San Juan Del Sur: Nicaragua’s Beach Desination
If there is any place in Nicaragua that feels like Costa Rica, it’s San Juan del Sur. Located on the coast in the very southwest part of the country, it has been overtaken by foreign investments. What used to be a fishing village is now a prime tourist destination for every type of traveler. Whether you’re a family looking for relaxing beach time, or a budget traveler looking to party, or looking to invest in real estate or starting a business for tourists, San Juan del Sur is the place to go. It’s a place that seems to have just as many foreigners as locals. On the streets, you hear just as much English as Spanish. In other words, it’s not the place to go if you’re looking for culture.
Because of this, I have avoided going to San Juan del Sur. From most travelers I’ve met, they just talk about going out and the parties. Some people talk about the surfing. Others about the beaches. I honestly just decided to go so that I would know what it’s like when talking to people. After two nights and days there, I’ll say that I am happy that I went but it’s not a whole lot different than what I thought it’d be.
First of all, the beaches around the town are beautiful and well-worth going to. I took a day trip to Playa Maderas, just about 5 miles north of San Juan del Sur. I took private transportation with the hostel I was staying at. Paying $5, we took a pickup truck through the rough, rocky roads and finally ended up at the beach. With the exception of a few surf camps, there was not much besides land, sand, and ocean.
I did go to the beach in the town, which isn’t incredible, but it’s a beach. Within 20 seconds of getting in the water, I felt a sharp pain in my foot like something had stung me. The feeling spread all around my foot and up to my ankle. I hobbled out of the water to see a few red spots and saw my foot slowly swelling up. I limped back to my hostel, and the receptionist told me that it’s pretty common for a manta ray to sting. Kind of freaky. But I iced it and the swelling went down, and I am back to normal now.
Another cool thing to do in San Juan del Sur is to climb up to the Jesus statue that overlooks the town and the ocean. It took me about an hour from town to get up there; I paid the $2 fee, and then took in the astonishing views of the San Juan del Sur bay and the Pacific Ocean. I’ll let the photos do the talking.
I did meet a local guy who works in construction. I wanted to get an insider view on the feel for foreign development and how a local feels about, what I would call, a foreign takeover of their town. I always wonder how locals feel when the town seems overrun by tourists, who oftentimes act obnoxious, drunk, etc. He told me that people generally like the fact that they’ve become a tourist hotspot, for the jobs that it provides. However, he says, many foreigners come and treat Nicaraguans horribly, especially Germans. I imagine he just had a bad experience or two and now pegs Germans as a problem. I imagine it’s people from several different countries who come here and think they’re superior. Since he is in construction, I wonder if he has a different view of the foreign investment in general. He’s getting the extra work. I still wonder about people who aren’t working in the tourism industry. Have increased prices caused their quality of life to go backwards? This is often the effect of tourism, especially in small towns.
So it was a good trip. It’s about what I expected. Playa Maderas was better than I imagined it would be. The locals were less aggressive than I thought they would be for being a tourist town. And the lack of culture was exactly what I expected. I’m glad I went, but I don’t think I’d go again. There are better places to visit!