I had such hopes for San Juan del Sur. Several of my friends have visited there, and had wonderful things to say. It’s home to consistently good surfing and loads of expats. Before our arrival, we expected to fall in love with this place and happily land in a month-long apartment lease. Turns out that just wasn’t meant to be.
We arrived in San Juan del Sur in the afternoon. After settling into a cheap hostel for the night, we took on the task of finding a place to live. With the power of the internet I was able to locate several vacation rentals, most of which were incredibly luxurious, all of which had high monthly rental rates. These spaces were gorgeous, and most of them sported a view from the hilltop. But while spending US$100-$150 per night on lodging is completely reasonable during a week long vacation, it simply isn’t feasible for us on our World Tour budget. In a country as cheap as Nicaragua, we had a hard time swallowing such high rents. With the luxury options thoroughly discarded, we took to the streets to find simpler, less expensive accommodations.Sadly, while the housing in town was much more budget friendly, it was a bit below the standard of living that I can handle as a somewhat spoiled gringa.
One place was essentially a concrete bunker moonlighting as a studio apartment (it only cost US$7 a night, but living in a windowless concrete room might make you want to kill yourself after a day.) Another offer came from a woman who would move out of her house and live in the back room of her clothing store while you rented her apartment. It wasn’t a terrible option (and quite cheap), but the fridge was still full of her food, the walls covered in photos of her kids, and her clothes were still on the floor. There was no internet, but she assured us that her family’s house down the street had wireless that we could mooch off of for an additional fee (if it would work.) It turned out to be our best option, but it felt awkward and wrong.
Try as we might, we couldn’t find any rentals that were more mid-range. We didn’t need luxury, but we also wanted a place that didn’t have a toilet next to the bed. No such luck. Renting a room in a hostel with a shared kitchen appeared to be the most mid-range option available, one that only works for me if the rest of the clientele aren’t partying all the time. The blaring music and advertised drink specials didn’t bode well for a peaceful hostel existence. I dismissed the option immediately.
In addition to our dismay at the housing situation, we discovered that the energy of San Juan del Sur didn’t suit either of us. There are surfer dudes everywhere, party hostels on most streets, and a general vibe that didn’t feel right. From the moment we got off the bus, John and I found ourselves feeling on edge and uncomfortable. The energy of a place can really effect me (yes, I’m a hippie dippy person who cares about the energy of a space), and this one wasn’t working.
That evening, still unsure of what we wanted to do, I shut myself in our hostel room to practice yoga and clear my mind. My practice was horrible, and my mood deteriorated. When I emerged from our room to the common space, I was in a funk.
John, however, looked happy. While I had been trying to practice, he had been searching the web for apartments – in Granada. And he’d found a gem. After I approved of the photos on the web, John called the landlord and made plans for us to return the following day and settle in an amazing, inexpensive complex. Immediately, my mood perked up.
Later that night as we walked on the beach, I felt a little bit of guilt that we were bailing on San Juan del Sur so quickly. In retrospect, however, I can completely understand why the reviews of vacationing friends wasn’t an accurate predictor of where we’d want to live. Staying at a surf camp on the beach or in a semi-luxurious house on the hill for a week was probably an amazing experience. Living there for a month on a smaller budget just wasn’t the same.
A couple we met in Peru had described San Juan del Sur to us as essentially a nice place with a lot of young people that was great for a visit. In the end, we agreed with them. Though our visit to San Juan del Sur was less than 24 hours, I can see why its a great place for young people to hang for a week or two, and a great place to take a vacation. It just wasn’t the right place for us to live. I’m so glad we didn’t have anything committed there and were able to change our plans so easily on the fly.
I would have liked to take just one surfing lesson in San Juan del Sur, but I wasn’t willing to hang around for a another day in order to make it happen. We left the next morning for Granada, and we haven’t regretted the decision once.