From Ometepe, our next stop was San Juan del Sur (Photos), a beach town on the southern Pacific coast of Nicaragua. This part of Nicaragua is only about 25 or 30km wide between the western shore of Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific coast. Once we arrived back in San Jorge on the ferry from Ometepe, we needed to get a taxi for the short ride to Rivas to hop a bus to San Juan del Sur (SJDS). Naturally, the taxi drivers began telling us how much better it would be if we would only allow them to drive us directly to SJDS rather than wait for that crowded, slow bus. It was only noon and we were in no hurry so we kept telling them that we would wait for the bus. One particularly persistent taxi driver kept following us and lowering his price. I think he needed to return to SJDS and was just hoping to get someone to cover his gas cost. When he got to $3 each for us we said, “Esta bien. Vamos.” (He did try to give himself a bonus when we arrived by fudging the exchange rate. I was paying with Cordobas and he was calculating the exchange at about 26.5 vs 22.5. Hey, a deal’s a deal.)
SJDS is the most recognized and established of Nicaragua’s southern Pacific beaches. Mostly catering to surfers, SJDS is set on a horseshoe shaped bay with tree covered hills surrounding it. Not a very big place, the main part of the town is perhaps 6 blocks by 6 blocks. Along the beach are a string of restaurants and bars which are meant to appeal to the tourists. It’s no problem to find vendors eager to provide you with a wide array of activities from fishing, sailing, diving, horse back riding and zip lining to surf lessons and kayaking.
If SJDS isn’t enough (or is too much) you can opt for the mostly undeveloped beaches nearby: Playa Marsella and Maderas to the north or Playa El Remanso, Tamarindo, Hermosa and El Coco to the south.
The best feature of the place where we are staying here is their roof top bar which is the 3rd floor in a mostly single level town. Since we’re only a single long block back from the beach, it affords a very nice view in all directions, including the beach and the sunset. We seem to spend most afternoons there since it has a reliable breeze which makes it a pleasant place to spend some time reading or napping. They don’t start serving drinks until after 5:00pm so most of the time we have it to ourselves. That’s where we are now as I type this.
We made a day trip visit to Playa Maderas. Since it’s a popular surfing beach, our hostel has a shuttle that makes the round trip several times each day. The shuttle ride is a bench in the back of a pickup truck. The last half of the ride is on a bone rattling dirt road. Along the road in there are some places to stay if you prefer someplace quiet and remote. There are also some “housing developments” trying to get off the ground, so to speak. When you get to the end, there’s a quintessential beach café and very basic accommodations. The beach is quite nice with white sand gently sloping into the surf. We found a nice, mostly deserted spot with some shade to occupy for a while to enjoy the breeze and the sights.
Tomorrow, we leave San Juan del Sur and cross into Costa Rica.