San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua: A Beach Bum & Partier’s Paradise

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Located in the south of Nicaragua, right near the border of Costa Rica is one of our favorite beach towns. San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua was hands down, one of the best places we visited in Central America.

With its fun beach vibes, delicious food, and great prices, this small surf town is a must for your Central American bucket list. Check out all the reasons why you should visit San Juan del Sur!

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Where is San Juan del Sur?

San Juan del Sur is located of the west of coast of Nicaragua, all the way in the south of the country. Nicaragua is a country in Central America, which borders Costa Rica to its south, and Honduras to its north.

Where is San Juan del Sur on the map

San Juan del Sur is off the south west coast of Nicaragua.

How to Get to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

This gem of a town doesn't have an airport so nearby. However, there are several ways that you can make your way to San Juan del Sur.

If you plan on flying into the area, you can either start from Managua (the capital of Nicaragua), or from Liberia in Costa Rica. From those cities, we'll now explain how to get there.

Flight Tip: Using Skyscanner you can put from "your city" to "Everywhere". This way you can see which is the cheapest airport in the area to fly. Also, you can check the calendar to see which are the cheapest dates for your destination!

Search for a flight to Managua or Liberia:

Getting to San Juan del Sur From Managua

As Managua is the capital, this is a great starting point to avoid having to cross any borders. Managua is 2 1/2 hours north of San Juan del Sur. If you plan on taking a short trip, we would suggest renting a car. However, if you are planning on continuing your trip towards Costa Rica, you can take a bus.

Here is a site we use to book our car rentals:

There are two different options for the bus, both from Mercado Huembes in Managua. The first option is to take the bus direct to San Juan del Sur for about $4 USD. This takes 2 1/2-3 hours, and leaves at 4:00 pm every day.

If you can't do the trip at 4:00, there are regular buses to Rivas, which take about 3 hours, with a 45 minute ride in bus after to San Juan del Sur.

Want to book a transfer from Managua to San Juan del Sur in advance? There are also shuttle services:

Getting to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua from Costa Rica

In order to get to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua from Costa Rica, you can fly into Liberia, which is the airport in the north of Costa Rica. From Liberia you can grab a bus to Peñas Blancas, which is the bordering town.

Once you arrive at Peñas Blanca there are public buses from the border. They do not run very frequently at all, but there are also plenty of taxis waiting at the border and the best thing to do is to barter your butt off, as you will have many people offering you different prices. The ride is an hour, and should cost about $10 USD.

If you'd rather have just one seamless transfer. you can book a shuttle from Liberia to San Juan del Sur:

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Things to Do in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

This beach town has the perfect balance of relaxation and partying. Here are some of the great things to do in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.

1. Take in the Views from Cristo Misericordia

Want to get a magical view of San Juan del Sur? From downtown, it is just a few kilometers away. It is about an hour walk, half of it being uphill. We got lucky, and were picked up, leaving us right at the entrance, which saved us from the hike. You could also easily get a taxi if you wish.

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The Christ statue at the top made us feel like we were in a mini Rio de Janeiro, but without the crowds! The entrance is just $2 for tourists, and $1 for locals. We went during sunset, and had the place to ourselves, with the most beautiful views. They closed right after sunset, so we had just enough time to enjoy the last half hour there.

Cristo Misericordia viewpoint San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

The Cristo Misericordia has the best view of San Juan del Sur.

2. Learn How to Surf

One of the best things to do in this beach town is to learn how to surf. The most popular activity by far is taking surf lessons, as there are so many great beaches in the area.

You can book at many places along the streets, or directly with your hostel. They will pick you up in the morning, and take you to the various beaches that are about 10-20 minutes away.

3. Visit the Beautiful Beaches

The most accessible beach is the main beach of Playa del San Juan del Sur. There are plenty of restaurants, hotels, and bars lined along the beach, and there are great parties at night.

The most beautiful beaches are located a little bit outside town, and are where many tours are taken for surfing. Here are a few of the beaches that are just a short drive away:

North of San Juan del Sur (in order of distance closest to furthest)

  • Playa Nacasola: Accessed by a walk or by boat, this remote, laid-back beach offers recreation & picturesque views.
  • Playa Marsella: A beach that is a little quieter. It has cabins for rental, a couple of restaurants, and kayaks & paddle boards available.
  • Playa Maderas: This is the most popular beach amongst backpackers, and there are 4 different restaurants to choose from.
  • Playa Ocotal: Good for snorkeling, Scuba Diving, and fishing, this is a small and quieter beach town area.

South of San Juan del Sur (in order of distance from closest to furthest)

  • Playa Peña Rota: This beach is a bit more rugged, but offers simple snacks, cold drinks, and great views.
  • El Remanzo: Here is a great place for beginner surfers. It offers plenty of restaurants & bars, and on a clear day shows great views of the mountains from Costa Rica.
  • Playa Hermosa: There’s a $3 entrance fee, but it comes with an array of hammocks, palapas, showers, and bathrooms. As well there is a restaurant, bar, and horseback riding.
  • Playa del Yankee: This long stretch of sand is more secluded, and has no amenities. It is best reached by 4x4 and is abour 30 minutes from San Juan del Sur.
San Juan del Sur beach

4. Party Hard for Sunday Funday

If you are planning on visiting San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, you NEED to plan to make sure you are there for Sunday. This famous party is known all through Central America, and it is an epically good time.

Join the fun of hopping from one pool to the next, from morning 'til night. The party starts at Pachamama hostel, and has 5 different stops. The ticket is $25 and it includes a tank top of your choice, entrance to all of the parties, the transportation from each place to the other, and a few drink tickets as well.

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This was our most fun experience in Nicaragua. Not only did we party all day, but we met the best groups of people, and even met up with a few later on in our travels! Get ready to be covered with glitter & tattoos, and ready to try many different types of drinks.

Sunday Funday, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Sunday Funday San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Sunday Funday is an absolute must in San Juan del Sur, and is the biggest in Central America.

In order to book tickets, just make sure you have cash, and book directly with any of the hostels included in this pool party crawl. It is actually a little cheaper if you are staying in one of hostels that hosts the party. Not to mention, it will be much easier to stay in the loop and meet friends beforehand.

Don't have time to read the whole article and want to save it for later? Just pin it!

San Juan del Sur Nicaragua Pin
San Juan del Sur Nicaragua Pin
San Juan del Sur Nicaragua Pin

5. Take a Trip to Ometepe

Located just an hour away from San Juan del Sur, is the beautiful island of Ometepe. Take a dip in a crystal clear swimming hole, cool off at a waterfall, hike a volcano, or ride around in a scooter enjoying the scenery. This island is a must see if you are in the south of Nicaragua! 

San Ramon Waterfall, Ometepe, best places to visit in Central America
Ojo del Agua, Ometepe Island
Ometepe, Nicaragua, best places to visit in Central America

Ometepe is an Island in Nicaragua with some stunning nature.

Want to learn more about the island of Ometepe? Simply check out the article below for our full guide!

Ometepe is a 107 square mile island located in Lake Cocibolca, Nicaragua. Shaped by two massive volcanoes. this is a true piece of paradise, and a backpackers dream. Here's all you need to know about Ometepe Island.*Please note that this blog post may contain some affiliate links, which we make

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The Best Eats in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua 

The cuisine in Nicaragua blew us away! It wasn't only extremely flavorful, but the portions were generous, and the prices were affordable. There are many things we ate in Nicaragua in all different cities that we loved, but here were some one of our favorites in San Juan del Sur.

The Nicaraguan Breakfast

Being from the US, it's hard to find other countries that can really compete with our breakfast. However, we loved the breakfast throughout this country. The Nicaraguan breakfast Includes eggs to order, rice & beans, fresh cheese, toast, & salsa. It is also accompanied by coffee, water, & juice. 

Nicaraguan breakfast

The Nicaraguan breakfast leaves you satisfied and full without having to spend a ton.

Lobster Mac 'n Cheese

This was seriously one of the best meals we ate in all of Central America. Located right on the beach, this dish was fresh, hearty, and generous in size. Not only was it so incredibly delicious, but it was a fraction of the price of what you would pay in many other countries! A little more expensive than typical Nicaraguan meals, this is seriously worth the "splurge".

Located right on the beach, was this wonderful little spot, called "The Beach House", where we enjoyed our lobster mac 'n cheese right on the beach.

restaurant "The Beach House", San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Lobster Mac n Cheese, San Juan del Sur Nicaragua

The lobster Mac 'n cheese at Beach House was one of the best meals we had in San Juan del Sur.

Pizza Cone

Pizza wrapped into the shape of a cone- need we say more? This is quick delicious, and easy to take away. We can't get enough of these!

Pizza Cone in San Juan del Sur

The pizza cone is a must try while in San Juan del Sur.

How to Get Around San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Now that you know the best things to do in San Juan de Sur, and the basics for visiting, it's time to cover the best ways to get around.

Is San Juan del Sur Walkable?

The center of San Juan del Sur is very small, and easy to walk around. If you would like to travel to the nearby beaches though, the only option is taxi, by tour, or by renting a car.

We suggest if you would like to save a few dollars, or have a little more freedom, to rent a bike or scooter to get around.  The best option is to get a 4x4 though, so you can reach all of the different beach areas.

Naked Tiger Hostel, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Sunset at Naked Tiger Hostel

Where to Stay in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua is a backpacker's paradise, making the hostel scene a very fun and welcoming atmosphere. As well, Nicaragua is much cheaper than the neighboring country of Costa Rica, making the luxury option much more affordable.

Either way you go, there are so many great options when it comes to accommodation. Here are some of our personal favorites.

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Naked Tiger Hostel

The Naked Tiger hostel is one of the hostels that is in the Sunday Funday line up, so it is definitely a good place to party. It is a little bit further from downtown San Juan del Sur, but has a great pool, and beautiful views of the city. This is also one of the last stops of the Sunday Funday party,  making it easier if Sunday Funday is in your plan.

Naked Tiger Hostel in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

The Naked Tiger hostel is the last stop on the Sunday Funday pool crawl, making it a great place to stay.

Pachamama Hostel

This is the hostel where Sunday Funday begins, so in our opinion, is one of the best. It is located right in the middle of town, and has a fun, backpacker like vibe, with a pool. What more could you want?

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Rent a Villa

When visiting San Juan del Sur, we met a group of 8 guys that rented out a luxury villa. The villa was located on the top of the hill, giving excellent views of the city.

They had a personal chef, swimming pool, and two story rental. Also, the price was extremely reasonable compared to the other Central American countries, such as Panama or Costa Rica.

AirBnb San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

The view from our friends' villa that they rented on Airbnb

Search for a villa in San Juan del Sur:

Is San Juan del Sur Safe Right Now?

While Central America gets a bad rep for safety, the truth is that many places aren't dangerous at all!

We find Nicaragua to feel completely safe, with the most friendly and welcoming people. San Juan del Sur has a lot of tourism, and is certainly a place where you can feel comfortable walking around solo or at night.

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Other Things to Know for Visiting San Juan del Sur

Now you know almost everything you need to know for visiting San Juan del Sur! But here are a few last details to keep in mind.

Weather in San Juan del Sur

Nicaragua only has two seasons, which are rainy and dry. It is hot and sunny year-round here, but during the rainy season it is much more humid, with frequent showers and storms.

When is the Best Time to Visit San Juan del Sur?

The dry months are from November to May, so we suggest visiting from December to April for the best weather. We also highly suggest visiting on the weekend, so that you can experience San Juan del Sur's great Sunday Funday.

Packing for a Trip to San Juan del Sur

San Juan del Sur is all about the beach vibes! You won't need to bring anything too fancy, as this town has a relaxed backpacker vibe. Here are a few things we suggest bringing:

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San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua was one of our favorite places that we visited in Central America. It's the perfect mix of partying and relaxing, and also is a stone's throw from Costa Rica. Add this small town to your bucket list for an unforgettable weekend!

We also have plenty of other great spots in Nicaragua, as well as the surrounding countries to share with you. 

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