San Juan del Sur

Just a few years ago, San Juan del Sur was a sleepy fishing village that was known outside Nicaragua only among surfers and travellers.

This has changed radically today, as the town on the half-moon bay has become the most popular seaside resort on the Nicaraguan Pacific coast. But the relaxed atmosphere hasn’t changed much (yet). One has a wonderful view over the bay from the view point at its northern end that is marked by a cross (Mirador del Cristo de la Misericordia). San Juan del Sur experienced an early boom during the American gold rush when it suddenly found itself on the coveted route from the east of the USA to the gold mines of the west coast around 1851. At that time the passengers travelled by ship to the Nicaraguan Caribbean coast and further over the Río San Juan and the Lago Nicaragua, in order to then cross the more than 16 km narrow land bridge between La Virgén and San Juan del Sur with mule carriages. Here they boarded ships again, which finally took them north to San Francisco. For a long time this route also seemed to be the better option for an artificial waterway, until Nicaragua – in the opinion of many Nicaraguans due to an intrigue – fell behind Panama and its canal construction and San Juan del Sur was forgotten.

Until the arrival of the first significant tourist groups at the end of the 1990s, fishing remained by far the most important source of income for the inhabitants of San Juan. Between the 1940s and 1990s, San Juan del Sur was considered one of Nicaragua’s most important trading ports, exporting timber, livestock and agricultural products, and importing cars and agricultural machinery. Since the turn of the millennium, tourism has become the most important economic factor in this constantly growing town. Revenues from this sector have also benefited the public infrastructure and have led to some improvements in the appearance of the town, including the redesign of the promenade. The beaches in the north and south of San Juan are far more inviting than the beach in the village. Playa Majagual is regarded as the best beach for swimming, while neighbouring Playa Marsella offers ideal conditions for surfers. A special feature is the protected area of Playa La Flor, where mass arrivals of sea turtles, so-called “Arribadas”, can be observed during the season. In order to avoid disturbing the adult animals as they lay their eggs and the tiny hatchlings as they make their way back into the water, a guide is required. The access roads to these beaches are only partially paved.