We expected San Juan del Sur to be a cool Nicaragua surf town, but we did not expect it to be a such a great party spot with fantastic food and shopping options. We expected to like San Juan del Sur but we did not expect to spend our first day walking around the town saying “we have got to move here!” It could have been the rush from the morning surfing or the happy feeling that comes with less than $1 beers but we fell hard for San Juan.
Surfing San Juan del Sur
At its core SJDS is still a funky surf town. It really reminded us of Pacific Beach. Due to its proximity to Lake Nicaragua (the largest lake in Central America) and the resulting constant offshore wind, surfing in San Juan del Sur is almost always good. The locals are very relaxed and the crowds are not nearly as bad as Costa Rica. The water was cool when we went (March) but not nearly as cold as my home break in San Diego. Boards can be rented in town for about $10 (much cheaper than El Salvador and Guatemala) per day and guides go for about $30. I decided it was best to check out a new spot with a guide but it ended up not being necessary. Grab a board and jump in!
- 20 minutes north of town
- Accessible by car with good suspension (4×4 recommended)
- Most popular surf spot in San Juan Del Sur
- Best break is medium to high tide
- Chest high to double overhead depending on conditions
- Good for all levels depending on conditions
- 30 minutes south of town
- Not nearly as crowded
- Check with surf shop before you go as it is not as consistent
- No rentals available nearby
- Great for beginners
Other Stuff to do in San Juan Del Sur
Supposedly this is where it all began. If you are in town more than a few minutes you will undoubtedly hear about this SJDS “tradition”. Every Sunday loads of Canadians and a few other tourist fork over $30 to get a tank top and transportation between the three hostels that host this party. If you are looking to party the day away and make some new friends this is a good way to go. We meet a few people that absolutely loved it. That being said we also heard that it is overcrowded, overpriced, and that no one actually gets in the pool at the pool party. Although we are all about a good day party we have had our fill in Las Vegas and just didn’t see a way Sunday Funday could live up to the hype.
Hike to see Christ of the Mercy
It is possible to walk from town up the hill to the giant statue of Jesus. Luckily for us we were quickly picked up by a truck heading up so we did not have to walk in the heat. There is a cool museum under the statue that list out other large Christ statues in the world. It turns out we have been to 3 out of 10 so now we want to see the rest. The others we have visited are in Rio and Tijuana.
Visit Playa Marsella
On our way to look for breakfast one morning we found Playa Marsella. This beach is much more secluded than Playa Maderas. There were a few local families and while there isn’t good surf the waves are a lot of fun to play in. There is one small restaurant on the beach and it serves awesome ceviche. Seriously the best we’ve had since Chamico’s. We ate there twice in one day!
There are a ton of great surf shops and small boutiques in town. My favorite was Auric (see awesome tank below).
A number of shops in town offer ATV, dirt bike, and Polaris rentals. We really wanted to rent one as our hotel was a bit out of town but the pricing was just too high.
Our favorite afternoon in San Juan Del Sur was our self-guided happy hour tour. We found some great spots with ridiculously cheap beer (we paid $0.20 at one spot!) and amazing ocean views.
- Henrys Iguana- amazing sunsets and $1 beer
- Parlour- Small bar with great music and great cocktails
- Taco Stop- It’s no Eufemia but this place has delicious cheap street tacos
- San Juan Del Sur Cerveceria – Cool craft beer spot
Look for Monkeys
Look up into the trees all around town and you will surely see some howler monkeys. We saw a huge group on our walk from our hotel to Playa Maderas. You can usually hear them before you see them so just listen for the insane grunting noise.
Where to stay in San Juan Del Sur
We stayed at Selina hotel. Selina is a huge chain in Central and South America. We also stayed at another location in Costa Rica. This location was a bit outside of town closer to Maderas so we felt a little bit isolated. The hotel itself is nice, has a great pool and decent food. That being said it is your only option to eat and much more expensive than food in town. They do offer transportation to town and to the beach but only at set times and you have to pay. Also, they serve the same exact thing for breakfast every day which is a little weird given the full kitchen. They did host a fun tribal paint party one night with a great DJ!
If you are looking for the party stay at one of the locations that host Sunday Funday as you will get a discounted price.
Want more information to plan your trip to Granada? Check out the Nicaragua Lonely Planet here.