We did eventually have to leave Costa Rica, to save us breaking the bank or any more bones. We were starting our northward trip back up through Nicaragua that would eventually get us to Honduras, specifically Utila, in time for Christmas. On the way up our main stop was in San Juan del Sur plus a couple more days in León. We rocked up to San Juan late afternoon and were met by a completely stunning sunset and a beer pong competition. Pretty representative of the town and our stay to be honest.
Among travellers, San Juan is one of the ultimate party destinations in Central America mostly due to Sunday Funday, the (in)famous pool crawl – three different hostel bars over 12 hours. Central America is littered with Sunday Funday vests in various colours and they are worn like a badge of honour to show that you survived.
The town itself however is a haven for ex-pats and the relaxed permanent traveller. It’s the kind of place you come to for a week and end up staying for the rest of your life. It’s right on the beach which while not the best beach for surfing has the most incredible view of sunset and is also overlooked by the second largest Jesus statue in the world.
I immediately fell in love. The chilled out vibe, the colourful, cosy streets and the friendly people made it a place I can very easily imagine coming back to for a longer stint. While we were in San Juan we discovered Nicaragua’s signature phrase, akin to pura vida in Costa Rica. ¡Dale pues! means ‘lets do it’ and perfectly suits the people of San Juan.
We arrived on a Thursday night, giving us a perfect amount of time to assimilate before Sunday Funday arrived. We explored the town, went out to one of the nearby beaches to watch a surfing competition, ate bagels at El Gato Negro for almost all our meals and were completely robbed of free Sunday Funday tickets at trivia night (Jesse, Calum and I were anyway. It’s a corrupt system).
Our hostel, Pachamama’s, was one of the participating bars which not only meant that we were in a great position to sneak into the front of the line but also that we got half price tickets. Ours was the first stop which meant that our party started a bit early than most people’s as we waited for everyone else to arrive, though we were kept company by the 2-4-1 mojitos.
To summarise probably the best 12 hours of my life, at least of this trip, we started off at Pacha’s which involved a game of giant jenga, then to another hostel called Anamar that had a super cool pool (in both senses of the word). Third stop was the well known Naked Tiger hostel just outside of town where we had the perfect view of sunset over the bay before finishing the day/night in a club called Arribas back in town.
I’m glad to say that everyone made it through the day (and the following morning) intact. We tried to fend off the Monday blues with a trip to visit Jesus (literally, not spiritually) but unfortunately he was already closed up for the day by the time we got it together enough to get out the door.
It was here in San Juan that we met the best people and made the best friends that we have so far while travelling. Our hostel was one of the most sociable places we’ve been and we ended up with quite a little crew by the end of it. There were the two American college students who we affectionately nicknamed ‘the frat boys’; Juan and Tito, two Nicaraguan guys that worked at Pacha’s; Miguel, Tatum and the rest of their group of expat American teenagers (who were actually younger than us! Hard to find out here!); our old friend Stephen who we first met in Treehouse in Granada; and last but not least Litz and Vale, the German/Chilean travelling buddies who we adopted into our exclusive group and would have loved to have kept. However they were heading down to Panama so we’ll just have to settle for reuniting at Oktoberfest, right Litz?
It was hard to leave even though we were going back to León to discover more of the city and then on to Utila to see everyone and we are already trying to plan how to fit in a return visit with a visa run to Costa Rica! As we’ve been going along, one of the big factors that helps me decide how much I like a place is if I can imagine myself living there long term. Suspects so far are Manuel Antonio, of course, but also León and San Juan easily joins them. ¡Dale pues!