The most popular things to do in San Juan del Sur are surfing and drinking. How can life get any better than that really? San Juan del Sur is small town and basically a tourist (especially backpackers) haven in Nicaragua. Everything is within walking distance and the tourist vibe makes it very safe and easy to travel. English is spoken by nearly everybody and USD is the advertised currency. Food, drinks, and accommodation are cheap and cater to western culture. In fact, every weekend an event called Sunday Funday San Juan del Sur brings hundreds of tourists looking to join in on one of the world’s top ranked parties. But besides the party vibe, there is surprisingly a very relaxed vibe around town as well.
There was something very special about San Juan del Sur. I have been to a lot of beach towns that attract backpackers, and although there isn’t a ton of specific things to do in San Juan del Sur, it would be favorite out of all of them. This place is just welcoming and comfortable. You’ll have to go for yourself to fully understand what I mean. I hope this guide helps to inspire you to make the trip!
Get to San Juan Del Sur
We came from Monteverde in Costa Rica and it was a bit of a journey. Basically, when coming to San Juan del Sur by chicken bus (local transport in run down buses) it is essential to transfer in Rivas at the Bus terminal. From the Rivas bus Terminal it is a $1.50 USD hour long journey and will drop you in the center of town. Super easy.
Things to Do in San Juan del Sur
Watch the Sunset with a Beer
Go to the main beach in town any night that isn’t storming and watch the sunset. This is a must as the sunsets do not disappoint. I was in San Juan del Surf for 6 nights and went to the beach for the sunset EVERY night and each sunset was unique but equally beautiful. Grab a beer from a local shop for $1 USD and sit on a towel and relax. There are even street food vendors set up right near the beach if you are keen for a snack, the chicken quesadillas are really good.
The surf is very good in San Juan del Sur. Locals and tourists carefully time high tide and all head to the beach to catch some waves. When I was here, every afternoon was “surf time” and I couldn’t walk more than 5 minutes without being offered a shuttle to Playa Hermosa for $7 USD. I am not the best surfer so I took lessons while I was here at a surf camp and I highly recommend this as I learned very quickly and felt more comfortable with a local instructor than I would have just renting a board and joining all the experienced surfers in the water.
Relax Poolside with a Cocktail in Hand
One of the best things to do in San Juan del Sur is simply to have a few pool days. Do yourself a favor and choose your accommodation wisely, many places have nice pools but they also have huge parties and they are hardly a place to unwind. We stayed at a beautiful place called The Surf Ranch Hotel and Resort, and it was exactly the perfect place to live in luxury without spending a fortune. Located a couple kilometers out of town The Surf Ranch was tranquil without all the craziness of town (but offered free shuttles in to town which was super convenient as well!) The pool was gorgeous and food and drinks were reasonably priced so I relaxed in a pool lounger with a margarita and life couldn’t get any better.
Sunday Funday San Juan del Sur
This “pool crawl” is an event many people (including us) plan their stay in San Juan del Sur around. Sunday Funday San Juan del Sur is known all around the world as a crazy pub crawl that one simply cannot miss when traveling the backpacker trail in Central America. We joined in on the craziness and had afternoon of laughs and drunken stories with other backpackers from all over the globe. It definitely lived up to its reputation and was one of the best parties we have been to on our entire trip.
Relax at a Beachside Restaurant
The beach in the town of San Juan del Sur is beautiful to look at. There is white sand, people swimming, boats heading out, and locals playing volleyball all within 100 meter. Lining the beach are some top notch restaurants with lounge chairs and 2 for 1 cocktail deals. Grab a book and have something to eat and drink. There are so many to choose from and they are vary in price so shop around for what fits into your budget best.
Where to Go Next
Typically most people head to Ometepe or Granada next. Both will require a transfer in Rivas.
Already travelled most of Nicaragua? Head to Costa Rica and check out Puerto Viejo for a taste of the Caribbean coast, check out our guide here. Or, for something different walk through a cloud forest in Monteverde, our guide here. If you are looking for some city life and culture then check out our guide to San Jose.
Hope this guide gave you a taste of what San Juan del Sur is all about and a good list of things to do in San Juan del Sur. I really enjoyed my time there and definitely recommend it as a top beach destination in Latin America.
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