We were afraid. All indicators lead us to believe that San Juan del Sur, billed as “Nicaragua’s first beach resort town” and favored by sun-seeking travelers, locals, and plenty of expats, would be an over-touristed, over-commercialized, over-priced abomination on the beach. As our San Juan del Sur travel guide reveals, we were wrong.
Pleasantly surprised in San Juan del Sur
The beach here is a lovely arc of pale sand which was remarkably clean. Charming sun-bleached wooden fishing boats bobbed in the bay. A lovely beachfront strip of brightly painted businesses offered quaint B&Bs, seafood-centric, open-air restaurants and even some budget hotels and reasonably priced meals could be found close to the sand. No one offered to braid our hair or tried to sell us knock-off sunglasses or waved giant menus in our faces as if that’s what would make us choose their restaurant.
Sure you could drop a load of money at fancy resorts like the iconic Pelican Eyes Resort & Spa above town, dramatic Morgan’s Rock Ecolodge in a remote cove, or at the most expensive and most luxurious resort in Nicaragua, the recently opened Mukul Resort along an exclusive strip of coastline north of San Juan del Sur that’s been dubbed the Emerald Coast. All three are lovely options for the well-heeled traveler but what’s even more lovely is that San Juan del Sur still has great options for those on a budget too.
Family & budget-friendly hotel near San Juan del Sur
If your travel budget is somewhere north of a backpacker but south of the Emerald Coast, allow us to suggest Mango Rosa Adventure Travel and Surf Resort. Every room is a large standalone bungalow with air conditioning, Wi-Fi, a fully equipped kitchen, access to BBQs, and private parking and rates start at US$98 for up to three people. Larger bungalows for families or groups of friends are also available.
Mango Rosa is less than 10 minutes from the town of San Juan del Sur and is surrounded by jungle. We heard howler monkeys and saw a tiny pygmy owl right from the patio of our bungalow. Stellar surfing at Playa Maderas is just a 10-minute drive away.
The resort itself has a great pool, a good restaurant, and a gregarious owner named Greg Bamford who seems straight out of Florida because he is (by way of Mexico, Hawaii, and the Virgin Islands). Cap’n Greg, as we like to call him, is a great host and an actual captain.
Don’t miss the hotel’s Sunset Coastal Cruise fishing and sightseeing trip up the coast. You’ll get a chance to swim, catch dinner (included in the excursion price), and score a peek at the cliff-side bungalows of Morgan’s Rock from the water with a cold beverage in hand.
Here’s more about travel in Nicaragua
Here’s more about Beaches in the Americas