San Juan del Sur

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
A view of San Juan del Sur from the lookout point at the Statue of Christ

A quiet, small sleepy fishing village for many years. San Juan del Sur has become the most popular beach destination in Nicaragua. It has s small horseshoe bay surrounded by mountains. Extensive beaches are ideal for swimming and sunbathing. Add to this its friendly community and you have a winner! San Juan del Sur is the favourite vacation and investment location for foreigners and locals alike.

The port itself goes back to early colonial days. It was discovered by a Spaniard named Andres Niño in 1522. Because the natural horseshoe bay provided such great protection from inclement weather; it quickly became an important port, changing names several times over the years. The community grew steadily after the port became part of the transcontinental route used steadily during the California Gold Rush. Back in the days when Cornelius Vanderbilt controlled the transit route. This route interconnected the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, from Greytown on the Caribbean Sea, today known as San Juan de Nicaragua, up the San Juan River, navigating the huge Lake Nicaragua and then overland across the narrow isthmus of Rivas, that is less than 20 km wide to San Juan del Sur on the Pacific coast.

San Juan del Sur
The pool and restaurant at Pelicans Eye Resort at San Juan del Sur

San Juan del Sur is 140 km (approximately 88 miles) from Managua on the Panamerican highway. It is only 43 km (27 miles) from the Peñas Blancas border crossing with Costa Rica. Because of the natural beauty of its bay, San Juan del Sur is the ideal spot for several important resort community developments. The most outstanding of which are Pelicans Eye and Villas Palermo. In addition, there are many private residences. A large condo complex dominates the north end of the Bay.

You can’t miss the huge statue of Christ on top of the hill. Access to it is easy by car, but quite a hike uphill from town. (I don’t recommend hiking up from town under the heat of the sun) Access to the lookout spot at the foot of the statue is worth $2.00 US or its equivalent in Cordobas. Believe me the view is well worth it!


Although the beaches within the bay are not good for surfing , San Juan del Sur is internationally famous for the outstanding surf beaches around it. There are many pristine beaches, both to the north and south of the bay that offer world class surfing. The offshore winds that create outstanding waves attract surfers to these latitudes and are a magnet for international surfers that will travel around the world in search of the perfect wave.

There are many different hotels, both in town as well as on the beaches on either side of the bay. These hotels offer accommodations that range from budget hostels to luxurious rooms and villas. Several of them operating as surfing camps.  As for dining, drinking and partying, you will find a wide selection of options, most of them right on the beach. Relax under a cool, thatched roof and see the waves break and the sun set.

There are many different beaches both to the North and South of San Juan del Sur:

San Juan del Sur
Barrio Cafe Restaurant and Bar at Playa Maderas

The beaches north of San Juan del Sur; Marbella, Majahual and Maderas are more developed. These offer several outstanding properties to stay in. However, there are also several smaller basic lodges and hostels for those on a tight budget. Some of the higher end hotels in the San Juan del Sur area are in this neighbourhood. Options like Morgans Rock Hotel, Mango Rosa Resort and Playa Maderas Hotel are in this neck of the woods!

On the south of San Juan del Sur, you can find beaches such as Playa El Remanso, Playa Yankee, Playa El Coco and Playa El Ostional.  On these southern beaches, there are fewer accommodations. Lodging options however are always available. The most plentiful can be found at Playa El Coco, with options from a luxury villa to a basic surf camp facilities.

San Juan del Sur is a hub during the the daytime hours for surfing. At night it transforms itself and rocks to the rhythm of latin music on the various beachfront bars and discos. During the Nicaraguan holidays, San Juan del Sur becomes the party capital in Nicaragua. Many music bands and disk jockeys compete to attract locals and tourists alike to the party atmosphere.

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