If you’ve never thought about visiting Nicaragua, I would encourage you to think again. Last June I went for vacation and was blown away by this country. I have to admit, after exiting the airport in Managua we were feeling a little intimidated, but quickly grew to love it.
We managed to bargain with a taxi driver upon exiting the airport who spoke a little English to take us to San Juan Del Sur, an almost 2 hour drive for $85 dollars. There are other ways to travel for less like the well know “chicken bus” if you are on budget.
Looking next to me at my wide eyed, (then) boyfriend as we drove pass dogs in cages on the side of the highway, people burning trash in there front yard, horses walking along the street, children riding their bikes without shoes on the road. We knew from the first 15 minutes this was going to be an eye opening experience.
As the night fell the streets became really dark aside from the occasional front yard fire. No street lights, house lights, really only car lights which are often pointed directly at you as your passing someone or something.
The next morning, this is what we woke up too.
If you choose to stay in town, head ups, the Nicaraguans love to party! We had a bar both in front and behind our hotel and were kindly provided ear plugs on our night stands. Yes, I used them-even on Sunday night…
Our deck over looked one of the bars. We had a great time drinking beers and people watching. SJDS lost power on multiple occasions during our stay. Music would be bumping, people laughing, singing, then lights out. Listening to the excitement when the power came back on was comical. Like when your football team scores the winning touchdown excitement.
The statue you see sitting on the hill is called “Mirador del Cristo de la Misericordia” and offers beautiful 360 views. This will be about a 40 minute walk from town, costs you a few bucks, is fairly steep, and in my opinion worth doing.
Before you make the trek up, stop at “El Gato Negro”. A book store cafe right in town. That serve great coffee, smoothies, breakfast sandwiches, you name it. It’s a quirky little spot that we wish we had found sooner. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g528745-d1493999-Reviews-El_Gato_Negro-San_Juan_del_Sur_Rivas_Department.html
For those of you who want to lay on the beach and drink (sorry, I didn’t see any cabanas) there are plenty of beach options. Rent a golf cart and go explore. Because SJDS is located very close to the Costa Rica border, be prepared to be stopped by police holding guns. They are here to check your passports and travel papers.
We found this gem of a beach about a 25 minute golf cart ride out of town. There were 3 other people and a wood hut selling a few select beers.
Another day we traveled to Ometepe Island. Which sits in a shark occupied lake. We arranged a shuttle to the ferry at a surf shop in town.
The ferry ride was entertaining for lack of a better word. On the 1X1 box TV we were provided a ship wreck shark attack movie for our hour ride. These boats seem a bit battered as I had read, but was stated they were safe. I still can’t confirm if the water leak half way through our ride was normal or not. But it only cost 60 cordobas and I’m still alive today.
At the port San Jorge, before we took the ferry over we arranged a tour guide. It seemed sketchy paying before we got over there so we bargained with the guy to pay half now, and the other half when we met our driver. Later finding out this is apparently a normal way of doing business as we encountered a similar situation for airport transportation.
First stop was Punta Jesus Maria. A Mile long peninsula of black sand with waves coming ashore from both directions.
I’d also suggest going to https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g304024-d2060130-Reviews-Ojo_de_Agua-Isla_de_Ometepe_Rivas_Department.html Running out of time before our return ferry we only got to spend about an hour here. This natural ground fed water pool tucked in the jungle was a really unique oasis. And yes, they serve alcohol 🙂
What I liked most about this island was the safari of domesticated animals. I say “domesticated” as an American because we usually have these animal in contained fields. Throughout the journey we saw herds of horses walking freely, cows grazing in the grass, a pig tied on someone’s front porch, and a goat chillin by the ferry.
We also spent a few days in Granada on this trip. It’s pretty easy to snag a taxi in SJDS, in fact we had two drivers compete for our business. Both first offering lower prices then one of the men blurting out “I have air conditioning”! So with him we went.
Arriving early to our hotel http://tribal-hotel.com we had some time to kill. The front desk arranged for a horse carriage ride city tour while waiting for our room. Our guide was great at telling stories of the history here. We went to their cocoa factory, the bell tower, told about certain homes and I particularly found the cemetery unusually beautiful.
The city is easily seen in a days trip. It was recommended we only booked a few nights of our vacation here which worked out well. Later this evening we took a ride with one of the staff members to an active volcano. Which perhaps is the most unbelievable experiences I’ve had in life. Smelling the sulfur, seeing the waves of lava, and feeling the heat on my face was unreal. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g551472-d646709-Reviews-Masaya_Volcano_National_Park-Masaya_Masaya_Department.html
The next day we spent some time relaxing at our hotel pool where they serve really well crafted drinks and a scene to match.
To this day this hotel is still one of my favorite stays. The attention to detail, cleanliness, and breakfast provided were all top notch. Not to mention the staff prepared a candle lit breakfast and french press coffee for our 4am departure to the airport.
I may be partial, because I got engaged on this trip. However, all things aside this is an unbelievable country and a great vacation for you adventurers. We will 100% be back to reminisce and check out all the other unique experiences and beautiful places Nicaragua has to offer.