We often say that we’re not as interested in beach towns because as native Floridians and residents for about 30 years, we always had a beach nearby. So its simply not as much as a novelty for us. But San Juan del Sur has made us second-guess our stance on beach towns. This was our first beach town since Caye Caulker, Belize and our first time on the Pacific Coast during out trip. Maybe it’s the laid-back surfer vibe or the party atmosphere, but San Juan del Sur reeled us in and was yet another welcomed relaxing destination. It was just what we needed to recharge before some fast paced travel through Costa Rica ahead of us.
Speaking of Costa Rica, many people travel there for the world renowned surfing. Well, if you like surfing, I have a little secret for you. That secret is: San Juan del Sur. Only about 30 minutes north of the CR border, the beaches around San Juan del Sur lay tons more world class breaks. The waves are just as good (or arguably better), the beaches are just as nice (or arguably nicer, no black sand), there’s still plenty of monkeys, less tourists taking pictures of them (better monkey-to-tourist ratio), its a safe town with friendly people, and there’s lots of restaurants and fun bars. The main difference is the cost, as your dollar will go much further for food, lodging, and excursions here as it would 30 minutes south. In San Juan del Sur, your looking at complete lobster dinners for about $5 and surf & turfs for about $7. Nice private rooms near the beach may set you back anywhere from $15-$50, pending what amenities you’re looking for. Beach shuttles cost about $2-$3 round-trip, daily board rentals are $5, and affordable surf camps abound. Suddenly, Costa Rica does not appear to be the budget surf destination it once was.
I used to surf South Florida’s often-small choppy slop, but it had been about 10-15 years since I last hopped on a board. So what better place to attempt to reignite the surfer-in-me by diving right into the double overhead barrels of Playa Maderas? I was in for a world of hurt.
The waves were not only enormous by my standards but were also viciously closing out that even the ‘good’ surfers were complaining about.
Combine that with my lack of experience and I was getting thrashed around and tumbled like loose change in a washing machine. I finally paddled in a bit to play around on some smaller breaks closer to the shore, which is where I probably should have been from the get-go. I don’t know what I was thinking trying to tackle those those massive breaks like an old pro. Half the time I was scared shitless and bailed, while the other times I ate shit.
Anyhow, if you’re looking to take a surf trip in Central America, I’d definitely suggest taking a closer look at San Juan del Sur and the beaches around there. Or at least if in Northern Costa Rica, consider crossing the border up to Nicaragua and scoping it out. You may be pleasantly surprised with Costa Rica’s northern neighbor and you should definitely have a better experience carving the waves than I did.