Sunday Funday in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
“I won’t be back too late tonight.” The young guy working reception at my hotel in San Juan del Sur looked down at my green Sunday Funday tank top and back up at me with a smirk. “Sure…” I was headed off to one of the most infamous parties in Central America so I couldn’t blame him for his doubt.
I was rolling solo though and also dealing with swollen feet from a bad sunburn so getting blitzed was not on my radar. I was just hoping that I wouldn’t be shunned as the mostly sober granny at the party since I’m only 20-something in my own mind.
Sunday Funday is a legendary party in Central American backpacking circles. Every week, bus loads of tourists, mostly Canadians, shuttle from one pool bar to another getting increasingly drunk and debaucherous. If you want to let it all hang out, this is the place. Make no mistake, this is certainly not a Nicaraguan cultural activity but for those just looking for a good time, it’s a bucket list item.
Before the party gets started you’re going to need a ticket. They’re sold on a first come, first serve basis and only on Sunday mornings. Arrive at Pachamama Hostel before 9:30am, which is when wristbands go on sale. I was expecting a line-up but people were just milling around until the sale was announced then everyone rushed into a line. So there was no need to be there super early.
A wristband costs $30USD or 860 cordobas and it gets you into the party, a Sunday Funday tank top, and transportation between the three stops. I have a feeling the participating hostels and bars change but during my Sunday it was pre-party at Pachamama, then off to Hotel Ana Mar, Naked Tiger Hostel, finishing at Arribas bar.
Each person who wants to go will have to be there to get their own wristband. You can’t buy them for friends or to resell. Beer and rum are generally 50 cordobas each ($1.79 USD) but at Naked Tiger Hostel you had to buy drink tickets first and then exchange them for your drink. There were also burgers available for 3 tickets. Gotta sop up all that rum somehow so that you can keep partying. The pre-party starts at noon at Pachamama before the main event kicks off at 2pm.
There was a quick bag check at the first and second stops. Head’s up, you can’t bring in any opened drinks but sealed non-alcoholic bottles are ok. I learned that after chugging an entire Powerade in 5 minutes at the first stop. Once you get past the bag check there are girls waiting to pour a shot into your mouth.
Like any party, it took a little while for people to get socially lubricated enough to start dancing. Before long though there was a crowd on the pool deck grinding and bouncing in front of the DJ stage and folks were jumping into the pool in various states of dress. I mostly stuck to the shaded areas, while sipping my Toña, and making friends because of my bottle of sunscreen. Tip: if you want to strike up conversations with strangers at Sunday Funday, bring sunscreen and a lighter.
After a couple hours, we loaded into trucks and made the trip up the hill to Naked Tiger. Fewer people took advantage of the pool here but sitting on the edge was the perfect spot to watching the stunning sunset.
I was all prepared for Ibiza levels of debauchery but I must be desensitized by too many nights on George Street back in St. John’s because the only real difference was that everyone had a swimsuit on, some girls wore their tank as a dress and shirts and shoes definitely weren’t required to be served.
I was prepared for the party to go on all night but once the bus rolled up to the last bar, Arribas, at 8:15pm about 80% wandered off on their own. I was done myself and longing for a little hammock time so I found a group heading up the main strip and if they’d mind if I walked with them. I felt like a solo woman in a Sunday Funday tank might be an invitation for trouble in San Juan del Sur.
The group told me they’d gone into Arribas for a drink and the bartender hemmed and hawed and then said it was 100 cordobas for a beer so they left. Ain’t nobody got time for overpriced drinks. The girls were super nice and actually walked me all the way to my hotel so I wouldn’t have to walk alone at night. Canadians, eh?
So should you check out Sunday Funday during your own trip to Nicaragua? If you’re pinching your pennies, there are definitely cheaper ways to have a drunken night out. But if you want to meet new people, dance outdoors, and maybe hop in a pool or two, it’s a fun way to spend a Sunday.