As we locked the door to our guesthouse tightly behind us and headed off into Nicaragua for the first time, I had a good feeling. I felt that this Central American country, while so similar on the surface to others which I’ve visited before, was going to impress and surprise me.
Visiting Nicaragua was never high on my list. Central American countries tend to blend together in my head for no good or apparent reason. After visiting Costa Rica and Guatemala, (two countries which I truly enjoyed) my travel focus wandered off to other parts of the world in search of something different. Thankfully my trusty travel partner was not as quick to write off Central America and convinced me to reconsider. Newsflash – I can be stubborn. Convincing me of anything is not easy.
Nicaragua completely proved me wrong. (I am shocked. Shocked!) The travel-challenge and travel-fulfillment that I had thought would only be available in other parts of the world was most definitely here. With my ability to speak Spanish and my comfort with budget travel, Nicaragua quickly became my most favorite country on the Central American isthmus.
The day we arrived in our first destination, San Juan del Sur, the tropical heat seemed to emanate from every surface though the smell of rain on the pavement still hung in the air. The town’s dogs walked with purpose down the street as if headed to the office while children gathered on quiet side streets for a quick mid day game of kickball. Colorful buildings showed their age with chipped paint and rust, but they instilled in me a sense of lightness and cheer. The bright blues and soft greens would have been so out of place back in Brooklyn, but here, they were impossibly necessary.
Faintly, I could hear the crash of waves creeping up the sand of the enormous San Juan del Sur Bay. Reggae music wafted slowly from the palapa tourist restaurants that lined the sand.
This town was alive.
This small town has become the gathering point for traveling surfers and is slowly changing in the face of this increased tourism. While it still feels like a village and reflects the true day to day nature of Nicaraguan life, it is inching towards becoming a booming backpacker and traveler hub like many Pacific coast towns in Costa Rica. Thankfully, it’s not quite there just yet.
Our guesthouse, Buena Onda Backpackers, sat slightly up the hill on the south side of the bay, affording us sweeping views over the town as well as the water. The sun set nightly behind a cliff on the far side of the inlet as the lights in town began to pop on in the darkness. On my hilltop perch, I felt at home. I was looking forward to learning more.