For years, San Juan del Sur has been one of the most popular tourist destinations in Nicaragua. It's been a surf haven for the backpacker community with its colorful hostels, fish taco shacks, beachfront bars and its south swells throughout much of the year. Lately though, lodging accommodations are opening along the stunning Pacific coastline north and south of the small town that are appealing to a broader range of tourists - yoga enthusiasts, beach lovers, and those just looking for a break from the daily grind they call home. And the sunsets are fantastic!
Located in southwestern Nicaragua, just north of the Costa Rica border and sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and Lake Nicaragua, I found it to be an easy-to-get-to destination and very reasonably priced. Even though it's a popular tourist destination, there are many spots that don't have a lot of people.
I just spent four nights here with my family in a 2 1/2 bedroom villa near Playa Maderas - one of the top surfing beaches on the Pacific Coast. This was our first stop in a month long trip through much of this developing country. We crossed the border from, Penas Blancas in Costa Rica, and caught a taxi on the Nicaragua side of the border. Once in San Juan del Sur, we found a 4X4 taxi to take us the final 20 minute drive to our villa that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Before exiting town, our taxi driver stopped at the Pali Market in town and waited while we purchased our food and beverages for the next several days.
Our villa, one of four at Villas Playa Maderas, is about 10 kilometers north of San Juan del Sur - most of it on an unpaved, bumpy road. The view, from the infinity pool, of the sun setting over the brilliantly blue ocean and the white-sand beach was breathtaking and oh so relaxing - especially enjoying a cold Toña (one of the primary Nicaraguan beers).
The stretch of beach, in front of the four villas, was ours for the taking. We had the beach to ourselves. Each evening after the sun set, we enjoyed a delicious dinner prepared for us by one of the ladies who works for the property. For just $10, she'll prepare any meal for you. You just have to purchase the food. Her dinners were so good, we gave her $20 instead of the customary $10.
It was just a short stroll along the beach to the north to get to the little fish taco shack on the beach. Sitting at a covered table, we enjoyed our dollar tacos and beer as we chatted and just watched the waves pounding the shoreline.
A short stroll south of us, no more than 10 minutes, was Playa Maderas where the surfers were riding the continuously breaking swells. There's a hostel and a couple of food shacks that seem pretty popular.
San Juan del Sur is not very big. Small cafes, hostels, and shops dot the roads leading to the beach. There are several beachfront bars that are nice to sit and relax in. Most of the time, we just relaxed and enjoyed the water and the sun. One day, we hired a driver to take us into Granada, a colorful colonial town, for the day.