Sunday, June 25th, 2017

The Most Colorful City of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua


Kate in San Juan del Sur

There’s so much I have to write about San Juan del Sur. I planned on coming for three days; I ended up staying for eight. I haven’t felt such a strong pull to a place in a long time. At times it almost felt like a time warp — traveling back to a time when I was a 26-year-old party girl, only now with Tinder.

But if there’s anything that struck me about San Juan immediately, it was that it was just so colorful. Nicaragua stunned me with its bright colors, but San Juan brought it to a new level, both naturally and creatively.

I fell for San Juan right away, and I decided that showcasing the city’s colors would be the best way to introduce you to San Juan as well.

Here are my favorite colorful shots!

San Juan del Sur Bridge

Welcome to San Juan! Ironically, you see this sign when leaving the town and heading into the hills surrounding the city.

San Juan del Sur

San Juan is famous for its beach, but this actually isn’t one of the better beaches in the area. Up close it’s a bit dirty. You’re better off heading to Playa Hermosa or Playa Maderas.

San Juan del Sur

That said, the beach looks incredible from above.

San Juan del Sur

I spotted that woman down the street and waited until she filled the doorway to take the photo. I love how her shirt and toenails match the red building.

San Juan del Sur Jesus

San Juan’s Jesus statue overlooking the town is well worth the steep uphill climb to get there. Go just before sunset and you’ll be able to capture colors like these.

Kate and Alex in San Juan del Sur

Alex and I rocked our colorful workout gear while catching the best light of the day. (“Can I work out with you guys?” was the unusual street harassment line of the day.)

San Juan del Sur

San Juan’s trademark yellow church comes with a playground in front.

Jesus in San Juan del Sur

Colorful Jesus, just hanging out on a rock.

View over San Juan del Sur

How amazing is this view over the coastline?

San Juan del Sur

Turquoise clapboards and classic gringos in the center of town.

San Juan del Sur Catamaran Ride Hidden Beach

Just outside the city, you can discover tiny little coves with private beaches and bright teal water.

San Juan del Sur

Boutique hotels and chicken buses: San Juan is a city in the midst of transition. I would love to be a property developer there right now.

San Juan del Sur Sunday Funday

Happy Sunday Funday! Every Sunday, a pool party crawl snakes across the town, drawing huge crowds of partying backpackers. It’s the closest thing I’ve found to tubing in Vang Vieng.

San Juan del Sur

Murals dot the city streets.

Casa Oro

The inside of my hostel, Casa Oro, which I loved and recommend. The guy in the front hammock was eager to pose; the girl in the back took a more discreet approach.

San Juan del Sur Sunset

And finally, you couldn’t end a post about colors without a sunset shot! Even though signs everywhere in San Juan read, “Do not go to beach at night, YOU WILL GET ROB,” Alex and I stayed just long enough to photograph the pink clouds before getting out of there.

Essential Info: San Juan del Sur is close to the Costa Rica border. If you’re coming from there, it’s easiest to take a taxi, which should take 30 minutes and cost around $22. If you’re coming from the north, it’s super easy to take a bus (or taxi) from the city of Rivas or San Jorge, where you get the ferry to Ometepe.

I stayed at Casa Oro Hostel, which I highly recommend. It’s in the perfect location, a social atmosphere, and they serve delicious cooked breakfasts every day (think breakfast burritos). Alex and I split a windowless ensuite room (no hot water) with one double bed and one twin bed for $32 per night, which is expensive for Nicaragua but in line with what we saw for San Juan. You can find other hotels in San Juan del Sur here.

What’s the most colorful city you’ve ever visited?

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44 Responses to “The Most Colorful City of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua”
  1. It really is colorful there! I think it’s fascinating how different cultures seem to do “colorful” in so many ways. Latin America has the sun bleached pastels. When I was in India, it was a completely different set of colors, with bright jewel tones everywhere. Mumbai has to be the most colorful city I’ve been to!

    • That’s true! Colorful is a relative term. I can think of some very different places I’ve been to that bring on the color, like Osaka and Liguria, Italy, and Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market…

  2. Great photos Kate, San Juan del Sur looks gorgeous. My favourite photos is of the gringos! 🙂

  3. Oh my gosh gorgeous!! I love the architecture, the natural beauty and the colors. Nicaragua has been on my list for a while and I will definitely plan a stop by SJDS. Anywhere with a restaurant called Badass food is right up my alley, ha.

  4. Beautiful! I can totally get why you would extend your trip. I’ve never really considered the city on my to-do list, but I’ll have to reconsider. Cheers!

  5. Great pictures..I love the simplicity exuded by the architecture. Simple yet alluring. Are you sure you didn’t capture the lady because of the words “Bad ass eats” scribbled on that restaurant..haha!

  6. Joy says:

    That church used to be teal! I have a photo of it on my Flickr. So neat to see changes that occur in places I haven’t been in a while.

  7. Brooke says:

    Beautiful photos! I would love to visit Nicaragua! Central and South America have a great abundance of colorful cities, it’s wonderful to see in person.

  8. Arianwen says:

    I loved San Juan too – and I overstayed by a week as well! I think I want to retire to this place one day. Reading your post brought it all back. I remember that sign – ‘you will get rob’, and I have photos of a lot of the same places 🙂

  9. Looks really amazing and so colourful!! I love the Bad Ass eats taco shop….so funny.

  10. Stunning!!! The city looks lovely and your photos are fantastic. San Juan del Sur is definitely on my list!

  11. Sarah says:

    I love these colours and photo’s! So strange, I was there a few years ago and it didn’t seem all that colourful at all. Probably had something to do with the fact it rained most of the day. Still found it a lovely place, looks better in colour though!

  12. Sky says:

    Gorgeous shots! I DEFINITELY need to head to San Juan Del Sur in the near future…

  13. Miquel says:

    These pictures have me ready to hop on a plane to South America!

  14. It looks great Kate! I love the colourful Jesus stuck on the side of the road LOL!

    The most colourful city I’ve ever been to is in Varanesi in India. Very colourful. And smelly. And invigorating. And disturbing. And exciting. And disgusting. I actually saw a dead body floating on the River Ganges. A crazy place!

  15. Wow! I love your pictures! I didn’t know that San Juan del Sur was such a party town. I’m definitely putting it on my list of places to go!

  16. San Juan del Sur sounds lovely. I’m bummed that I missed it when I was in Nicaragua, but it’s been great to follow you and Alex’ photos from there. I’ll definitely visit if I return!

  17. I didn’t particularly find San Juan del Sur that appealing but you have definitely captured the beauty there in your photos. We stayed in an Eco Lodge by Playa Maderas and I loved that stretch of coastline and the quiet and laid back atmosphere

  18. Wow, I fell in love with San Juan just watching at your pictures!

  19. Kieu says:

    I found Hoi An and Buenos Aires to be pretty colorful. 🙂 By the way, I’d totally eat at a place appropriately name Bad Ass Eats — how could you not?

  20. I would love to visit Nicaragua some day. I think the most colorful city I’ve been to is San Juan, Puerto Rico. ~ Mel

  21. Reah says:

    Yellow church! Wow!

  22. Reah says:

    Love the beach view from the top!

  23. Laura says:

    Amazing shots! Lucky you with that weather! I’m in Amsterdam with 4 layers of clothes!

  24. So pretty! It’s hard to beat the colors of Latin America and the Caribbean!

  25. Did I read that sign right? “Fish Taco Breakfast?”

    Say it ain’t so… Christmas has come early this year!

  26. Zascha Friis says:

    Absolutely stunning pictures, and yes, very colourful indeed.
    Yet another place to put on the bucket list which is only growing longer and longer.

  27. Nicaragua is my favorite country in Central America! I hope you drank lots of Tona beers! I was surprised how good of a beer it was. Can’t wait to read more about your adventures in Central America.

  28. Sebrin says:

    My boss just went to Maderas Village in San Juan del Sur! With the exception of the horrible wind, she loved it! Yours and her story makes me want to go there so badly!!

  29. Britt says:

    You have definitely put Nicaragua on my radar. I’m not much of a fan of party towns but this place seems like its a good balance.

    It’s so good to see you updating so frequently and writing so many new posts. It looks like you have a great time getting back into extensive travel and as a reader I’m loving it 🙂

    It just means I have lots of catching up to do since I got back from Thailand!

  30. I am so excited to discover your blog-especially since I want to visit Nicaragua! Great timing. It looks like you’re having a fantastic time.

  31. jack says:

    Hi and thanks for awesome pics and description. I have just returned from my first trip to Nicaragua. I stayed in Managua. I really wanted to check out San Juan Del Sur but only made it as far as Granada and Lake Nicaragua. It was an amazing trip and I really enjoyed it but there was some real downers. Specifically the theft/robbery and the trash everywhere. In Managua, every single house was surrounded by 8 ft walls to keep out the thieves. ALL the better places had armed guards. Then there was the trash. Apparently there was no trash pick-up because everyone just heaped it in a pile in their yard and burned it (the air was thick with smoke) OR if there was a creek bed or ditch near-by it got thrown in there – to be washed downstream when it rained. When I went out on Lake Nicaragua, it was like going through a sewer with all the floating trash. I am not trying to talk anyone out of visiting, but this was the reality and nothing of what I read about the place mentioned these things. Was San Juan Del Sur like this? You mentioned a dirty beach and being robbed at night – was this just a minor annoyance or was it a bigger problem like what I say elsewhere? Thanks!

    • Oh, man. Managua is nothing like the rest of the country! I avoided it completely (but drove through it) — as you can see from these pictures alone, it’s nothing like Managua!

    • Ken says:

      I have not visited Nicaragua in over two decades. A woman I know visited Managua awhile back though, in order to battle a relative over property. You have to be careful when purchasing land or property in Central America. I know of Central Americans, and Americans, who have purchased property only to discover that the seller did not actually own the property to begin with, or that they did not have the right to sell it. And then there is the matter of all of the private residences which were confiscated by the Sandinistas following their revolution. Many of those homes were handed out to government cronies, so you can imagine that when the properties are sold the former owners may come out of the wood work to contest the legitimacy of the sale and property deed. The last time I was in Managua, I recall seeing a very portly man trying to walk across a street which was running with torrential rain. The man stepped right into an open sewer drain, which was missing an iron lid, and was stuck at the waist. Anyone thinner would have disappeared, never to be seen again. Also, there are times during even light storms when streets can become flooded, and downed electrical wires dip into the pools of water, so that you always have to be aware of your surroundings. I stayed in a hostel once while there and found that the tourists were kind of odd, I was listening to Van Morrison on a small tape deck and relaxing in a hammock, that did not last for very long, as some guy decided to whip out his guitar and start singing above the music, which then provoked a number of young American women to start chanting revolutionary songs above the sound of the German.

  32. Jaime says:

    Love to hearing more about both the romantic and reality of travels.

    Lovely photos.


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  1. […] were abundant and ransacking Granada. But, what I did do was experience the beauty of Ometepe and San Juan Del Sur (SJDS), two places that are worth a visit as much as any of the […]

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