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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 afterwards.
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.
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.
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!
Looking for a hostel in San Juan del Sur? I recommend using Hostelworld to check prices, read reviews, and book your hostel.
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