Dozens of glorious beaches, scenic lookouts, a pretty town center and lively nightlife scene await in San Juan del Sur. Discovered by Spanish explorer Andrés Niño in 1523, San Juan del Sur developed as a small fishing community. Since the arrival of the surfer crowd, the town has been a sought-after stop on the backpacker circuit. See brightly hued houses, lush green surroundings and friendly locals presenting a quintessential Nicaraguan experience.
The town’s centerpiece attraction is San Juan del Sur Beach, where boat owners and guides offer diving, snorkeling and whale-watching excursions. Dine at ocean-facing bars with superb sunset viewpoints. Find more bars, cafés and restaurants on the waterfront Paseo del Rey. This promenade’s northern section becomes a boisterous nightlife zone after dark.
Hike south from the beach on the Old Lighthouse Trail to a hilltop fort to enjoy exquisite views over San Juan del Sur Bay. Follow a path north to the Cristo de la Misericordia Lookout for equally impressive panoramas. Another interesting walk is to the Petroglyph, which portrays ancient hunting scenes. Try adventure pursuits, such as abseiling down a waterfall and zip lining, with Da’ Flying Frog Adventures.
Explore the town’s peaceful streets and note the collection of Victorian-era clapboard buildings. Many have been converted into bars, boutique hotels, clothing outlets and souvenir shops. Visit the humble, colonial-era Church of San Juan Bautista on Parque Central.
More beaches lie within a short shuttle bus ride. Discover the secluded coves, rolling waves and blissed surfer vibe that make Nicaragua’s Pacific coast famous. To the north are Nacascolo Beach, Marsella Beach and Madera Beach. Head south to El Remanso, Hermosa Beach and Yankee Beach.
San Juan del Sur is a 30-minute drive from Rivas and just over a 2-hour drive from Managua. Get here via public buses or rent the services of a private taxi. San Juan del Sur’s laid-back charm is the perfect complement to active treks to Concepción Volcano and Maderas Volcano on the island of Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua.