Our last stop in Nicaragua was San Juan del Sur. Some may know it for Sunday Funday others a base to go surfing or beach hopping but we didn’t really rate this place. It for us is a town where tourism has happened with a negative impact. If you walk around you can see areas where locals live in timber shacks and then overlooking this are the villas with swimming pools peering over the sea. I think it depends on what type of trip you are on or scene you are into. But on our backpacking budget and after talking to a few locals we were just a bit eeh!
Did someone say turtles?!
The one thing I will always thank San Juan de Sur for, is it is the place we finally got to see and release baby Olive Ridley turtles into the sea. After missing the turtles in Surfing Turtle Lodge in León, I was more than ready to fork out $25 for a tour to Playa Flor, a natural reserve located about 20kms from San Juan. The releasing of the turtles was great but what topped off the experience was walking along the beach and seeing the baby turtles emerge from the sand and making their own way to the water. Unforgettable! Makes you appreciate how precious nature and wildlife is, especially as only about 0.1% of the hatchlings will survive to adulthood.
The baby turtles we released in La Flor, just outside of San Juan Del Sur
Emerging from the sand, just as nature intended!
What else did we get up to in San Juan del Sur?
Statue of Christ or Cristo de la Misericordia
The Statue of Christ
As we stepped onto the beach the first thing I noticed was the tall statue of Jesus overlooking the ocean, and wanted to climb up to see it and the views that it offered. So after a short walk along the beach, across the river (thanks for the lift Alan!), through the lanes on the left, we followed the signs for Malibú to get to the statue. It gets really steep, thats when you know you are on the right path and after a few more very steep steps we arrived at the top and paid $2 to enter. A magnificent view of the ocean, boats in the harbour and the beach greeted us. The amazing birds-eye view over San Juan definitely made the climb worth it.
You will get some great views!
Our best selfie attempt!
There are a number of beaches close to San Juan and you can get there by shuttle – $5 or so for transport. Plenty of shops offer surfing lessons or board hire so you can chose a beach better for surfing and head out for the day. As we were going to Puerto Viejo next we settled for the beach in San Juan. It’s nice but it can get windy so expect sand to go everywhere! There are some ship-wrecked boats hidden in the sand which was cool.
The beach at San Juan Del Sur, submerged boat included
Food Experiences in San Juan
- Taco spot and Taco stop are good spots for a quick lunch, Taco Stop being nicer of the two, yummy chipotle.
- Secret Garden has a cool vibe but expensive for what it is. Maybe just get a smoothie but in saying that it wasn’t the best smoothie either. Bumped into Harry, an English lad whom we met before in Juayua.
- Casa Oro had the best value for money with some nice lentil curry, we ended up here 3 times.
Cheapest beer we found was a restaurant (30 cordobas) located in between two streets across from Dales Pues pub, La Dolce Vita. We got happily merry here on the buckets of beer on offer to get over our ordeal of finding a place to eat.
Nice way to enter a beach!
The following restaurants are the cause of our excessive drinking during that infamous night.
We picked Nica Thai restaurant as it seemed reasonably priced (now its time for the rant!). As we waited in the small, crowded restaurant for the waitress to arrive, a customer let us know that we could have their seats as they were finished and only waiting for their change (how thoughtful!) but then also said it to the people that came in behind us – hmm a table for two now offered to two different groups. You could say we started to question the stupidity of humanity at this point seen as there were no other tables available!
To add insult to injury when the waitress arrived she served the group behind us, then guess what, there was no space for us to sit. Very small restaurant with only six or so tables which included a table where some oblivious customers played cards after their dinner in this tiny restaurant! So after being told we had to wait 40 minutes, we hopped out of there and continued our search. I know we should have said something, but that type of conversation in Spanglish did not appeal to either of us.
The church in San Juan Del Sur
We ended up in Dales Pues and at first glance I thought it seemed okay price-wise and by this stage we were starving after strolling the streets eyes wide with hunger so we went in. Unfortunately the burger didn’t come with chips, as in their opinion the burger is big enough but surprise surprise it’s not and you definitely need chips! 500 cordobas for two burgers, chips and Coka Cola/beer! Ouch especially after tying to find somewhere economical! The drinks were double the price in comparison to the restaurant across the road where we headed straight away afterwards. Wow I’m really negative, sorry! But we did learn a few valuable lessons – don’t wait until you are hungry before searching for a restaurant on a budget, read the menu clearly before entering and its good to laugh.
Panoramas in the area are amazing!
Next Stop was Costa Rica, how did we get there?
From San Juan to Puerto Viejo we booked in to Caribe shuttle for the extortionate price of $120pp. But it meant we didn’t need to stop off in San Jose for the night so didn’t need to book accommodation, got through Costa Rica quicker (country is amazing but too expensive for our budget) and it included a delicious lunch in Fortuna with Arenal looming in the background, I mean it was totally amazing – casado. Yummy yum yum!
Let us know of your experiences in San Juan del Sur and comment below. I’m sure they were better and it might inspire us to return!!