Nicaragua, Part Ten: San Juan del Sur

Packed with motorcycles, volcano hikes, and horses, three days disappeared in seemingly the blink of an eye. Sadly, it was time to leave Ometepe. A taxi driver with a penchant for 90’s rap music drove us the port city of Moyagalpa to catch the ferry.

The ferry ride to San Jorge was uneventful, save for the fact that we couldn’t find seats. But who needs ’em? We stashed ourselves under the staircase to the third level of the boat. Aside from a little rain, it was perfect. We had the best view.

concepcion ometepe ferry nicaragua
Looking back along the ferry to see Concepcion
Ometepe ferry nicaragua
Our little corner under the stairs
Concepcion Ometepe Moyogalpa Nicaragua
A cloudless goodbye from Concepcion
ometepe nicaragua san juan del sur
Another passenger in “king of the world” pose

It was late afternoon by the time we reached San Jorge. With darkness rapidly approaching, we splurged on a taxi to San Juan del Sur. Better to find our way by daylight than wait for a chicken bus, we thought. The ride took about 40 minutes, and it seemed like the volcanoes followed us about halfway! The sky around its peak was clear, and I managed to snap a car-window photo of Concepcion without its cloud cap. You can see the steam pooling in its crater.

Concepcion ometepe nicaragua
Concepcion, steaming

After passing through miles of fields, we turned into San Juan del Sur and were delighted to find that our hotel was on top of the hill. Our driver, although skeptical of his taxi’s ability to make it, chugged its way up. We stopped in front of the hotel just as the sun began to sink under the ocean into the an incredibly beautiful sunset. I dropped my bags in the middle of the street to take photos while Xavier checked in.

San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
The view from Hotel Maracuya, San Juan del Sur, as sunset began
sunset San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
The sunset deepens….
The colors intensify...
The colors intensify…
Sunset san juan del sur nicaragua
The sunset steps up its game
San juan del sur sunset nicaragua
San Juan del Sur at sunset
Sunset san juan del sur nicaragua
Palm trees and sunsets at San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
san juan del sur nicaragua sunset
More sunset behind palm trees

As I climbed over fences and stood on flower pots to find the best view, I heard Xavier calling my name. He knows that I stop everything to gawk every time the sun goes down and looks pretty, so there had to be a good reason to interrupt my sunset photo shoot. I dug myself out of the shrubbery to join him. Peeking out from the mountains was the most incredible double rainbow I’ve ever seen.

san juan del sur nicaragua rainbow
Amazing rainbow over San Juan del Sur

Oooh… so romantic, right? Not really. I was so excited that I just took pictures. At that point, we were happy we’d ended up in San Juan del Sur. Although leaving Ometepe was hard, we knew we’d found our way to the beach for a reason.

High on nature’s beauty, we walked down to the main part of town. San Juan del Sur is small and easy to navigate by foot. The majority of restaurants, clubs, bars, and shops are located within a short stretch of town nestled into the shores of a C-shaped bay.

We checked out a few of the restaurants before deciding on a ceviche appetizer and drinks at one seafood place. They’re a dime a dozen down there, and all seemed to have similar offerings.

mango margarita beach san juan del sur
Drinking a mango margarita on the beach at San Juan del Sur

The ceviche was okay, but nothing special. I enjoyed my mango margarita even more. We left that place and decided to move a couple of doors down and have some pizza for our main course. It may sound crazy to eat pizza, of all things, on the beach in Nicaragua, but we are junkies for the stuff. After checking out the place and observing a decent-looking wood-fired oven turning out slightly charred thin-crust pies, we were sold.

The pizza was good. Not just for Nicaragua, but anywhere.

pizza san juan del sur nicaragua
Sopresatta pie in San Juan del Sur

We walked around a little more before deciding to turn in for the night. Although tempted by some of the clubs that we saw and heard downtown, the scene was a little frat-tastic. We opted to return to the beautiful overlook of our hotel and play Cuarenta, an Ecuadorian card game. It was very relaxing to hang out, laugh, and play while looking out at the ocean, the mountains, and the sparkling lights of the town. After the crazy couple of days we’d had, nothing could have been more enjoyable.

The next morning was our last in Nicaragua! We woke up and enjoyed breakfast on the hotel balcony: coffee, juice, and egg sandwiches. Our bus back to Managua departed at 3:30 in the afternoon. Before then, we hoped to walk around San Juan del Sur, take in the sights, do a little swimming, and eat a last big seafood meal.

Before we could do that, I had a friend to play with: a little orange kitten who lived in the hotel lobby. He had turned up a couple days previously, and I fell in love immediately.

Kitten san juan del sur nicaragua
Orange kitten
Kitten san juan del sur nicaragua
Loving this playful kitten
kitten san juan del sur nicaragua
The kitten has a sweet side

The beach was beautiful. I could have walked up and down, admiring the long stretches of tan sand and glowing blue waves.

San Juan del Sur Nicaragua beach
San Juan del Sur beach
tide san juan del sur surf beach nicaragua
Long streaks of tide
san juan del sur nicaragua beach
Paradise found on San Juan del Sur

Although surfers tend to head to less protected swaths of shoreline north and south from the town, there were some big waves that morning.

waves surf san juan del sur beach
Waves on San Juan del Sur’s beach

We headed through town and saw other notable sights. This little village has history. Somehow, a cannon from Boston ended up here.

cannon san juan del sur nicaragua
A cannon from Boston, MA in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

An older man taught his little grandson how to shift gears on a motorbike.

motorcycle beach san juan del sur nicaragua
A motorcycle lesson

Back to the beachfront, cabanas lined the shore, inviting tourists to sit and relax.

cabana san juan del sur nicaragua
Cabana by day, dance club by night

As hoped, the last lunch was amazing. I splurged on a plate with two grilled lobster tails. With french fries, rice, and veggies, it cost $11 USD. Xavier’s grilled fish with shrimp sauce was just as delicious. We enjoyed the ocean view, reminisced about our favorite memories of the trip, and wondered when we would be able to come back.

lobster seafood san juan del sur nicaragua
Lobster lunch at San Juan del Sur

Xavier and I decided to visit Nicaragua because, quite frankly, we found a great deal on airfare. We knew nothing about the country until after we’d purchased the tickets and began planning our itinerary. All things considered, the trip was an enormous success. We had an amazing time, visited many different places within the country, stayed healthy, and spent a very reasonable amount of money.

Nicaragua is currently under-appreciated as a travel destination, but that is changing fast. Some places we visited, such as San Juan del Sur, and Granada, were utterly crawling with tourists. But even Little Corn, which is remote and difficult to reach, is evolving to accommodate the higher demands of visitors. Expats visit the island, then stay to open businesses. As we traveled, we met so many people who had fallen in love with Nicaragua. By the end of the trip, we had joined their ranks. Would I want to live there? Probably not – there are too many other places to visit and see! But in planning your next trip, do consider Nicaragua. Its beautiful beaches, rich history, and very affordable pricing make it a worthy destination for anyone from budgeting backpackers to luxury travelers seeking a refined, if rustic, adventure.

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