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Pacific South West

Sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and Lago de Nicaragua is the thin spit of land with some of the best surfing beaches in the country on one side and, on the other, volcanic islands full of archeological treasures, hikes and adventures.

Nicaragua’s Pacific South West may be as skinny as a runway model, but head there and you discover that the area actually has a hefty number of things to do. You might find yourself in the swirling markets of Rivas; standing at the feet of the Bride of Tola, a monument to Nicaragua's most famously jilted woman; or watching turtles heave themselves out of the sea to lay eggs along the beaches of the Chacocente reserve.

The Pacific South West is rimmed with long, sandy beaches that, unlike similar places along the popular Caribbean coast or neighboring Costa Rica, have only started to draw tourists. Take San Juan del Sur -- nestled in a crescent bay the little town is the perfect antidote to the over-hyped sands across the border. San Juan del Sur has maintained its fishing village charm while still providing all of the services foreigners require, including a wide range of restaurants, hotels and Spanish schools.

When you decide to venture further afield, San Juan del Sur also makes a perfect jumping-off point for a incredible number of beaches, such as Playa Maderas, Playa Majagual and Playa Marsella, to name a few to the north. There are also enchantingly named spots like Playa Hermosa (Beautiful Beach), Playa El Coco (Coconut Beach) and Arena Blanca (White Sand).

Before you leave the area, make sure to set aside some time for the boat ride to Isla Ometepe, with Nicaragua’s famous twin volcanoes. The island, which has been inhabited for some 4,000 years, has loomed large in the country’s mythology, serving as a pirate base, a refuge from Nicaragua’s civil wars and as a time capsule for indigenous artifacts. The island is still half lava threat (Volcán Concepción) and half peaceful lagoon (Volcán Maderas) with land that’s sprinkled with petroglyphs, hiking trails and coffee plantations.









By Rachael Hanley
A sometime newspaper journalist with a heavy side of wanderlust, Rachael moved to Quito in November to work on the V!VA staff. She is currently...
08 Feb 2009

Pacific Beach Hideaways

Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor

El Refugio de Vida Silvestre, located 21 kilometers south of San Juan del Sur, is one of few in the world where you can witness massive congregations of endangered Olive Ridley turtles (called ...
Beach
San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

El Ostional

If you’re in the mood for a tranquil experience away from all the tourists, take a trip to El Ostional. Staying at this quiet and indigenous fishing village is like taking a peek into the San Juan ...
Beach
San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

Altragracia Beaches

The most popular beach near Altagracia is called Punta Taguizapa, and it's located just to the east of the city. If you head north towards the ferry about 2 kilometers out of town you'll pass a ...
Beach
Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Playa el Yanke

This beach is a bit farther from the other beaches, but definitely worth the trip. The water is clear and the sand is white. For surfers, this is one of the best beaches in the area. Depending on the ...
Beach
Around San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Parque Maritimo

Parque Maritimo is a small tourist center at Playa El Coco that organizes nature trips such as daily boat rides to the Costa Rican boarder to see nesting sea birds or jaunts to a nearby wildlife ...
Beach
Playa El Coco, Around San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Things to See and Do in the Pacific South West

Petroglyphs

These ancient stone carvings are one of Ometepe's most famous attractions. The earliest date back over 4,000 years – some of the oldest art you can find in the Americas. They're scattered all ...
Other Activity
Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

San RamĂłn Waterfall

The San RamĂłn Waterfall is a spectacular natural wonder, and one of the highlights of a trip to Ometepe. In June 2008 the path to the waterfall had been blocked by a recent landslide and was too ...
Other Activity
Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Volcán Maderas Hike

104568Volcán Maderas is Ometepe's junior volcano, rising up just 1394 meters, but can offer climbs that are just as challenging as Volcán Concepción. Since Maderas is dormant, most visitors head for the ...
Trekking, Hiking
Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor

El Refugio de Vida Silvestre, located 21 kilometers south of San Juan del Sur, is one of few in the world where you can witness massive congregations of endangered Olive Ridley turtles (called ...
Beach
San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

Turtle Watching

From the months of July to January or February, it is possible to see thousands of turtles laying and hatching eggs along local beaches and at the Turtle Nesting Sanctuary. If you walk around, you ...
Other Activity
San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

Kayaking

One of Ometepe's most popular activities is kayaking, particularly around the area of Charco Verde. Isla el Quiste, located just offshore, is one excellent destination. It'll take you about 30 ...
Kayaking
Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

El Ostional

If you’re in the mood for a tranquil experience away from all the tourists, take a trip to El Ostional. Staying at this quiet and indigenous fishing village is like taking a peek into the San Juan ...
Beach
San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

Circumnavigate Maderas

One fun day trip is to circumnavigate Volcan Maderas. The path around is rough, but it can be traveled easily by motorcycle, bicycle or even a low-clearance vehicle. If you've got a lot of energy ...
Bicycling
Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Volcán Concepción

At a towering 1,610 meters, Volcan Concepcion is the taller of Ometepe's twin volcanoes. It's also highly active, making it the more dangerous of the two. In fact, going all the way to the top is ...
Other Activity
Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Biking

Ometepe is quite a big island, and it's unreasonable to expect to conquer the whole thing by bike. It's also important to remember that many of Ometepe's roads are brutally rough. The trip between ...
Bicycling
Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Hiking in San Juan del Sur

The main hiking option in San Juan del Sur is the trail on La Questa Hill. Either rent a car, or take a taxi to the northeast side of town, past the Texaco and about 6 km up the road, until it ends. ...
Hiking
San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

Pacific South West Hotels

Hacienda Merida

104567It is a bit of a trek to get out to this place - the bus takes three hours or a cab is one-and-a-half - but it really, really is worth it. Nestled by the water on the south part of the island, this ...
Hotel
Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Aventura Lodge

Aventura Lodge is a stunning hotel in San Juan del Sur. Set in a lush jungle garden, Aventura Lodge has a pristine swimming pool, cable TV, air-con, WiFi and breakfast included. There are five ...
Hotel
San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

Bahia del Sol

Our professional architecture and interior design are critical to why Bahia del Sol is one of the best real estate investments in Nicaragua. Bahia del Sol has the look and feel of an upscale ...
Hotel
San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

Mango Rosa

This hotel is comfortable and stylish. It is arguably the most relaxed high-end place in San Juan del Sur. In addition to the lodging, Mango Rosa has a pool, music, internet, great food andfriendly ...
Hotel
Playa Marsella, Around San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Hotel Joxi

Hotel Joxi, located one and a half blocks west of the municipal market, is the place for travelers in need of space and comfort on a tight budget. Rooms cost $10-12 and come with an air ...
Hotel
San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

Hotel Nicaroa Inn

This polished, white, modern building with red lining is hard to miss. Hotel Nicaroa is a block from the park and almost directly centered between Rivas’ two famous churches. Ammenities include ...
Hotel
Rivas, Nicaragua

Buena Vista Surf Club

124706The lodge is owned and operated by a Dutch couple, who created the hotel in a secluded spot with a view of the ocean and within a 10 minute walk of the beach. The two deluxe treehouses feature rooms ...
Hotel
Playa Maderas, Around San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Hotel Villa Mar

This four-room hotel has basic accommodations and would be cheaper just about anywhere else, but the location, a stone's throw to the beach, dictates the price. There’s not much to do in more than ...
Hotel
Playa Marsella, Around San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Hotel Marsella Conference and Beach Retreat

Resembling a fortress on a hill, the Hotel Marsella has a beautiful pool area and classy rooms. The restaurant is a bit pricey for what is offered, but consider the awesome view of Marsella Bay as ...
Hotel
Playa Marsella, Around San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Casa Familiar

The corridors of this place are dark and dank, but rooms are clean. Extremely clean. But despite their enthusiasm for sanitation, you can't help but question how they justify charging $10 for the ...
Hotel
Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Hotel La Omaja

This could be the most gorgeous place on the island. A spectacular hilltop lookout over the lake. The location is very isolated and rustic, rich in bird life. The wilderness ends at your doorstep ...
Hotel
Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua
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