SURFER WAVES AND LUSTY LOVE
Trip Start Dec 14, 2011
22Trip End Jan 05, 2012
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Where I stayed
El Jardin San Juan del Sur
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Yesterday, as we left Leon, we drove west through the town into El Barrio Subtiava. We discovered Subtiava is the much poorer outskirts of Leon. We kept running into street ends and streets were often just dirt. The streets were busy with people walking around; the living shelters weren't much more than just that. We didn’t take many pictures and were very discreet when we did; this was not a place where Gringos should be hanging out.
After half an hour or so, we worked our way to the only road out of Leon to the south; the same one we had come in on from Managua two days before
After just having commented on how good the roads were, they turned to shit. Ten to twenty MPH maneuvering around gigantic potholes for about 30 miles or so, before the road became pretty good again. We got into the Pochomil area on the Pacific Ocean around noon. We stopped, stretched our legs and took some pictures of the beach and the ocean and then wound our way back inland to connect with the Pan-American Highway leading south toward Rivas and eventually San Juan del Sur.
After a couple of hours, we were driving into the village of San Juan del Sur on the Pacific Ocean. We stopped in the village and walked around spying places to watch the sunset later. The village is much quainter and nicer than I expected. There are quite a number of bars and restaurants sitting over the sandy beach overlooking the protected bay in front of the village. Formerly, the village was a fishing village and presumably, to some extent, still is, although, except for the dozens of boats riding on anchor in the bay, there is not much evidence of it.
We hopped back into our car to find our hotel. It is about 2½ miles out of the village to the north. From the turn-off outside the village, the road turned from paved to gravel and then to badly rutted dirt road. We understand it is nearly impassable in the rainy season. Four-wheel drive is needed, not for traction this time of year, but for clearance and hearty tires. We saw the sign for the El Jardin and turned right up a steep, narrow, rutted dirt road. "500 meters" the sign said. Had it not, we would not have continued up the road, thinking on two different occasions the road had ended or that this could not possibly be the road to anywhere! After churning up the steep hill for at least 500 meters we came to the actual road end---and the El Jardin Inn.
The El Jardin is an inn with maybe ten rooms. Opened by a young French couple less than a year ago, it is a brightly colored, nice inn and its view from its 500 foot elevation over the bay and ocean is very nice. We got settled into our room by Timothy, the owner, and his 13-month old daughter, Charlotte, who he packed around under one arm.
We lay down to rest for a while before getting up to get back into the village of San Juan del Sur to watch the sunset
We concluded that the Iguana was the best place for drinks, so we went back to it.
Shortly after sitting back down at the balcony table overlooking (the now dark) beach at the Iguana, Bob came over and gave Linda a bad time about not wearing the shirt he had given her. We met Chuck and Bob at the Hotel La Perla in the Leon. They are Americans from Illinois now living at least part time in Nicaragua. Chuck owns a house in Rivas and a fishing boat, which he has anchored out in the San Juan del Sur bay. Chuck and Bob are trying to promote chartering the use of Chuck's boat for fishing and ocean excursions and had a bunch of T-Shirts printed up to do so. As Bob was saying goodbye to us when we last saw him at the La Perla in Leon, he gave Linda a T-Shirt telling her to be sure to wear it while she was in San Juan del Sur knowing that was where we were headed
We left the Iguana around 9 PM and walked the 100 feet or so to the Meson Española for dinner. It was a very pleasant atmosphere and a nice meal. I had paella which was very good. When we walked back by the Iguana after finishing dinner, it was completely packed with---mostly young---people, partying loud and hard. We, however, were ready for bed, so we walked on.
It was after 11 PM, dark of course, and a little drunk out---I drove right past the poorly-marked driveway to the El Jardin. We went a couple of kilometers past before I decided we must have gone too far. Things look way different at night. I paid more attention to the details today, so we will hopefully recognize the turn in the dark tonight.
It is now about 4 PM and I am sitting on the balcony of our room at the El Jardin looking out over the Pacific Ocean as I type. It has been very warm, but cloudy all day, sprinkling occasionally with a mild breeze
We left the hotel before ten this morning and drove into the village to get gas and cash and then headed south along the coast. Our mission was to get to Playa El Coco which is about 18 km south of the village. El Coco is where I had originally booked us to stay while we were in San Juan del Sur. It looked good on paper; that is, until you read more closely, which Linda fortunately did. The big issue was the distance from San Juan del Sur and other services (like food and entertainment). Linda changed the reservations to the El Jardin and has been giving me a hard time about my bad choice ever since. This morning, I wanted to go see just how bad a decision it would have been.
It would have been bad. The road was a difficult half hour drive and would have been no fun at all at night. The beach villa I had booked was rustic at best. And El Coco Beach is so isolated, even locals don’t go there. We probably saw a dozen people in the whole beach area while we were there. I chuckled when I thought about what Linda’s reaction would have been had we pulled into the El Coco villa late yesterday afternoon, instead of the El Jardin. I am not even sure there would have been anyone there at the office to greet us---it was over the top rustic
The road south from San Juan del Sur follows the coast inland from the beach several kilometers and each of the beaches with dot the coast along the way has access roads on which high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicles would be highly recommended this time of year and not even enough during the rainy season. While we saw several beaches we saw almost no people on them. Not sure what that is all about---these are supposed to be some of the best surfing beaches in the world. Clearly accessibility (unless by water) would be a major issue.
During our drive, we pulled off the main road to cut to the ocean to see Yankee Beach. The New York woman from the El Jardin, whom we met over breakfast, told us she had purchased a lot there a few years ago. We could see placards with lot numbers on them, but the road we were traveling to get to them was three notches better than a goat trail. It scared Linda to death. And, it was not possible to get close to the beach. In short, there wasn’t a whole lot of anything one would refer to as “development” going on at this place; I hope she didn’t pay much for her lot.
However, we did come across one very attractive, new structure with a sign on it (Orquidea del Sur) and stopped to peek in
We passed through San Juan del Sur and drove on toward El Jardin, but drove past the driveway (this time on purpose) and drove a few more miles out to Maderas Beach. Finally, at this beach there were people---a lot of them. Maderas Beach must be heaven to the serious young surfer dude or dudette. I can’t speak to the quality of the waves, but the accommodations and eateries are right down the alley of a broke, 20 year-old looking for waves and lusty love in the sand. There were a hundred or more people in the water, on the beach or at the bars looking weathered, tanned---and exhausted from last night’s party, but ready for tonight’s.
We drove the three or four miles back to the hotel and I came out to the balcony where I am now to get caught up in my journal. A young couple just left the hotel to walk down to the beach bordering Nacascolo Bay, which must be about a mile away. Looks like a good jaunt. I think I should do the same.