San Juan is a small place and, before we moved here, I was worried there wasn’t going to be anything to do. Life passes at a more leisurely pace, but there are plenty of things to do to occupy your time. Here is a list of some of the best things to do in San Juan del Sur.
1. Chill Out in the Heat
The sun is shining. You have a cold drink in your hand. Why do anything else? Sitting and enjoying the low-key vibes can help you disconnect from the life’s stress. Sit in one of the bars that line the beach. Or take advantage of one of the many pools around town. Or just settle onto a towel in the sand. The possibilities are endless.
2. Show Your Liver Who’s Boss
There are no shortages of drinking opportunities, whether you enjoy a beer in a sports bar or want to still be going when the sun comes up. Probably the most famous party in town is Sunday Funday, an all-day drinking marathon that travels around to various pools until everyone is let loose on the town in the late evening. Tickets go on sale every Sunday morning at 10am at Pachamama and often sell out. Tickets cost $30 and include entrance, transportation to and from locations and a tank top.
If totally debauched party filled with twenty-somethings isn’t your thing, there are tons of other options for wetting your whistle. Enjoy a beach at one of the beach bars, or wander town with a beer in hand.
3. Hike to the Heavens (or Just the Jesus Statue)
If you are tired of sitting around or your liver simply needs a break, there are plenty of activities to get the blood pumping. One of San Juan’s claim to fame is the giant Jesus statue that sits on top of a hill overlooking town. At twenty-four meters tall, it is one of the tallest Jesus statues in the world. Its a steep climb, but you are rewarded with a great view of the bay. Entrance is open 8am-5pm and costs $2.
4. Get Stoked in a Surfer’s Paradise
Nicaragua is one of top surf destinations in the world. With year-long surf and warm weather, people flock to the pacific coast for the waves. Although it is gaining in popularity, beaches are still less crowded than neighboring Costa Rica. The conditions are good for all levels, from experienced to novice so it is a good place to learn. Check out Playa Maderas for the most popular surfing for all levels.
5. Play at Being Tarzan
Zipline through the trees, taking in the amazing scenery and maybe even spotting some wildlife. Da Flying Frog offers a canopy tour that has some of the best views in San Juan bay, the port and the Jesus statue. They also offer the opportunity to rappel down 45-meter waterfall. The Canopy tour and the Rappelling tour are both $30/person, or you can buy them as a package for $50/person.
6. Sail the Ocean Blue
One of my favorite things I’ve done here in Nicaragua, seeing the coast from a boat shouldn’t be missed. Nica Sail and Surf offers a fantastic catamaran cruise, including drinks and snacks. The tour leaves around 1pm, before sailing to the secluded Playa Blanca for an afternoon of swimming. Return is in time for sunset. Cost is $80/person.
7. Become a Human Pretzel
Stretch out tight muscles while calming your mind at one of the many yoga classes offered in town. The most well established studio, and my favorite, Zen Yoga offers classes three times a day: 8:30am, 10am and 5pm. Classes tend to get mellower as the day progresses, but are appropriate for all skill levels. The teachers are knowledgeable and friendly, making it a great place to meet other travelers or just unwind. Classes are $10.
8. Unknot Yourself
After all of that activity, a massage would definitely be in order. There are a number of places that offer massages in town. You can even get someone to come to your room or house. I have had a few massages here and they have ranked up with the best I’ve ever had. Zen Yoga, mentioned above, offer 60-minute massages for $40. Another good option is Gaby’s, a local favorite for massage and laundry. They also offer an hour for $40.
9. Test Your Brains
Think you have what it takes to take on the regulars? Republika is a popular hang-out for expats and Tuesday night trivia is one of the busiest nights. Test your knowledge of current events, popular culture, science and more. First prize team wins a bottle of rum (though its customary to share the spoils with whoever wants some).
Or if you a music buff, try Name That Tune on Fridays. Guess songs centered around a theme to win a shot of your choice. Both trivia nights begin at 8pm.
10. Fulfill a Romantic Fantasy
Picture this: riding along the edge of the surf, wind blowing in your hair. Sounds like something from a romance novel, right? Once a day, at low tide, Rancho Chilamate offers rides just like this. Fields, hills, rivers and wildlife all figure into the amazing experience. Tours are $75-79/person and include transportation from San Juan, English-speaking guide, accessories to help you get in the mood (hat and boots), rum, and three hours in the saddle. As an added bonus, a portion of each tour goes towards community development. Want to ride a horse but three hours seems like too much? They also offer a one and half hour tour for $55.