3 couples traveled to Nicaragua on April 11-18. We stayed at a house rental called Villa Noche, run by former NBA player, Travis Knight. This is our trip report.
We arrived into Managua from Miami on AA in the afternoon. Immigration was a breeze, just remember the entry fee. We used Adalente Express for transportion from Managua to SJDS, it was really good. The driver met us after customs with a clearly marked sign and they transport you in shuttle vans, and the A/C seemed to work very well. They do the best they can. However the drive is a solid 2 1/2 hours. Some of the drivers can speak a little English, but one of the themes of my trip is that if you are traveling to Nica and don't speak fluent Spanish-DON'T GO.
The Villa Noche rental property that has lots of potential. Some of the challenges that Travis' faces are in his control and some our just the nature of Nicaragua's infrastructure not being advanced yet. Villa Noche is located 2 1/2 hours from the Int'l airport in Managua on the Pacific coast. The house rental is in a very secure development about 200 feet directly above the Pacific coastline. Security is very good with one armed guard at the gate of the development and also another armed guard at the gate into the property itself.
The positives about Villa Noche are its incredible 180 degree views of the Pacific Ocean, the very nice Infinity pool overlooking the Pacific. Transportation to and from San Juan can be done by the house staff, which is by truck 15-20 minutes (because of the roads) away, which makes a rental car not a necessity, you only pay for fuel at the end of the week. Travis is attempting to provide a 1st world experience in a country that is still experiencing tremendous 3rd world challenges.
What I write below aren't so much problems with the rental, but more of things that everyone should be aware of, more than anything.
For those who don't know Villa Noche provides cooking for all meals and daily cleaning services.
I can't emphasize this enough if you do not know SPANISH, and I'm not talking about broken Spanish, do not stay at Villa Noche. This is a big deal. Also don't expect instructions from the staff when you arrive or even how or when the meal works. Overall we were disappointed the staff wasn't as friendly in attempting to talk with us, no hello's or goodbye's, they seemed very depressed. Obviously I don't blame them because the Nica government, and the US gvt. in the past 50 years hasn't treated the country or the people very well. Again if you don't speak fluent Spanish then this makes things very challenging. The house was built 4-5 years ago and Travis' challenge is up keeping the house, it has many very modern bells and whistles, speakers in all rooms, wireless internet, pools, hot tubs, A/C units in bedrooms, big screen TV, DVD players. Problem is many of these things are broken or don't work. Part of the problem is the ability to have these things serviced or the availability to procure parts in Nicaragua.
Regarding the town itself, San Juan del Sur, this is a vacation town for locals; don't expect fancy gift shops, restaurants, Dive Shops, boat tours. Very simple and very basic. Shopping even for basic food and beverages is very different than even a 2nd world country. This is a small and unfortunately very poor tourist area that has lots of challenges with infrastructure.
Individuals that I can recommend traveling to Nicaragua are: backpackers, staying in hostels, very low key, no need for safe or organized attractions, but everything is very inexpensive. There are no 1st or even 2nd world amenities in San Juan. It’s very basic, unless you are staying at one of the 2 resorts Piedras Olos, or Morgan's Rock.
Overall Nicaragua is not ready for tourists that expect any type of vacation you'd receive in Mexico, Costa Rica, or the Caribbean. Its infrastructure, such as roads, electricity, service, purchasing options, food availability is still a ways off.