San Juan del Sur’s picturesque bay with Nicaragua’s neighboring Costa Rica as a backdrop can be a perfect setting for anyone’s dream vacation. The deep blue Pacific waters are dominant from San Juan del Sur’s western exposure.
The famous TV reality show Survivor decided to keep San Juan del Sur (SJDS), Nicaragua as a premier landscape for its 2015’s “Worlds Apart” series. The geographical location can be very beautiful and at the same time, very treacherous. The small town of San Juan del Sur is a quaint little fishing village that possesses it’s own characteristic traits. SJDS is very personable with lots of old charm that makes for a relaxing atmosphere. It attracts visitors who are looking for traditional flavor. There are no mega resorts or beach club hotels.
Tradition is so evident in this small Central America township. Modern transportation is not real prevalent around town. Horse and buggies (pictured right) can still been seen transporting family, cargo and supplies. The Nicas will gather around the local fish market every morning to purchase their daily meals. The rest of the family will be visiting the open markets that offer organic grown produce and fruits that are plentiful throughout Central America. Eating healthy is not an issue in these small towns that practice old fashion farming.
Fish is also in abundance and is brought to market every morning from the Pacific waters. The Nicaraguan fishermen dedicate their lives to sustaining their cultural tradition. Besides the up and coming tourism, fishing has provided this small community with its economic stability for centuries. Every year the Nicas and Expats put on an annual fishing tournament, but we will talk about that in a separate article.
The approximate majority of the 16,000 people who live in San Juan del sur are Nicaraguans with a small portion being expats. The costal community is family oriented and lives a mostly subtle life. Kids play on the beach while their parents visit with other family members and friends. The beach patrol, shown upper left in dark pants and blue shirts are more of a playground attendant verses security watchdogs.
From the lush green valleys to the Mountainside views that lookout onto San Juan del Sur’s half moon bay filled with the Pacific blue water provides an spectacular view of paradise. San Juan del Sur is proof that when you are off the grid as a vacation destination, preserving nature’s beauty is a simple task. The bay anchors many fishing and sailing vessels that sway back and forth with every incoming wave. In the background (shown left) is Costa Rica’s Bahia de Salinas, which is surrounded by beautiful cascading mountains.
Looking north and perched above SJDS’s bay is a heavenly figure. The Christ of the Mercy statue stands over 439 feet above sea level and gives its blessing every morning to the quaint little fishing community that sits below its feet. We spent a morning hiking up the side of the low level mountain. The vertical incline, the ninety five plus percent humdity and temperatures reaching well into the 100 degree “Feels Like” scale, definitely tests one’s endurance.
If you are a fan or casual viewer of the show Survivor, the following terrain will be somewhat familiar. After filming Redemption Island, Survivor’s producer decided to return to SJDS and film another series. And why not! The light brown beaches are framed with strong mountainous cliffs, which makes for some of the most picturesque and unspoiled landscape I have ever seen. We had the exciting opportunity to take a sailboat along these golden shores. The coastal views are something to behold. However, this will again be an article all to its own.
We scheduled a few excursions that took us to some out-of-the way beaches that are hidden behind Nicaragua’s thick jungles. Getting to Yankee Beach was as adventurous as the destination itself. The winding dirt trail that had a stream flowing down the middle of it made for a pretty rough ride. After reaching the carved out space that resembled a red clay parking lot, we packed in our day’s rations and conveniences. We spent the afternoon enjoying the darker sandy beach, the steadiness of crashing waves and a great open flame BBQ. It was said that Survivor shot several episodes on the elongated beach.
Another beach destination that we experienced was Hermosa Beach. Hermosa beach, unlike Yankee Beach does have some amenities and personal facilities. It has a rustic lodge, a restaurant and limited utilities such as running water and electricity. Both Yankee and Hermosa Beaches are a mecca for surfers. Most of them come for the day, but some do spend the night and take advantage of the morning’s surf. The many outcroppings of jagged rocks more than justifies the homemade sign posted on the battered surfboard.
Days that are filled with lots of adventure don’t seem to last as long as we wish they would. However, as a consolation prize we do get to watch the sun slowly fade behind the Pacific Ocean’s blue horizon most every night. The following morning always holds new experiences, meeting new people and exploring this wonderful country’s vast points of interest.
Stay tuned for more upcoming Nicaragua travel articles featuring a sailing trip, Lake Nicaragua tour, Granada’s cigar factory and one of the oldest cemetaries in Central America to just mention a few.
Author: Anthony Scopel
Photography: Anthony & Maureen Scopel