In our opinon, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua is a can’t miss destination for any cruisers moving up or down the pacific, central american coast. It is a fantastic little town, with great food, good prices and easy access to surf beaches, volcanoes, Lago Nicaraugua, Ometepe, Grenada or even Managua. The people are very friendly and the city (the whole country really) is extremely clean. There is a consistent off shore breeze that keeps the temperature down and the bugs away. The interior is spectacular and the beaches are lovely (check out Romanzo, a terrific little sandy bottom cove that is good for playing in the waves, or for beginner surfers (also the first palapa on the right has amazing shrimp tacos!). We stopped in San Juan for a night or two and ended up staying for two weeks!
For any of you cruisers that are considering a stop over at San Juan del Sur we have collected a few tidbits of info to share.
First of all, semi retired cruisers, expats and local hoteliers, Ralph and Rinda have been here for 16 years and are generous with both their time and information. Their contact info is on every cruising forum that mentions SJdS and their boat, Eagle Dancer, is right out in the harbor. Send them an email, they like to meet for happy hours (be prepared for Ralph to wax poetic on the virtues of Flora de Cana…….after one to two, you will agree with him!)
Immigration and the Port Authority are located in the fishing terminal on the far eastern side of the bay. The Navy office is adjacent to the fishing terminal just outside the gate. Checking in is relatively easy, although you should be prepared for either the Navy or the Port to ask to inspect your boat. There is also a fuel dock located at the terminal, but it is a concrete dock and a bit rough. We used jerry cans filled at the gas station just outside of the gate to refuel. We ran the fuel through a Baja filter, but it was completely unnecessary, the diesel was pristine.
Immediately north of, and adjacent to, the Fishermans terminal is the port; with two good sized docks and full time security guards. You can tie your dinghy up here for about a dollar a day. You can purchase daily or weekly passes from the office across the street. Also there is a bank on the grounds with an ATM that dispenses in either Cordobas or US dollars. Virtually every business will accept your dollars, but change will usually be given back in Cordobas.
The town center is organized roughly on a four or five square block grid, the beachfront palapas run from the southeast to the southwest corners, the town square occupies the northeast corner and the road out of town leaves from the northwest. You enter town from the dinghy dock in the south eastern corner of the grid. Everything is easily walkable.
There are several markets, including a medium sized Pali Supermercado for provisioning. The small import store next to the municipal market has a great variety of North American brands and products: pastas, sauces, oils, canned tomatoes, coconut milk, soy, sesame etc…..There is also a good carneceria on the main street heading out of town. Fresh produce is readily available in many places, but the selection is best at the produce store a block and a half off the beachfront, on the first street you come to after leaving the dock. However, the pis de resistance of provisioning options, has to be the local fish mongers: fresh mahi, tuna, snapper, shrimp, ceviche, all unimaginably fresh and cheap!
Big Wave Daves would be unremarkable as far as expat bars go, except for two things: First, on Saturdays, there is a lovely little farmers market held in their courtyard. Local produce, meats, juices and sundry. Secondly, every week Dave makes a trip to Managua. For a 10% fee ($10 minimum) He will bring you back whatever you need from Costco (Pricemart), Walmart, Home Depot etc. Also, in an irony that will only be understood by a few, he has a very distinctive (and familiar) logo.
There are a number of swimming pool options. The neatest is Tree Casa. Everyday they shuttle folks up to their beautiful resort with a two level swimming pool, jumping/diving cliff and water slide. Wednesdays is Happy Hour Day with $1 beers all day and a BBQ special. They also have a horseback tour for just $15 that people say is really cool. The office/shuttle location for Tree Casa is a block past Big Wave Days on the street out of town. Shuttles leave hourly beginning at 10AM. Other swimming pool options: the Blue Marlin has a nice little pool for no charge if you eat or drink there. Pelican Eyes has an amazing pool with a view of town and the bay, they ask $10 for a day use pass, it is unclear when exactly they enforce it though. People who eat and drink sometimes are not charged.
There are a number of small ferreterias, but the selection is limited. You may have to travel to Rivas, a few miles inland for specialty items. However, if you need Solar, Jarrett at Southland Outfitters has panels, controllers and performs installations.
You can have fresh water, in 5 gallon carboys and propane delivered to you at the dock. Text or Whats App (+) 505 8869 1307. His name is Hency and he is honest. He tracked down our friends to return proper change.
We took day trips to Grenada, Ometepe and Masaya Volcano with it’s conical opening and bubbling lava. There are numerous taxi’s and shuttles available. But Rinda strongly advocated for Carilo who runs a little driving service. He spoke excellent English and made us a fair deal, taking six of us for the whole day. Carillo can be reached by phone or text at: +505 8867 2336.
Nicaraugua is our favorite spot that we have visited yet. We absolutely loved it here, if you stop in, we hope that you enjoy it too.
SV Epiphany Crew