Due to the high shuttle prices, we elected to rent a car. This is an adventure as there are no street signs in Nicaragua. We drove for 3 hours the first day and couldn't figure out how to make it there. Once we connected to google maps via another hotel wifi, the GPS tracked our way and it was relatively easy. And by easy I mean the road is constantly filled with people, livestock, and more cars than it was designed for. But it is a beautiful drive and we found that the locals were very friendly. Getting to the surf ranch is interesting as you have to cross a river/stream to get there. The depth of the water you cross depends on the amount of rain they've recently received. It was only about 6 inches deep and our little hatchback made back and forth a few times, but another couple told us they went across in an SUV a few years ago and weren't so lucky. If you look around online, you could probably find a shuttle cheaper. The peace of mind of not having to worry about floating your car across a river or hitting a stray cow or dog might be worth the price. If you do insist on renting a car, 4 wheel drive truck or suv is the only way to go. Many of the roads to the beaches in San Juan aren't even roads, just muddy paths.
Surf Ranch Nicaragua is a nice little resort in a developing country. Some people on here seemed to be so upset that there was no a/c or hot water. Guess what? About 95% of the country doesn't have it either. But some of the newer condos do have a/c and no water in Nicaragua is ever that cold so IMHO they just need to suck it up. Every meal we had there was good. The portions were a little small to me, but I'm also a 240lb man. The all inclusive menu is also structured. My biggest complaint would be that it was a set menu. You could order off the menu for a few bucks extra, but it would have been nice if we didn't have too. And when I say a couple bucks, I mean you can buy a whole meal for 3-4 bucks. Nothing really to complain about. Our villa had no a/c but had about 5 fans and it was enough for us every night. The staff was very nice and accommodating. They kept our drinks full all the time and endured our horrible Spanish and drunken American antics. The bar closes at 11, but since it gets dark about 6, so if you still need more to drink, then you're just not trying hard enough. Romanso (the free beach) was beautiful, with two great little snack bars and the best fish tacos (at Taco's) I've ever had. The waves ranged from flat to double over head the 3 days we were there. The other 2 beaches are about $15 pp for a round trip. The resort has one big van and they use it for everything and getting to these beaches is no small task. We didn't go but heard Hermosa beach is beautiful.
San Juan del Sur is the real gem of this trip. It's a beautiful beachside city that is just getting used to American tourism. You can find a lot of things to do or buy so cheaply you will literally feel guilty for it. $10 bottle service on the beach, $1 margaritas, $55 dollar fishing charter trips. There is a nice bohemian vibe there and everyone is out to have a good time. We never felt unsafe or harassed by any pushy salesmen or corrupt policeman. The locals seemed like they were genuinely appreciative of our business and company. I was surprised at the amount of English people spoke there as well. I would advise anyone to get there soon as like all tourist destinations, it may become overrun in a few years. You can get a cheap room in the city and rent boards and get a beach shuttle as well, but the ease and cheapness of doing it with the surf ranch is hard to beat.
In summary, Nicaragua itself is a diamond in the rough. But there is SOOOOO much to do there and the prices are so reasonable, we are already planning a trip back. I would definitely stay at the surf ranch again, if nothing else but for the value of the all inclusive plan. It's hard to beat and it was a pretty cool place.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Surf Ranch in San Juan Del Sur, features Nicaragua's largest skateboard park, rock climbing wall, private gym, jungle paintball, volleyball court, world class restaurant & bar, swimming pool & swim up bar, poolside cabanas, standard rooms, villas, and deluxe condos. The Surf Ranch offers many extreme sports and activities such as surfing, skateboarding, paintball, sailing, fishing, yoga, rock climbing and more. ... more less
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