San Juan del Sur

San Juan del Sur on the Pacific coast has a beautiful bay which is rapidly developing. A few years ago this was a humble fishing village, now tourists, expats and estate agents are transforming it into a Costa Rican-style development, driving land prices to exorbitant levels. Still, the sunsets have to be seen to be believed, and the village has retained its small- town feel, for now at least. You'll find it 28 km from Rivas, south along the Pan-American Highway and then right to the coast along a road which is in good condition. There is also a
direct dirt road from Rivas going through beautiful countryside, but it is only good when dry.

The town beach is cleaned daily, but at weekends and on holidays, especially Semana Santa, San Juan is busy; otherwise the beaches are quiet during the week. The
tourist office
, www.sanjuandel, is helpful, sells maps and a guide of San Juan del Sur. Alternatively, try

South of San Juan del Sur

You can take a boat to more pristine beaches such as
Playa del Coco
on the poor road to Ostional. Or ask around for a bus leaving to Ostional. The surfing on nearby beaches is good,
Playa Maderas
is the current hotspot, often crowded with beginners. Shuttles leave from agencies, hostels and surf shops.

Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor
, covers 800 ha of tropical dry forest,
mangroves, estuary and beach. A beautiful, sweeping cove with sand and many trees, it is the most important and most visited beach by nesting sea turtles from August to November. During the high season, armed guards protect the arrival of the turtle (sometimes in their thousands and usually lasting a period of three days). The rangers are very happy to explain the creatures' reproductive habits. Many birds live in the protected mangroves at the south end of the beach. Camping is provided during the turtle arrivals, first come, first served. Bring a hammock and mosquito netting as insects are vicious at dusk. The ranger station sells soft drinks. To get there, the exit for the dirt path south is 200 m before the entrance to San Juan del Sur, 21 km from the highway. Several rivers, most of which have firm beds, must be crossed.

San Jorge

On the southwestern shore of Lake Nicaragua close to Rivas, San Jorge, is the main departure point for Ometepe Island, but on Sundays in summer the town itself is very lively with music, baseball, swimming and lots of excursion buses.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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