After our plans to go to Bluefields crashed miserably because of the issues with transport, we ended up in dusty and rather plain Managua without any particular plans, apart from a slight desire to waste a few days by the beach. Also, I wanted to try one of those intense 20h a week one to one Spanish courses, to see how much I could improve within that little time. Among the lists of the cities where schools are situated, I spotted San Juan Del Sur, a tiny surfer’s town on the pacific coast. So when we ended up without plan, decision came itself. We were going to San Juan. The journey itself was another adventure.
We arrived to the bus station in Managua, where random people where walking around calling people for the bus towards different directions. We asked about SJDS and were taken to a bus, where we reconfirm our final destination again. We truly experienced why they are calling those old American school buses, CHICKEN buses. Because not that they are getting full like a cage of non-free range chickens, but you yourself would feel like one, when you realise that every squared cm is taken by someone, and somehow at the same time you can have a crazy man preaching about God, fairly overweight women selling soda drinks, men walking around with lottery tickets, or girls selling food. I mean, I feel like I’ve discovered the concept of capacity all over again.
We were on our way to SJDS and conductor came up to us and charged 80 Cordobas for our journey, but the guy next to us who was going to the bordered ( which is obviously further away) was charged 60. On our question why so, we heard a lousy explanation that the bus is doing diversion to drop us off and that’s why it’s more expensive. The story seemed almost believable, until we reached Rivas (a city in between Omotepe, Penas Blancas on the border with Costa Rica and the coast), and everybody started to leave the bus, including our bags, towards two different buses. We literally jumped out and ran the opposite ways trying to stop Nicaraguanese guys carrying our backpacks to the separate buses.
This time when we asked what the hell is going on, the respond was that the bus only goes to Rivas (which is a city about 40km from SJDS) and that we were apparently explained so by the conductor (bullshit). After long arguments with the guy, police threats and a solid exchange of swearing we were randomly dropped off a sidewalk, from where a guy on a tuck-tuck picked us up and brought us to the bus stop from where we went to San Juan. Finally.
Obviously, as soon as our bags reached the floors of the hostel, we went to the beach. Beautiful, pacific coast.
So here I would list things that are, in my opinion, good about San Juan Del Sur:
Beautiful deserted beach
You actually feel lonely there during the day. In high season no one spends days on the beach with no shadow. I suspect because the city attracts a lot of surfers who normally get shuttles to the neighbouring beaches, that’s why it feels almost empty there during the day. But absolutely stunning.
It is reasonable.
Considering that it is on the list of the most touristy places in Nicaragua, SJDS is fairly reasonable for rent. We walked around pretty much all the hostels around town and almost everywhere you can rent a private room for $20. The cheapest we found was $15. It is not ideal for harsh budgets, but it is bearable since all the hostels have kitchen to use, and a massive supermarket 15 Mins walk away from the city.
There you have a really pleasant vibe. Young colourful city, with lots of bars, trendy cafés, gelaterias, cool local designer shops, ukulele shop, roof terraces, even raw vegan place and microbreweries. So if you have a bit of cash to spare, it’s your paradise.
Honestly, it feels super safe. Almost that you could walk around drunk as hell flashing your wallet and documents and people would help you to get back to your hotel. There are no tramps or sketchy people. There are a few strange looking dealers but they are nice too.
Watching the sun going down is almost a ritual in SJDS. This is the time of the day when you realise how many people there are actually there. Around 5sh slowly people start gathering from all the ends to enjoy most beautiful sunsets. I couldn’t add more.
It can be good point and bed point at the same time. It is good when you rest on the beach and breeze refreshes your skin and it just simply never feels too hot. On the other hand, sometimes, it feels like you’re in the constant wind storm, it gets loud and scary and sometimes dangerous if you sit by the coconut palm. But most of the time it’s just a little annoying because sand gets literally everywhere, and it takes weeks, if only, to get rid of it completely.
San Juan Del Sur is a lovely place, so if you are in the area, you should definitely stop by for a few days to regain your Zen from all the travel stress (we all know it can be a batch).