The Surf Ranch Action Sports Resort just installed their new tower drop (12 ft and 20ft), to giant inflatable airbag. It's pretty sweet, you can skateboard off it, jump off it, etc...apparently they are building a launch ramp into it for bikes, snowboards, skis (artificial snow)....that will be SWEET!
Kite Surfing and Rappelling can now be added to the Adventure Seekers "A to Z List of Things to Do" in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Check it out!
According to the U.S. based Adventure Travel Trade Association, adventure travel may be any tourist activity, including two of the following three components: a physical activity, a cultural exchange or interaction and engagement with nature.
Here’s an A to Z Guide of San Juan del Sur Adventures guaranteed to make your heart pump a little faster* – with some helpful links to get you going.
A is for Abseilling (from German: abseilen meaning “to rope down”), rappelling in English – is the controlled descent down a rock face using a rope
B is for Boarding Down an Active Volcano – yes, a Volcano. This activity is near Leon.
C is for Cock Fighting – banned in most parts of the world, is still a spectator sport in Nicaragua where its roots run deep in the culture.
D is for Deep Water Fishing – best April through September
E is for Exploring on Your Own. Don’t be shy. Rent a truck and do it yourself. It’s an adventure around every corner. You can rent Toyota Land Cruisers in San Juan del Sur from Irish John.
F is for a Full Moon Volcano Hike
G is for Getting Married - Create your dream destination wedding. “I Do” is sure to stir your heart.
H is for Horsin' Around – this is your chance to canter horseback on a deserted beach with Rancho Chilamate.
H is for Insect Hunting. Why not? How about a night tour looking to draw Tarantulas out of their holes.. or taunting scorpions but not to get stung.
J is for Jumping off the back of a Panga to catch a wave.
K is for Kite Surfing – exciting news about the new kite surf resort opening soon near the wind farm on Lake Nicaragua. Lesson are being offered NOW!
L is for Lave Tube Exploration at Volcan Masaya… in a dark cave with lots of bats.
M is for Mountain Bike Racing – next San Juan Howler race is December 11th!
N is for Night Fishing - it's a whole other world in the dark
O is for Open Mic Night at Pau Hana’s Beach Restaurant. You’re invited on Stage to get your heart rate up.
P is for Paint Ball – jungle style.
Q is for Quad Biking – ATVing down back roads and on the beaches.
R is for Rodeo. Ask around for dates and location of the next rodeo or Hipica.
S is for Surfing*… and it’s probably the number one adrenaline rush in the San Juan del Sur with plenty of operators to help you get it!
T is for Tubing in Somoto Canyon
U is for Underwater Adventures like Snorkeling or Octopus hunting near Ostional.
V is for Volcano Hiking – there’s two on the nearby Island of Ometepe
W is for Wildlife Viewing – for example the Howler Monkeys...up close and personal.
X is for ?
Y is for Yoga . San Juan hosts numerous retreats and yoga teacher training too.
Z is for Ziptrekking or ZipLining – also known here as Canopy Tour.
Food for thought: Humans are the only animals who seek danger and risk their lives for the thrill of it. Go out there – and embrace the human animal that we are!!
You Don’t Have to Be Buff and Twenty-Something to Be Adventurous in Nicaragua
Sure, there are plenty of hard-bodied sun-kissed twenty-somethings in the back of open-air trucks heading out on adventures in San Juan del Sur, but that didn’t need to exclude me did it? Absolutely Not. We enthusiastically enjoyed surf, turf, turtles and much more.
Younger travelers embraced Nicaragua first - as with many emerging travel destinations - because they are more willing to share accommodation and bathrooms, eat street food without concern, travel without a concrete itinerary, get on the ‘chicken buses’ and they were not exposed and influenced by the Sandinista Revolution media frenzy some 30 years earlier.
When my friend and I were packing for this healthy dose of adventure, many of our friends and family still envisioned Nicaragua to be a lawless country with bombed out roads and armed bandits. Not so. On the contrary I discovered a burgeoning tourism market with a surprising range of restaurants, accommodation and activities to choose from.
Not quite a baby boomer I’m what they call a GenX (born between ‘66 and ‘81). Not quite able to live carefree and I don’t have a bucket-list yet either but during my short stint in San Juan del Sur I ticked off some things that can now never make it on to that list either.
Here’s my top list of sun and fun in my quest for adventure in San Juan del Sur.
Surfing. It’s no surprise that surfing was the beginning of tourism here and although it’s been a while surfing was one of the draws for me here. The coastline is angled in such a way that south swells wrap into to several bays and beaches and are lifted by the wind that blows off shore over 300 days a year. We opted to go on a Panga boat with San Juan del Sur Surf and Sport. A 4x4 will get you to many spots, but it adds to the adventure to jump off a boat straight into the action. But if you’re here to learn there are plenty of surf shops offering lessons from $30 - $50 for an hour. Afterwards we learned of an elite camp for adventurous women who appreciate comfort as well as challenge. Maybe next time.
Horseback Riding on the Beach with Rancho Chilamate. Seriously the best horseback ride I have ever been on! Horses were happy, healthy and the owners/guides Jamie and Blue were super fun. There's even a photo shoot of of your ride included. It's more expensive than other options around but when you get on a tired Nicaragua nag and are told to whip it to go, it just doesn't feel right. $59 for a 5 hour adventure (3+ hours in the saddle) and you can canter on the beach. No previous experience required.
Sea Turtle Expedition. La Flor Wildlife Reserve is one of only seven nesting sites in the world for the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtle and to see them nest and lay 100+ eggs was truly sublime. This 5 hour $25 night tour included the guide, transportation to the beach 22 km south of town, reserve fees, photo ops and an impressive presentation by the owners at Casa Oro International Hostel.
Zip-Lining. They call it Da Flying Frog Canopy Tour and it was an impressive 1.5 miles long with 17 stations. My heart pumped a litter faster when the highest zip crossed over the 225' deep canyon. $30 per person.
ATVing. All we needed was a passport, drivers license, helmet and a map and our exploration began. You can have lots of fun and get pretty far with a half day rental for $60, trust me. We rented from Hostal Beach Fun Casa 28 next to the Casino.
Sailing. A half day sail with Pelican Eyes, the higher end resort in town, was a great way to get out on the water. $60 per person. The coastline is gorgeous and we saw turtles mating and dove in for a swim to shore. There’s less expensive, casual options with Gypsy Sailing and Second Wind as well.
We spent one afternoon on the newly opened Playa Hermosa. It’s a must-visit simply gorgeous stretch of sand with a great break and an ideal beach to kick back for a day. $3 per person entrance fee. I’m so glad we didn’t wait to ride their horses.
Our time was limited but here’s a few more things on the list that we didn’t get to…this time: Frisbee Golf Course, Kite Surfing on Lake Nicaragua, the new jungle Paintball course at the Surf Ranch, Deep Sea Fishing, Kayaking, Hiking up to the Jesus Statue on the Hill and then afterwards taking a massage, and a classic Nicaragua Rum and Coke on the beach as the sun sets on another amazing day in San Juan del Sur.
Travel Tip: There was no need for a rental vehicle as all our adventures provided transportation to and from San Juan del Sur.
There are some amazing beaches close to San Juan del Sur. Now, reaching them might be somewhat tricky... If I remember correctly, there are some boat-tours, but in the end we decided to pay a cab driver and go to Marsella, one of the beaches close to San Juan del Sur.
There are many... La Flor, Majagual, Maderas, Marsella, Tola... I know they are all a preferred destination for many surfers.
We chose Marsella for no particular reason. We reached the beach and asked the driver to come back a few hours later... There was absolutely no one. Just raw nature. A cloudy but warm day. Hundreds of little crabs moving around the sand, a beautiful silver shimmer on the surface of the water... I couldn't believe how untouched and wonderful it was.
We ended up eating at... literally, in the yard of a house, some local people that were selling juice and we asked if they could prepare something for us. It was (still is) one of the top three, most delicious fish dishes I have ever tasted. Outstandingly tasty, fish prepared with tomato salsa, tostones and rice. Loved it.
Riding on the beach is a 'bucket list' dream for many, and Rancho Chilamate is who to do it with. Happy, healthy horses ride off the ranch through the local barrio, along ox cart trails in the tropical forest en route to the beach. If you dare, you can run your horse on the beach too! Your English-speaking hosts provide commentary along the way about flora, fauna, wildlife, local culture and what it's like for them to live out in the countryside. They will pick you up in town, provide cowboy boot and hats and an experience not to be missed.
San Juan del Sur is situated in a crescent shaped bay with a long beach, where it is nice to walk from one side to the other. The sea is calmer here in the bay, it is good for swimming but not for surfing. It was low tide in the morning and the beach was very broad. In the late afternoon it was high tide. When it is not weekend the beach is almost empty during the day , but closer to sunset, when the sun is not so strong, people come for a swim or to play with a ball.
The beaches south or north of San Juan del Sur is supposed to be very nice, but I didn’t go. If you want to visit you can hire a boat or go on a surf tour with one of the companies in town.
San Juan del Sur is on the Pacific Coast so you will see beautiful sunsets here. In July, when the sun sets late, the sun will disappear behind the peninsula before it sets, but you will still see the colourful sky. Along the beach there are many bars and restaurants where you can buy a beer or another drink to sip on while enjoying the sunset. The mojito on the photo was 50 cordobas, the same as 2.5 dollars, (July 2009). It was not a very good mojito though.
Hotel Piedras y Olas is another spot from where it is nice to see the sunset.
Before coming to San Juan del Sur I had read that you could pay to use the pool at Piedras Y Olas for the day. It tuned out they had a promotion when I visited and if you drank or ate for 10 dollars in the bar/restaurant, you didn’t pay anything for staying the day by the pool. This suited me good and I came back a second day.
Piedras y Olas is an expensive hotel with cabañas spread out among the trees and flowers, on the slope above San Juan del Sur. They have several pools and at least two restaurants. I stayed by the lower pool, or a little to the side, in the shade under a tree. It was relaxing to lay in the sun chair reading a good book with a great view over the bay below and something to drink on the small table next to the chair. Now and then I went for a swim in the pool.
The food is supposed to be very good at Piedras y Olas and the lobster sandwich I ate one day was very delicious. If you don’t want to come here for the day I would recommend to come here for a drink at sunset, as the view is very beautiful.
Before leaving San Juan del Sur I wanted to go up to The Statue of Christ the see the view of the coast from there. I had been warned not to walk up there alone so I took a taxi. The lady at the hotel told me that it should not be more than 50 cordobas, but all the taxi drivers said 200, 250 or 150 cordobas. Finally I took a taxi for 150 cordobas, the same as 7.5 dollars (July 2009).
The view from the viewpoint was spectacular so I’m glad I came here. There was an admission of 20 cordobas for foreigners and 10 cordobas for Nicaraguans.
The Statue of Christ is new and so is the admission. The property is private and owned by a foreigner. I didn’t like this as I think a place like this should be easy to visit for families living in San Juan del Sur, even if they don’t have a lot of money, and he money should not go in the pocket of a foreigner. But a friend of the taxi driver said that the income from the viewpoint would finance the construction of a church. So that sounds good.
It was one of those 'lets do our own thing' days on the cruise.
So, we just took a tender ride (see Dangers page) ashore, listened to the wind band and bought a few local crafts at the market.
Sure, the prices were tourist prices and sure a lot of it wass tat ---but we did buy some bowls and masks for the kitchen and garden respectfully.
Next time we'll do a ships tour ----but this time we needed to chill!
From San Juan, this isn't that close. You have to go to Rivas, Nicaragua and then negociate roads back to the beach. Google Map it and you'll see the route and or get a good map of Nicaragua. Waves are pretty consistent here and will range in the 5 to 10'. Check out the local surf camp for more details. http://www.surfnicaragua.com/about.php
Nicaragua is blessed with several beaches where the Olive Ridley turtles come to lay there eggs. When they come to nest, these sea turtles weigh about 100 pounds. There are nesting sites in Asia and Africa as well, however, the Olive Ridley population is threatened and in some places endangered with extinction. In Nicaragua there is a fairly big population, but egg harvesting and destruction of nesting sites is having an impact on this population.
The Olive Ridley turtles come to the beach en masse, during so called arribadas in which thousands of turtles arrive at the same time to lay their eggs. This way, the hatchlings will swarm the beach in huge numbers and in doing so they increase their chance of survival. After arriving at the beach, the turtles look for a decent place to lay their eggs. After digging a hole, the turtles start laying their small, white eggs. About 100 eggs are deposited in the hole, which is then covered up by the turtle. Then they slowly make their way back to the water. The arribadas take a couple days, during which thousands of turtles visit La Flor.
About 50 days later the eggs hatch. Thousands of tiny, dark hatchlings emerge all of a sudden from the sand and crawl towards the ocean. After escaping from the first predators on the beach the small creatures encounter fish waiting in the shallow waters to enjoy an easy meal. The start of a turtle life is not easy! The vast numbers in which they swarm the beach make it possible for some of them to get through and grow into an adult turtle.
Seven massive arribadas occur each year, all taking place between July and January. Many other smaller turtle arrivals will also take place during that same time frame. The moon influences the arrivals, but it is never exactly predictable when the turtles will come.
You can visit the La Flor reserve during day or night. The reserve is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Entrance fee is C$100 for nationals, and C$200 for foreigners (nationals and foreingers kids have a dicount). You can also camp on the beach for a nightly stake-out (C$500). Although massive arrivals only take place from July through January, individual Olive Ridley Turtles as well as other turtle species often arrive at the beach throughout the whole year.
The bay and the beach are surrounded with mountains full of lush vegetation. In these days some new constructions are being built in the mountains, at least they were built triying to be integrated with the surroundings.
The town is located in a shell shaped bay, the beach are good and offers some nice views. The best of all is that the beach is always almost empty, most of the surfers goes to other beaches nearby so is a good place to relax and enjoy the sun and the sea.
Walking along the promenade is one of the main things to do in town, during week-end the city is crowded with lots of Nicaraguan visitors, it´s funny because they park their cars in the malecón, and make picnics around them.