San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Being away from the coast in Leon and the surrounding area for a few days, had me having beach withdrawals. Luckily, the next stop on my list was San Juan del Sur, known for being a surfing and party hotspot! One of the positives of Nicaragua being so small is that the distances are (usually manageable). My route from Leon to San Juan del Sur, however, was anything but. After a bicycle rickshaw, minibus, taxi, and two chicken buses later, I finally arrived in SJDS 7 hours later. Thank goodness that ended up being the longest leg of my trip, as with only two weeks of vacaction, every hour is precious! I went to bed fairly soon after I arrived at my hostel, with plans to arise early and take advantage of all the beach time I could get.
The town of San Juan del Sur was not what I expected. There were definitely a lot of Western elements adopted from the many tourists and expats who have set up residence here. The chill, surfer vibe was extremely evident. I A lot of the shops were painted in bright, beachy colors, adding a touch of flair. I especially enjoyed a small cafe called “Simon Says”. Not only was it a cool place to relax for a few hours, but the smoothie and salad were delicious as well! Sometimes it’s hard to eat healthy when you travel, and I find myself craving healthy food haha.
I spent the rest of the day on one of the local beaches in SJDS, soaking up the sun and devouring the book version of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”. While I enjoyed the opportunity to immerse myself back in the world of Hogwarts, I have to admit that it was nowhere near the level of the original series, but I digress haha.
San Juan del Sur is also known for its large statue of Christ that overlooks the beach on a tall mountain. While this statue is not quite the size of the most famous one in Rio, it is still a pretty impressive view from the beach. I decided to save hiking up there until the following morning, to avoid the hot sun.
Even though the mountain appears impressive, the hike itself turned out to be very manageable. In fact, I even did it in flip flops! I was the only one at the top when I arrived, so I was able to savor the statue and the incredible views of the half-arc shape of the SJDS beach. There’s a reason why this is the most photographed spot in SJDS!
I also spent an afternoon at one of the nearby surfing beaches, Playa Hermosa (or “beautiful beach”). It was about a half hour ride in a surfing taxi (aka a flatbed truck with benches haha). This beach had another cool vibe, with a surfing camp located beachside. If I had more time to spend here, I would definitely have had a go at surfing. I haven’t given it a try since my summer in Cape Town back in 2012! I chose instead to go the relaxation route and cozied up in one of the hammocks that were strung up along the beach. San Juan del Sur is known for having beautiful sunsets, and boy was this one incredible! The vivid oranges and reds streaked across the sky as the sun slowly made its way down.
One of the popular attractions to SJDS that I did not participate in was “Sunday Funday”. I decided not to participate in this event for two reasons-the first being that since I only had 2 weeks in the country, I did not want to spend a whole day partying at a hostel with other Westerners. The second reason was that I was in SJDS during the middle of the week, so it wasn’t even an option. I have heard mixed things about it, and if I did have more time, I would have probably attempted to participate. For those unaware, every Sunday, three hostels (that all have pools) host a massive “hostel crawl”, shuttling participants between the three hostels. Included in your entry fee is a “Sunday Funday” tank top, which a majority of the people end up donning that day. It can be a great way to let loose and have fun, but it is also geared towards more of the college-aged party crowd.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed the couple days I spent in San Juan del Sur. I was beginning to get excited for the next stop on my trip however-the volcanic island of Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua!