We write on 2014-02-04 from Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica:
Hi folks. We just arrived in Costa Rica having spent seven days in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua and are overdue for our regular update.
Party zone! For the most part of a week, we have been oceanside in San Juan del Sur which is on the Pacific coast in Nicaragua not too far from the border with Costa Rica. It’s a vibey little surf town with a varied population of surfers – both newbs (like us !) and those with withered tattoos and grey hair, retirees, backpackers, and motorcycle travellers (also us!). It is an official tourist town with lots of beachside bars, restaurants, clothing stores, ATV and motorcycle rentals, and funky coffee shops.
The mainstream prices (especially beachfront) are tourist prices but, if you pay attention, there are many deals for the more “economically minded”. We sort of just came here as per general recommendation at previous hostels, and while we were initially thrown by the pure tourism of the place, we have really grown to like it. SJDS is, in no way, shape or form, similar to Puerto Vallarta, or even Puerto Escondido in Mexico. Nor Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica – from where were will eventually post this blog entry.
We have met many people on our journey, with certainly no exception in this eclectic surf town. Being a popular travel spot – at least relative to Nicaragua – you run into a bunch of different characters – most of them pleasant (such as our new Chilean friends) and some friends from earlier places – but some really frustrating people have also reared their ugly heads: From the annoying town drunk “Juan”, who is a self described “coyote”, who seems to get into everyone’s hair, to the really, really annoying clueless Argentine girls from Buenos Aires who, not only don’t know how to clean up their own kitchen mess, even with a very bilingual sign, and who don’t know how to keep their mouths shut at 2 a.m. with literal screaming and shouting and kitchen chases.
The cream of the crop, however, was a pushy, disrespectful Brazilian guy who became upset that we wouldn’t buy his jewellery which was supporting his journey in a VW van as he fumbled through attempts to guilt us through the process – we should feel guilty for not supporting someone on their travels when we really have no interest in what they are selling. The engagement ended with him insulting us for attempting to speak in Spanish (“stupid Gringo Spanish”) not knowing that he only spoke Portuguese and English, as well as insulting an entire culture by stating that “Spanish as a nonsensical” language that he cared not to learn (the obvious irony being that we was travelling through Latin America). What a piece of work. Fear not, however, most people we have met a great.
Other people we have hung out with include a number of French, German, American, British, and Canadian people all who have congregated to SJDS to worship the surf gods. Our friends, Mark and Philip (Fry), two would-be surfers from Germany who we met at Hostel Oasis in Granada also made an extended appearance here in SJDS and we have enjoyed running into them daily. Perhaps it was their charm during the repeated proclamation of the catch phrase “The Ace of Spades” (from the Motörhead song) with their German accents in Granada each time said card (Ace of Spades) was revealed by a would be playing card “magician”.
Having intended to only spend a night or two, our time at Beach Fun Casa 28 (they have parking!) extended into an entire week. All things said and done, life on the coast proved to be pretty laid back. We slept late. We ate breakfast. Followed by puttering around the hostel usually doing some bike maintenance or internet stuff, then hitting the beach in late afternoon. Actually, we have spent a few hours cleaning up some sticky brakes and replacing brake fluid so it isn’t all fun 😉 The evening and night time was reserved for a late dinner, and exploring the bars where the rum flowed like water.
It’s also been pretty windy here and the mini sand storms on the beach rivaled any microdermabrasion treatment in any spa. San Juan del Sur is also home to the second largest Jesus statue in the world (the first being in Rio de Janerio, Brazil). The wind proved to be a blessing since it would have been quite hot without it, as the temperature constantly hovered around 31 degrees during the day.
There was a Canadian pub next door called “The Loose Moose” that celebrated its grand opening only this week. To our disappointment they didn’t serve any Canadian beer (a logistical issue, no doubt), but they did have Caesars, poutine, and sushi on the menu. It was nice to immerse ourselves in a bit of familiarity while we were on the road. The owner, Karim, is from British Columbia and has quite the cozy setup. Funky decor, Vancouver Canucks pennants, and retro concert posters, it was a little slice of Canada on the coast of Nicaragua.
So finally, we also shouldn’t imply that we are staying in some sort of beachside paradise. Our hostel (Beach Fun Hostel Casa 28) is a typical surfer house. Barebones rooms for $8 per person per night with shared bathrooms and a filthy kitchen, because who has time to clean up after yourself when there’s waves to ride…?? There is also a funky smell coming from somewhere that is somewhat reminiscent of puke (or maybe methane), and the refrigerator should be condemned as a health hazard. It was not without it’s charm, however, with private onsite parking, palm trees, and hand wash laundry facilities. The owners and security are also pretty friendly. Time sure passed quickly here when rubbing elbows with surfers.
On our second last day (which was originally supposed to be our last day), we decided to learn how to surf with One Love Surf School. We signed up, jumped into the back of a pickup with surfboards attached to the roll cage, and headed down a somewhat remote road to a private beach called Playa Hermosa. Our instructor Nicole was pretty laid back. Being in Nicaragua for a couple of years, some friends as well as her recently birthed baby attended our lunch time basic verbal instruction under the palapas.
As soon as the tide was correct, she has us out learning how to catch a wave (we spent hours “practicing” that via body surfing at SJDS main beach days prior) and eventually we attempted to stand up on the surf board. Adam only really managed to get himself up on his knees before plunging into the water loosing his balance attempting the full “surf stance”, but Jenn was an instructor claimed “natural” and rode a close to perfect (or at least acceptable) surfing stance from her third attempt. Our time at our secluded beach soon came to a close and we both agreed that we had a great time surfing (Adam does not share this opinion about snow boarding). The next day was spent eating inexpensive seafood dinners, complaining about our aches and pains, followed by our eventual departure to Costa Rica.
San Juan Del Sur photos can be found here.