As I mentioned before in my Nicaragua Travel Tips and Visiting Granada I went down to Nicaragua in mid-June 2017 for my sister’s wedding and had the best trip of my whole life. I have a couple wedding pics on this post, but to see all of the incredible professional photos by her photographer Chelsea Erwin be sure to check out Chelsea’s blog post. My sister and her husband are seriously like models you will die.
We spent a whole week in a little beach town on the west coast (Pacific Ocean side) called San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. Before traveling to Nicaragua I heavily lurked the amazing Instagram account @discovernicaragua which gave me so many great ideas for places to visit!
San Juan Del Sur is a popular place for surfers, college students, backpackers, and yoga retreat goers, but if you don’t fit into one of those categories this place can still be an amazing destination to visit! PS If the pictures are making these recommendations hard to follow, scroll all the way to the end for an outlined list of all of the places I mentioned here!
Disclaimer: Let’s keep it real. Nicaragua is a developing country. These are photos of beautiful mansions and yoga studios and restaurants that we were privileged enough to travel to. Most of these places are right next to homes with no electricity where some of the locals live which are not pictured. The people we met in Nicaragua were amazing and kind and loving which made the trip that much better. But things in Nicaragua are going to be different then back home- all of our houses had gates, full-time security, and drivers that would drop us off, wait for us to finish whatever activity we were doing, and be right outside ready to take us home after dinner or the bar. I never ever felt unsafe in Nicaragua for one second, but I did have these added luxuries. I was reminded of this when I showed my dad some photos and videos and he said “I feel like you went to a different Nicaragua than I did.” I want everyone that books a trip there to keep this in mind, I am only showing you one side of beautiful Nicaragua, but there is more to the picture than what you are going to see in this blog post. That being said, I highly highly recommend you check it out for yourself!
One tip about San Juan Del Sur: Most places don’t really have addresses. You basically have to tell a driver where you want to go and hope they already know where it is. Here’s a map of San Juan Del Sur that might help you out:
Notice how there is just the one road that goes along the beach? So when I say a place is “on the beach” it’s literally along this one street, somewhere.
Places of Interest in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua
Christ of the Mercy statue aka Jesus of the Mercy aka Cristo de la Misericordia in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua
The enormous Jesus statue is located on top of a hill and looks out over the bay and the majority of San Juan Del Sur. He is by far the biggest landmark here!
Some friends hiked from one of our rental houses up to the statue and said it was extremely buggy. My sister originally wanted to have her wedding ceremony at the statue, but luckily we ended up deciding against it (luckily because it poured rain and the entire thing is outdoors!)
I went with my cousin and his girlfriend Natalie and we had a driver drop us off at the entrance and it was just a quick walk up some stairs to get to Jesus and the beautiful lookout point. How cute are they!?:
We went on a Sunday night around 6pm and for a few minutes were the only people there!
Getting into see the statue costs about $2 and this was the only place I went that only took Cordobas so make sure you have some local cash on you. I have tips about exchanging money on my Granada post.
San Juan Batista Church aka Iglesia Católica de San Juan Bautista in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua
This bright orange beauty is right in the center of town. We enjoyed it’s cheery colorful aesthetic and took a few photos by it.
There’s also a cute little playground in front of the church.
This photo of me in front of the pretty tree was also taken by the church.
Maderas Beach, San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua
We took about a 20 minute drive out to Maderas Beach which was really nice, but the water was so rough! That’s probably why there were so many surfers there! I mainly tried to relax in the shade. Natalie was a badass and tried surfing!
Things to do in San Juan Del Sur
Besides walking, yoga, hiking, eating, drinking, the pool, the beach, sitting in hammocks, and the catamaran ride I didn’t do a bunch of “activities” in San Juan Del Sur. Some of the other attendants went surfing, rode horses, went zip-lining, rented dirt bikes to explore the island, drove ATVs around, etc. and had great things to say about all of those.
Umm #couplegoals much? This couple met on Bumble btw be sure to check out my post on What to Message a Guy on Bumble. And be sure to follow my amazing photographer sister Hannah on Instagram @hannah_claire_photography.
For my sister’s bachelorette party we all went on an incredible catamaran cruise out to a secluded island. Our guide was a gorgeous French girl named Juliet who took amazing care of us. And boy did we need taking care of because about 35% of us felt horribly sea sick (and most of us are Florida girls raised on boats!).
On a lighter note for the bachelorette party I brought some adorable gold flash tats that said “Bride Tribe” which I had bought for my friend’s Vegas bachelorette party too. I love how they bond the group together.
Even though it was a super rough day on the water and we needed tons of Dramamine I would still HIGHLY recommend this activity to anyone visiting San Juan Del Sur. Around 1pm we met at a marina and took a small motor boat over to the catamaran. We brought our own lunches and they had a few snacks for us plus PLENTY of beer and liquor as well as water to keep us hydrated.
They blasted a great playlist and we drank and ate and sang and laughed (ok I mostly just had my head down to prevent getting sick, but the other girls did that stuff!) for a few hours until we got to the island.
At the island we took noodles to help us swim to shore and enjoyed about 1.5 hours in the water and at the beach until it was time to head back.
The trip was about 1.5-2 hours each way so it’s a nice long day on the boat.
Ok so I didn’t actually have a full black out drunk San Juan Del Sur Sunday Funday pool hopping at hostels, but I did go out Sunday night and join those drunk people and it was a pretty darn good time. If you want to read details about Sunday Funday in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua from someone who actually went check out this blog post by Suitcase and Heels. My local guide’s tips were don’t buy any drugs from strangers, make sure you eat, and the biggest one was do not get in a car or the back of a truck with 30 other drunk people, just have one of our drivers come get you.
Yoga/Beauty/Spa/Hair salon in San Juan Del Sur
First of all let me say that all yoga is hot yoga in the beautiful tropical beach jungle that is San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. Here’s Natalie getting into it at one of our rental houses:
And here was our personal resident yoga guru from the wedding party Rebecca Barnes aka @beyarnce (best IG name ever) at another one of our rental houses:
Zen Yoga Nicaragua
I found the wonderful Zen Yoga Nicaragua on Instagram before traveling to San Juan Del Sur.
I’m so glad we went here one of the first days because Vanessa the owner gave us some amazing recommendations for where to do my sister’s wedding day Yoga (Tree Casa Resort) and helped us set up massages at our rental houses (they were incredible!).
When we were walking to Zen Yoga we got lost and asked a jogger for help. She told us “follow me I’m going right by there” and kept running at full speed so we had to run to get there which was a pretty surprising and funny arrival to the studio.
yoga and more @ Tree Casa Resort, San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua
Tree Casa Resort was about a 15-20 minute drive (might be shorter than that but our driver had to keep asking for directions because again, there are no real addresses in Nicaragua). At Tree Casa Resort they have a beautiful brand new yoga studio that’s available to rent for retreats, but when I went they didn’t have regular classes you could attend. We decided to rent the yoga studio for some wedding morning yoga. Luckily, we brought our own teacher from San Diego (@beyarnce) and she led our class.
A few of us from the Nica crew starting off the big day doing some relaxing yoga with the beautiful bride 👰🏻@hannahcburn, led by @beyarnce. — This trip has been amazing with so many wonderful people & positive vibes! Can’t wait to celebrate Josh & Hannah today!!! ✨ #cocklockanddock #dockingthecockinnica ✨
It was so so beautiful at Tree Casa Resort. They have an amazing pool with a water slide which we jumped in after our class. They also have a lovely patio for food and drinks and if we had time I would have loved to have spent more time here! Also there’s literal tree houses there!!
This is for sure one place I would have liked to have spent another day at. My dad was super jealous that he didn’t get to see Tree Casa when I showed him videos after the trip.
Brush Your Hair Nicaragua
She also does hair for photo shoots, will come to you for styling, and has a shop in town! I wore (and Natasha styled) my Girl Get Glamorous Clip-in hair extensions and you can use my code “Hollywood” to get a discount!
Hannah’s skirt and my dress are both from BHLDN. My dress is no longer available, but it’s essentially the BHLDN Inesse Dress (mine just had some beading on the straps). Her top is from Mia Bridal Couture in Houston, TX. My flower crown was custom made by my step mom Mary! I wore this Short Satin Floral Kimono from Amazon ($22) while getting ready. And (TMI alert) instead of a bra I wore these pasties.
Again, can’t say enough good things about my my Girl Get Glamorous Clip-in hair extensions (use the code “Hollywood” to get a discount!). To see more photos from the wedding be sure to check out my sister’s amazing wedding photographer Chelsea Erwin’s website.
Natasha is a hair stylist/australian vegan yoga goddess hottie/business baddie who makes Pure, USDA Certified 100% Organic Raw Vegan, professional products like shampoo, body wash, fluoride free toothpaste and skin care.
She is also a super sweet angel and gifted me her Brush Your Hair Nicaragua Sunkissed Pretty Skin Facial Cream. The Sunkissed Pretty Skin Facial Cream is anti-bacterial, a collagen/elasticity booster, helps with sun damage, light hydrator, anti-wrinkle, and anti-aging. I love this as a night cream I find it super moisturizing.
The consistency is like nothing I have ever tried too (in a face cream). This is likely because of the raw shea butter. It also contains some of the best scientifically proven skin ingredients like coconut oil, Vitamin C, Retinol Serum, Hyaluronic Acid, lavender oil, and aloe vera oil. This is also one of the only face creams I put over my lips too making it almost like an all in 1 balm! Check out more information on her website BrushYourHairSJDS.com.
Where to Eat in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua
We were so lucky to have chefs at each of the rental houses we stayed at so we didn’t eat out a ton in San Juan Del Sur.
Here’s a few restaurants we did enjoy:
They had breakfast, lunch, smoothies, juices, snacks, anything you could want plus it was a super cute place to take photos. Buddha’s Garden is located near the Church in the center of San Juan Del Sur.
These sunglasses are $12 55mm Metal Rim Cat Eye Sunglasses from BP @ Nordstrom and they’ve replaced my Gucci’s as my everyday sunnies.
Simon Says Smoothie Bar
Simon Says is a smoothie bar and cafe that is so eclectic and amazing. I highly recommend checking this place out! It’s across the street from San Juan Surf. I’m wearing Quay Australia x Desi Perkins ‘High Key’ Aviator Sunglasses in Silver/Blue in this photo ($65).
I actually good food to-go for our bachelorette catamaran ride, but enjoyed exploring the patio while I was waiting for it to be made.
San Juan Surf
I was absolutely obsessed with the Vietnamese iced coffees at San Juan Surf! They were super cheap and so delicious! Highly recommend!
This photo is of me with my lovely friend/Nica roomie who you must follow on IG @DrAunna. In this photo I’m wearing my absolute favorite travel/everyday mini backpack the Longchamp ‘Le Plague’ Backpack ($125).
The quality is amazing it’s been all over the world with me including to Paris! it also rolls up super compact so it’s easy to pack. What makes it better than a cross body in my opinion is that it fits a decent sized water bottle which is a must for me when traveling. It’s also incredibly safe and secure- no one is going to be able to sneak into this thing without you known. Plus I love that it distributes the weight across my back so I don’t get shoulder pain from a heavy purse. And it fits my magic camera the Sony A5100. This camera has a beauty filter that airbrushes your skin, you can upload photos wirelessly to your phone even without wifi, and it has a flip up selfie screen. Perfection.
Vietnamese iced coffees are the best way to start a hot day in San Juan Del Sur.
For the wedding I got a rose gold chrome manicure which was so cute BUT the chrome chips at the end of the nails almost immediately! Something that didn’t let me down was threaded and tinted eyebrows and eyelash extensions which are a must for any tropical vacay to give you a melt-proof “I woke up like this” look. I used Loving Tan for my fake tan in Dark 2 hour express dark self tanning mousse which is the BEST.
The Beach House
If you’re looking for one of the most instagram-able locations in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua- The Beach House is it! This adorable restaurant is located (you guessed it) on the beach.
They have a bar with swings for chairs!!
There’s also a great branch thing for your Instagram photo shoot needs behind the restaurant:
To cool off from our photo shoot we stopped by the patio at Ines restaurant and had some tasty pina coladas while watching the ocean.
If you’re feeling fancy and want Seafood and Nicaraguan food you’re going to want to check out El Timon for lunch or dinner. This is another restaurant on the beach in San Juan Del Sur.
Bambu Beach Restaurant
You may remember my pink pineapple dress from the Tropical Bridal Shower I threw my sister back on New Year’s Eve.
For my sister and brother-in-laws rehearsal dinner they rented out Bambu Beach. I didn’t get any good pics so I found the one below from San Juan Del Sur Guide. The restuarant did an amazing job at accommodating the roughly 55 people we had in our party and the mojitos were EXCELLENT.
Bars in San Juan Del Sur
I drank plenty of Nicaraguan beer (Tona) and rum (Flor de Cana) at our rental houses by the pool (which are delicious national treasures BTW), so I didn’t venture out a ton to the bars, but here’s a few I did check out:
Iguana Bar aka Henry’s Iguana Beach Bar
After the rehearsal dinner at Bambu Beach, the younger crowd headed to Iguana Bar which was a multi-level bar and restaurant on the beach with a DJ and great music. It’s a very casual vibe and like a sports bar with dancing. Again, no photo so here’s one from Trip Advisor:
My cousin Keene, his girlfriend Natalie, and I ended up going to Arribas our last night on the eve of a Sunday Funday. I think we went out around 8:30pm but on Sunday Funday it might as well have been 1am because those backpackers and college kids had been RAGING all day. We tried to catch up and definitely had a lot of fun.
It’s super casual most of the partiers are wearing their bathing suits with their “Sunday Funday” tank tops.
More Photos of San Juan Del Sur Just ‘Cause
We traveled with our own pool floats because 1. Pool floats are the best. 2. They make for adorable props in photos. We ordered most of them on Amazon. First of all, you absolutely cannot blow these up manually you will die. Save yourself the pain and buy this $11 electric air pump and thank me later. This pink flamingo pool float can be found here on Amazon for $30!
Don’t the pool floats make great photo props? In this photo we have the pineapple pool raft which was $22 from Amazon. The diamond ring pool float (umm perfection for any wedding or bachelorette party) was $20 from Target. We got the coordinating mini diamond ring drink pool floats which were adorable and were 3 for $10. We also got a giant margarita pool float which was $20 on Amazon.
Outline of the above San Juan Del Sur recommendations:
Places of Interest in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua:
Christ of the Mercy Statue
San Juan Batista Church
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