North America > Central America > Nicaragua > Southern Pacific Coast (Nicaragua)
Southern Pacific Coast is a region in Nicaragua.
- 1 Granada nicknamed la gran sultana for her namesake in Spain this colonial beauty draws most tourists and expats
- 2 San Juan del Sur (sometimes shortened to SJDS), Nicaragua's go-to place for surfing while the beach close to the city, is only so-so there are several great options in the environs and various hotels, surf-schools and board-rentals to get you started even if you never stood on a board before
- 3 Rivas mostly a transportation hub and the administrative capital of the Rivas departamento when traveling from Granada to SJDS, change buses here
- 4 Moyogalpa on Ometepe, main port, several daily connections to San Jorge (15 min. from Rivas)
- 5 Altagracia on Ometepe, second most important port. Twice weekly ferry to Granada and San Carlos (Nicaragua)
- 6 Balgue on Ometepe
This is the most touristically developed part of the country and especially Granada and San Juan del Sur you'll see a lot of Central America in two weeks day trippers passing through from or to Costa Rica. Accommodation is cheaper than in Costa Rica year round but expect packed hotels and beaches and prices up to the triple of normal rates around semana santa (easter week). Some places also experience a high season around Christmas and New Year's, which is considered a family holiday in Nicaragua.
Spanish is the language of choice. A small (but rising) number of people also speak English. Most taxi-drivers and police-officers don't, however. If you need to brush up your rusty high school-Spanish, there are numerous Spanish schools in Granada or San Juan del Sur where a week, including homestay, will cost around US$250.
Most people arrive at Augusto C Sandino airport in Managua (MGA IATA) and either take buses or arrange shuttle service from there. Taxis can take you from the airport to Granada for roughly USD40, for longer taxi rides haggling comes highly recommended.
There is also an airport in Ometepe (about 2km outside of Moyogalpa) and talks are under way to offer international flights to San José or Tegucigalpa but so far only domestic flights to San Carlos, Managua and San Juan del Norte are available.
Coming from Managua you can take buses to Granada and Rivas, from where you can change onto buses to San Juan del Sur and other Pacific beach destinations. There is no direct bus from San Juan del Sur to Managua.
From the Costa Rican Border at Peñas Blancas you can either take taxis or buses to Rivas and Granada and head elsewhere from there.
Some cruises anchor off the coast at San Juan del Sur, but you can also take the ferry from San Carlos to Altagracia (Ometepe) and from Moyogalpa (Ometepe) to San Jorge just fifteen minutes by bus or taxi from Rivas.
Bus service is cheap and frequent although it can get a bit crowded sometimes. Tickets can be bought in advance (no more than 24 hours) at the counter on most routes. All advance tickets have a seat number on them unless the bus is already overbooked.
Taxis can get you wherever you want but you have to agree on a price beforehand. Keep in mind that most taxis are only licensed for one town so if you only go one way they will probably have to return empty and the price will reflect that.
Some beaches and (of course) the island Ometepe are best accessed by boat. Note that boats are more expensive than buses on most routes. Water taxis are even more expensive as they have limited seating. Most hotels specialized on surfing-tourists will be able to point you in the right direction or even get you a discount.
This is the most travelled part of the country and for a reason. Sights include:
- The twin volcanoes of Ometepe
- Granada with its churches and colonial splendour
- Several scenic beaches along the Pacific
- Hike up one of the twin volcanoes of Ometepe
- Swim at one of the Pacific beaches
- Surf off the coast of San Juan del Sur
- Party hard with a mix of locals and international tourists around Semana Santa (Easter week)
There is a cigarette factory in Granada and you can generally invest a lot of your money in smoking and booze in this part of the country but souvenir T-shirts are also available almost everywhere the average tourist might pass through. US dollars are generally accepted as are córdobas. Costa Rican colones, however, are not or are only at horrible exchange rates and only close to the border.
While some restaurants in Granda or San Juan del Sur do cater to international (i.e. western) tourists, the food you will get is still mostly Nicaraguan. However the selection is definitely wider than in most of the rest of the country and only maybe a bit narrower than in Managua. Even special tastes or vegetarians should find something they can eat although usually at a higher price than "just" rice and beans.
Rum is the Nicaraguan drink of choice. Although there are also two light lagers, Toña and Victoria. Beer is sold in 12 fluid oz. (354mL) or liter bottles. The liter bottle often costs slightly more than two 12 oz bottles so, if you are in a small group, do as the locals and order one liter with the appropriate number of glasses to share it. At more upmarket places or pretty much any bar along the beach of San Juan del Sur, you might get a decent selection of cocktails and international spirits but at a slightly higher price than domestic fare.
While some might argue that tap water is safe or at least safer than in other parts of the country, bottled (purified) water is available in almost every store and depending on the amount you buy it is inexpensive and a good way to stay hydrated and avoid traveller's diarrhea.
Soft drinks are also widely available with some rather exotic (to Europeans) flavors such as "red Fanta" (also sold as Rojita) and Fanta/Mirinda of grape (uva) flavor. Mostly you will get Coca Colas or Pepsi products. If you order a glass bottle for takeaway don't be surprised to get your drink refilled into a small plastic bag with a straw.
This area is the most developed in the country which means that although security is generally good, tourism-related crime such as petty theft and pickpocketing are on the rise. During semana santa crowds are bigger and more people are drunk, which naturally increases crime somewhat, however police presence is also notably higher during that time of the year. Don't be surprised to see police heavily armed, they are there to protect you and are notably less corrupt and more approachable than their peers in Nicaragua's Northern neighbors.
- Costa Rica via the crossing at Peñas Blancas
- the Rio San Juan Region by boat or plane from Ometepe
- León via Managua
- The Northwest of the country