San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Beachside San Juan del Sur is the largest town in the Departamento do Rivas; it has charming Victorian houses and a statue of Christ that echoes Rio’s mountaintop saviour. The best restaurants serve fresh-from-the-sea dishes; however, the area’s main draw is its outdoor adventuring and a landscapes that’s inspired many a plane-ticket booking. Volcanic peaks Concepción and Maderas soar up out of Lake Nicaragua with a trail of smaller isles in their shadow; climb to their summits or seek out the pre-Columbian petroglyphs that lay at their bases. Protected rainforests shelter howler, spider and capuchin monkeys, and sloths cling to the branches, and outdoor adventurers will find plenty to do, whether it’s hiking, surfing, horse riding or a bit of beachcombing along the region’s renowned beaches.
When to go
To avoid the rainy season, and for peak climbing conditions, book your trip for June to August. September and October are the rainiest months, but if you can handle a little soaking, rates tend to be cheaper and the flora is out in full force.
PlanesSan Juan del Sur is around a two-hour drive from Nicaragua’s capital Managua; fly into Augusto C Sandino International Airport or Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia, Costa Rica, around a three-hour drive away. If arriving from Liberia, take note that rental cars cannot be taken over the border at Peñas Blancas, and hotel transfers will switch vehicles on the Nicaragua side. Border crossings can be notoriously slow, often taking several hours, so keep an iPad to hand for the wait.
AutomobilesAs Nicaragua opens up to tourism, its roads are improving; however, they’re still a little chaotic or ramshackle in places, so only confident drivers should attempt to go it alone. Livestock aren’t always penned in and may wander into the road, so be quick on the draw. There are car-hire booths at both Augusto C Sandino International Airport or Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport, or most resorts are happy to arrange transportation.