Depending on what you like when you travel can be a huge deciding factor as to whether or not you will want to visit San Juan del Sur. I feel like I have completely stepped out of Nicaragua. Knowing Spanish isn’t necessary, menus and staff all speak enough English to get by. When you try to speak spanish or order in spanish, they often reply in English. This bothers me, mostly because I’m still trying to improve my spanish and because I will never get better if I’m not forced to speak it.
If you like to surf, you may really enjoy San Juan del Sur and all the beaches surrounding it. Though the water temperature is inconsistent and it was necessary to wear a wetsuit the other day.
If you enjoy partying and going to clubs, there is plenty of nightlife, good music and great party atmosphere. Similar to what you see on tv shows and movies of big parties.
My biggest issue here is the cost of everything. I can only assume that the people that come here are very ignorant as to how much anything actually costs in Nicaragua because I’m stuck paying double for everything. The biggest killer has been food. Average food that has attempted to be Americanized for much higher prices than they are worth. We lucked out and saved $7/night on our hostal because we got a place with no private bathroom or pool. For $18 a night we did get breakfast included but breakfast is toast and coffee. Also, their bar is overpriced, they don’t allow outside alcohol into the hostal and we are spending over $20 a meal to eat mediocre food.
The guys in the street are actually trying to rip you off here. In Leon and most places, I’ve found that people are generally honest and prices are low. Bus employees have given me full change back when I’ve misheard how much it costs and give too many bills. I bought a pair of sunglasses in Leon for 70 cords. I asked a guy on the street how much a similar pair of glasses were one day in SJDS and he told me 200 cords. I actually laughed in his face and started walking away. He came down to 100 cords very quickly after that, I laughed again and walked away.
The problem is, people just pay the prices because they’re ignorant. They have no idea how much anything costs and because they’re on vacation they don’t care. I’ve never been to Costa Rica, but Kristi says that this is exactly what Costa Rica is like in a lot of places now. We might make an exception to go see Alberto at his hotel one day though.
Fortunately, there is a lot to do here as far as tours go and some of it is very reasonably priced. We are going Ziplining today or “Canopying” as it’s called here. It’s $30 each which seems reasonable but it’s just zipline to zipline in quick fashion. Fortunately had a small group, it was Kristi and I along with a couple from Winnipeg who were great. It would have been nice to have more interactive guides so we could learn more about the plants and wildlife. Either way we had some fun, enjoyed the beautiful view and I hope the GoPro footage turned out well. We’ve been having an issue with the camera fogging up in the case so we’re not sure how good it will be. There are lots of other options for activities too: renting surf boards or taking lessons, snorkeling, sailing, pub crawls (comes with a free tshirt brah), paintball and renting ATVs. The problem is, I can pay the similar prices at home in Vancouver for a lot of this stuff.
Our overall experience here has not been great to put it politely. A couple positive highlights with a nice sunburn but overall we have been disappointed. Paying 30 cords a beer instead of 20-25 adds up quickly when there’s 2 of you. Talking to people who have complaints about the selection of TV channels they can watch in English and the roid monkey partiers that make every day here UFC night at the bar. We are really looking forward to going back to Leon for our last couple days.
Again, it really depends on what your scene is. If you enjoy partying, surfing, not needing to actually speak Spanish and not caring about how much things cost because you’re on vacation, then San Juan del Sur may be the place for you. The beaches and the views are beautiful and the water is clear. I’m sure there are a lot of people that love this place and that’s why it’s become the popular destination that it is today and still on the rise. Maybe I would have liked it a lot more if I had started my trip here. But after seeing the rest of Nicaragua, I find it hard to want to be here when I can be anywhere else in the country.
We did spend a day at Playa Maderas as well which was a $5 round trip shuttle. The beach was beautiful, we hung out there from 1pm-5pm but the water was ice cold. Although it was nice not to get stung by a jellyfish like I did the day before
We actually really enjoyed our time there but we decided to order the Pad Thai that was featured on the menu… oops. And of course, we each ordered it. I was just craving some good Thai food.
A part of me feels bad that these people will see San Juan del Sur and maybe Granada and/or the Corn Islands but miss out of great places like Rio San Juan, Jiquilillo, Matagalpa, Somoto and Juigalpa. Then I think, “Why would I want to see all these people there?” I love this country for the imperfections that SJDS has cleaned up. I like the crappy service in restaurants, the fact that I need to use spanish to converse, people selling cheap and random items in the streets. I came here to get away from the North American lifestyle.
Anyways, I want to remain positive so I’m going to stop talking about SJDS. Unfortunately my final memory of the place was paying $8 to have my laundry done and I didn’t even get a happy ending.
Final Note: I believe that SJDS could be a decent place to live. I find I enjoy the party way more when I’m behind the bar making drinks and having fun. I also believe that you can eat for reasonably cheap but you have to get out of the touristy beach area to do so. The supermarket is like a 30minute walk from the beach.