To be fair, I kind of knew I wouldn’t like San Juan del Sur before I ever made plans to visit.
The beach town of Nicaragua, it has a reputation as a party spot. The main attraction – Sunday Funday – where tourists pay $30 to crawl from pool to pool and drink in excess (drinks not included in the price), held no temptation to me. Too many drinks make me sleepy, so I figured ahead of time I wouldn’t be drawn to the place. I figured correctly.
I found the buildings were drab and ugly compared to the pastel colored colonials of Granada. The beach was okay, but the bay was filled with boats and had a certain dirty feel to it. San Juan is known for its crime and petty theft, and just the week before our arrival a friend had a gun held to his head in the street there. No, I thought, as we wandered the town in search of food that first afternoon, I don’t think I’ll come back.
But I’m human. And I wasn’t unmoved as I watched the sun set that first night. It wasn’t my first ocean sunset in Nicaragua. But it was pretty beautiful.
I hadn’t come for the city anyway, and I’m not the only visitor to San Juan who has little interest in the place. North and south of the town are some of the most famous beaches in Nicaragua, and if there’s one thing San Juan has going for it, it’s its prime placement for shuttling to more beautiful areas.
That’s why I had come.
The next morning we hopped into the back of a pickup truck (not for the first time in Nicaragua) and made our way to the real destination: Playa Maderas.
Now this is more like it.
A couple of restaurants and a few rooms for rent lined the beach – one of the most famous surf spots in the area. But still, it wasn’t crowded. A friend rented a surfboard, others preferred throwing themselves into the waves sans board, while I chose wading in the shallows. I love watching big waves, but being tossed among them still makes my heart race a little too fast.
Beach days are hard to write about. They’re lazy and gluttonous and so filled with beauty. We ate, we lingered, we swam, they surfed. We enjoyed ourselves, and we all fell into our beds a little sandy that night.