The beach in San Juan del Sur is fine for strolling, having seaside cocktails, or watching stunning sunsets while feasting on the catch of the day. However, for those that like an undeveloped shoreline, crashing surf, and endless stretches of abandoned sand, you’ll need to take a trip out of town. Both North and South of the main harbor are a plethora of beaches with conditions and surroundings to satiate all tastes. If you’re the type for wading calm pools of warm turquoise sea with white coral sand beach, or tearing a board across ripping curls of waves bashing a dirty, rock-laden cove, and anything in between, the West coast of Nicaragua has it. I went for a beach just north of town. Just about anywhere in San Juan you can set up a combo trip. Many of the surf shops have options to be picked up at your hotel and dropped off at whichever location you choose and picked up again at a designated time. Considering that we tend to travel light on these visa renewals, the tour guides and surf shops have thought of everything. Not only can you get you transport set up, but you can rent a la carte your beach accessories and amenities on the spot as part of the package. I went for the transportation with beach chair, boogie board, cooler with a midway stop to fill it with ice and beer. This was all too easy, and about $20.
After a 20 minute ride up the main highway we took a louie and started down a bumpy gravel road back toward the coast. We were inundated with jungle scenery yet again; howler monkeys could be heard in the thick, spider monkeys hanging from branches looking decidedly unimpressed with our passing. The way began to open revealing the sound of the ocean beating the land. There was a small thatched roof bar/restaurant, and a near empty beach. The driver helped me with my things and confirmed with a nod, “a las quatro, verdad?” I smiled and acknowledged my 4 o’clock pickup and cracked my first beer (it’s OK at 9am when you’re on vacation, wake up a 5am, and are in bed by 8pm). Swimming was a bit treacherous at this locale. The riptide was evident and the sea angrily sucked its visitors outward, only to roll them back in with each cresting wave. This was clearly a place where venturing beyond where I could firmly plant my feet was unadvisable. Considering there are no lifeguards, or other humans for that matter, almost drowning was not on the agenda today. I spent the day sipping beers, cooling off in the ocean, walking for miles up and down the beach. I stopped into the little restaurant to enjoy some fresh fish and chat a bit with the bartender. It was simply perfect, pristine, and a much needed disconnect from the grind of San Jose.
Packing up my belongings and jumping in the truck back to town, I realized that I hadn’t booked nearly enough time in Nicaragua. Fortunately, I planned to stay in Central America for much longer than initially intended. This meant that another trip to Nicaragua was not only inevitable, it would be necessary. With Granada, Ometepe, the Corn Islands, and more beckoning, I felt that my relationship with this strange land was only at the first-date, just kissed stage. As the great Las Vegas performers always leave the audience wanting more, I couldn’t wait to hear the encore and get back to my hotel to start planning to buy my next ticket to see this magic show again.
I made my way back to another seaside restaurant to watch the sunset over a jalapeno steak dinner and contemplated that this would be my first, but certainly not my last, trip to a strange little slice of heaven so poetically hidden from all who dare not chance a bumpy jungle ride into the unknown.