6 Tips for Fun Things to Do in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

San Juan del Sur is a colorful coastal town located at the southern tip of Nicaragua. It’s known for its lively parties, great surf spots, and the relaxed atmosphere that permeates the area. You can unwind on one of the nearby beaches, take in the bay from above, or stroll along the promenade. Curious about what else there is to do in San Juan del Sur, where to enjoy delicious meals, and which hostels & hotels are cool? Check out all our tips below!

How to Get to San Juan del Sur?

Most people travel from Granada or Isla de Ometepe to San Juan del Sur. Below, you’ll find information on how to get there from these destinations.

From Granada to San Juan del Sur

By Local Bus: For this route, you’ll catch the bus to Rivas here. Upon arrival in Rivas, it’s best to ignore all taxi drivers who may try to persuade you to take a private taxi by telling you various lies. Look for the bus to San Juan del Sur and ignore anyone approaching you. The bus departs quite regularly, and the total journey takes about 3 hours.

From Isla de Ometepe to San Juan del Sur

By Boat & Local Bus: There are two ports on Isla de Ometepe, but most boats depart from the Moyogalpa port. Boats depart fairly regularly, and you can inquire about the current departure times at your hotel. The boat will drop you off in San Jorge, and from there, it’s a short ride by bus or taxi to Rivas. Buses to San Juan del Sur depart frequently from the Rivas bus station. Rivas is infamous for the many taxi drivers who will try to mislead you into traveling with them instead of taking the bus. So, be sure to ignore them and patiently find the right bus. The entire journey takes about 3.5 hours.

What to Do in San Juan del Sur?

There are plenty of things to do in San Juan del Sur. Here are the most enjoyable activities I’ve compiled for you.

Horseback Riding on the Beach

Horses are still a widely used means of transportation in Nicaragua’s countryside. A horseback riding tour is the perfect way to explore the surroundings of San Juan del Sur. Rancho Chilamate is a renowned equestrian center in Nicaragua offering various beautiful horseback riding tours suitable for different levels. Even if you’ve never ridden a horse before, the trained horses and guides will ensure that the tour exceeds your expectations.

Horseback riding in San Juan del Sur is a true Nicaraguan experience. You can choose your own cowboy boots, hat, and bandana in advance. Our favorite tour is the ride to the beach, where, if you’d like, you can also gallop along the shore. However, this tour can only take place during low tide. When low tide coincides with sunset, you’re in for an undoubtedly stunning journey.

Ascend to the Viewpoint at Sunset

While walking through San Juan del Sur, you’ll notice the presence of Jesus in many places. There’s a colossal statue of Jesus Christ on a hill at the edge of the bay. He stands atop the Mirador del Cristo de la Misericordia viewpoint, overlooking the city from a height of 134 meters (440 feet). The statue is 24 meters (78 feet) tall, and the viewpoint offers a breathtaking view of San Juan del Sur to those who venture up the climb.

You can walk up the beach and through the village to the mountain in about half an hour. The last stretch is quite steep, so avoid it during the hottest part of the day. It’s best to do this at sunset because that’s when you’ll have the most beautiful view of the day. You can walk up until 5:30 PM and pay a few dollars for entry.

Tip: If you don’t feel like walking to the viewpoint, you can also take a taxi up.

Unique Accommodation near Playa Maderas

If you’re looking to spend a few nights in a special place during your journey through Nicaragua, you must visit Hostel Clandestino Maderas. This lovely spot is just an 8-minute walk from the surfing beach, Playa Maderas, and you’ll sleep amidst the jungle with monkeys. There’s a shared kitchen, a yoga deck, and beautiful communal areas where you can easily meet fellow travelers. Here, you can enjoy a fantastic view from your hammock. You can choose between a private bungalow, the Volkswagen camper, or a bed in the dormitory. Good to know: you can usually book your stay only 2 to 3 months in advance. Playa Maderas is a 20-minute drive from San Juan del Sur.

The Biggest Pool Party in Central America: Sunday Funday

If you’re a fan of parties, make sure you’re in San Juan del Sur on a Sunday because every Sunday, you can join the biggest pool party in Central America! Sunday Funday is a popular event that many travelers even travel to or return for just to be a part of it. You’ll party all day, moving from one pool party to another at three different hostels. You can view photos and purchase tickets through the Instagram account of Sunday Funday.

Surfing in San Juan del Sur

For surfing enthusiasts, San Juan del Sur is definitely a destination to add to your travel itinerary. While the beach in the town itself isn’t ideal for surfing and is more for relaxation, there are nearby beaches with perfect conditions for catching some waves.

Playa Maderas is one of the most popular surf spots. You’ll find some restaurants there, and you can rent surfboards or take a surf lesson. Hostel Casa Oro offers daily shuttles to this beach, which cost just a few dollars for a round trip. The shuttle ride to Playa Maderas takes about 20 minutes.

Relax in the Colorful Downtown

Just like in many cities in Nicaragua, the houses in San Juan del Sur come in a variety of vibrant colors. Combined with the numerous charming restaurants and cafes, the downtown area is a delightful place to hang out. Settle down in one of the hidden courtyards, capture some beautiful photos of the colorful buildings, or grab a cool souvenir. Below, you’ll find my recommendations for the best restaurants.

Best Restaurants in San Juan del Sur

Simon Says – This cozy garden spot serves breakfast and lunch, offering delicious smoothies, sandwiches, meat, fish, and salads. There’s something for everyone.
Nacho San Juan del Sur – Enjoy tasty Mexican dishes along with mojitos and, of course, tequila.
The Beach House Nicaragua – A beautiful beachside spot with a focus on fresh seafood. Be sure to try the ceviche!
La Vecchia Signora – The best pizzeria in town.
Dale Pues – From salads to burgers, breakfast to pasta, you can enjoy great food all day long here.
The Art Warehouse – Offers tasty breakfast options and tapas platters. Plus, they occasionally host fun creative workshops.
Taco Stop – Craving a quick bite? This restaurant serves delicious tacos with fresh ingredients and homemade tortillas.
Ding Repair Café – In this trendy cafe, you can savor healthy dishes, including various smoothie bowls, burritos, avocado toast, pancakes, and more.

Where to Stay in San Juan del Sur?

In the village of San Juan del Sur, you’ll find only a few good hostels and hotels. However, just outside the village, you’ll discover some fantastic accommodations. These places are often nestled in nature and offer something truly special. Staying here will undoubtedly enhance your visit to San Juan del Sur. The accommodations below are all just a few miles away from the village, but with the usually free shuttle or scooter, you can easily reach the center.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in San Juan del Sur

the SPACE. looks like a luxury resort but is actually a cozy hostel that organizes many activities. You can join the free yoga class every day, attend movie nights, and participate in a weekly quiz night. The delightful pool, bar, and excellent restaurant make this place truly enjoyable. Every Sunday, it’s a big party here because this hostel is one of the three locations where Sunday Funday is organized, as mentioned earlier in this article. Speaking of which, we need to mention Hostel Clandestino Maderas again. It’s genuinely a fantastic accommodation. You’ll sleep in a bungalow in the middle of the jungle, surrounded by monkeys, and you can enjoy a fantastic view from your hammock. Eden on the Chocolata is another remarkable place. This eco-lodge features an amazing pool with a view of the jungle and the ocean beyond. Your stay is in a fantastic room built entirely from natural materials, and from your veranda, you’ll have that same breathtaking view.