San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua: What To Do & Where To Eat

I recently spent 3 days in San Juan Del Sur, a colourful beach town in the South-West of Nicaragua. It was my first time in Nicaragua and I must say I was pleasantly surprised by this beautiful country. Because of all the negative rumours I’d heard and read online, I went in as my usual cautious self, but I left with a completely different attitude. I hadn’t felt unsafe for a second and the people were some of the friendliest I’d met so far.

San Juan Del Sur is located in a bay surrounded by green hills, which gives it a very “protected” feel. It was probably the calmest I’d ever seen the Pacific ocean. I knew Nicaragua was going to be a lot cheaper than Costa Rica so I was prepared for a certain level of shabbiness. To my surprise, it was actually very clean and well-maintained! There’s a promenade with a neat line of palm trees and even a fancy ferry terminal. No matter what they say, San Juan has their shit together.

More importantly, I wasn’t bored for a second and I almost wish I could’ve stayed longer. I’m excited to share my ideas about what to do and where to eat in this vibrant little town!

~ WHAT TO DO ~

1. Hike to the Christ statue

The number one activity in San Juan Del Sur is without a doubt the hike to the Christ statue, official called “Jesus de la Misericordia”. One of the first things you’ll notice when you arrive in San Juan will most likely be the impressively large statue of Jesus on top of a hill. Religious beliefs aside, the view from up there is something you’re going to want to witness. It’s a bit of a climb, but you’re there way quicker than you would expect. Take a few breaks (there’s a viewpoint on the way there that everybody skips, just take the dirt road on your left), bring enough water and make sure you’ve got some money because there’s a $2 fee. How insane are these views though??

2. Explore the town centre

As opposed to the quiet coastal villages of Costa Rica, San Juan is surprisingly busy! I was thrilled to see so many cute shops and even more hip bars & local restaurants. I loved getting lost in the buzzing streets and admiring the colourful houses (very different than what I’m used to in my hometown in Belgium, where everything looks kind of grey).

When you’re done exploring the centre, take a stroll down the boulevard. You can find lots of sea view restaurants there, as well as a few souvenir stalls. It’s where I bought the first souvenir of my trip: a small, colourful bowl with turtles on it!

3. Watch the ocean sunset

You cannot skip this! San Juan had one of the best sunsets I’d seen so far. Every night I was watching in awe as the sky turned every shade of orange and red I could imagine. During the day the beach feels a bit deserted, but when the evening falls, the place really comes alive. It gets crowded both by tourists and locals and there’s lots of football and volleyball going on. Also, don’t forget to take that #goldenhour selfie! 😉

Other options:

*Take the chicken bus to Ometepe volcano

*Visit Playa Madera and/or Playa Hermosa

~ WHERE TO EAT ~

When it comes to food, San Juan offers what is usually too good to be true: quality for cheap! Needless to say, I tried as many places as I could… Here are the best ones:

1. Simon Says

One of the most instagrammable places I’ve ever walked into (owned by Belgians!) and clearly the place to be for backpackers. Fortunately, it didn’t only look pretty, but they also served an amazing breakfast! For 220 córdoba (or $6) you could choose 3 types of breakfast food (I got pancakes, avocado & fruit), as well as take whatever you want from the buffet!

2. Dale Pues

I’m not really a fast food person, but this place has the BEST burgers I’ve ever tasted. I had to stop myself not to go there for every lunch and dinner. However, if you’re not in the mood for a burger, you could also try their sandwiches, which are just as tasty. I got one with chicken & avocado *drools*. Make sure you’re hungry though because their sandwiches are HUGE. Oh and if you’re not convinced yet, they rank #2 on Tripadvisor!

3. El Timoni

El Timoni is the perfect beach restaurant that serves amazing seafood dishes. I had their seafood pasta in white sauce which I’d definitely recommend trying. It’s a tad more expensive than the usual, but they’re generous with their portions and there’s a great lively vibe. Lots of lights and they even lit a fire on the beach!

4. Josseline

If you’re looking for an affordable restaurant with ocean view, Josseline is where you should go. Their food is tasty, they don’t surprise you with service costs and you can get a pasta pesto for as little as $5!!

5. Beach House Nicaragua

Another Instagram-worthy place that serves the typical local breakfast: rice & beans with eggs and plantains. Oh, and they’ve got celery juice, need I say more?

6. Dos Chinos

Looking for something different? In the heart of the town’s centre, there’s an authentic Asian restaurant that lets you create your own bowl from scratch! I went for noodles with chicken, pineapple, onions and green beans with teriyaki sauce. Yumm!

These are all my tips to make the most out of your stay in San Juan Del Sur. I hope you’ll enjoy this town as much as I did! Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever been or plan on going in the future. Thank you for reading!! 🙂

Read my latest travel diary entry next!

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