Nicaragua is a great country to visit for the open minded traveller, it has so much to see and do. It is so diverse in its people, culture and traditions. I have been back many times and still find something new and exciting every visit.
It should appeal to the budget conscious adventurer for the cheap prices for food and accommodation and a growing number of outdoor activities such as volcano boarding as well the more affluent luxury minded tourist looking for quality hotels and fine dining. Nicaragua caters for everyone.
When I first arrived in Nicaragua, I didn’t really know what to expect, a lot of Costa Rican people tried to put me off, uttering words like ‘peligroso’ which is Spanish for danger or ‘gente mala’ bad people.. but at the time I was wanting to get out and see so much of Central America I wasn’t deterred by their gloomy warnings. After all I had been 4 weeks in Costa Rica and it was rainy season I fancied a bit of fun in the the sun.
I was in my ‘Learning Spanish’ phase the first time I crossed into Nicaragua. I arrived in San Juan del Sur just a short taxi ride from the frontera (border), immediately I noticed how much hotter and drier it seemed to be from the wetter region of central Costa Rica.
I booked into a Spanish school and you can follow that story at Learning Spanish in Central America – Nicaragua I have to recommend learning Spanish on the road in Central America as cost effective method to immerse yourself as few people speak English.
Anyway, San Juan del Sur is a busy resort town with a good beach and some more lively surfing beaches within a short drive. Although San Juan del Sur at first glance looks a bit run down with its houses of thick wooden boards, some homes painted, others in need of repair, it was a town that was growing, you could see that development and big money was just around the corner and in the meantime the locals were playing catch up to keep the tourists coming.
It is filled with some interesting local characters loud and proud, hanging about the streets and bars, hoping to show you around for a small fee or offer you something a little ‘stronger’. My advice is be open and cautious, remember some of these people don’t have 2 pennies to rub together and they see young rich ‘gringos’ (white foreigners usually from the USA – but generally outsider) spending money on beers, wine, surfing, partying and would like a slice. You do hear of muggings in dense areas of tourism in Nicaragua (especially at night) so be on your guard.
Back to the good stuff.. There are several Spanish schools ranging from well organised, professional looking outfits to private lessons in your favourite bar. The bars and restaurants also range from basic to the luxurious. However, the bars on the beach tend to be of better quality. Most places have good wifi, so keeping on top of that blog is no problem..
There was a steady mix of all ages. Backpackers, surfers, bus tours, expats and bloggers! By day the towns internet cafes and bars were busy and the atmosphere was laid back, chilled music, hammocks and getting to know each others stories. There’s nothing like a good meet up of like minded travellers over a couple of Toña beers in a beach side bar and Bob Marley playing in the background.
By night it became party central, young students on their Spanish Immersion programs come out, the surfers are back from the beaches and the rest are still in the bars! It’s a perfect storm… The dance bars filled and the music goes until the early hours and everyone seems to have a great time. New friends, new relationships blossom in the warmth of San Juan early morning.
The people of San Juan del Sur were a very easy going bunch and were quite proud of their sunny beach town on the pacific coast. There was none of the ‘gente mala’ which I was constantly warned about, in fact I found the Nicaraguan friendly helpful and honest.
All in all my introduction to Nicaragua was a great experience, it just goes to show don’t listen to what some people have to say, go and see for yourself. I just had to see more. Follow up on my visit to Granada at Moving on to Granada, Nicaragua