We arrived into San Juan del Sur at about 1:00 pm after a 45 minute taxi ride from the ferry terminal in San Jorge. We were using Google maps to direct our driver to our destination and when we got close to our place for the next ten days, the gravel roads got quite bad. Not a good sign and were quite far away from town.
Oh boy, what have we gotten ourselves into?
Before we even got out of the taxi our anxiety levels were starting to peak. We are not close to anything. We are far away. We are not within walking distance to town. We are very upset!
We arrived in front of a concrete apartment style building and were met by the rep from the company that handles the rentals for the building.
This is not a good way to start what you think will be ten days of relaxation.
We were shown our “Luxury studio with all the trimmings” unit. Yes there is a pool but with only two wooden lounge chairs to be shared by how many people? Our queen size bed was a double. There were two plates and two two different sized bowls, several unmatched glasses and cups, a very small fridge. Any way. You get the picture. Not very functional. Fortunately it did have a coffee maker.
The unit was advertised as within walking distance to the town and bars and restaurants. The only accurate description was it was short walk to the beach, but nothing else! The walk to town via the beach was about 1/2 hour with a shallow narrow river crossing, when the tide was out! Otherwise it would have taken at least 45 minutes to walk along the road and cross a bridge over the river. Yes we could have taken a taxi (a huge initial problem trying to communicate in English until we found our savior Lester) and it was an $8.00 fare each way.
There were no reasonable grocery stores nearby and only one restaurant/bar.
Fortunately only a short walk from our place it was a very rustic local family owned spot that played great Latin American music, not too loud and had cold beer and pretty good food. We went to town once on our first night for dinner and drinks and once during the day to check out different accommodation. We ended up frequenting Lomita Pinita for the next four nights straight.
Lomita Pinita Bar y Restaurante. Our/my savior!
Before coming to Nicaragua Joyce joined a Facebook forum, Expats in Nicaragua, and it turned out to provide us with a wealth of information about travelling in Nicaragua from accommodation to restaurants to the best beaches etc.
We made it clear to the owners of our place that we were not happy with our place and it’s location. The owner dropped by and graciously offered to refund any days that we did not use if we found another place to stay. We were prepared to eat the cost and move on so his offer was greatly appreciated.
Now we needed to find a place in town or at least closer to town.
We composed a “woe is us”; FB post on the Expats in Nicaragua forum and the response was amazing! Over 120 suggestions poured in. We even had an offer of free accommodation on a farm south of Leon. Many of the responses looked good but two caught our eyes. Both in town and both close to the beach but just far enough away from the very loud party scene.
We took a taxi to town in the morning, only the second time as mentioned above, and checked out the first of our list of two places to look at.
Situated above Pane Nostro, a small Italian restaurant, we found what we were looking for. A huge spacious newly renovated apartment, this time really “with all the trimmings”. Quiet, three blocks to the south end of the beach with millions of bars and eateries, groceries nearby and a little less per night than our other “Luxury blah blah blah” place.
The owners, Tina and Adam are two really nice people from the states. With their partner Mauro they also own the restaurant down stairs and they made us completely at ease. It was a no brainer so we signed up for 17 nights! We’re still working on a pizza discount so we’ll keep you posted!
One of the first things we noticed, and it happened in the morning and afternoon, was what sounded like a a slightly deranged women calling out from the balcony next to us. We don’t have a balcony so we couldn’t confirm who was doing the yelling but it was fairly repetitive and we weren’t sure if it was in Spanish but sounded like it. “Buena”! Then “Hola” Then two words we weren’t sure of calling out. It sounded like she was trying to get someone’s attention. Quite strange.
On the second or third evening on our way back from a couple of cool ones we decided to have dinner at the restaurant and we were chatting with Adam and mentioned this strange lady calling out from the balcony. Did he know who she was? Yes indeed he did. It is the next door owner’s parrot! Apparently they have trained it to speak some words of Spanish and they certainly did a good job! Had us fooled!
When we arrived into San Juan del Sur we were just at the cusp of their windy season which precludes their rainy season which starts in May. And windy did it get! Unfortunately too windy to really enjoy any lounging beach time. It was a sandblast so we stuck to walking the beach mostly but we did go couple of other beaches north and south us.
About 12 kms south of San Juan del Sur is Hermosa Beach. The access is paved for about 8 kms then you turn west onto a gravel road. The road had recently been graded and we were told it was in terrible shape before so we lucked out. Well, actually that’s a bit of a lie. We were going to go there on a Monday but Adam told us it was being graded so we postponed our journey until Wednesday hoping that it was in fact graded. The access road is next to impossible to travel in the rainy season due to a river that esses through the forest and intersects the road every 500 metres or so. A 4×4 is a must.
The beach is light gray and stretches about 2 kms and has views to Costa Rica. The beach and small resort that exists along a small section is privately owned and there is $4 CAD, (100 Cordoba) entrance fee at a gate along the road.
A couple of “Survivor” shows were filmed there and around the area in 2010/11. It is a beautiful beach but unfortunately the winds they were a blowing so the sand it was a blasting!
This is beautiful small beach nestled just north of Playa Maderas and it was sheltered from the howling winds that have been prevailing throughout the greater SJDS area. We went with the owners of our apartment in SJDS, Adam and Tina, along with Ben, a great guy from Britain who has been hanging out in NIC for the past several months. Thinking we were only going there for lunch we foolishly didn’t bring our bathing suits. It’s a beautiful location and we were even treated to seeing a young sloth in a nearby tree.
Before heading back to town we stopped at a hilltop resort named Hush for some great views of the Pacific, and another drink!
After getting back to town I went to Henry’s Iguana, a nice beachside bar for a couple of pops and farewells to the staff (I became a bit of a regular there) and then we ended the night with a very good fajita at Nachos and Tequila, a great little spot away from the chaos. The obligatory food shot;
Speaking of food shots we had the pleasurer of finding a great little deli in town. S.O.S. Deli. They make the best deli sub sandwiches in town by far. Joyce and I would sit in awe when it was busy watching the two ladies work in harmony preparing the orders whether for take out or eat in. I wish we had gotten their names. Another great thing was we could buy freshly sliced Black forest ham and cheddar cheese so this was an added bonus. A great place and we highly recommend them.
Semana Santa (Holy Week) is a very big deal in Latin America and this year runs from Sunday April 2nd to Saturday April 8th.
We knew about this and it was the reason why we left Mexico in early April last year because it is next to impossible to find accommodation during this time and this year was no different. We were “winging it “so nothing was planned in advance.
It has to be said that the people of Nicaragua, and I’m sure this is the same in most Latin American countries , like to have fun, play loud music and generally have a great time. There are little to no police hassles and the majority are on their best behavior. They have fun and it seems to me that they have more freedom than than we do in our over regulated “Woke” society in Canada. Sure shit happens and they don’t have the level of the services we take for granted (they have free health care and education) but they have a level of freedom that was lost long ago in our neck of the woods.
Fortunately we were able to keep our apartment in San Juan del Sur until April 6th and then snag a place a few kms north of here for the nights of April 6th and 7th before heading back to Managua on the 8th.
We had a great stay in San Juan del Sur and were fortunate to connect with Adam, Tina and Mauro who own Pane Nostro restaurant as well as the fantastic apartment above the restaurant that we rented for 17 nights. They are a great team and added to that was a great guy named Ben who was a bit of a fixture in the restaurant while we were there. We hope to see you again!
We left behind the crowds and chaos in SJDS on April 6th and headed a little north to Mango Rosa, a small resort with a few bungalows, a nice pool and bar/restaurant. Our pit stop for two nights before heading back to Managua. A great place to relax. The proprietor, “Captain Greg” is a great guy and ex surfer dude from Florida who developed this property and made it into a nice relaxing oasis away from the crowds. He also runs a business, Frumunda Travel for adventures in the Corn Islands. And so much more!
Good bye San Juan del Sur.
Next stop Managua and then on to the Corn Islands, Nicaragua for 14 days of Caribbean beach time!