9 Budget Friendly Things to Do in San Juan del Sur
By: Always A Foreigner Blog
Even though Nicaragua is not an expensive country to travel in, San Juan Del Sur prices can be a lot higher than other parts of the country. Because we lived there for six months on a fixed budget, we found a lot of different ways to entertain ourselves for very cheap. Here’s how we spent our time, but not our money with these budget friendly things to do in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua!
1. Head to the Beach in Town
This beach is free, and is close to all of the restaurants, bars and the cheap markets in town. While we didn’t swim in the water here much, hanging out on the beach was a lot of fun. The shuttles to the farther beaches can add up quickly, along with renting a surfboard and the restaurants at the beaches cost more. Save money by buying things from convenience stores instead of restaurants. You can rent stand-up paddle boards from the surf shops in town for the San Juan Del Sur bay. We used to take walks on the beach almost daily, and we would see all sorts of activities, including local fisherman, pick-up soccer games, and people doing yoga. This was probably our most used item on the list of budget friendly things to do in San Juan del Sur, because we lived a short walk away.
2. Hike to the Lighthouse
This little known hike starts in town, and takes you to an old lighthouse on the coastline. Starting by the fish market by the dock, continue up on a gravel path. Keep walking by following the trail, and you’ll eventually get to the lighthouse. About halfway to the lighthouse, the trail will split and will take you to an old crumbling fortress used during the 1850’s to keep lookout for invaders to Nicaragua. There’s tons of wildlife on the trail, so keep your eyes peeled. We saw snakes, iguana, and tons of beautiful birds.
3. Pool Days at Surfing Donkey Hostel
Their pool is free to swim in people! Buy your drinks(alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and food from the bar, and have a great cheap day. Hotel Anamar on the beach, also has a pool for day use but it costs $3 per person. This pool is also used for the Sunday Funday, but if you go during the week you’ll get to relax without all the commotion.
4. Walk to Mirador del Cristo de la Misericordia
You know that giant statue looking over the bay? That’s Cristo de la Misericordia. You can hitch a ride up there from a taxi, but it’s going to cost you a pretty penny. We chose to walk to the statue for free, and as an added bonus it’s a great workout. Bring water! To walk there, you can follow the beach until the hotels turn into houses. From there, walk through the storm drains into the neighborhood, and then follow the signs until you find the windy road that starts to gain in elevation. If you get lost, there’s always locals hanging around that can help you find your way. The views from the top are 100% worth the climb!
Nicaragua is becoming a popular vacation destination and stopover on the backpacker trail through the region, but there’s still a lot of poverty in the area. We volunteered two days a week while we were there at a local school teaching English. There’s also programs to provide public health services, garbage pickup on the beaches, or provide mentor programs to young children.
6. Eat and Shop at the Market
We went to the market daily because we were lucky enough to have a kitchen to use. The amount of food we were able to get for practically nothing amazed us every time. We saved loads of money by cooking our own food and eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruits…plus it was healthy! A lot of hostels will let you use their kitchens if you ask, and it’s a great way to cut back on funds. If you don’t want to cook yourself, the market restaurants had some of the best food for the cheapest prices in town.
7. Watch the Sunsets in the Bay
The sunsets in San Juan Del Sur are the prettiest we’ve ever seen from anywhere in the world. The sky lights up every night with unbelievable colors and catches the clouds to make them look ablaze. We spent many nights during happy hour watching these sunsets, enjoying a $1 Rum & Coke with the very tasty Flor-de-Cana rum the country is famous for.
8. Cheer on the Beach Volleyball Games
Every night it seemed that the best volleyball players would gather on the beach and compete against each other in spectacular matches. As for budget friendly things to do in San Juan del Sur, this was one of the more exciting options. We loved sitting on the stone wall between the road and the beach watching these awesome games. The entire thing is a spectacle, with tourists gathered and touts selling their goods. Buy an ice cream cone for less than a dollar, and cheer on your favorite team.
9. Take the Chicken Bus to a New City for the Day
The Chicken bus is hands-down the greatest way to travel throughout Nicaragua. If you’re looking for budget friendly things to do in San Juan del Sur, the chicken bus is a great option. These buses are old school buses that will take you up the Pan-American highway to various cities and destinations along the way. There are certain stops in towns that you can transfer buses to get pretty much anywhere you need to go. The best part is, it’s under $3 per person if you’re going really anywhere south of Managua. It takes a bit of time to travel around on these buses, but the experience is worth it. We literally sat next to chickens, roosters, dogs, cats, and the most friendly locals and travelers while traveling everywhere around the country.
Author Bio: Caren and Cazzie met while on a volunteer trip to India and have been traveling the world ever since. They lived in San Juan del Sur for 6 months teaching English to local children. They loved Central America and Nicaragua for many reasons, but mostly because of the tropical laid back vibes. Head over to their blog for more of their travels around the world!