San Juan del Sur and Playa Maderas, Nicaragua

The border crossing from Costa Rica into Nicaragua was a bit hectic. A local bus dropped us off at the border and we were immediately hounded by people trying to ‘help’ us – for a fee of course. Luckily a local Nicaraguan on his way home offered to help us navigate the various offices and fees we had to get through. After a bunch of random fees that we had to pay and visiting about four different offices we managed to take our first steps onto Nicaraguan soil. Don’t worry, sure the border is crazy but you will be able to work it out, just ask around and people will help you.

We had met a couple of American girls on the bus so we all hopped into a taxi for the short 45-minute drive to San Juan del Sur. It cost us US$5 each in the taxi. You can do it a bit cheaper by taking a bus to Rivas and then on to San Juan del Sur, but by this point we were hot and couldn’t be bothered dealing with any other admin. We got dropped off at the place we were staying, Hostel Esperanza, which is right in front of the beach. This place has a really good location and does a great egg and gallo pinto (beans and rice) breakfast. San Juan del Sur didn’t blow us away, the beach is not very nice and you can’t really swim in the ocean. Also if you walk on the beach at night it is guaranteed that you will get robbed. However, there are some cool bars around the place, so we basically just ate food and drank.

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Food always comes in a bag

One neat thing to do in San Juan del Sur is to climb up to the massive Jesus statue that looms over the bay. It gave us some great views of the town and surrounding area.

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That view

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The main reason that people come to San Juan del Sur is to take advantage of the surrounding surfing beaches and for the weekly Sunday Funday party. We were really happy that our visit to San Juan lined up with a Sunday. You pay US$30 for a ticket, that comes with a free singlet, to one of the best parties in Central America. Sunday Funday is a day and night long pool crawl between various hostels and hotels, free shuttles take you to each place. We met a bunch of awesome people and had a really awesome day, drinking, playing games, swimming and hitting the D floor. It’s all about having fun and getting loose, so it was a pretty epic day!

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Our favourite place in this area was at a beach called Playa Maderas. It is a surf beach and an easy 20-minute shuttle from San Juan del Sur. There is just one hostel there called Hostel Los Tres Hermanos. We ended up staying three nights there and loved it. The only downside is that they don’t have a kitchen to use so I recommend bring snacks and food that you don’t need a kitchen for. The hostel is literally located right on the beach and when it’s high tide the waves sometimes flow right into the restaurant!

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Andrew living the dream

We both do not really know how to surf; Andrew had one lesson a few years ago so we relied on that. You can rent surfboards for US$10 a day so we played around in the water and attempted to stand up. It was a lot of fun and the water was a really nice temperature. We love swimming in big waves, so Playa Maderas was perfect for hurtling around in the surf.

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The food was good, the beer was cold, and the company was great. There is even a Frisbee golf course down the road that we visited, and howler monkeys watched us as we attempted to toss Frisbees around the course. The howler monkeys made the most bizarre sounds; in fact, a lot of the noises that howler monkeys make were used as sounds for the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park! Yes, very strange noises to be coming from monkeys. Also the sunsets at Playa Maderas were out of this world! Every night we were rewarded with the most beautiful sunsets we had ever seen.

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Incredible

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We didn’t think we would ever want to leave, but on our last morning we woke up to a massive storm. The winds were crazy and the rain was coming in sideways, plus our room was leaking! The roads turned to mud and we weren’t sure we were going to be able to leave. At this point we weren’t too keen on sticking around for high tide, given the location of the hostel and the waves that would inevitably be crashing into it. Luckily a 4X4 was sent to pick us up. Maybe it was a good thing the weather turned crazy because we might never have left.

Here is a breakdown of our costs for 6 days:

Budget = US$504 (NZ$720)

Accommodation – US$158

Activities – US$79

Food/Drink – US$233

Travel (incl. Taxis) – US$37

Miscellaneous – US$53

Total spent – US$560 (NZ$807)

So we ended up being US$56 (NZ$87) over budget. We thought that as soon as we crossed into Nicaragua that things were going to be very cheap. Unfortunately this does not apply to San Juan del Sur. It’s very touristy and more like Panama prices here. We could definitely have spent less on food and drink, but hey, what else were we going to do in San Juan del Sur!

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