Welcome to the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua, where the beaches are either empty or dotted with surfers.
For this leg of our NICARAGUA trip we needed to rent a car due to the remote location we were staying and planned to visit. Local transportation here consists 100% of bedazzled school buses known as “chicken buses.” They literally cram as many people as they can on the bus along with bags of supplies, produce, and most importantly, chickens – hence the term “chicken bus”. We rented a massive Nissan Frontier Diesel 4WD from Budget Car Rental which was perfect for all of our adventures. We picked it up in GRANADA and dropped it off in MANAGUA on our last day.
When we came across BALCONES DE MAJAGUAL online, we immediately knew that we had to stay here. It is located north of SAN JUAN DEL SUR and is made up of twelve luxury villas that are nestled in the lush jungle overlooking the Pacific Ocean. They are not a hotel, rather, they are a boutique rental home community where each villa is privately owned. That being said, they do have 24 hour staff presence for safety/security purposes and they do take care of toiletries, cleaning, towels, etc. Disclaimer: you need a 4WD to get to the villas. The drive to the villas is an adventure in itself as it has some very steep climbs on rough unpaved roads and takes roughly 25 minutes to get there from SAN JUAN- it’s totally worth it.
We chose to stay in CASA TRES PECES, the house of three fish. This open air design tree house has a screen system which allows fresh air to constantly flow throughout the villa, naturally cooling the house. This allowed you to hear mother nature 24/7. You would wake up and fall asleep to the winds hitting the leaves and crickets singing all night long. The swinging bed on our front porch is where we spent most of our time. We would have our morning coffee and sunset snuggles here. I want to buy that bed for my own house – it was designed in such a way that is constantly swayed while you were on it. Pure serenity and tranquility is how I would describe our AMAZING stay here. You guys have to go and experience it yourselves.
Some villas have their own private pool, which comes at a (steep) cost. We chose a villa with a shared pool, although, it didn’t feel shared. Every morning we went, there was no one to be seen and we had the pool & view to ourselves. This infinity pool was nuzzled within the trees and overlooked the Pacific Ocean. The pictures speak for themselves.
There are lots of beaches to choose from along the Pacific Coast. We spent most of our time on Playa Mathilda since it was a 10 minute drive from our tree house and it was extremely private. It felt as if you had the beach to yourself. A five minute walk down to the beach you hit up Playa San Lorenzo and another 5 minute walk you hit up Playa Maderas. Playa Maderas was hustling & bustling with lots of surfers and a few restaurants.
Dan and I are just two Canadians who tried surfing in HAWAII and now are obsessed with it. We came to NICARAGUA for the surfing. Our stay at BALCONES DE MAJAGUAL connected us with Elsi who is a local surfer. Elsi and her husband (who is a surfer from FRANCE) ended up giving us a lesson at El Remanzo. This was a great beach to learn on, especially in the morning since the waves aren’t as large. They get larger as the day progresses.
Dan & I were able to get up and ride the wave with a little guidance on catching the wave. Man – if you haven’t tried surfing, is it really TOUGH. You need A LOT of upper body strength. The hardest part is going on your own and trying to catch your own waves. We wanted to get better and better, so on our last day instead of visiting LAGUNA DE APOYO, we rented some boards and hit the waves.
OMETEPE is an island that was formed by two volcanoes, Conception & Maderas, rising out of Lake Nicaragua that are joined by a thin flat isthmus. I would recommend staying at least one night on the Island since it is a bit of a trek to get too. We unfortunately could only fit it in as a day trip, which was still worth it in my opinion.
BALACONES DE MAJAGUAL not only help set up our surfing lessons, but also set up our day trip to OMETEPE island. They connected us with Fran, a local that takes tourists on any adventure they choose. OMETEPE Island is larger than I thought and you definitely need transportation once you get on the Island. TIP: Be sure to book your ferry tickets ahead of time if you are planning to take a car over as they fill up fast.
Most of our day on Ometepe was spent enjoying Ojo de Agua, a beautiful natural volcanic spring, whose water comes directly from Conception Volcano and is emerald in color. Volcanic water is rich in minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, sulfur and sodium, which helps decrease stress, muscle pain, fevers, allergies and some believe that it rejuvenates. Fran told us that the locals call this place the fountain of youth!
For those that know me, know that I have struggled with very bad eczema. Spending a few hours in the emerald natural volcanic water while being surrounded by a tropical forest was not only relaxing but was also helped with my eczema. It also made my hair so silky smooth that I didn’t even need to wash it when we got home.
Another perk of this place was that they sold coco loco’s (spiked coconut water) – they were pretty delicious.
While we were driving through the Island we encountered a family of white faced monkeys! They were so cute (kinda scary too)
Other activities on the Island include hiking to San Ramon Waterfall and climbing one of the two volcanoes – Conception or Madera. If you choose to climb the volcano’s, it is a full day activity which requires a guide.
I’m a sucker for sunsets, especially on the water. Every night, there was a spectacular sunset that changed the entire palette in the sky. We got to experience a beautiful sunset on Playa Mathilda that left us speechless.
One night Dan tried to convince me to watch the sunset from our villa, while the stubborn side of me did not want to at first – “can it get any better than watching it off the beach?” I thought. Yes, yes it can. He was totally right. The sunset was absolutely gorgeous and it was so comfy on our swinging bed.
On the ferry ride back from OMETEPE ISLAND, we experienced the most beautiful sunset & moon rise. Sunsets usually get all the praise & glory, but moon rises aren’t appreciated as much as they should be! The sun set in it’s normal glory – changing all the colors in the sky. All of a sudden, the moon starts to peak out from Conception Volcano. In a matter of 2 minutes (not even) you see the moon continue to rise and land right in between the volcano’s. All you could hear from everyone on the ferry was “ouu” “ahh” “huh.”
MARKET – Since our tree house was quite remote, we bought food & coffee at SAN JUAN DEL SUR’S local market so that we could make breakfast each morning. We also had lunch there for a whopping $3 USD each. They served gallo pinto (rice & beans) with fresh salad, fried plantain (my favorite!), and your choice of meat (fried, grilled or BBQ). That’s a lot of food for $3 and it was one of the best meals we had in the area.
PLAYA OCOTAL – We stumbled upon this seculded restaurant on Playa Ocotal beach. I don’t recall the name of it and cannot find it online, however if you go down to the beach, it will be easy to find since it’s the only restaurant there. It’s definitely owned by the locals and the food was AMAZING. We had fresh seafood (catch of the day), rice, fresh greens and fried plantain.
SIMON SAYS SMOOTHIE BAR – Located in SAN JUAN DEL SUR, this jungle vibe restaurant/smoothie bar feels like the new kid on the block. After walking through the bustling streets of SAN JUAN DEL SUR, you enter a quiet garden sanctuary. The bread is homemade, prices are reasonable, food is on point and smoothies are bomb. Need I say more? Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera to take a photo of this spot.