The town of San Juan del Sur (SJDS) – in southwest Nicaragua – is one of the region’s most popular with tourists and surfers alike. Every year, thousands of tourists visit SJDS from within Nicaragua, the Americas, and further abroad from Europe and Australia. As a result, the town continues to grow and evolve, with new businesses, restaurants, and attractions popping up all the time. But what makes San Juan del Sur so popular? Find out more about this multicultural mixing pot below!
Discovered in 1822 by Spanish explorer Andrés Niño – who was looking for the union of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans – the town was officially declared a major port in 1851. San Juan del Sur was primarily a fishing town where local fishermen took advantage of the sheltered, crescent-shaped bay, rich with fish and other marine life. Life was idyllic and simple. Later on, after the advent of steam engines, San Juan became a center for trade with a bustling port and railway system that moved items from all across the Americas. Furthermore, it served as a hub for prospectors making their way from the portside town to the Gold Rush in California. The town grew rapidly as a result of the increase in trade and passenger movement and became a very important location renowned industrialist, Cornelius Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt formed the Accessory Transit Company and during its 16-year existence, the company moved approximately 75 000 passengers from San Juan del Sur to New York and San Francisco and vice versa.
Recently – within the last 20 years – the focus has shifted away from fishing and shipping to embrace tourism, the activity with which the town is now best associated. During this period, the improvements in infrastructure and accessibility from the capital Managua have transformed San Juan into a vibrant tourism hotbed.
San Juan del Sur Today
Just a few hours’ drive from Managua, San Juan del Sur has benefited from Nicaragua’s growing reputation as a tourism destination. Serving many local tourists who visit from Managua, Leon, and Granada in particular, the town has also become increasingly popular with visitors from Costa Rica, Panama, the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia. With the Augusto C. Sandino International Airport in Managua connecting with major US cities as well as regional hubs such as Liberia (Costa Rica) and Panama City (Panama), there are now more people than ever discovering the relaxed, outdoor-based lifestyle that San Juan offers.
Here are a few things that make San Juan del Sur so special:
- Accessibility – with the newly refurbished Pan American Highway now connecting San Juan del Sur with the rest of Nicaragua (and beyond), driving to the town has never been easier. The road from Managua to SJDS is in excellent condition and makes for a very scenic drive!
- Infrastructure – with the recent construction of the electrical substation just outside Rivas now complete, San Juan del Sur enjoys vastly improved electrical supply compared to previously. Where hour-long blackouts were a regular occurrence, they are now very infrequent and hardly noticeable. There are also several well-established fiber optic internet providers, making the town perfect for the blossoming class of Digital Nomads. Lastly, the newly constructed Public Hospital and Police Station show that San Juan is clearly a town on the rise!
- Natural Beauty – this should really be first on the list! San Juan is blessed with some of the most awe-inspiring vistas, beaches, and jungles in all of Central America. Well known as one of the region’s best surf and beach destinations, it also counts the Statue of Christ, Adventure Park, and several jungle hikes amongst its natural attractions. One of the most popular being the hike to the Cascadas Waterfall in El Encanto del Sur itself!
- Cosmopolitan Population – blessed with a diverse mix of locals and ex-pats, San Juan del Sur has become a cultural mixing pot where North Americans, Europeans, and even some South Africans all mingle together with local Nicaraguans in a celebration of modern diversity. Everyone is welcome here!
- Vibrant Lifestyle – no matter your age or activity level, San Juan has something for you. Guests and locals alike have their pick of some of Nicaragua’s best restaurants, bars, and hotels. From vegan cafes to art warehouses and a world-class international school, there is something here for everyone. Little wonder that the town has become increasingly popular for second homes, relocators and retirees.
Check out our video showcasing all of the above and more for a little taste of what San Juan del Sur has to offer YOU! Please Contact Us for more information on building your piece of paradise in San Juan del Sur’s premium eco-development, El Encanto del Sur.