble finding vegetarian food in central america,,,,i ordered a veggie burrito from the taco/mexican food stand and it had chicken gristle and chicken in it,,,the boys were really apologetic (who work there) and super nice but i threw it out just a little warning if your a veggie head!! ps the place is called taco stop
You can save $10 by hitchhiking to Maderas. To get started, walk down to the beach in San Juan del Sur, and go right on the main street that runs alongside the beach. Continue down that road till you come to a pedestrian suspension bridge. Cross it and continue up the dirt path till you come to a road. Make a left on the road and continue walking. Flag down everyone who drives by and tell them you want to go to Maderas. I did this 4 times while I was there and 3 out of 4 times I got a ride. Although, I was told by some peeps when I got there that there have been some robberies for people who have done the same.
They will try to charge you 10 bucks to get to the nearest beaches. Me and my friends tried to find a cheaper way to get to the beach, everyone told us that that was the only way and they tried to scare us by saying we would get robbed and things like that. In the end we took a bus that left us on the crossroad to the beach, after that we hitched hicked for about 5-10 min till some surfer picked us up. We ended up getting to the beach free of charge, and we spent our 10 bucks on some great fruit drinks.
This is a walking town. You don't need a car, or a bike, or to hail a cab. The only time you need to catch a ride is when you want to go to the other beaches like Coco or Maderas or Hermosa. There's shuttles around town that leave every few hours for just a couple of bucks.
1 To 2 Weeks
Nicaragua is AWESOME. Here's what we did on our 10 day stay in Nicaragua. I totally recommend it. Day 1-3: San Juan del Sur. Beautiful horseshoe shaped beaches, quiet surfing town, fishing, good little town to walk-through. Note: This is not a Costa Rica tourist trap. Day 4-5: Granada. Colonial town North of Managua. Great shopping, in-town walking, kayaking in Lake Nicaragua, take a day trip to the volcano, excellent food and nightlife. We could have stayed here much longer, but alas... Day 6-10: Little Corn Island. Paradise...straight up. This is the opposite of a party island and exactly what we wanted before returning home to real life. There's about 4 "restaurants", 2 cafes with internet and some really nice (but not expensive) places to stay. We stayed in Casa Iguana. Totally recommend it. The Beach House Pandora station has since become my favorite, 1 year later.
What to Avoid
Scams & Petty Theft
Never carry a wallet. Or at least, never carry a wallet while out drinking the head off yourself in a seedy beach bar, placing said wallet on said bar to pay for a round of booze. The chances of it being there as your stupefied face scans the floor are slim to none. I've not had a good time of it theft wise. I've had two cameras stolen, my wallet, three T-shirts, prescription glasses from my face, the flip-flops off my feet during a bar brawl, and a set of hair straighteners. Yes I am a guy, get over it. Long story short, I've learnt not to carry a wallet. Take enough money for the day or night out with you, and divide this between a number of pockets. Cards, passport, pictures of loved ones, girls telephone numbers et al, all remain back in the hostel locker. A money belt is also useful. Now if worse comes to worst, you're not going to be handing over wodges of cash, incur massive credit card fraud, or splash out on a whopping round for people you barely know.