San Juan del Sur is a coastal town on the Pacific Ocean, in south-west Nicaragua. The town is a popular tourist location because of its many nearby and spectacular beaches. San Juan del Sur is also popular among surfers and is a vacation spot for many Nicaraguan families and foreign tourists. It really is a good, unspoiled alternative to Costa Rica.
The population is approximately 18,500, comprised mostly of families engaged in fishing. There are plenty of Spanish schools in town making San Juan a perfect place to come and immerse yourself in the language and take home something more than a tan.
The surf is, however, not in San Juan del Sur itself "the waves are simply not big enough in town. We went to Madera beach about 10 km north of San Juan del Sur to surf. Madera beach is an incredibly beautiful and peaceful beach and when you don’t surf you can suntan and go for long walks. Amazing.
The video below gives you an idea about why Madera beach have become so popular – it simply is a stunning place!!
Isla de Ometepe and San Juan del Sur are two of the emerging tourist destinations in Nicaragua. We begin this podcast with sounds from the trip between Granada and Isla de Ometepe by boat, and finish up on the beach in San Juan del Sur via Maderas volcano & the jungle.
This podcast also contains sound clips from “Crazy Dave” himself, owner of Hideout Surf Camp on Maderas beach. If you’re looking for accommodation on Maderas beach and are thinking of staying there, we suggest you listen to this first :-).
San Juan del Sur is Nicaragua’s main beach resort. With a population of about 10,000, it is more reminiscent of a sea-side village than a resort. San Juan is located a few hours from Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, in the South West of the country about an hour or so from the Costa Rican border.
Although the main beach at San Juan del Sur is a pretty horseshoe shaped bay, flanked by tall cliffs, like all town beaches, it is not particularly clean. However, North and South of San Juan are a series of very unspoiled beaches with either very little, or no development whatsoever. These beaches can be reached only by private taxis from San Juan, or by one of the organized buses/trucks that run several times daily from the main guest houses in town (about $5 return).
The main draw to the area is undoubtedly the surfing. A steady stream of surfers arrive in San Juan with boards at the ready, hoping to catch whatever the Pacific throws at them. Generally people either stay in San Juan del Sur and make the daily beach shuttle trip, or stay at one of the ‘surf camps’ at Playa Maderas – an unspoiled beach about 10 KM north of San Juan famed for its beach break.
San Juan del Sur is now firmly on the backpacker circuit, and with plenty of other activities available in the area – from turtle-watching trips, to horse riding, ATV driving, Spanish classes, fishing, and of course partying – it is sure to develop massively in the next ten years.
Whether you’re a beginner or more advanced surfer, because of the many varying beaches in the area, there will usually be somewhere suitable for you around San Juan. You can hire a surf board for about $10 a day, and lessons vary from between $10/hour and $30/hour depending on who you choose.
I liked San Juan so much, I went back and spent Christmas there surfing. The first time I stayed at "Crazy Dave’s" Surf Hideout on Maderas beach, but he was so obnoxiously loud he drove us away (more about that later). The second time I stayed in San Juan itself, in Hospedaje Don Wilfredo (right next to Big Wave Dave’s), which was a small, friendly, locally-owned hostel about 50 metres from the beach with private rooms for $4 & $5 a night – about half the price of a dormitory room in Casa Oro which all the younger backpackers seems to flock to like headless chickens. Must be the improved mating potential?
San Juan del Sur is probably less than half the price of Costa Rica, and you pretty much get the same in terms of surfing and lifestyle. In fact, having now also been to several Costa Rican beaches, I’d say the beaches around San Juan del Sur win hands down.