Proof Positive: You Don’t Have to Be Buff and Twenty-Something to Be Adventurous in Nicaragua

Younger travelers embraced Nicaragua first – as with many emerging travel destinations – because they are more willing to share accommodation and bathrooms, eat street food without concern, travel without a concrete itinerary, get on the ‘chicken buses’ and they were not exposed and influenced by the Sandinista Revolution media frenzy some 30 years earlier.

When my friend and I were packing for this healthy dose of adventure, many of our friends and family still envisioned Nicaragua to be a lawless country with bombed out roads and armed bandits. Not so. On the contrary I discovered a burgeoning tourism market with a surprising range of restaurants, accommodation and activities to choose from.

Not quite a baby boomer I’m what they call a GenX (born between ’66 and ’81). Not quite able to live carefree and I don’t have a bucket-list yet either but during my short stint in San Juan del Sur I ticked off some things that can now never make it on to that list either.

Here’s the top list of sun and fun in the quest for adventure in San Juan del Sur.

Surfing. It’s no surprise that surfing was the beginning of tourism here and although it’s been a while surfing was one of the draws for me here. The coastline is angled in such a way that south swells wrap into to several bays and beaches and are lifted by the wind that blows off shore over 300 days a year. We opted to go on a Panga boat with San Juan del Sur Surf and Sport. A 4×4 will get you to many spots, but it adds to the adventure to jump off a boat straight into the action. But if you’re here to learn there are plenty of surf shops offering lessons from $30 – $50 for an hour. Afterwards we learned of an elite camp for adventurous women, Chica Brava, for those who appreciate comfort as well as challenge. Maybe next time.

Horseback Riding on the Beach with Rancho Chilamate. Seriously the best horseback ride I have ever been on! Horses were happy, healthy and the owners/guides Jamie and Blue were super fun. There’s even a photo shoot of your ride included. It’s more expensive than other options around but when you get on a tired Nicaragua nag and are told to whip it to go, it just doesn’t feel right. $59 for a 5 hour adventure (3+ hours in the saddle) and you can canter on the beach. No previous experience required.

Sea Turtle Expedition. La Flor Wildlife Reserve is one of only seven nesting sites in the world for the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtle and to see them nest and lay 100+ eggs was truly sublime. This 5 hour $25 night tour included the guide, transportation to the beach 22 km south of town, reserve fees, photo ops and an impressive presentation by the owners at Casa Oro International Hostel.

Zip-Lining. They call it Da Flying Frog Canopy Tour and it was an impressive 1.5 miles long with 17 stations. My heart pumped a litter faster when the highest zip crossed over the 225′ deep canyon. $30 per person.

ATVing. All we needed was a passport, drivers license, helmet and a map and our exploration began. You can have lots of fun and get pretty far with a half day rental for $60, trust me.

Sailing. A half day sail with Pelican Eyes, the higher end resort in town, was a great way to get out on the water. $60 per person. The coastline is gorgeous and we saw turtles mating and dove in for a swim to shore. There’s less expensive, casual options with Gypsy Sailing and Second Wind as well.

We spent one afternoon on the newly opened Playa Hermosa. It’s a must-visit simply gorgeous stretch of sand with a great break and an ideal beach to kick back for a day. $3 per person entrance fee. I’m so glad we didn’t wait to ride their horses.

Our time was limited but here’s a few more things on the list that we didn’t get to…this time: Frisbee Golf Course, Kite Surfing on Lake Nicaragua, the new jungle Paintball course at the Surf Ranch, Deep Sea Fishing, Kayaking, Hiking up to the Jesus Statue on the Hill and then afterwards taking a massage, and a classic Nicaragua Rum and Coke on the beach as the sun sets on another amazing day in San Juan del Sur.

Travel Tip: There was no need for a rent a vehicle as all our adventures provided transportation to and from San Juan del Sur.

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