San Juan Del Sur is easily one of Nicaragua's best places to visit.
With gorgeous beaches and tantalising oceans, it is a paradise for both surfing, and relaxing.
From hidden surf and yoga retreats, to buzzing hostels and exciting nightlife, it really does feel like a little slice of paradise.
We spent almost 2 weeks in and around this beautiful par of Nicaragua, and wanted to share with you all of the best things San Juan Del Sur has to offer.
As well as a few extra useful tips and tricks!
Let's get stuck in ...
There are a variety of ways to get to San Juan Del Sur, depending on what direction of the country you're coming from.
If you're heading to San Juan from the Costa Rica direction, or even the Ometepe direction, you can easily get a taxi from Rivas, or a bus.
If you're heading from Leon (which is where Bradley and I came from since we looped the country), you can get a shuttle bus.
The shuttle is around $20 and it takes about 8 hours. I recommend going with Nicatime as they were the cheapest and the ride was pleasant. We stopped for lunch at a cheap place in Granada too which was delicious.
All the actual good surfing beaches in San Juan Del Sur are outside the central area, so you’ll need to either get a taxi or shuttle to the beaches.
There are tour agencies all over the place that offer shuttle services to the beaches, but many of them require a minimum of 3 people per shuttle.
If you want a taxi you will have to negotiate hard for a price. We got a taxi to Playa Yankee for $15 dollars and a shuttle was $15 each, so it can be better value to get a taxi if you’re sharing with people.
You can find a taxi driver on the street, ours turned out to be a big poop head, so make sure you get a nice one and AGREE beforehand on the price!
Read more: Guide to getting around Nicaragua
There are LOTS of great places to stay in San Juan Del Sur. I’ll list my top 5 below, 3 of which Bradley and I stayed in!
These range of hotels have options to suit absolutely everyone. But you can find the best hotels in San Juan Del Sur Nicaragua here.
Okay, now for the part you came for, the top things to do in San Juan Del Sur Nicaragua!
Nicaragua is one of the best places in the world to learn how to surf. Rather than just getting lessons by the sea, you should definitely spend some time at a surf camp!
We stayed in Rapture Surf Camp for a couple of nights, and got a little taste of what you do to learn to surf here.
It’s a really great community and all your food, surf board rental and surfing lessons are included in your rate. You can also choose to stay in dorms, really cute tents or actual air conditioned rooms!
Anyway, it’s fantastic value and a great place to spend 1-2 weeks learning how to surf. I recommend a solid 10 days if you’ve got time.
If you don’t wanna surf at a surf camp, then simply head to one of the many beaches in Nicaragua at San Juan Del Surf.
Playa Yankee is a beautiful and secluded beach and boards are around $10 for a days rental and $20 for a lesson. Playa Maderas is the most popular surfing beach and you can take a guided lesson here.
There are often lots of beach bars and shacks on the beach too where you buy snacks and drinks.
San Juan Del Sur is the perfect place to relax. It’s got stunning beaches, many of which are uncrowded, beautiful blue seas and much more.
It’s a perfect place to relax and if you want a yoga retreat with the best food in the world (I am not exaggerating), then Costa Dulce is the place for you. It’s secluded, beautiful and you will leave here feeling like a new person!
You can also combine surf and yoga at a yoga surf retreat here too.
If you don’t want to go to a yoga retreat, then you’ll find that most hotels and hostels will offer yoga sessions for either free or a small fee.
In peak season, San Juan Del surf is known for it’s party scene!
Actually every Sunday they have this massive pub crawl where all the backpackers gather and bar hop all day and night. It’s called Sunday Funday and it’s quite cheap.
There's even a Sunday Funday pool crawl for those looking to cool down in the heat!
That’s a great way to meet people and have fun, but if you’re not there on a Sunday, there are many bars in the area that have live music and lots of drink promotions during the week.
Like tequila for less than $1!
So you can easily DIY your own pub crawl!
Here's some more information if you're looking to get involved in Sunday Funday which I highly recommend.
The Christ of Mercy is almost like a smaller version of ‘Christ the Redeemer’ in Rio and is set upon a big hill. It’s one of the most iconic San Juan Del Sur attractions and isn’t a difficult walk, but you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of the city from the top.
Although it’s stunning at any time of day, the views from the top are spectacular at night when San Juan Del Sur is lit up and shining.
It’s great walking up just before sunset too as the weather is much cooler and the colours are unbelievable!
This iconic statue is also easy to get to as you just need to cross the drawbridge on the beach and then walk up. From there, just follow the signs towards Malibu, and then you’ll come across signs for the Christ of Mercy.
Here's some more information about the route you should take to reach this iconic attraction!
It’s only $2 for the entrance fee too, so is one of the cheapest things to do in San Juan Del Sur.
Heading out on a catamaran is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in San Juan Del Sur.
You won’t be short of tour options either as there are lots of signs advertising this activity along the beach. However, one of the most popular operators for catamaran trips in San Juan Del Sur is Nica Sail!
You also won’t be breaking the bank to do this, as you can get a full-day package deal for around $70. This includes all your food and drink for the day, so take advantage of this by sipping cocktails on the boat throughout your trip.
Sounds like the life right? Honestly - I couldn’t recommend this experience enough!
The catamaran will also stop throughout the trip so you can jump out for a swim. You’ll also want to give snorkelling a go too as the waters are so clear.
So if you’re looking for a fun and unique day out then make sure you add this to your itinerary!
If you picture a stunning sunset whilst trekking along the beach on a beautiful horse - then you’re exactly right!
This is one of the most relaxing (and romantic) things to do in San Juan Del Sur and is a popular activity with couples.
You can organise your horseback riding tours with Rancho Chilamate as they will take you to some of the most beautiful beaches in the area that are famous for their isolation and tranquillity.
The guided tours can be taken at any time of the day, whether it’s during sunset, or early in the morning. They last for around 5 hours and cost around $65 per person.
This tour is also a great option if you’re looking to go horse riding along Playa Maderas which is a 20-minute drive outside of the city centre.
Playa Maderas is one of the most beautiful beaches in the area so makes the perfect backdrop!
The restaurants located on the beach are lovely with great views, fantastic food and great 2-4-1 cocktails!
They are a little pricier than other restaurants, but for the views and the atmosphere, it’s definitely worth paying a little more.
These are great at both lunchtime (you can dip in the sea!), and in the evening to catch a sunset.
There are endless options to choose from but some of the most popular spots include the Iguana Bar, Dale Pues, and Simon Says!
Nicaragua in general is a great spot to learn Spanish, but San Juan Del Sur offers plenty of options when it comes to learning this awesome language.
Spanish is really useful to know if you’re planning to spend long periods of time in Central America, South America and Spain too!
One of the best ways to learn Spanish is by heading to one of the language schools in San Juan Del Sur. You can spend hours here learning if you wish, and the prices are cheap too.
You can actually get lessons for as cheap as $5 per hour in this city, so there’s no excuse not to learn!
Now, this is one of the coolest things to do in San Juan Del Sur!
Everyone loves a good ATV tour and there’s no better way to explore the area around this beautiful city.
This ATV tour lasts for four hours and there are a variety of route options available. You can either visit some of the nearby beaches, head to the Christ of Mercy, or explore the jungle.
All of the routes offer a fantastic and fun experience, and you’ll be in safe hands too!
The ATVs are comfortable, safe, and easy to drive so you don’t need to worry about going on this tour. There will be local guides to help you every step of the way too, and they’ll even show you some of the city’s hidden gems.
You can also choose when to start your tour so there’s a lot of flexibility, however, the operator recommends starting around 2:00 pm.
Although San Juan Del Sur offers a beautiful beach, there are plenty of others to explore in the area.
This includes the beautiful Playa Maderas which is considered to be one of the best beaches in the country.
Many people choose to hire a vehicle and then head out of San Juan Del Sur to explore the coast at their own leisure. However, if you’re not confident in driving a vehicle abroad then some of the hotels in the city offer shuttle buses to the closest beaches.
You’ll just have to have a look around and do some research to see which hotels are offering them currently.
Trust me - there’s nothing better than spending a day exploring all the stunning beaches this coastline has to offer.
Ometepe is one of my favourite places in all of Nicaragua and is a must-visit if you’re staying in San Juan Del Sur.
The best way to get there is to take a local bus to Rivas, and then catch the ferry from there. It’s not a difficult journey and is one of the best day trips to do in the area!
Once you get on the island your best bet is to hire a moped so you can explore to your heart's content.
The two main walks on the island are the Concepcion Volcano hike and the Maderas Volcano hike although it’s unlikely you’ll have time to do these if you’re just spending the day.
However, there are tons of places to visit on the island including a local waterhole, Charco Verde, and El Pital Chocolate Paradise which is a local chocolate factory!
One of our favourite things to do whilst we travel is try the local cuisine! In my opinion, it’s one of the best ways to get to know an area or city.
Nicaragua's local dishes primarily consist of rice, beans, plantain and a form of protein which is usually chicken or fish.
One of the country’s most traditional dishes is Gallo Pinto which can be found in restaurants throughout San Juan Del Sur. Consisting of red beans, white rice, onions, eggs, and avocado it’s a taste overload! You can even add cheese to it if you wish.
You’ll also find plenty of freshly made burritos and tacos in the city too so there are lots of options.
However, if you’re all riced out then you can head to the likes of Dale Pues which serves international dishes including tasty burgers.
Playa La Flor (or La Flor Beach Natural Reserve as it’s sometimes known) is just a 40-minute drive from San Juan Del Sur.
It covers an impressive area of over 3,000 hectares and is one of the best places in Nicaragua to spot Olive Ridley sea turtles.
If you’re lucky you might get to spot baby sea turtles hatch, as this area is one of the top nesting sites in the country.
The best time of year for this is between October and November, where you’ve got a high chance of watching these little turtles make their journey towards the beach.
Although you can drive there yourself if you hire a vehicle, public buses and tours also run to the reserve from San Juan Del Sur. Entering the reserve is cheap too and costs around $7.
If you’re a nature lover like us then taking a trip out to this reserve is one of the top things to do in San Juan Del Sur.
There’s no better way to relax in the hot weather than by having a cold beer in hand. Luckily, you’ll find plenty of options in San Juan Del Sure for this!
However, I’d recommend heading to Cerveceria which is one of the most popular bars in the city. Ran by the Nicaragua Craft Beer Co, this bar offers a variety of unique craft beers that have been brewed in the city itself.
You can always go for one of the local beers like Victoria or Tone, or you can try something completely unique!
Not only does Cerveceria offer a wide variety of local ale, but they also often have live music on during the evenings. This makes it a great place to relax and end one of your days in San Juan Del Sur.
So make sure you leave yourself some free time to nip in!
Granada is another awesome place to visit if you’re staying in San Juan Del Sur!
It’s just a 1.5-hour drive from the city, but ideally, you’ll need your own vehicle for this one.
Granada is one of the most beautiful colonial cities in Nicaragua, and in all honesty, it requires a couple of days to explore! However, many travellers just don’t have this kind of time so I recommend spending at least a day here to see the main attractions.
The most popular spots to visit within the city include the Main Plaza, the iconic Granada Cathedral, and the Chocolate Museum.
Make sure you also take a guided tour of the city so you can learn about its history from a local. This tour includes a visit to Las Isletas too!
You can even take some time to marvel at the city’s unique colonial buildings if you have time.
Now, this is one of the more unique things to do in San Juan Del Sur!
The Art Warehouse is just a short walk from the beach and is a small art gallery and café that hosts workshops throughout the week.
Keep an eye on their Facebook Page during your stay, as this where they promote their art classes and events.
They also work with the local community, so a lot of the funds raised go straight to helping the local children get involved with art projects.
Not only can you get involved with a number of crafts here, but this place serves delicious food too! You’ll also want to try some of their tasty smoothies.
With awesome painted walls, a variety of workshops, and tasty dishes - this is easily one of the best things to do in San Juan Del Sur!
The best time to visit San Juan Del Sur is around November to April, but the great thing about surfing in Nicaragua is that surfing is pretty much available throughout the year along the coast.
But, the most pleasant time will be in the “peak” season when the weather is dry and pleasant. (Still very warm!)
This will depend on what you want to do. If you want to learn how to surf then I recommend spending a couple of weeks at a surf camp in Nicaragua, or if you want to relax then a yoga retreat might be a great idea (which could be 1-2), or if you’re just passing through on a Nicaragua backpacking route, then 3-4 nights is a great amount.
San Juan Del Sur is cheap! Much like the rest of Nicaragua. You will find the beach restaurants are a little more expensive, but head in land and everything is cheap as chips.
Accommodation is also not expensive, you can get double rooms for dirt cheap too.
You can get by on around $20 per day! Obviously, if you want to splurge more than you can.
Although you may find some tours available for San Juan Del Sur, there’s not really an option for exploring the city as a whole.
For this reason, you’re best to do a ‘self-guided’ tour where you can visit all the best attractions yourself. From there, you can take tours if you’re planning to go on a couple of day trips.
If you’re heading to Costa Rica, you can get a taxi to the border for about $20, or you can travel to the beautiful island of Ometepe and stay there rather than just take a day trip!
Or you can simply head straight to Granada!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my list on the top things to do in San Juan Del Sur Nicaragua. You might find San Juan Del Sur addictive and find you want to stay longer than planned, but don’t worry!
Check out our complete backpacking Nicaragua guide here.
If you've got any suggestions to add to my list, then comment below!
Happy travelling :)