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Zip-Lining & Surfing in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua – Travel Video Ep. 17

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Surf lesson tips and a zip-lining canopy tour through an HD adventure travel video from 2 Backpackers, Jason and Aracely Castellani, while visiting San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.  In travel video episode #17, take our video camera high above the forest canopy to share some incredible views and fast flying zip-lines. Enjoy the show!

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The Beach Cove in San Juan del Sur

Getting to San Juan del Sur

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua was on our list of must see beaches since we heard about it from other backpackers while traveling in El Salvador.  “This is where you go to surf,” they exclaimed.  From Grenada, we boarded a local bus to Rivas.  At the Rivas bus terminal, which is located in the market, we searched for a bus to San Juan del Sur.  In no time, we were on our way to the coastal town on the Pacific Ocean, in southwest Nicaragua.

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Colorful Streets of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Hostels in San Juan del Sur

San Juan del Sur’s most popular hostel is Casa Oro, which is on the corner of the main street and the street that leads down towards the water.  It’s currently under construction, but still a hot spot for those seeking dorms.  As we exited Casa Oro Hostel, a women on the street asked us if we needed a place to stay.  We replied, “Si,” and she offered us a private room with bathroom around the corner for $20 USD a night.  Sounded perfect to us.  Rebecca’s Inn was clean and comfortable, but lacked a social environment.

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Colorful Streets of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

After settling in, we quickly went out for a walk around town.  The town is well developed with lots of hostels, hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars and surfing shops.  Many tourist shops around town offer shuttle rides to the surrounding beaches for surfing. 

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Bars and Restaurants on the Beach of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

San Juan del Sur isn’t a beach for surfing, but rather your base town for day excursions. The beach is flanked on both sides by mountains and bars and restaurants line the water’s edge, creating a picturesque night life. It’s still low season around here and the night life was lacking during our stay.

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Trip Budgeting for Central America

Photo of Church of Guadalupe in Granada, Nicaragua

Photo of Sunset Over Los Maribios Volcano Chain

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Bars and Restaurants on the Beach of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Nicaragua Travel Costs

Gradually, our expenses have been increasing, and shockingly, Nicaragua has been the most expensive country for us so far.  It was surprising to us considering it’s also the second poorest country in the Americas; Haiti being the first.  Nicaragua, typically includes a 15% tax on everything in its tourist cities.  San Juan del Sur, was no exception, and we struggled to find dinner for under $10 USD.

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A Surfer Fixing His Board

Surfing Lessons in San Juan del Sur

We walked back to Casa Oro Hostel to book our surfing lessons for the next morning.  A surf board costs $7 to rent and the lessons were $25 each including transportation to Playa de Madera.  The morning drive to the beach was approximately 45 minutes on a muddy dirt filled road.  We arrived to Tres Hermanos Hostel which resides on the small isolated beach.  The beach itself was rather dirty, lined with piles of drift wood, seaweed and washed up trash.  Unfortunately, it makes the beach much less welcoming even though it is so remote.

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A Surfer Working his board in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

The waves break in three stages, providing all sorts of options for surfers of differing skills.  As beginners, we stayed close to the shore, in whitewater waves only.  Initially, Aracely and I both thought surfing was going to be extremely challenging.  I figured it to be similar to snowboarding, which is very difficult to learn. Luckily, surfing is not that challenging.  More specifically, its not as challenging to get up on the board and balance yourself.  It will become much more challenging as we venture out into bigger waves, but Aracely and I aren’t anywhere near that stage yet.

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San Juan del Sure Beach & Cove

Fredo, our surf instructor spent 2-3 hours with Aracely, Miguel and I.  The first hour was on the beach, learning where to lie on the board and finding out if we stood regular or goofy.  I always look goofy, but in regards to surfing, I am regular and Aracely is goofy.  Once we got into the water, in only 15 minutes Aracely was up on the board, surfing her way to shore.  She even impressed the teacher.  After we all got the hang of things, we each attempted to surf on our own for the remainder of the day.  At 4:00pm our ride back to San Juan del Sur arrived and we all jumped back in the Land Rover.

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San Juan del Sur Beach Cove

After returning to our hostel, Aracely and I realized our ribs hurt and our knees burned.  Seems as if I rubbed the hairs off my knees a bit getting in the standing position.  It was a still a great time, and we can now officially say, “We surf!”

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Canopy Tour in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

There are several beaches you can visit near San Juan del Sur for surfing.  If you are looking for something else, try renting a quad or bike on the beach, charter a fishing boat or go searching for turtles.  We booked a canopy tour on zip-lines with Da’ Flying Frog Tours the next day.  We had amazing views of the forest canopy and the coastline all for $30 a person, a fraction of what you will pay in Costa Rica.

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Canopy Tour in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

San Juan del Sur Nightlife

Each evening we hung out at Barrio Cafe and continued to watch the World Series baseball games. Other places we enjoyed a drink or some food were Big Wave Dave’s, Iguana’s Beach Club and El Gato Negro Bookstore Cafe.


El Gato Negro Bookstore Cafe of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

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Patricia says:

Hi Jason. I am Nicaraguan and i totally agree with you about San juan and Maderas. In my opinion theres a lot more to see around the municipality of Tola. Tola is located in Northeast Rivas. The beaches are amazing and despite de commercial growth of the area still retains its rustic beauty. Btw great post!!!

Andi says:

I love love love SJDS!!! It’s seriously one of my most favorite places in the world. What an awesome post.

Thanks Andi. I really wish we had some surfing footage in the video, but knowing we were going to be in the water all day, we opted to leave the video camera at home. So, no surfing footage. I enjoyed San Juan del Sur, but it wasn’t my favorite. I really wanted the beach to be more of a beach, rather than a fisherman’s cove. It was still lots of fun and clearly a hot spot for budget travelers.

Nikki says:

hi jason. what form of transportation did you guys take to get to costa rica from san juan del sur?

Stephen says:

Did you guys or anybody else have problems getting with safety…either around town or at the beaches. We got robbed on the rocks in San Juan del Sur.

And also, yes I was surprised at the high prices in Nicaragua. I went there specifically because I read it was the cheapest country in Central America. That 15% tax really pissed me off as well.

Stephen, we didn’t have any issues with safety while we were there, however we did visit during the low season and it was completely dead at the bars and on the beach. We have come to the realization that thefts can occur anywhere and usually unexpectantly; we just hope that it doesn’t happen to us. If it does, I am sure it will put a bad taste in our mouth about the place where it occured, but we will try to look past it. Thefts occur in most cities around the entire world, even NYC, but we will never stop visiting our favorite city.

Stephen says:

Jason, I’ve traveled through and lived in about 45 countries over the past 15 years (including New York City), and have NEVER been robbed. But had never been to Latin America until November 2009. Not even one week into the trip I was robbed twice, once at knife-point. It’s hard for me not to consider Central America especially dangerous.

Stephen we understand and respect your opinion.

Lin says:

Looks like tons of fun! We were there many months back and loved it. Awesome pics!

Brendan Kane says:

Yo. Looks like you 2 are having a great time down there. I was in San Juan del Sur at about this time last year. Nice place. We went to see the olive ridley turtles laying their eggs one night. Amazing. Have fun!

Carole Levinger says:

Matt and I are finally on board. I am on facebook and will join there as well wonderful site.

Welcome Carole & Matt, glad more family can follow along!

Shannon OD says:

Big props to Aracely for getting up on the surf board that quickly!! I took lessons in Australia and I struggled a bit 🙂 lol, I was def not up w/in 15 mins! Looks like fun, and good to know that the zip-lining in Nicaragua is cheaper than CR!

Jason says:

She was better than myself and the other guy that was with us! The canopy tour in San Juan del Sur was $30USD compared to Costa Rica’s $50-65 costs. The lines in Monteverde are extremely long, but we still had fun at Da’Flying Frog in San Juan del Sur and saved some money.

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