Oh Nicaragua! We’ve been in this beautiful country less than two weeks and we’re completely head over heels in love with it!
When we left Costa Rica, we were definitely ready for it. It was expensive, super crowded with tourists, and after having to get the wooly jumpers back out in Monteverde, we were ready to get back to the heat.
Cue – San Juan del Sur, a small beach town just over the border in Nicaragua. It’s known as a bit of a party place, famous for its Sunday Funday, but we loved San Juan for completely different reasons. Here’s what we got up to in our first stop in Nicaragua.
Chilling at Playa Maderas
Well we couldn’t visit a beach town without checking out the beach!
There are loads of beaches around San Juan del Sur, from the one in town to the many beaches north and south of it. We decided to visit one of the most well-known beaches, Playa Maderas. Unfortunately the beaches aren’t that easily accessible and you can only reach them by hiring a car or scooter or by taking a taxi. Luckily, the third option is to take a shuttle from San Juan del Sur. We took the shuttle from hostel Casa Oro for $5 each for a return journey. A LOT cheaper than the prices the taxi drivers were quoting us.
Playa Maderas is only a 25 minute journey from the centre of town and popular with surfers and sunbathers. There are surf lessons (around $30 an hour) and board rental on offer at the beach as well as a couple of bars. The beach is fairly long and it was pretty windy the day we went, but we managed to find a more sheltered spot around a headland. Perfect for a day of lazing in the sun!
Turtle Tour AKA The Most Amazing Thing Ever!
We found out about the turtle tour completely by chance while we were waiting for our shuttle to Playa Maderas. And we’re so glad we did!! It is honestly the best thing we’ve done in a long time!
The O Shop offers surf board lessons and rental as well as other tours, and for only $30 each, we got transport and from Playa La Flor, a guide, and the chance to help release baby turtles into the wild. Playa La Flor is the only protected beach in the whole of Nicaragua – on other beaches, the turtle nests are often raided by locals who sell the eggs. The rangers at Playa La Flor guard the beach and if baby turtles hatch during the day, they collect the turtles for release later at night away from the hungry eyes of predator birds.
We set off from San Juan del Sur at 8pm and after a 45 minute drive to the beach, we arrived at the reserve and were greeted by these little guys!
So many baskets full of babies that had escaped from their nests earlier that day! Each nest can have around 80 or 90 eggs and there were lots of baskets – LOTS of baby turtles!
We each took a basket down to the beach and carefully (with clean hands) lifted the baby Paslama turtles out on to the sand so they could make their way to the sea. Then we stood at the water’s edge and guided them out using a very dim light on our phones. Their little waddle was probably the cutest thing we’ve ever seen!
What made it even more special was when we started seeing other turtles hatch from their nests on the beach. There were so many, it was crazy! We were literally surrounded by hundreds of baby turtles.
LIFE – MADE!
We stayed at the beach for a few hours watching the turtles, with Joe giving a running commentary the whole time. “Come on Thomas, hurry up Peter! Bill, Ben you’re going the wrong way!” – he basically spoke to the turtles like a football squad. He was in his element, it was hilarious how much he got into it!
As much as we could’ve stayed all night watching more turtles make their run for the sea, at 11pm we left and headed back to San Juan del Sur. Even the drive back was cool, the sky was super clear so we got amazing views of the sky from the back of the truck. A beautiful end to a TURTLEY awesome night!
Surfing and Sunset at Playa Yankee
After our incredible evening with the turtles, we weren’t sure if anything could top it. But the next day we booked a surf lesson with a sunset beach barbecue, and we had a ace time!
We booked through The O Shop again and paid $50 each for a 2 hour surf lesson, board rental, food, drinks and transport. After being at beach towns in Panama and Costa Rica with expensive prices for surf lessons ($60 in Puerto Viejo on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast), I was so excited to finally be able to give surfing a go without breaking the bank AND getting a beach barbecue too – winner!
We went to Playa Yankee for our afternoon lesson, and although the waves weren’t huge, they turned out to be just right for us as beginners. William was our instructor and he was great! He was super patient and really encouraging. We only spent a short time on how beach before getting into the waves and surfing like pro’s.
Not! There were more than a few comic falls from our boards but to be fair, we also managed to stand a fair few times too. There’s no photographic evidence, so you’ll just have to believe us! We also got our share of wounds – Joe was stung by a jellyfish and I almost knocked myself out when a wave threw the board at my head.
After a really fun (and tiring) 2 hours, we were ready to chill on the beach with a cerveza and watch the sunset.
The guys from The O Shop made us some delicious fish, potatoes and vegetables on the bonfire, made even better by some rum and cokes. The whole evening was great – bonfire, bevs and Bob Marley on the speakers, perfect! We even got treated to another super clear sky full of stars after the sun went down.
Although we didn’t do the classic backpacker Sunday Funday party in San Juan del Sur, we had such an amazing few days in this nice little beach town. We even managed to achieve a bucket list dream when we saw the newly-hatched baby turtles!
We love you Nicaragua!! ❤️
What are your favourite wildlife experiences? Have you visited Nicaragua? Let us know! Leave a comment below and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for more of our travel updates.