the "Sarong Goddess" - Vicki Skinner's Info Guide
The Country Code for Nicaragua is 505 (so if calling from the states - dial 011-505... If calling from Costa Rica/Internationally, call 001-505...)

As of January 29 2012 you get 31.10 CORDOBAS to $1 USD. It'll be hard to get Cordobas in Costa Rica (MAYBE you can do it at one of the main banks in Downtown San Jose), so the border is your first place to do it (as always, a bank will be your BEST place to get Cordobas)!   I say bring a BUNCH of US Dollars & IF possible, bring as many SMALL BILLS as possible (though I find it challenging lately to get $1's, $5's & $10's at banks in Costa Rica - GRRRRR).  Try not to bring anything/much larger than a $20 as it will be harder to change.  AND, usually when you give dollars you'll get your change back in Cordobas.

There are official money changers "Sindicato de Cambistas" with badges on the Nicaragua side - near the Nicaraguan Immigration lines, although I heard that there may be a lot of fake badges. If you're doing this - do the math on your own calculator or with pen & paper as the money changers often have tricks to divert you & are known to switch the multiplication & division signs on their calculators.
You won't be getting a great rate from these people - BUT - they ARE offering you a CONVENIENCE - especially if you're arriving at night or on the weekend when a bank is closed - or are going to a more removed area so just look at it as a Convenience Fee you're paying!
DON'T change money on the Costa Rican side as the rate is often worse!!
THOUGH - for changing currency, I usually use a bank when possible (mainly an atm machine THOUGH, your bank will probably charge you a $2-$6 or so International Fee & remember your bank will most likely charge you a 3% International Fee on anything you charge on your card!).

If get it at the Mercado – at the "Y" on the left corner – 2 blocks in (a bank is across the street). There is a bank on the Costa Rican side of the border, the Banco de Costa Rica, but no ATM. However, you should be able to do a "retiro" from a debit or credit card & get colones or dollars back. The tellers can change colones to US dollars but CANNOT change colones to cordobas. There is an ATM (where you can withdraw cordobas with a debit card) & bank on the Nicaraguan side called Bancentro. The tellers can change US dollars to cordobas but CANNOT change colones to cordobas.
Travel with some US dollars (say $50 in small denominations), keep your belongings attached to you & WHEN IN DOUBT ABOUT ANYTHING ask a guard or another official.

MESSAGE BOARDS & INFO SITES  (it's not looking like anyone's been on these sites in AGES!)


Humpback Whales migrate around April-Sept., Leatherback Turtles around July to December, Manta Rays jumping out of the water, Dolphins may swim up beside your boat.

There are 4 BANKS &/or ATM MACHINES in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.
A bank & atm machine caddy corner to the Mercado (though twice I tried to use the atm & it was down)
A BAC atm at the corner at the Hotel CasaBlanca
BanCentro bank & atm around the corner from from Big Wave Dave's
An atm at the far end of the Malecon - on the Paseo Maritimo/Boardwalk/Malecon - next to the Victoriano Hotel (the most upscale hotel I found in San Juan del Sur).

El Gato Negro Restaurant has become an official landmark referenced for MANY addresses.





WED: 5-8pm - HAPPY HOUR - 2x1 drink and appetizer specials - Pelican Eyes Hotel & Resort - La Cascada and La Canoa (at the upper pool) - Upscale dining experience with a large array of food choices and a spectacular view of the town and bay. Serving a wide variety of options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

THURS: 7:30pm - MOVIE NIGHT. Bambu Beach Club – Mediterranean and Nicaraguan inspired foods complimented by an extensive and creative drink menu and a spectacular beach front location. Happy Hour on Sunday's from 5-7 with live accoustic guitar. Movie Nights are Mondays and Thursdays at 7:30 pm. DJ music on Friday nights. Located on the North end of the Beach Front Road. Serving lunch and dinner.

DVD CONCERT - Rocomar: BBQ on the beach. Authentic smoked meats, chicken & fish are prepared every Thursday, Friday & Saturday nights. Rocamar also shows DVD concerts on Thursdays, has happy hour on Fridays & varied events on Saturday. Located at the very north end of Calle de la Bahia, just before the end. Open for dinner, & open for lunch on the weekends.

FRI: 5-8pm - HAPPY HOUR - 2x1 drink and appetizer specials - Pelican Eyes Hotel & Resort
7-10pm - Ladies Night - 2-for-1 drinks at the Bambu Beach Club
Rocomar: HAPPY HOUR - BBQ on the beach. Authentic smoked meats, chicken & fish are prepared every Thursday, Friday & Saturday nights. Rocamar also shows DVD concerts on Thursdays, has happy hour on Fridays & varied events on Saturday. Located at the very north end of Calle de la Bahia, just before the end. Open for dinner, & open for lunch on the weekends.
DJ - Bambu Beach Club

Don't even show up at the disco before 11pm. After midnight is better – it fills up & people dance until the wee hours!


VOLCANO SURFING  -  Are you a real THRILL SEEKER??  Than Volcano Surfing might just be for you!!! writes "Phillip Southan is the young owner of Green Pathways Tour, the company that organizes volcano surfing sessions on Cerro Negro, one of Nicaragua’s most active and dangerous volcanoes."

We took the about 1 hour boat ride to a NICE SECLUDED beach where they dropped us off for about 3 hours & picked us up at 4pm. We REALLY ENJOYED this ride on the water to the ocean side to the quiet/practically secluded Playa Majahualt & from where we got off (in front of a HUGE private beachfront home), we took a hidden path to the Right to a tasty restaurant by Don Martin's House where I had a WHOLE fish with LOTS of Roasted Garlic & other goodies for $___ Walking between these two places we saw (& heard) at least 6 Howler Monkeys - even pretty close!! COOL!!! They were the kiosk along the Malecon/boardwalk.
HOURS: 11am-5pm.
COST: $10 per person (note they MUST have 5 people for it to run so sign up for it asap)

Community Tours in San Juan del Sur
They can take you to get to experience more rural & community tourism which is always such a treat. Next time I go I'm planning to get to Ostional from San Juan del Sur, one of their destinations. Unfortunately the beach at San Juan del Sur itself is pretty dirty (not clean to swim in) & it's not safe to just hang out solo on secluded beaches. So... I would think that going to a beach destination with Community Tours or with a surfing shuttle is probably your best bet.

Humpback & Olive Ridley HUGE Turtles July till December-January (it's AMAZING to be riding a wave & there next to you is one of these GIANT turtles!!). Tours are LATE Night & around $30

There's more than 60km of beach around San Juan del Sur BUT, you MUST either take a 4WD or hire a taxi (I believe it's about $25), or take one of the "tours" (transportation) from one of the hotels or surf shops around town. I believe buses there are HARD!! Or use one of the Boat Tours for the transportation ($10).
MAIN SURF BEACHES: Playa Maderas (this seems to be the most popular), Playa Hermosa, Los Perros & Popoyo.

A handful of rocky islets are located along the coast - about 3 kilometers offshore, creating a great habitat for many fish and other animals, which make them an interesting place for divers. There's even a sunken Russian boat, located close to the La Paloma Island. Coral reefs also grow around these islands, adding even more variety to this ecosystem. BEST SEASON FOR DIVING (for best clarity): Dec.-March & it's OK otherwise.
COST runs around $55 for a 2-tank, 4-5 hour dive (includes transportation).
Neptune Watersports / 935-6823-cell / - They can coordinate PADI Certifications, Dive Trips, Fishing Trips, Surfing Trips. They coordinate rides to Madera Beach for $5 per person. $10pp to Yankee Beach.

(2-568-2030) - 4-hour guided tours to the beaches, mountain trails or scenic viewpoints. Tours are tailored for your sense of adventure & skill level in '08 fully automatic & easy to ride ATVs for rent by the hour, 1/2 day or full day!!!

SPANISH SCHOOLS (info coming)


The best Fishing Season is around May-October/November-ish, March if the winds aren't so high (hence the water choppy). What can you find - Offshore-Marlin, Sailfish, Yellowfin Tuna, Wahoo, Dorado. Inshore - Bonitos, Jack Crevalle, Barracudas, Snapper, Grouper, Sierra Mackereel, Rooster Fish. Hiring a Panga is between $150-$200. A 23-foot Sea Craft for a 1/2 day is around $400.
The front desk at the Gran Oceano have the BEST Fishing Trip!! (505-568-2219 / 505-935-7034)
Check out this site for more info -

Lighthouse Hike: The lighthouse is located on top of town’s southern headland. The hike to get there takes about 2 hours round trip. Walk to the south end of town to the main port gait. Go through the gate and into the port. Near the new building there is another gate where the trail starts. Follow the trail up the hill, fork right and keep going until you reach the lighthouse.

Port Hike: At low tide you can walk and rock hop out past the port to the southern tip of the bay. Keep an eye on the tide. Walk through the port and keep heading along the water.

Cross Hike: looking towards the north end of the bay, high in the hill you will see a large white cross. After hiking to this view point, you will have a 360 degree view of town, and the ocean, spanning up the coast and down to Costa Rica. During the dry season you can walk across the river mouth on the beach into “La Talanguera”, the beach front neighborhood on the other side of the bay. Go one block off the beach and take a left. You will come to the gate for Pacific Marlin, a residential community. Hike up this hill until you reach a “T” in the road. Go left and about 100 meters further on your left, you wil see a very steep driveway with steps going up on the side. We recommend doing this during the day, as part of the hike is steep and can be dangerous at night.

Canopy Tour Da Flying Frog (613-4460 / 611-6214 / 465-6781 /

Pelican Eyes / Piedras y Olas (568-2110 / has a WONDERFUL Sailboat Day Trip on their Pelican Eyes 42' Sailing Sloop. It includes a full fresh seafood Gourmet b'bque lunch & swim on a beautiful white sand beach, fishing (to catch your lunch), open bar with soft drinks, beer, wine, rum punch . Runs with a minimum of 10 people.
RATE: $60 (kids 11 & under $30). (sounds like YOU must put your own group together - that this is not a regular tour as they require a $300 deposit).
HOURS: 9am-5pm

FIREWORKS: Not sure on the legality of them but I've heard through the grapevine, if you're interested in them, the priest may be able to share that information with you!



MASAYA MERCADO - About an hour East/North of San Juan del Sur - past Rivas - there’s a HUGE Flea Market/Mercado called the Masaya where you can get things SOOOOOO OUTRAGEOUSLY CHEAP!! You can even get leather shoes made while you wait!!!! They have LOTS of artisan chachkees . There are 2 of them - one is the “Old Market”/Mercado Viejo which is now the gringo/LOTS more $$$market so make sure to go to the “NEW MARKET”/Nuevo Mercado for the best deals. When I go next time I’ll probably take the bus into Rivas & a taxi from there (THANX Todd!)

Reserva Silvestre Privada La Primavera (867-4684 / 886-5677 / -

Senderismo en Playa La Flor (MARENA Rivas - Costado Oeste del Colegio Humberto Méndez (563-4264 /


San Juan del Sur is also a Port town welcoming MANY cruise ships (though most small).



Nov.14 - 6am-3pm - Panga Fishing Tournament - Boat Dock - The anual Panga Tournament is a fun day where locals, and foreigners compete for trophies, prizes and bragging rights. Beer, drinks, grilled fish and t-shirts will be for sale. The fun starts around 2pm as the first pangas start arriving with fish to be officially weighed. the winners are annouced at 5:30 and the party continues at Bambu Beach. Events all week will be happening to honor the fisherman.//

Dec. 6, '08 - 11am - Feria Espiritu del Sur - Starts at Parque Central - in front of the catholic church.


POLICE: 2- 568-2382
FIRE: 2- 568-3015
MEDICAL CLINIC: Clinica Centro de Salud - HOURS: 8am-noon & 1:30-5pm DAILY. LOCATION:
EMERGENCY ROOM: 24/7 - next to the above clinic.
AA / FRIENDS OF BILL W. MEETING: Meetings are on Wed. mornings. Contact Randy (8-632-9646), Ken (8-852-4793) or Kelvin (8-854-0675)

DEL SUR - Kelvin (8-854-0675 / - English. Comes out every Thurs.



NOTE: ESPECIALLY in the beachfront restaurants - I found MOST to have pretty much the SAME menu plus I didn't find ONE bar that made FRESH Fru-Fru Drinks like Piña Coladas!! Though they have plenty of pinapple & coconut there!! That saved me a BUNCH of $$$as I don't do bottled fru-fru drinks!!

DRINK A NICA LIBRE: Mixing Nicaragua’s famed Flor de Cana rum with coke and a lime on ice. After one, this will most likely become your preferred drink during your visit.

EAT A NACATAMAL: This mixture of pork, onions, tomatoes and spices is wrapped in masa, a cornmeal, and then slow cooked in banana leaves. The Hotel Vila Isabella serves nacatamals on Sunday mornings.

COMEDOR: Eat with locals at the market – join locals who gather here daily for breakfast and lunch, sitting at rows of tables that are set up family style in front of multiple “comedors”. Whichever “comedor” your table is in front of is where you will get your food. The menus are pretty much the same across all comedors, offering soup, chicken, beef, pork, fish, pancakes, eggs, fruit, salad, and of course gallo pinto. Ask which “jugos naturales” (fresh juices) they are serving that day and make sure to try a sweet concoction made from tamarind, passion fruit, pataya, or other locally grown fruits. As you can imagine, credit cards are not accepted here, but these are by far some of the best prices in town, just 2-3 dollars for your entire meal.

CHICKEN LADIES: If you are looking for something more casual and inexpensive try the market in the center of town which is open for breakfast and lunch or enjoy a street-side diner at one of the “Chicken Ladies”. There are two main Chicken Ladies who prepare and sell food from in front of their homes. One is located on the market street, just east of the market, and the other is on the southwest corner of the central park and church. Chicken Ladies serve freshly grilled chicken and meat with traditional side dishes like cabbage salad, gallo pinto, and fried plantains for a few dollars, and are open for dinner only. Have a street side dinner at the “chicken lady” –one is located on the southwest corner of the central park, and another on Calle del Mercado, just east of the market. These are about as local as you can get for dinner, with open flame BBQs turning out delicious pieces of chicken, served with fresh tortillas, cabbage salad, and fried plantains. Fresh juices and sodas are typically available as well, or you can bring your own beer.

O SOLE MIO (568-2649 / 602-9321-cell) - A REALLY TASTY ITALIAN restaurant in the La Dolce Vita Hotel. EVERYONE in our gang of 5 LOVED their food - ESPECIALLY me with their Veal Picatta!!! LOCATION: 100 mts. West of the Texaco - basically at the cross/"cruz". HOURS: Tues.-Sun. 5:30-9:30pm.

A TOTALLY COOL Coffee shop, café, and book store serving organic Nicaraguan grown and on-site-roasted coffee and espresso. Gourmet Breakfast (though not a huge menu) including bagels, eggs, sandwiches, crepes, pastries, fresh juices . Gato Negro is also a book store (NOT exchange) & claim to have the widest selection of English-language books in Nicaragua. Ya GOTTA REALLY read their menu - TOTALLY! I LOVE & RESPECT their HONESTY/DIRECTNESS (& agree with most of it!!). I LOVE THIS PLACE
HOURS: Daily 7:30am-3pm
LOCATION: Located on the road coming into town (Calle del Tropezon) at the "Cruz"/cross intersection with Avenida Central on the right side.


MEXICAN. TOTALLY COOL/FUNKY restaurant & bar!! Like a cave!!

1 piece Fish & Chips 85-c, 2-p/125-c, Seafood Soup (brothy) 80-c, Popcorn Shrimp 150-c, Calamari 150-c, Marlin Burger 110-c (I had mine grilled)
OWNER: Brendan Harris
LOCATION: A few doors South of Gecko's - next door to the soon opening Surf CASINO & Casa 28 - 1 block back from the beach.
HOURS: Tues.-Thurs. noon-10pm, Fri. & Sat. noon-1am, Sun. noon-10pm (closed Mon.)

They serve as a restaurant & volunteer co-ordination center & a place for people to meet
LOCATION: By the Kids' playground in the park

Crazy Crab
They say "The best & biggest place to dance! Always a rum or beer promo. Every Sat. is a special event. LIVE MUSIC Sun. starting at 5pm. HOURS: Thurs.-Sat. 9pm . LOCATION: At the end of the beach road (North Malecon)

Jerry’s Chicken & Pizza
PIZZA, breakfast, rotisserie chicken, pasta.
LOCATION: East of the market on Calle del Mercado.
HOURS: Daily 8am-10:30pm

El Colibri: Mediterranean based cuisine in a colorful and artistic garden setting. Diverse menu options and weekly specials such as steaks, soups, chicken kabobs, fish dishes, and desserts. Try the sangria. Located just south of the church on Avenida del Calvario. Open Wednesday thru Sunday, 6pm until 10pm.

Mauricio’s Pizzeria in San Juan - one of the most popular spots for tourists and locals alike. Mauricio’s PIZZA serves some of the best homemade pizza in town and also offers other Italian foods like pasta, meats, fish, and salad. Pizzas cost about $6 and easily serve 2. Chess games are a common sighting, located on the southwest corner of the central park, on Calle de la Bolsa. Dinner only.

Captain Jim’s Sandwich Shop
Take-away or dine-in sandwich shop serving juice, smoothies, eggs, and of course sandwiches. Located next to the Texaco gas station on the way into town.

Smokey's Sports Bar
Big Screen TV, Draft Beer, POOL TABLE, "smokin' Bar Food"
LOCATION: Beachfront

BBQ on the beach. Authentic smoked meats, chicken and fish are prepared every Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Rocamar also shows DVD concerts on Thursdays, has happy hour on Fridays and varied events on Saturday. Located at the very north end of Calle de la Bahia, just before the end. Open for dinner, and open for lunch on the weekends.

Iguana Bar
Beachfront dining with traditional bar foods including nachos, burgers, salads, and an upstairs deck with a great view of the bay and nice breeze. Open for lunch, dinner, and late in to the night for drinks. CHECK YOUR BILL!!

Big Wave Dave’s
A variety of North American foods from nachos to hamburgers to meat loaf to salads. Big Wave Dave’s is also one of town’s most popular bars and has several televisions usually showing international sporting events. Located on the road into town (Calle del Tropezon) just west of the Gato Negro. Open for lunch and dinner.
They organize a bus that goes to either Managua or Granada (can't remember) on Fri.

El Colibri
MEDITERRANEAN cuisine in a cool/funky colorful & artistic garden setting. Diverse menu, Weekly Specials such as steaks, soups, chicken kabobs, fish dishes, & desserts, home-made SANGRIA.
LOCATION: Just south of the church on Avenida del Calvario.
HOURS: Wed.-Sun. 6-10pm.

Pelican Eyes
The fancy hotel on the hill. It has a great happy hour with 2x1 drinks & some cheap appetizers. If you go, be sure to dress up! For a couple hours you can pretend that you are living in luxury!!! The recently christened national drink, the macua, is really scrumptious here! It is made with rum & guava, orange & lime juices!

Bambu Beach
LADIES NIGHT Fri. from 7-10pm - 2-for-1 on all drinks

Marie's Bar
Cute & packed – it seems to be the place to meet & drink before heading to the discoteca.

BBQ on the beach. Authentic smoked meats, chicken & fish are prepared every Thursday, Friday & Saturday nights. Rocamar also shows DVD concerts on Thursdays, has happy hour on Fridays & varied events on Saturday. Located at the very north end of Calle de la Bahia, just before the end. Open for dinner, & open for lunch on the weekends.

El Timon
(2-568-2243 / - BEACHFRONT, specializing in SEAFOOD

Club Sunset
HOURS: Thurs., Fri. & Sat. 10pm-5am (food available till 3AM!!)


See pictures from other people's trips to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua at: (thanx Molly)


THANX Josh for being a WONDERFUL Tour Guide & helping make it an AWESOME TRIP!!



We had a nice border run to Nicaragua, my son and I spent only about $300 between us, much less than the run to Bocas del Toro.

We enjoyed the great climate in December, although it will be much, much hotter if we go back there in March, according to the locals.

We enjoyed a feeling of much less crime than in the San Jose area and relaxed in an atmosphere of safety. Banks, web cafes, restaurants, stores all were within a block of the little hotel Joxi where we stayed for $15 a night for private rooms with TV and A/C, free coffee, only room temp water, not bad.

We took a boat trip to a nice beach with clear water, and restaurant, where my son and I and Vicki enjoyed red snapper and two others had cheeseburgers.

It was a relaxing trip, great company with the group of five who went!!! Blessings, Jeannie Alvin


Watch out Bocas del Toro, Panama - I have a new FAB place (in a TOTALLY different way!!!) (for info on Bocas del Toro go to my info site (I haven't been in ages [since I discovered Nicaragua!!]).



Vicki Skinner
(aka THE "Sarong Goddess" in Escazu, Costa Rica)

1-941-312-7569 (our U.S. # that rings to us in CR)  /  (506) 8-378-6679 (within Costa Rica)   /    SKYPE:  VallartaVicki

Website Builder