Once a quaint fishing village, San Juan del Sur in southern Nicaragua has emerged as one of Central America’s most sought after getaways for artists, writers, entrepreneurs, and bohemian-minded professionals looking to decompress.
The town of San Juan del Sur is known for its diverse array of restaurants, spas, adventure options and nightlife. But where it truly excels is not in town but rather on its edges and nearby beaches, where warm coastal breezes make the perfect setting for relaxation and indulgence.
San Juan del Sur’s laid back vibes have been carefully cultivated by eco-friendly, community conscious business owners, allowing travelers the opportunity to experience Central America in its truest form.
Though many only know Nicaragua from the United States involvement with the Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980’s, few realize that Nicaragua is now Central America’s safest country.
San Juan del Sur is home to an incredible group of boutique hotels carefully designed with the lifestyle of late 20-and-30- somethings in mind. Travelers have their choice of hotels featuring comfy accommodations, family-style meals made with wholesome ingredients, english language concierge support, and access to incredible facilities.
With daily morning yoga overlooking the Pacific Ocean and a curated menu of activity options, guests have the freedom to decide how much (or how little) they want to do between daily trips to the beach.
Getting in + When to Visit
Getting In // Getting to San Juan del Sur is easy, with a steady stream of flights pouring into Nicaragua’s capital, Managua, every day. Taxis and shuttles are easy to secure before arrival or at the airport. The drive takes only 2.5 hours.
Direct flights to Managua (MGA) can be found from many US cities, including Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, and Dallas. These are some of the biggest travel hubs in the country, making it easy to transfer from New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, or anywhere else.
Passport // Traveling to Nicaragua from the U.S requires a U.S. passport valid for your stay and proof of an onward/return ticket. A tourist card is issued on arrival. Be sure to bring $10 USD with you to cover the costs of the tourist card.
Weather // Any time is a good time visit. November to April is peak tourism season and features the driest weather. May to October is green season, characterized by short bursts of showers in the afternoon, leading to beautiful open skies in the evening.
Where to Stay
San Juan del Sur plays host to a stunning array of boutique hotels designed for the modern traveler, blending creature comforts with idyllic backcountry simplicity to create an atmosphere that keeps in-the-know tourists coming back for more. It’s also home to some of the best yoga retreat destinations on the continent. Hardwood floors made of Nicaraguan lumber open up to incredible views of the Pacific Ocean as guests practice yoga in studios that must be seen to be believed.
Healthy, whole food meals are crafted with local ingredients and served family style, ensuring that every day starts and ends as a community. Guests may choose to do as much or as little as they please, be it lounging on the beach, learning to surf, or one of countless adventure activities offered around town.
The sunsets in San Juan del Sur are legendary, as is the nightlife if one chooses to partake. But more often than not, the best memories are made without going anywhere, as guests gather in the evenings around the communal spaces of hotels to bond with their fellow retreat goers and travelers.
Buena Vista Surf Club
buenavistasurfclub.com // @buenavistasurfclub
Buena Vista Surf Club is a secluded jungle eco-lodge overlooking the surf at Playa Maderas. The property features an incredible open air yoga deck with 180 degree views of the beach and jungle. This is a place for people who want something different – to stay in a private cabaña amongst the trees, share family-style meals with like-minded people, watch the sunset and the stars from the the treetops, and stroll five minutes to pristine beaches.
maderasvillage.com // @maderasvillage
If not for the incredible ocean views, world class surf and tropical weather, you might be forgiven for thinking you’re in Williamsburg, Austin, or Mission District. With creatives, entrepreneurs, and socially conscious travelers from around the world coming here to get away, it’s no wonder Maderas Village is one of the hardest reservations to get in Nicaragua. Boasting a brand new, fully equipped 30+ guest open air yoga studio, it’s also quickly becoming the place to go for retreats.
hulakaihotel.com // @hulakaihotel
HulaKai carefully balances nature, green living, and pristine ocean with adventure, gourmet food and late night conversation in a way that you might consider quitting your job and staying permanently. It’s a place where travelers come together, finding a small piece of paradise, a home base where there is something for everyone. HulaKai offers an infinity pool and two yoga spaces, one which can accommodate aerial yoga.
casamaderas.com // @casamaderas
Casa Maderas is an eco-friendly hotel with Nicaraguan style white cabins nestled between San Juan del Sur and Playa Maderas. With fast daily shuttles to/from both parts, it might be the best positioned hotel in the area. Casa Maderas features a yoga studio, swimming pool, and a restaurant/bar serving delicious, vegetarian friendly meals.
thesurfingbuddha.com // @the.surfing.buddha
Surfing Buddha is located at Finca Las Nubes, an intentional community two miles from the beaches of San Juan del Sur. The intent is to create a sustainable lifestyle through partnerships with the local community. Surfing Buddha features an infinity pool overlooking lush green jungles, and is known for its certified organic meals plucked from their own farm.
Casa Bahia Hotel
casabahiahotel.com // @officialcasabahia
Casa Bahia Hotel overlooks Playa Marsella in San Juan del Sur, a raw, unobstructed beach thanks to eco- friendly beachfront development. Casa Bahia’s restaurant bar is perched above a private pool and offers San Juan del Sur’s best view of Playa Marsella. A short five minute walk brings you to the feet of the Pacific Ocean.
costadulcebeach.com // @costa_dulce
Costa Dulce boasts a beautiful open air 900 square foot yoga studio, large kitchen/dining area, lounge/bar, and plenty of common space, all just a few steps from the beach. One of the first things you will notice upon arrival is that Costa Dulce is thriving with natural beauty. Located in a tropical dry forest shared with monkeys, sloths, turtles, lizards, parrots, and hummingbirds to name a few, you’ll soon wonder how we live any other way.
Surf Ranch Resort
surfranchnicaragua.com // @surfranch
The Surf Ranch is located just outside of San Juan Del Sur and features Nicaragua’s largest rock climbing wall, an airbag jump, volleyball court, restaurant & bar, and a swimming pool with swim up bar. The Surf Ranch offers a host of extreme sports and activities such as surfing, skateboarding, sailing, fishing, yoga, rock climbing and more.
This piece was originally published July 2016