Top Things to do in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Top Things to do in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

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Nicaragua is one of the countries in Central America I still haven’t made it to.  It is definitely on my list, for the incredible nature, volcanoes, beaches and friendly people – I can’t wait to visit Nicaragua!  In the meantime though, I asked Daniela from The Lost Romanian to share her tips and recommendations for the best things to do in San Juan del Sur, one of the most popular destinations for backpackers in Nicaragua.  Here are her top activities in San Juan del Sur:

San Juan del Sur is one of the best places to visit when backpacking Nicaragua. Already known for the largest backpacker pool parties in Central America and for being a surfers’ paradise, it’s actually way more than that. I went there this year and I loved it. A great mixture of bright colours, relaxed vibe, and wave sounds. Here is my list of things to do in San Juan del Sur:

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What to do in San Juan Del Sur: Hike to Christ of the Mercy

This is one of my favourite things to do in San Juan del Sur. It’s a short hike, and you get a very beautiful view of the surroundings. I went in the late afternoon and watched the sunset from there, it was stunning, and I highly recommend it!

Insider Tip: At the entrance, the sign says it’s open until 6pm, but sunset is usually at 6pm. If you get there sometime before they close and overstay to watch the sunset, nobody will kick you out. And you won’t be the only one, so don’t worry.

The View from Cristo, San Juan del Sur. Credit: The Lost Romanian. Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
The View from Cristo, San Juan del Sur. Credit: The Lost Romanian.

Things to do in San Juan del Sur: Enjoy the waves

Surfing in San Juan del Sur is hugely popular, and just by getting close to the beach you will understand why. It’s windy and there are strong waves, so if you don’t know how to swim, it is best just to admire the ocean from the distance.

Unfortunately, I don’t know how to surf. There are other water sports as well, but again, not for un-sporty me. However, I still enjoyed myself going into the sea, trying to swim and jumping in the waves, the things kids do. It was great fun!

Bear in mind that the beach is not good for sunbathing. I was resting a bit while waiting to dry and the wind covered me with sand. If you want to tan, it is better to do it by a pool, there are plenty of them in San Juan del Sur.

The View from Cristo, Waves on the Beach. San Juan del Sur. Credit: The Lost Romanian. Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
The Waves from Cristo, San Juan del Sur. Credit: The Lost Romanian.

Dinner by the beach

There are many terraces by the beach. You just need to walk along the sea shore or on the Paseo del Rey, and decide which one you like best. They are all quite pricey for Nicaragua, but compared to other destinations with similar beautiful views, it’s quite cheap. I went to a different one every evening to enjoy the good food and watch the sun is slowly slide behind the sea.

Terrace on the Beach at San Juan del Sur. Credit: The Lost Romanian. Things to do in San Juan del Sur
Terrace on the Beach at San Juan del Sur. Credit: The Lost Romanian.

Join the Sunday Funday in San Juan del Sur

This is very famous among young backpackers, and if you are looking to party, this is the day to do it! Sunday Funday is a pool crawl hosted by many hostels across San Juan del Sur. Basically, it’s a drinking event, starting early morning on Sunday and ending in the evening, going from one pool to another and drinking as much as you can. It’s very popular here, with Pachamama and Naked Tiger hostels as leaders.

I wanted to try it as an experience, but decided not to, in the end. I have to admit, the older I get, the less of a great idea all-day drinking sounds. But if you like to party, then don’t miss it!

Simon Says in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua. Credit: The Lost Romanian
Simon Says in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua. Credit: The Lost Romanian

Relaxing afternoon at Simon Says

My favourite place to hang out on a lazy afternoon is Simon Says. They have a great variety of smoothies and salads that go perfectly with the hot weather. The place has an interior garden, with very creative and colourful decor. Unfortunately, they close quite early, at 4pm, so go there early to make the most of your time there.

The Garden at Simon Says in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua. Credit: The Lost Romanian
The Garden at Simon Says in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua. Credit: The Lost Romanian

Swing in a hammock

I have yet to see a place without a hammock in Nicaragua. Locals love them, and I can imagine why. Some of them are as colourful as the houses. If the heat is getting to you, just grab a cold drink and find a hammock close by, I’m sure you won’t have to walk too long.

Find a Hammock in Nicaragua and Relax!
Find a Hammock in Nicaragua and Relax! Credit: The Lost Romanian

A Day Trip to Ometepe Island from San Juan del Sur

From San Juan del Sur, I went on a day trip to Ometepe Island. Lake Nicaragua has a small island almost in the middle of it, called Ometepe. The island is made of two volcanos, Concepcion and Maderas.  It’s quite tiring for a day trip, but I didn’t have much time. I would recommend at least a 2-day trip. Also, it would be cheaper without an organized tour/ driver as you can take public buses and the ferry to the Island.

For the day trip, we joined the trip arranged by our hostel in San Juan del Sur. We hired a driver to take us from San Juan del Sur all the way to Ometepe, where we did a two hour hike to a pretty waterfall, then relaxed in a natural pool afterward.

READ MORE: The Ultimate Guide to Ometepe Island Nicaragua

Everybody says how amazing Ometepe is, and tells you it is a “must” in Nicaragua. And it may look like a small island on the map, but once there, it takes some time to get from one point to another, it definitely doesn’t feel small!  A day trip from San Juan del Sur is great if you are short on time, but try to spend longer there if you can.

One the way to Ometepe Island Nicaragua on a Day Trip fromSan Juan del Sur
One the way to Ometepe Island Nicaragua on a Day Trip fromSan Juan del Sur. Credit: The Lost Romanian

Trip to Granada

The easiest way from San Juan del Sur to Granada is by shuttle, which takes a few hours.  In Nicaragua I really like that you have shuttles connecting to any two cities. They take you from your hostel/hotel in point A and leave you at your hostel/hotel in point B. And the prices are quite reasonable for the convenience and the distances they cover. A very cheap option would be to take the local buses, but you usually need to change buses, and it takes much longer.

Visiting Granada from San Juan del Sur can be done on a day trip, but it is definitely worth more time if you have it. There is lots to do in Granada, I spent a few days there before going to San Juan del Sur or of course you can do it the other way around. Granada is a very colourful city, in the Spanish colonial style. The main plaza, Central Park, is surrounded by cafes and places to relax after a walk in the hot weather. You can also go up to the Granada Cathedral tower (for a small fee) to view the whole city.

Granada Central Park in Nicaragua. Credit: The Lost Romanian
Granada Central Park in Nicaragua. Credit: The Lost Romanian

Overall, San Juan del Sur Nicaragua is a great place to visit.  Go surfing, or scuba diving, you can even take Spanish classes here if you like, or just chill out and enjoy the nightlife!

About the author

Daniela loves traveling and exploring new places. She goes on a trip every month, some closer, some further away. She recently started a travel blog, to share what she saw and learned on the way and to inspire more people to travel.  You can find her blog at The Lost Romanian or follow her on Facebook or Instagram.

Have you been to San Juan del Sur?  Let us know in the comments below!

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Nicaragua is one of the countries in Central America I still haven’t made it to.  It is definitely on my list, for the incredible nature, volcanoes, beaches and friendly people - I can’t wait to visit Nicaragua!  In the meantime though, I asked Daniela from The Lost Romanian to share her tips and recommendations for the best things to do in San Juan del Sur, one of the most popular destinations for backpackers in Nicaragua.  Here are her top activities in San Juan del Sur:

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7 thoughts on “Top Things to do in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

  1. The shuttle system is genius. We need that in US cities. Seriously, imagine a specific shuttle being added to public transportation options. … And it looks and sounds awesome in Nicaragua.

  2. Nicaragua has come highly recommended by several friends and this seems like a great part of Nicaragua to explore. I really liked the idea of the hike to Crhrist of the Mercy and the great tip about sunrise. I am also not a surfer but would not mind giving it a try here. And ending the day with dinner and a view and relaxing in a hammock is heaven to me.

  3. Looks like a great place to kick back and relax in. Our kids love the beach so this would be perfect for them. they could get their bodyboards out and catch some waves. I like destinations that have good day trips and this seems to fit the bill.

  4. I haven’t heard much yet about San Juan del Sur, but it really sounds like a nice and lively city! I’d love to pay a visit to Simon Says, because I love the garden; it gives a really nice and cosy atmosphere. I’d also definitely try out all these eateries at the beach, that really gives a vacation feeling! 🙂

  5. I don’t know much about Nicaragua. I have heard it is quite safe. I would love to go to San Juan del Sur and enjoy the beach. Maybe also try some surfing even though I am not very good at it. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  6. Those hammocks are so colorful and beautiful. I’ve actually never relaxed in one and would love to do that read a book 🙂 That Simon Says place looks like a great spot to hang out too! I love smoothies and salads so it’s perfect for me.

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