It was time for my “forced vacation” and I was able to take off an extra day so I had 4 days to visit another country. The original plan was to go to Bocas del Torro because Panama is easier for us non-Spanish speakers. However, since I will be there this summer to dive, I chose the more adventurous option: Nicaragua.
Nicaragua is north of Costa Rica and San Juan del Sur is on the south Pacific side of Nicaragua, just over the border. I decided to splurge and take the TicaBus (a long distance travel bus that travels all over CA) because they’re more comfortable and help you with the border crossing. I’m glad I did that this time, but I’ll probably chicken bus it next time. 🙂
FYI, border crossings are rough. They’re confusing, have no shade (it was about 95 degrees and no breeze), and take forever (over 2 hours).
San Juan del Sur is a beautiful horseshoe bay and a small playa town. There are a lot of travelers there, but most are expats visiting from Costa Rica, surfer bums or backpackers. Since money has not saturated the town yet, it’s still very casual, laid back and inexpensive. It’s also beautiful. All the small fishing boats in the bay hint to its other function as a local fishing port.
This quiet little town was also invaded by the United States Marines in 1898. I must admit, it’s challenging to imagine an invasion on this sleepy little fishing town. Luckily Americans are know better for something much more important: Survivor!
Survivor: Nicaragua and a following All-Stars season were filmed here and on nearby beaches. It’s a fun claim to fame for the area and you can see Survivor flags in various places around town. There are some shuttles that run up and down the coast to the different beaches. If I make it up there again, I’ll definitely explore some of the other beaches.
San Juan also has a large expat population. They decided to move down to CA but wanted somewhere less expensive than CR or Panama. I immediately met two retired gentlemen who invited me to lunch and gave me all the ins and outs of town. They even showed me around town and introduced me to the owners of all the best restaurants and bars. Because of this, I don’t even know the names of most the places I ate, rather I know them as “Mary’s place.” (I’ll talk more about the people I met in another post. They were all so wonderful, that they definitely deserve a little more explanation.)
During this tour I was introduced to Marlon, a Nica who also gave me a few suggestions and offered to take me up to the statue if I was interested. I was! There’s this large statue of Christ up on the mountain overlooking the bay. So the next day, up to the statue we hiked (in flip flops), and the view was incredible!
The rest of the weekend was fairly uneventful. I loved traveling on my own. There were some lonely times, but I met tons of new people! Everyone was so kind and welcoming. (I only ate 2 meals alone the entire weekend.) I still went out every night and just met people there who took me in and introduced me to their friends… it was great. The only downside is dealing with groups of latinos. While everyone I meet here is always nice, it’s impossible to walk down the street without being whistled at and hearing many “que guapa!” comments. (If you ignore that, they just start saying it in English.) The worst part about it is how young it starts! I’ll have 7 and 8 year olds making these comments! Crazy. I should note that this also happens in CR, I’m just not around alone as much here.
Other than that and the 12 hour return trip, I loved my mini-vacation. I also realized how much I missed sunsets and watched the sun set every day. (I live in a valley so the sun just disappears behind the trees.) So I apologize for the number of sunset pictures I have.