Nicaragua… Not the first country that comes to mind when booking a vacation. After reading this post, you will be exposed to all the beautiful sites and adventures that San Juan Del Sur (SJDS), Nicaragua has to offer. Nicaragua is an up and coming vacation destination. Currently, more known to the backpacking world, but this has been slowly changing as more and more investors are starting to build and develop down there. I am talking more specifically about San Juan Del Sur, the quiet surf/fishing city on the Pacific Ocean. But this hidden gem is slowly becoming a place to be: with amazing weather, great surfing, beautiful views, delicious food, and the best part of it all is it’s SUPER CHEAP! For example: you can get a juicy lobster tail dinner with a few cocktails and walk out of there spending under $20. We spent a full week in San Juan Del Sur and made the most of every day. Here are our top 5 things to do in San Juan Del Sur.
Take a Catamaran Cruise with Nica Sail and Surf
Who doesn’t enjoy riding around on the ocean in a boat, enjoying cocktails, food, and partying on a secluded beach? Take a ride on San Juan Del Sur booze cruise! We rented out a party catamaran for our group, luckily there were 20 of us so it made the price really reasonable. 70 dollars per person for a 5-6 hour adventure.
$70 included all the drinks you want and all the ceviche you can eat. If you don’t know what ceviche is then you are missing out. It’s okay because I had no clue what it was before this trip. We just happened to have the best ceviche chef in the world on our boat (in our opinion). Ceviche is a popular dish in some coastal regions of Latin America. Just imagine fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices such as lemon or lime, and spiced perfectly. Yes my mouth is watering as I write this. Besides the food and booze, we cruised to Playa Blanca, which is a little north of SJDS. Its a private secluded beach that can only be reached by boat. We had to swim to shore, and that was an adventure in itself. But it was amazing to be on a secluded beach free from crowds After an hour or so on the beach, we cruised back to dock, and as you travel back you are front and center for an amazing sunset on the ocean. There is nothing better than watching a sunset in the middle of the ocean. And if you are lucky like we were you will see some dolphins riding along side the boat. The crew and host of the catamaran was awesome, so friendly and takes care of your every need.
Zip Line through San Juan Del Sur with the Flying Frog
We have never been zip lining before this trip, so we have nothing to compare this too, but believe us when we say that SJDS has some of the best zip lines in the WORLD! We went to flying frog canopy and had the best time. We wish we had more footage to show you but unfortunately the GoPro that we recorded our adventures on, was lost to a gnarly wave later in this trip during our surfing outing (Insert ‘Sad Face Emoji’). But we do have a few pictures and videos we were able to salvage. On a brighter note, the Flying frog canopy has some of the best views in Nicaragua. It contains 17 zip lines and over 2.5 kilometers of line overlooking the San Juan Bay! They drive you to the top of a mountain and then there is only one way down. So if you are terrified of heights, its a good time to get over your fear. The first couple of zips are short and low to the ground, but then they progressively get longer and higher! With the longest one being close to 400 meters long and who knows how high. Certain times through out the day you can spot some monkeys in the trees. The views are spectacular and it is more than worth the $30 dollars. And that $30 includes pick up and drop off from wherever you are staying. Yet again, the staff and crew is extremely friendly and professional. Allocate roughly 2 hours out of your day for this adventure, door to door. We were pleasantly surprised with the zip line, its definitely one of the best things to do in San Juan Del Sur.
Hike to the Jesus statue – Cristo de la Misericordia
If you are a sucker for amazing views, then you must visit the “Cristo De La Misericordia” (Jesus of Mercy). It is one of the 10 largest Jesus statues in the world, and the the largest statue of Christ in Central America. You can get up there with a quick hike, we would love to tell you how long the hike is, but we took the easy route and arranged for a taxi. But we have good reason for that as my parents and their friends were with us and would not have been able to make that hike especially in that 95 degree heat. The cab ride up is less than 10 minutes, and they drop you off at the bottom of the steps to the entrance, which are no more than 100 steps. Although the steps are steep!
It is roughly a $15 cab ride round trip, so if you don’t mind spending the money it’s worth it. If you plan on hiking it, go early when it’s still cooler. When you approach the steps, you must be prepared to pay a hefty entrance fee of $2. As you get to the top, the view from the top is indescribable. The saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” perfectly fit this scenery. We spent roughly 45-60 mins up there taking some pictures and video, but most of the time was spent taking in the beauty that SJDS has to offer. You can watch the sunset from up there, which we hear is amazing but did not have the pleasure of witnessing ourselves. The statue is a must visit and well worth your time.
If you’re planning on spending more time in Central America, check out this guide to Central America
Surf Nicaragua with Arena Caliente Surf Camp
SJDS has a big surfing community. And we were lucky enough to partake in some killer waves. Playa Maderas and Playa Hermosa are two famous beaches known for surfing. The couple days leading up to our surf day it was extremely windy in SJDS, and high winds in turn created big waves! It was my first time, and Tarah’s second, as her first time was in Hawaii when she was about 8. Needless to say, because we were beginners, we were expecting to learn on small 3-4 foot waves. Boy were we in for a surprise! We went to Remanso beach where all the locals go to surf, and we were going up against 7-9 foot waves. Our instructors from ‘Arena Caliente Surf Club’ were amazing. They did a great job of teaching us exactly what we needed to do. Tarah was a natural and stood up on a wave on her very first try and continued with the success throughout most of her lesson. Myself on the other hand took several attempts before I actually stood up. It’s a whole lot harder than it looks! We were in the water for roughly an hour before our lesson came to an abrupt end. As I told you before, the waves were 7-9 feet high and coming in forcefully. We had our GoPro mounted on our head with the head strap and the wave was so strong it forced the GoPro off, and it was forever lost with that strong current. This is a WARNING to all GoPro users to be cautious when surfing. We could have been more careful and put a flotation device on it, but weren’t really thinking, and assumed the head strap was secure enough. Sadly we lost all the footage from surfing which would have been awesome to share, but the instructors did take a few photos. From the beginner surfer to the more experienced, San Juan Del Sur is a great place to learn to surf.
Experience Sunday Funday Nicaragua
If you need to liven up your time in Nicaragua, this is the pool crawl to end all pool crawls. This is currently the biggest pool party in Central America. If you aren’t familiar with what a pool crawl is, its as simple as it sounds, its a wild pool party thats starts at one venue and moves to the next. It starts roughly around 2pm in the afternoon, and as one party ends, you are provided with free shuttle to the next… Sunday Funday Nicaragua is the real deal! Even if you don’t feel like partying, you need to add this to your list of things to do in San Juan Del Sur, as the pool crawl has put Nicaragua on the backpacking map.
This pool crawl was started in April 2013, in a collective effort from the owners of the Naked Tiger Hostel and Pacha Mama Hostel. They went on to form an event company called Naked Mama who owns and operates this outrageously fun event. Tickets go on sale the day of the party, and will run you $30. Which is a really reasonable price considering you get a “Sunday Funday” tank top and shuttle transportation to each location. You cant walk the streets of SJDS without seeing someone wearing one of these tank tops on a daily basis. The party generally attracts 200-300 party animals on a slow day, and upwards of 700-800 on a busy day! Be prepared for a big line at Pacha Mama Hostel on the morning of, when they open up ticket sales. You are guaranteed a ticket and half off the price of the ticket if you are staying at Pacha Mama or Naked Tiger.
This event has completely shaped how travelers plan their trips to SJDS. Travelers used to leave SJDS on Sundays, leaving it a ghost town. Now they plan their whole trips to make sure they can partake in the festivities. If you are a looking for a party and you are traveling though Central America, chances are you are going to make the Sunday Funday Pool Crawl. We were lucky enough to participate in this crazy event and had an amazing time. We are close friends with one of the founders of this event and the original owner of the Naked Tiger so we were able to experience this event in a different view. It was awesome to see what one of my friends has built.
The party starts off at Anamar Hotel/Bar, right on the beach of SJDS. Then after a couple of hours the party shifts up to the Naked Tiger which sets on top of a hill just outside of town. The setting is perfect to keep partying and take in the amazing sunset as the view from the Tiger is a million dollar view. When the sun goes down the party rages on. After a few hours at the Tiger the party moves back down to the beach at Arribas Bar/club. We unfortunately are old farts and didn’t make it past the Tiger so we can’t comment on what the rest of party was like, but we can only imagine it was even crazier than the previous two spots.
The best way to describe what the Sunday Funday San Juan Del Sur is like is this: it turns a quiet surfer coastal town into the Las Vegas Club scene for one day out of the week, and repeats every week. It is quite the event that you have to take part in if you are in SJDS.
Please judge for yourself in this video:
Where to Stay in San Juan Del Sur
There are lots of hotels and hostels in San Juan del Sur that are in prime location. Prices are very reasonable in Nicaragua, so a hotel on the beach is definitely affordable.
San Juan Del Sur Hotels
Treecasa -A resort immersed in nature, located in the trees. Includes restaurant, bar, pool, tree lounge and yoga deck.
Bahia Del Sol Villas– 5 minutes from the beach, located away from the Main Street, the villas have 3 bedrooms, a full kitchen, laundry, and 2 terraces and beautiful ocean views.
Pelican Eyes Resort and Spa Hotel -Luxury resort with panoramic views, infinity pools, and a spa. Free wifi, restaurant and bar on the property, located on the hill with great views of the San Juan del Sur bay.
San Juan Del Sur Hostels
Getting to San Juan Del Sur
San Juan Del Sur is in the south of Nicaragua, close to the border of Costa Rica. Its easiest to get a taxi from the border to San Juan Del Sur. If you are flying into Nicaragua, the nearest airport in Managua
We had an amazing trip to San Juan Del Sur Nicaragua. SJDS has incredible food, friendly locals, and great views. It is on our list of countries that we must revisit sometime, whether we get to the list or not is another story….
DID WE CONVINCE YOU TO GO TO SAN JUAN DE SUR NICARAGUA?!?!
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