Off the southwestern coast of the biggest country in the Central American isthmus, lies the small town of San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. A few hours North of the Costa Rican border, the town is easily accessible and a great place to spend a few days relaxing on the beach.
There are a variety of options when it comes to reaching this coastal municipal. One of the most common ways, and popular with backpacking travelers, is traveling from the bordering country of Costa Rica. The border cross itself is relatively easy, if slightly long. Due to the strict regulations regarding the global COVID-19 pandemic, security has been on full alert in recent months.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a long journey. But it is far from difficult. Besides, the views of rolling mountains and sprawling green forests will certainly keep you entertained. Past the border, the landscape changes dramatically. Stretching for as far as the eye can see, the great Ometepe Lake dominates the scenery, with two impressive volcanoes stealing the show.
Less than an hour later, you will arrive on the shores of San Juan. With an instantly electrifying buzz, the streets are adorned with bars, restaurants, and surf shops that beg you to explore them. If you’re a fan of beer, the Cerveceria is for you. With locally crafted beer on tap, this is the perfect way to soak up the tropical ambiance.
Yes, during the dry months of December to April, the town can get fairly busy with tourists flocking to the tepid waters to try their luck at a spot of surfing. But with the majority of tourists traveling to the Southern country of Costa Rica, or the larger Nicaraguan city of Grenada, San Juan escapes the overwhelming busyness of the mass arrival of gregarious tourists. Instead, a thriving community of local people and tourists can be found, creating a bustling atmosphere.
Originally from the UK, and since been traveling around much of Costa Rica, the prices of commodities are a welcoming relief in this Central American town. Food, accommodation, and most importantly, beer, are certainly more affordable than both Europe and other Central American countries.
So, if you want a small breakaway, grab a toña (local beer), lay out the beach towel, and lounge on the soft sands of this idyllic part of the world. Some people are more than happy with doing exactly this for a few days, others, however, have adventure flowing through their veins. Well, fear not. There is plenty of activities to sink your teeth into in and around San Juan Del Sur. Let’s get started.
Translating to The Christ of the Mercy, the omnipresent statue of Jesus Christ looms over the entire bay of San Juan below. Almost like a miniature Christ the Redeemer, the impressive structure is one you surely cannot miss; both in the sense of presence and activities to do.
Perched at the top of a 134m hill, the statue rises a further 24m into the air, accelerating the statue into the “10 tallest Jesus’ in the World” hall of fame. There is a paved road that extends close to the top, but the best way to truly appreciate the views and beauty is by enduring the steep climb, accessible either from the beach or backroads. The panoramic views on offer are spectacular, showcasing the grandeur of the statue itself, as well as the seemingly minuscule bay below and the endless blue of the Pacific Ocean.
One of the main reasons for traveling to San Juan is without doubt the beaches. Boundless stretches of golden sand line the turquoise waters. With a cocktail or beer in hand, what else could you want? As the town is found on the Pacific side of Nicaragua, the sunsets are exceptional.
Whilst the main beach of Playa San Juan Del Sur is nice, with the exciting buzz from beachside bars, restaurants, and live music gigs, travel outside the town, and a wealth of stunning beaches are yours for the taking. To the South, Playa Hermosa and Playa La Flor, surrounded by lush vegetation, offer some prime tropical coastline and stunning natural spectacles.
To the North, you can find Playa Nascacolo and Playa Maderas. For the latter, this is one of the best places to try a spot of surfing, and popular with both beginners and experts alike. The beach is relatively rural, only accessible by a bumpy dirt track, but this just adds to the adventure
The one downside is that you will have to pay for entrance to these beaches. But turn this into a positive: fewer people visit these paid beaches, and the money is channeled back into nature reserves.
Fortunately, San Juan is in a rather desirable area. If you’re tired of lounging on the beach, or have exhausted all the nearby activities, then day trips to other parts of the country may be on your mind. Two of the most popular, and vastly different, are trips to the city of Grenada or the stunning Ometepe Island. Both are great for different options, with one offering a rich historical and cultural perspective, the other stunning scenery, and landscapes.
The rich and diverse volcanic island of Ometepe is a sight to behold. If time allows, I recommend staying at least a few days to bask in the glory, under the shadow of the two rising volcanoes. However, a day trip will be enough to leave you in awe. Experience the boat ride across the mighty lake, take a dip in the refreshing waters of Ojo de Agua, and gaze upon the forest-covered volcanoes.
If you want a break from other tourists, head into the Northern city of Grenada. Bursting with local markets and impressive architecture, you can experience an authentic Nicaraguan day. Explore the colonial streets, experience the local craftsmanship of rum distilling or climb the famous Bell Tower, and be rewarded with phenomenal views of the city.
Although enjoyable, and sometimes needed, there is so much more on offer than relaxing and drinking in San Juan Del Sur. With equal parts of nature and adventure, to lounging and eating, this coastal town of Nicaragua will captivate any tourist.
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