After completing my Spanish studies for the moment in Granada, I was more than ready to move on. I made the decision to head to San Juan Del Sur for some much needed beach and fun time, and what a great decision it was. I would attend the infamous Sunday Funday, surf and eat burritos to my hearts content. Boarding the school bus marked ‘Rivas’ with many locals and a handful of alert-looking travellers I sat next to a smiling jewelry maker from Guatemala. He showed me his creations and we chatted in Spanish. I could smell the Flor de Cana on his breath, which as a polite fellow he offered me, but I wasn’t ready to start just yet. I met an awesome few new friends on the bus that would make my trip to San Juan all the more awesome.
The view of the ocean so close and glimmering as we got out of the sticky taxi made my heart explode, I loved this place already. After realizing we weren’t the only people rolling into SJDS after trying at both popular Pachamama hostels we strolled down and found accommodation at an Irish bar/hostel right on the beach called Casa del Mar. If you find yourself in a similar situation, never fear, there are tons of accomodations in close proximity to eachother, but if showing up for Sunday Funday it’s wise to book ahead. The world cup was on as we walked in, the bar surrounded by enthusiastic locals getting in on the contagious football excitement and 20 cordoba beers. If I may add, these were the cheapest beers I could find at any bar.
Being a small town, the beach is pretty much close to everything, either a walk or a bike ride away, and if you’re up in the hills a little bit you’re still pretty close by truck or cab. The main beach right out front is perfect for swimming and is even a little surfable.
In town, there are a plethora of restaurants and cafes that are sure to catch your eye. Though some are more expensive than your typical Central American establishments, they are cool places and worth checking out. I’d recommend Gato Negro Café for a great cup of coffee and breakfast, as well as a huge selection of books for sale, a big table with stacks of tarot cards, baked goods and an assortment of handicrafts. For a gourmet burger or inventive appies, check out Nacho Libre, a little burger place with crafty and original burgers with prime ingredients and a cool atmosphere. They have veggie options too! If the Canadian in you is craving some poutine or a stacked Caesar, hit The Loose Moose, a patriotic pub/eatery that also has a good sushi roll. There are also a few taco/burrito mainly-to-go places that top the list like Taco Stop.
Fuelled and ready to go it’s time to hit the beach and SURF! A $5 each truck ride (with a couple other people) will take out out to Playa Maderas, one of my favorite beaches for surfing ever. That’s a bold statement, yes. There are more amazing beaches in the area, but this was the only one I was so fortunate to surf at. You can rent a board there but they’re not abundant so it’s easier to rent one in town from a surf shop that will most likely have a truck to take you out as well. These top class waves cater to more advanced as well as beginner surfers and the vibe is just amazing. There are a couple restaurants/cafes on the beach, a popular camping area and a SLACKLINE. That’s my jam. Get yo’ surf on, get yo’ tan on, get yo’ balance on. Maderas is beautiful. There are a few hotels scattered along the road toward the beach and a hostel right at the beach, but this place is generally booked due to it’s location so call ahead. Seriously a must-go beach.
So it’s time to talk about the once a week gathering of debaucherous young people getting crazy in pools, the infamous Sunday Funday. Waking up pretty hungover and waiting in line to buy a ticket with a bunch of soon to be homies, I can honestly say I was not feeling it. Thanks to my crew for keeping me on track though and not missing out. If you’re going to attend any party in Nicaragua this is a great one to hit. After buying a wristband/claiming your rightful Sunday Funday singlet, the day is yours to mentally and physically prepare (whatever that means) until the trucks start coming and hauling away party-goers to a resort overlooking the bay, the first stop of the madness. The infinity pool beckons as you enter, and the place is packed. One word of warning here though, the bathroom to attendee ratio is way off, so just try not to go or you’ll be spending a lot of time in a line up. Easier said than done, I know. The pool crawl eventually takes you to the Naked Tiger hostel for even more ‘wholesome’ fun and then at the end of it all down to Pachamama Hostel in town. It’s a great ride, and if you roll with it, prepare for an amazing time.
If your body is still going and your head still wants to party, there are a couple fun bars in town as well, like The Black Whale and Iguana. The Black Whale has pool tables and also does fire shows. One word of warning, as San Juan del Sur is a more touristed place, petty crimes can be more common, but just keep your wits about you as usual and don’t venture onto the beach at night.
If you’re looking to get some new artwork needled into your wonderfully tan skin, I highly recommend Guy Mark Tattoo. This amazing artist has been tattooing around the globe for quite a while, with a highly unique and sought after watercolor style. If you dig his style, go in ahead of time to chat as he’s usually pretty booked up, and make sure you get all your surfing done first.
It’s definitely understandable how people get ‘stuck’ in SJDS, beautiful beaches, surf, great food and great times all around.
Have you been to San Juan? What were your experiences of this little beach town?