Turtles at La Flor
La Flor Wildlife Refuge is one of the two Pacific turtle nesting beaches in Nicaragua.
You can book a tour from Casa de Oro in San Juan (or a few other hostels) to go see the turtles lay their eggs (or turtle babies hatching, depending on the season). The tours only go at night and are a little pricey (I paid about $13). It take about 1 hour by pick-up truck on a bad dirt road that crosses a few "rivers" !
Despite the difficulty getting there and the rather disorganised ranger station, I was surprised at just how amazed and touched I was at witnessing these large turtles slowly digging holes in the sand, laying all these eggs, and then painstakingly closing up the holes by pushing sand in with their flippers.
It's worth seeing at least once, and it's probably cheaper here than in neighbouring Costa Rica.
Bahia Majagual is a beach about 12 kms north of San Juan del Sur. There is only one choice of accomodation there: the Bahia Majagual Eco-Lodge. You can stay in the dorm for a few dollars or in a cabana (I payed $18 US single).
There is no village, no restaurants (except the one attached to the lodge) and no shops. You can get here by boat from San Juan (half an hour, irregular morning departures) or by pickup truck (camion) on a horribly gutted dirt road, which takes about 40 minutes. If you have a choice, take the boat!
Why come here? It's quiet, it's isolated, it's beautiful, and it has some great surf beaches nearby for surfers.
For swimmers, the waves are a little stronger here than in San Juan.
See more photos in my travelogue.
The private beach where I stayed at Casa Ola is highly secluded and one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever visited. You can see all kinds of wildlife here, turtles, birds, whales, dolphins, even howler monkeys. The lodge itself I talk about in another tip here. Many of the beaches here feature stunning geology, with cliffs at either end, eroded to show millions of years of rock layers. The Rio Escameca spills out into the ocean on the far end of the beach and forms a natural lagoon you can swim in, barred from the waves.
- Whale Watching
Playa el Yankee, another surfer's paradise...
Granted, I never surfed while I was here, passing up several opportunities for a cheap lesson from Kit, the resident surf instructor at Casa Ola. But I did finally hike over to Playa el Yankee to watch my friends surf and catch the sunset on my last night here. It's a beautiful beach and fantastic surf break (according to my friends), slightly longer than Playa Escameca and accessible both from the main road, and from a narrow hiking trail between the two beaches. There aren't really any businesses here, so it's pretty much bring your own board. And like Escameca and the Costa Dulce community, you need a 4WD vehicle to get here. Sadly, I did not take any pictures that day. But Google Playa el Yankee and you'll see where it is on the map.
We drove to this beach to check out the waves and have a drink by the beach one day. There's a small hotel with an outdoor restaurant and bar right on the beach that rents surf boards (though we brought our own). While my friends ran to catch some waves, I decided I'd try out the hotel's restaurant and bar. Both of them detached from the main building, the bar boasted cheap cocktails and the restaurant tasty food. We only spent a few hours here otherwise but the vibe was laid back and enjoyable. Below I've posted a link to the surf hotel.
Playa La Flor
This beach is a nature preserve where you can go and see the sea turtles that come to the beach to lay their eggs. I didn't know much going in, just that our drivers at Casa Ola were going to drive down ahead of us and see if there were actually any turtles to be seen before they bothered to drive us all down there. When they returned 20 minutes or so later, they said we were in luck and drove us down. Upon arriving they went up to a small building and told us to wait. They then came back to us with three baskets full of baby turtles that had just hatched. Apparently, they often save the turtle eggs from poachers, let them hatch and then have people carry the baby turtles out to the beach to set them free. We had missed the turtles coming up en masse to lay their eggs but this was way better, in my opinion. I was so ecstatic that I got to carry one of the baskets with me. We did this at night, lit only by the full moon and it was so surreal, carrying a basket of tiny wriggling creatures out to the beach. One by one we placed them on the beach and watched them walk out to the waves. I highly recommend coming out and checking the place out. If you need more info about the place check out this website.
- National/State Park