How to Spend 4 Days in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
What I loved about visiting Nicaragua is that there was a variety of towns and cities, each with their own personality. Granada is best for getting your feet wet. Leon is best for art and culture. While San Juan del Sur is best for hanging out and being chill af. It’s a surf town on the southwest coast of Nicaragua with beaches for all surfing abilities and it draws a lot of Canadians year round. But even if you’re not into surfing you won’t be suffering from lack of things to do in San Juan del Sur.
It’s a great place to slow down and relax. Like most beach towns, it’s got a more relaxed vibe and style than its bigger, inland neighbours. Flip flops, shorts, and tanks are the uniform and nothing is rushed.
Here’s how I spent my four days in town.
Even though I worried I was a bit too old to go to this notorious pool party crawl, I knew I’d regret not at least checking it out. You buy your Sunday Funday wristband in the morning and the party gets started after lunch, hopping from one hostel pool to the next. Wristbands are $30 and include a tank top, transportation, and a small shot of some tropical mix poured directly into your mouth when you arrive at each new pool/bar. It takes a bit for the dance floor to get going after each move but eventually it gets packed with bouncing bodies.
Overpriced for sure, but I’m still glad I went.
I heard such good things about horseback riding at Rancho Chilamate but when I tried to make a reservation, they were all booked up for the four days that I’d be in town. So book early if you want to go with them. I ended up doing a laid back trail ride to and across the beach with Da Flying Frog. I’m not the most confident rider and I was worried that my guide would try to get us to gallop across the beach or something. I mostly just amused him with my broken Spanish since he spoke no English. “Slow, yes? Walk only. No run? / Despacio, si? Caminar. No correr?” We walked and I really enjoyed the beach part of the trip. The ride took just over an hour and cost $15.
I’d had a low-key day previously so I was looking for activities. I’d read about a zip line tour so I decided to give it a try. I did the course with Da Flying Frog before I went on my horseback ride. Since it was heading into the low season the hillsides were brown and there were only three other people in my group. I can only imagine how the course would be in the green of high season. I still had fun zipping through the canopy and it was only $30 including a ride from my hotel in town.
I first tried surfing in Costa Rica back in 2012 and had a little success with it, so I decided that I really wanted to give it another go in Nicaragua. There are a few surfing beaches near San Juan del Sur. I chose to go to Playa Maderas and arranged my lesson through Casa Oro. I had less luck this time but I still managed to stand up one time. Guess I’ll just have to go again.
Hotel La Terracita
If you’re looking for a hostel, Casa Oro seems to be the popular choice, but they don’t take reservations so it’s first come, first serve. I need to know where I’m sleeping the next night so I went looking for a private room elsewhere.
I found Hotel La Terracita not on Hostelworld or TripAdvisor or something. I actually found it via Google Maps right next to Casa Oro. I was looking to see where various hotels and hostels were located and saw the name pop up. A twin bed room with ensuite, no AC, was only $20/night when I booked it for five nights. The room was teeny tiny but the building was secure and I made good use of the hammocks on the 3rd floor terrace.
Food & Drink
El Gato Negro
I quickly adopted this as my breakfast place and ate there every morning. It’s a quirky, funky cafe and bookshop, and also one of the few places open before 9am. I tried something new each day but I think my favourite was the Maui Wowie. It was smoked ham, pineapple, and avocado-egg salad with honey cream cheese on a toasted bagel. Mmm… $5 USD / C140 and worth every penny.
The Loose Moose
You know I had to check out the Loose Moose when I heard that there was a Canadian bar in San Juan del Sur that served poutine. It was actually my first food stop in town. The poutine was made with shredded cheddar so not really authentic but cheese curds are a bit hard to get in Central America, so I applaud their efforts. Be sure to swing by at night for a drink, eh?
Despite the name, the speciality at Nacho Libre are burgers. Really good burgers. Burgers with cheeky names like Yoga Ass, Busta’ Nut, and my choice The Big Wang (Charred Jalapenos, Bacon, Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Avocado, Salsa Verde). Burgers that will make you question why you bothered with that green smoothie at lunch time. You need these burgers in your life.
Other places I ate or drank at include: Barrio Cafe, El Timon, Taco Stop (not to be confused with Taco Spot), San Juan del Sur Cervecería (seriously, stop here for a beer), and I had sunset beers at Iguana Bar one night. Seriously, stop and watch the sunset each night.