San Juan del Sur is more like a village than a town. You can probably walk around all the main streets in 10-15 minutes (going slowly of course because of the heat).
It's a very laid back little place. And if you're looking for cheap food, you'll find many small local restaurants on the back streets where you can get a "corriente" (usually fries and/or rice + meat + plantain) for 35 cordobas ($2) or so.
There are a few walks you can take in the area, if you find the energy.
A short one that takes about an hour (there and back) is the walk to the viewpoint from which this photo was taken. In one direction you can see the town and bay, and in the other direction forest and small secluded beaches.
To get there walk along the street that follows the beach going northbound until you get to a small river. Pay a few cordobas to the boatman to cross over, then keep walking following the shore (it gets pretty rocky) until you're almost at the point where the bay opens up into the ocean. Look on your right for a staircase.
Go up the staircase and follow the cement path through the brush and keep going up along the road. I don't remember too many details at this point because I was sweating like a pig, but at some point there will be a very steep little side street to your right. Climb up it and you're at the viewpoint.
You can come back down the same way, or go the other way after walking down the steep street, which will take you through a quiet suburb, then back on the beach.
Start early, or go just before sunset if you don't want to get too hot!
This is of course the main activity. You can swim (or mostly "float" like I do!), and have a drink or a meal at one of the beachfront cafes and restaurants. The water seems to be calmer in the morning (low tide).
An hour or so before sunset, when the temperature drops a bit, some local boys play soccer on the beach. They don't seem to mind foreigners joining them. People also come out and jog along the beach.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Two more things that are nic to do when you're in San Juan del Sur are Gamefishing and going to a trip to the seaturtle reserve Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor. Unfortunately I didn't have the time to do any of those, but I'm sure it will be quite an experience.
Gamefishing can be arranged anywhere in SJDS: a boat will take you onto the ocean for half a day of working hard and hopefully catching some big ones. Prices would be around 40 dollars for half a day.
Turtlespotting can be arranged at Casa Oro Guesthouse. From here a nighttrip departs several days a week for about 15 dollars. In the reserve you can see the Olive Ridley turtle laying their eggs and the young hatchlings making their way into the water.
The mainattraction in San Juan del Sur is its beach. The beaches at the Pacific Coast are not that suitable for suntanning and relaxed swimming, but they are absolutely great to see and they are famous for their surfing possibilities.
I really wanted to go on a daytrip to one of the more desolate beaches near SJDS, both to check out the nature there and to go surfing (or at least try to) but because it was low-season when I was there, there were no busses departing that day. Instead we went to the beach directly in front of the town and still that was worth the time!
The beach is surrounded by two great peninsula's which provide a spectacular view. In this gulf, lots of fisherman's and sailing boats float on the waves and make great silouettes during sunset. The waves can get pretty high and even though they are not high enough for surfing, it is still quite exciting to throw yourself in.
All along the beach you can find small bars and restaurants, so when you're hungry or thirsty, everything is only a few steps away.
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.
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.
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!
This hotel is set high on a hill overlooking the bay of San Juan. It is comprised of rooms and bungalows, two restaurants and 3 pools. Not for the budget traveler, however, you can stay at a cheaper hotel in town and pay $10 to use the 3 pools at pelican eyes. It is definately worth it! On Wednesdays and Fridays they have 2 for 1 happy hour from 5pm to 8pm. We watched the sunset in the upper infinity pool and it was spectacular.
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.