Global Mark : 13.70

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Culture Tradition Market Relax Fiesta 


 3 5 2 2 2 5 2 4 12.50

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
10 100% 80%(8) 100% 10 to 18 14.90

Description :
A small fishing village by a popular beach

Comments : the setting is gorgeous with lots of sand, nice small waves, cliffs and a river. Tourism however seems to have made an impact and it is already not as friendly as it used to be.

What to do ? Walk the beach (best at low tide) / Play with the waves (best at high tide) / Meet surfers / Relax on the sand / Get high for a breathtaking panorama / Watch sunset / Explore the surroundings beaches / In season, watch turtles laying eggs (at La Flor) / Celebrate the Saint Patron with a fiesta & fireworks in June   

What you may not like ? The lack of clean GH in the budget category / The aggressive look of some locals / The drunk people / The lack of surf spot (you need to go further north) / The tourism development with lots of houses in construction./ The not spotless beach / The few horrors stories starting to be heard

How long ? A few days as a traveler. A few weeks as a surfer

Where to stay ? There are quite a few budget options in town but none of them are particularly spotless :

  • ® Elizabeth GH (4582270), 100m East of market / 50 p.p. / Go there for the ok rooms, some w. a view, and the relaxing terrace / What you may not like : the poor caged monkey !
  • Hospedaje Eleonora (50 p.p.) and Hospedaje La Fogota (40 p.p.) are even more basic and not as friendly
  • Hotel Joxi (4592348) , same street near the beach / w. shower, AC & TV $20(1) or 33(2) It is clean and comfortable but the rooms are rather small and there is no garden. Expensive therefore / Internet C2 per mn
  • Hotel Estrelli (4582210), by the beach road / 50 p.p. / Go there for the charming wooden building and the upstairs rooms w. breeze and view from the terrace / What you may not like : it is extremely basic, not too clean and there is no fan nor complete walls
  • ® Casa Surf 28 (4582441), one street west from market / 50(1) or 90(2) / Go there for the acceptable upstairs room / What you may not like : the downstairs rooms
  • ® Hospedaje Las Flores (4587284), N of market / w. shower 100 / Go there for the cheapest correct Dbl w. shower / What you may not like : a bit expensive for one
  • Hospedaje Nicaragua, same street, near market / Go there to check the rooms if someone is around. Looked well maintained.
  • There are also plenty of luxury places, charging around $30-50 for a small room. In this category, Hotel Colonial (3112270) was the nicest.

Where to eat ? Comedor Andrea, opp. Elizabeth GH was very reasonably priced (C20 for fish) and well served. The restaurants are much more expensive... For breakfast & lunch, head inside the market for 'comida corriente' at C18.

Internet ? At Hotel Joxi for C2 per mn. Wait to be in Granada !

Change ? The nearest bank is at Rivas. Some hotels may handle some change but expect the rate to be poor.

A great walk around ?
I was planning to go to Maderas beach, a pretty beach with good surf, but the bus (from the Parque) left 10mn ahead of schedule. That was fortunate as it enables me to do the following walk :
I started by following the beach toward the north. I was low tide (afternoon) and the sand was fairly impressive. I then continued on to the rocks for around one hour, until reaching a tiny isolated beach (it was not paradise but it was nice enough as surrounded by vegetation, incl. cactus). A bit before, the rocky cliff was producing an interesting wave echo.
I continued a bit more toward a round but not profound cavern, by the ocean. Then I went back toward the stairs (two staircases on the way). The stairs were leading to a very steep road, connecting to soon-to-be-built luxurious villas. What kind of vehicle will be able to use them is unclear but I would have appreciated a lift. The view from the top was however worth the sweat. Even better : the road leading to the upper section. There should be a private residence in the future... The panorama from there was simply breathtaking ! When I recovered it (my breath), I followed the road down to the village. This road could actually be off access as part of a residential complex. Accessing it from the rocks should however remain ok. 
Altogether, it took me about two hours. Swimming at the beach or relaxing by the mirador (there was a sign actually pointing to another one) would require longer. Take your time and enjoy !

 << Discover a few panoramas

Backpacker's Tips :  Amadeo Latino, Canada (March 06)
« HOSPEDAJE DON WILFREDO Frente a Restaurante El TimónSan Juan del Sur Tel. (505) 568 2128 very affordable and clean step from the beach 100 (cordobas per room/with fan) 25us with a/c no food but very well keept close to major attracions.»

Backpacker's Tips : Margot, Australian (March 05)
« There are now many internet cafes in San Juan Del Sur. Most charge between 20 and 30 cordobas per hour. Several have high speed connection
and some have interet telephone connection.
FOOD: There is a fantastic new cafe called EL Faro, opened January 2005. It is part of the El Faro youth centre which is located behind the catholic church (easy to find!). The cafe is part of a community service run by two US families which involves local young guys working in the bakery and cafe and trying to operate it as a viable business. This is a great way to support the local community at the same time as tasting fresh, healthy food. The
best part of it are the SENSATIONAL cinnamon rolls. They also have donuts, fresh bread and great coffee, as well as a simple menu of good food for
lunch and dinner. There is no alchohol served and smoking is not allowed. It is a great palce to hang out and write your journal under the huge shady
tree in the garden they have developed in the courtyard.
SEMANA SANTA/EASTER: This is a terrible time to come to San juan del Sur. The prices iincrease by at least three if not four or five times. The place is full of drunken hordes of Nicaraguans on their annual holiday. Everywhere is booked out and there is no bus transport anywhere so you have to pay inflated taxi prices. We paid $20 for a room which would normally cost $5. Even dorm rooms which are usually $4 were $10 if you could get them. Total profiteering....

Backpacker's Tips : Dominique Paquette, Canada (May 04)
« I highly recommend Elizabeth GH. Elizabeth herself is an angel, like the mother you don't have here in Nicaragua. C50 p.p. for the rooms on the second floor. The rooms have fans and are ok and you'll have to share washroom and showers. On the main floor, rooms for C90-110 p.p. with private bathroom and shower. Clean. GOOD NEWS: THE CAGED MONKEY HAS BEEN RELEASED... Well the 2 times I went, I didn't see him! If asked, Elizabeth or her daughters (I think there is 4 or 5 of them!) will let you use the kitchen. For breakfast, you can order gallo pinto or a continental breakfast, as well homemade fresh fruit juices. The prices range between C20 and C50 for breakfast. Elizabeth's husband (the guy missing an arm) will be more than glad to rent you one of his bike for about 5$US a day. Plus, he'll give you a map of the nearby beaches (that are much nicer than Bahia San Juan del Sur, the main beach). I loved my experiences at Elizabeth GH and I'm sure to return again!!»

Surfing ?
This is indeed an explanation for the popularity of the area. The waves are too small at San Juan itself so people head further north. Madera (bus to Marsella then walk a few km) was recommended but there are others spots. If you surf, share your experience with others !   

Leaving ? Bus to Rivas every 45mn from 5am to 5pm. C8. 45mn / Buses to Managua at 5, 5:45, 7:15 and 15:30. C30 and 2 hours for direct. Cheaper but much longer for normal buses.

The trip to Penas Blanca (Costa Rica border) : SSS / L & R / 50mn + 45mn / C8 + C8
The 5:45 bus to Rivas left on time. Being one of the first, it stopped a lot for passengers going to work or to school. It therefore took nearly one hour to reach the bus station (you could possibly avoid a 22km and 40mn trip by getting off at the intersection toward the border).
A bus to Penas Blancas left nearly immediately. It only filled up 11km further, with a bus coming from San Juan... The scenery was best on the left, for a last sight of Ometepe's two volcanoes. We reached the border at 7:30. 

See also the trip from Ometepe