If you’ve spent any time on the EscapeArtist you’ve heard about Nicaragua and a handful of its largest cities, Managua the country’s largest city, Leon, Masaya or even Granada. But there’s a bustling little fishing village that locals have known about for years that’s starting to come into its own.
A little over 2 hours’ drive southeast from Managua you’ll stumble upon San Juan del Sur.
This quaint little town is nestled between the Pacific Ocean and Lake Nicaragua. Not a bad place to be.
It grants this fishing village some of the finest surf and beaches in the entire country. Beaches such as Playa Madera and Playa Yankee cater to expert surfers and beginners alike. And with a huge surf window of May through late November you can definitely log some serious surf time.
But this village is so much more than a surf spot. It even has a modest amount of US History tied to it. Did you know that San Juan del Sur played a part in the California Gold Rush in 1849? When the gold rush first started American prospectors needed a quick route from the east coast to the gold riddled west. Travelers would sail from the Caribbean side, travel up the Rio San Juan River, through Lake Nicaragua, and after a brief carriage ride arrive at San Juan del Sur. From there they would board another boat headed for California.
Many years after the gold rush died down the town morphed from shipping people and goods to more of a tourist destination.
San Juan del Sur is a great place for those who’re into nature with plenty of outdoor activities:
- For those who aren’t into the surf scene but still would like that adrenaline rush there are zip lines and rappelling at Da’ Flying Frog. They even have simpler activities like bird watching and farm visits for the really young ones.
- After you’ve finished zipping through the jungle you can relax and find your inner peace at one of the towns beautiful yoga facilities. Places like Zen Yoga and the Nicaragua Yoga Institute offer not only classes but full blown retreats where you can become a master of the art.
- There are great places to hike such as a trip to the San Juan del Sur Lighthouse. A 1.5 mile journey from town where you can see an old lighthouse that guided ships in a long time ago. Close by are the William Walker ruins should you desire to explore a bit more.
- Want to go for a horseback ride along the beach in your cowboy hat and spurs? Well look no further than Rancho Chilamate. A gorgeous eco-friendly ranch with a western theme that gives back to the local community. It does this by helping schools with clean water and supplies as well as maintaining the ranch with sustainable methods such as solar power and usage of local organic produce!
- You can even go watch Olive Ridley sea turtles either lay eggs or hatch by the hundreds from pockets in the sand and scurry to the ocean if you time your visit right!
After you’ve had your fill of flying through the trees, becoming one with your inner self or catching the big one, you can eat at one of the towns many ocean side restaurants.
If you want an authentic taste of Nicaragua then you’d want to head over to El Timon which is right off the beach in San Juan del Sur Bay. A mainstay for many of the town’s locals as well as informed tourists that has been crafting traditional and original dishes since it was founded in 1979.
For those of you that are on a more vegan/vegetarian focused diet you can visit Buddah’s Garden, a savory farm to table restaurant specializing in raw organic dishes. You will find everything from a delicious coconut squash curry to their new Blueberry-Coconut Cheesecake!
After you’ve stuffed yourselves you can head to any number of bars for that late night cocktail and great conversation or to dance the night away. Places like Josselin’s and El Buen Gusto are two lively places that will keep the drinks flowing and the music entertaining!
Now that you’re full and tired out, it’s time to finally turn in for the night.
If you’re on a budget hostels like Pacha Mama are a safe bet and will only run you around $7 a night for a dorm like bed and about $17 if you require a private room. Even here there is a great party scene for those that need one more nightcap.
The Mango Rosa is more geared towards the family as they can keep the kids occupied with pools, 4×4 excursions, as well volcano hikes! Not to mention a beautiful grass volleyball court, free Wi-Fi, hammocks to relax in and even 24/7 security so you and your loved ones are safe.
Now for those of you that would like a more luxurious experience then look no further than the Villas de Palermo. Exquisite private villas crafted with everything you could want on a vacation and more. Each villa is outfitted with the following: Satellite TV, full kitchens, daily maid service, two A/C units, upstairs balcony to view the ocean, and granite countertops. Need I say more?
As you finally lay down and from a long day filled with adventuring, great food, and interesting people, you have now become one of the few but growing individuals who understand the beautiful jewel that’s tucked away in south west Nicaragua!