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San Juan del Sur is a popular beach town located in southwestern Nicaragua, known for its stunning beaches, beautiful landscapes, and fun nightlife. It caters well to just about any type of traveler from families to luxury travelers and even budget backpackers.
During our 3 months in Nicaragua, we were able to spend 5 weeks in San Juan Del Sur and we got to explore every nook and cranny of the town. If you’re looking for the best place to stay in San Juan Del Sur, we’re here to help! The town offers a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets, including hostels, guesthouses, and hotels.
Best Time of Year to Visit San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
The best time to visit San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, is during the dry season, which runs from December to April. The weather is dry and sunny, with little to no rainfall, making it the perfect time to enjoy the town’s beautiful beaches and outdoor activities. Nicaragua beaches are amazing, so make sure to spend dome time next to the water!
Temperatures during the dry season typically are in the 80’s, with a pretty constant ocean breeze to provide relief from the heat. The dry season is also the busiest time of year in San Juan del Sur, with a lot of tourists visiting the town during this time.
Shockingly, the water is the coldest during the dry season. A cold offshore current comes in from January to May and the water is shockingly cold. We had heard about it but didn’t believe it until the water temperature dropped 15 degrees in just one weekend. If you’re visiting during the dry season and planning to do a lot of surfing, plan to bring a wetsuit!
Best Places For Families To Stay in San Juan Del Sur
Choosing the right family friendly place to stay in San Juan Del Sur can easily make or break your trip. During our family visit to Nicaragua, our kids were always quick to point out the ameneties that mattered to them and those they didn’t care about. DUring our 5 weeks in San Juan del Sur, we stayed in multiple places, so that we could help you choose the best family hotel in San Juan del Sur.
When choosing where to stay, we recommend avoiding downtown San Juan del Sur. It’s charming during the day, but after dark, the bar scene can get loud and the music can make it hard for kids to sleep. Our best recommendation is to pick somewhere that’s a bit out of town where you either have some jungle for the kids to explore or to be right by the beach. Luckily, it’s easy to find both jungle and beach accommodations for families in San Juan Del Sur. The other non-negotiable should be that you have immediate beach access or a pool. Nicaragua can get HOT, and a pool will make that much more tolerable!
TreeCasa Resort is a unique eco-friendly resort set in the jungle. It is absolutely AMAZING! We spent lots of time at Tree Casa during the day (you can get a Day Pass to use the facilities) and we loved it so much that we ended up staying there. The resort has a range of accommodation options that all feel like your in a tree house of sorts, so the kids absolutely LOVED IT! While the rooms are great, it was really the staff and the resort property that won our hearts. The center of the resort has a MASSIVE TREEHOUSE in it where you can go up and hang out up in the trees. It’s the perfect place for some quiet time during the day and our kids loved to hang out up here and read. The pool is absolutely AMAZING with a couple of pools, a waterslide, and a waterfall that you can jump off of. It’s right next to the restaurant so often we’d get poolside snacks, or just enjoy an adult moment over lunch while we could still watch the kids in the pool!
Surf Ranch Hotel and Resort – Great Budget Option for Families
Surf Ranch is a popular hotel located just outside San Juan del Sur and while it’s pretty basic it’s a good budget option for families. The rooms aren’t anything special, but kids will LOVE the pool and the large waterslide, and mom and dad will love that you can get your drinks at the in pool bar. Another highlight of staying at Surf Ranch is that they have built Nicaragua’s first skatepark there. They even have some loaner skateboards that the kids can use, making it extra fun for everyone.
Best Family Friendly Vacation Rentals in San Juan Del Sur
All of these vacation rentals have a pool, kitchen, several bedrooms, air conditioning, and Wi-Fi so you can stay connected.
Huge Villa Right by Surfing Beach – This villa is stunning and is right by one of the best surfing beaches for learning to surf, Playa Remanzo. It has everything you could ever want!
Villa Palmera – This villa has the best of the jungle with the most stunning ocean views. Located on the hills above Playa Maderas, the sunsets over the ocean here are incredible.
Casa Milor – Located right on Playa Marsella, you’ll have beachfront access AND a pool right there.
Best Places for Luxury Travelers in San Juan Del Sur
San Juan Del Sur was known for decades as a backpackers hot spot, and in several ways it still is. However, as developers have started to see the natural beauty, some incredible luxury properties in San Juan del Sur have opened up. You’ll get all the luxury and pampering that you’d find in nearby Costa Rica at a fraction of the price. The best luxury stays in San Juan del Sur are a bit out of town and give you privacy, seclusion, and a chance to connect with nature.
Morgan’s Rock is the absolute best luxury resort in San Juan Del Sur. It’s a beautiful eco-lodge located on a private reserve, that even includes its own airstrip if you want to fly directly there. The lodge has a range of accommodation options, including bungalows and villas, and plenty of activities, including hiking, wildlife watching, and surfing. The food at the restaurant is fantastic, and the entire property will make you want to keep exploring.
In the morning, you’ll wake up to the sound of the Howler Monkeys and you’ll fall asleep to the waves crashing on your private beach. It’s pretty hard to beat a luxury stay at Morgans Rock in Nicaragua.
Best Luxury Vacation Rentals near San Juan Del Sur
Some of the best places to stay in San Juan del Sur are Luxury vacation rentals. Here are some of our top recommendations!
Ocean Front Villa at Playa Marsella – This villa is absolutely stunning and is located right on Playa Marsella. It’s so beautiful and Playa Marsella is one of the least crowded beaches in San Juan del Sur so you’ll get lots of time to relax here.
Cliffside Villa with Infinity Pool – If you want the best views around, you’ll live this house. The private balconies are some of the best you’ll find in San Juan del Sur.
Best Budget Hotels in San Juan del Sur
San Juan del Sur first got on the map thanks to budget travelers and surf bums. The roots run deep and there are still lots of fantastic budget accommodations in San Juan del Sur. Many of them have a communal area, and lots of them have a reputation for lots of partying and loud music late into the night, unless otherwise noted.
We absolutely love hanging out at Hush and the vibe there is awesome. It’s just a short 5 minute walk to some of the best surfing at Playa Maderas, and the hotel is right in the middle of the jungle. This property is only for ages 16+. When you get there you’ll love the hammocks and lounging nets right outside of the restaurant, which also has some of the best food in all of San Juan del Sur. Taco Tuesday is a hit and their homemade pasta on Wednesday night is incredible. If you’re looking for light food nearby, head to the Maderas Cafe at the bottom of the trail to the beach! YUM!
Casa Oro is a charming and comfortable hostel located in the heart of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. The hotel is just a short walk away from the town center and the beach, making it an excellent choice for those who want to explore the town and enjoy the beach. There are also always lots of tours and activities that originate here, so if you want to be connected with all the best things going on and the best activities in San Juan del Sur, Casa Oro is a great place to stay.
The rooms at Casa Oro are clean, spacious, and comfortable, with bed linens provided. Each room has a private bathroom and balcony access. The beds are comfortable, and the rooms are decorated with vibrant colors and local artwork, giving them a distinctly Nicaraguan feel.
Naked Tiger Hostel – Biggest Parties
If you came to San Juan del Sur to party and drink, stay at the Naked Tiger. The Naked Tiger Hostel is a popular backpacker hostel located in the hills above San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. The hostel has a reputation for being a party hostel, with a lively atmosphere and plenty of opportunities to meet other travelers.
The Naked Tiger Hostel offers a range of accommodation options, including dorms and private rooms. The dorms are clean and spacious, with comfortable beds and lockers for each guest. The private rooms are also clean and comfortable, with some rooms offering stunning views of the ocean.
One of the main attractions of the Naked Tiger Hostel is its social atmosphere. The hostel hosts regular events and parties, such as pool parties and barbecues, which are a great way to meet other travelers and have a good time.
However, it’s worth noting that the Naked Tiger Hostel is not for everyone. As a party hostel, it can be noisy and chaotic at times, and it may not be the best choice for those looking for a peaceful and relaxing stay. Additionally, the hostel is located up a steep hill, which can be challenging for those with mobility issues.
Do I Need a Car in San Juan del Sur?
Generally speaking, yes, we recommend that most travelers get a car to visit San Juan del Sur. While you’ll find lots of advertised shuttle services, they’re mostly old trucks that you can stand in the back of. They’re great for budget travelers but quickly get uncomfortable on the bumpy roads around San Juan del Sur.
How Safe is San Juan del Sur Nicaragua?
Before we traveled to Nicaragua on our 3-month trip, we had so many people express concern for our safety. We read in forums to not be out at night, to watch out on trails, and to keep our kids close at hand.
Guess what? Nicaragua is one of the safest countries that we’ve ever visited (and we’ve been to over 40). The people are helpful, the scenery is beautiful, and it’s got a slow and relaxed pace of life – all of which are PERFECT for safe travel.
San Juan Del Sur felt like one of the safest places in Nicaragua. There are plenty of expats and tourists there so it’s possible to get by with very little Spanish (unlike some other areas in Nicaragua with almost no English), so it’s a comfortable place to be. When we were there, it felt safe enough to send our kids to the store for a quick errand and there was absolutely NO TIME that we felt in danger or in an uncomfortable situation. We are careful of our surroundings, but still love to explore off the beaten path, and with kids, we’re usually in for the night by 8pm.
If you love the beach and sunshine, I can’t think of a better destination than San Juan Del Sur.
What Is The Food Like in San Juan del Sur?
You’ll find a pretty eclectic mix of food in San Juan del Sur. You’ll find traditional Nicaraguan dishes like Gallo Pinto and Nacatamales, but also lots of international cuisine. When we were looking for restaurants in San Juan Del Sur we ended up eating a little bit of everything including Thai food, fresh lobster, steak, poutine, and even some really great burgers (go to Dale Pues – the best burger in town).
Can You Buy Groceries in San Juan del Sur?
Yes, you absolutely can get groceries in San Juan del Sur, though we do recommend making a stop at La Colonia in Rivas on your way into town for a big stock up. The main grocery store in San Juan del Sur is Pali. It’s owned by Walmart and just has the basics.
For more variety, head to the much smaller Miscelania Sanchez stores downtown (there are two, owned by sisters). This was our go to where we could find tortilla chips and salsa, peanut butter, baking supplies, and lots of canned foods. It’s small, but the selection is pretty good. Outside of that we bought our produce at at local produce shop (there are several in town, and the best meat in town is at Carnes San Martin.