Backpacking gets a lot of hate around these parts of the web, but it’s really not that bad. If you’re a younger guy (under 25) and have normal social skills, then backpacking can be a great way to meet cool people and hot chicks while traveling. While I don’t enjoy staying in a hostel for more than a week (or without a private), you shouldn’t discount backpacking around for a week or two when you’re young.
Below you’ll find some intel on one of my favorite backpacker beach towns in Central America – San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.
Positives of San Juan del Sur
Dirt Cheap: San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua is pretty cheap. You can get a beer for $0.75 all over San Juan. A meal is $3 – 5 dollars for a big chicken breast, rice, plantains, and salad.
Good Surf: I am no expert surfer, but there are three main beaches in San Juan that all attract surfers. Playa Remanso is for beginners, but it good on days where the swell is bigger. Playa Hermosa is an intermediate beach with waves always over one meter sometimes close to two meters. I didn’t check out Playa Maderas, but it is more for advanced surfers. You can rent a board or get a lesson at a number of places around town. Most hostels offer shuttles to the beaches, board rentals, and lessons. However, the best place to get a lesson or rent a board is Good Times Surf shop. The instructors are cool and will give you a lesson, then the next days they will surf with you and give you pointers for free.
Good Party: There are pub-crawls that run a few nights during the week that get a decent amount of people. Then on Friday and Saturday there are a number of bars and clubs in the city center that will offer a good time. Occasionally, a hostel will host a theme party as well. The scene is backpacker-led, but the locals join in as well. It’s a good time.
Sunday Funday: Sunday Funday is a huge pool crawl run by a few of the main hostels in San Juan. You pay $30 or $15 if you stay at Pancha Mama. This gets you bused to three different pools around San Juan to drink, dance and party until midnight I believe. I can’t remember as I left early 😉 You also get a free tank top that you’ll have seen crusty backpackers throughout Central America wearing before you arrive.
Negatives of San Juan del Sur
Nothing but Surfing: Sure, you can party a lot and lay around on the beach and hiking to the Jesus statue is cool one hung-over day. But, other than that there is not a lot to do. If you are not a surfer or trying to learn how to surf you will not want to spend much time here.
Cliques: Everyone seems to know everyone in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. This can be tough if you are traveling alone and do not know anyone when you arrive. However, don’t worry about it because after a couple of days in San Juan you will know everyone as well. Take a surf lesson. Chat with the people in your hostel. Get recommendations from the hostel staff. Hit on girls lying out on the beach. You’ll end up/seeing the same people over and over again even if you only stay 3-4 days.
Places to Stay
There are a ton of hostels, guesthouses, and hotels in San Juan. The main party hostel is Pancha Mama, but pretty much anywhere you stay should be fine as long as there are other travelers staying and it’s in the town. The main Pancha Mama is a mad house, as the hostel throws parties regularly. However, the Pancha Mama annex is half a block away and much quitter. You can stay here and enjoy all the party benefits of Pancha Mama while still getting good sleep.
Hotel Delfin is a quiet option in town next to the beach that is cheap and laid back. Make sure to check guest policies if ladies are on your mind. I loved the location here and private doubles could be had for $14 – 20 with air conditioning. Naked Tiger is said to be legendary, but I wasn’t impressed with the place. It’s located way outside the center of town and doesn’t have private rooms or bathrooms. Unless you’re all about the backpacking lifestyle, I’d avoid staying here. You can find incredibly shitty privates in town for $10 a night, but I’d advise against them. I stayed one night in one and didn’t enjoy it. The only other guest was a 70-year-old man, who enjoyed banging pregnant prostitutes.
Game in San Juan del Sur
You’ll be looking to hook up with backpacker chicks more than locals here. There are really no online dating options whatsoever in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. You could give Tinder a shot, but do not expect much. I wouldn’t even attempt to meet girls online in San Juan del Sur. Backpacking is about being social and that’s how you’ll get laid here. Day game is pretty easy. Just go talk to girls about the surf and the beaches. You won’t need to go for a number or anything. Just flirt a bit then go on with your day. You will see her out again at night. If she likes you, she will be drunk and horny later and will often come say hi to you.
Night game is all you need here. Isolate and escalate as quickly as possible. Backpacking guys are a thirsty bunch and will approach like sharks. In San Juan, I was waiting at the bar on a Friday night to grab a couple of beers and I saw two chicks walk in. They were cute and definitely bangable. I knew I could approach once they got near the bar, but they never did while I was there. They were hit on and rejected 3 groups of guys before engaging in a conversation with the fourth group. This all happened before I could get my fucking beers.
The Sunday Funday game should be an accumulation of your efforts gaming in San Juan del Sur. You should have met a number of people surfing, eating and partying in the days leading up to Sunday Funday. Just have fun while you’re at the pools and enjoy yourself. You’ll be able to hit on just about whoever you want at Sunday Funday. Everyone is in a great mood. The only game tip you’ll need is to make sure you have a chick lined up before you get to the final party. If you’ve got nothing by then, you’ll be struggling to pull. Every guy I know that got laid had a chick lined up by the end of the second pool party.
San Juan del Sur Overall
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua was by far my favorite backpacker locale I visited in Central America. The place was cheap, fun and beautiful. I’d highly recommend anyone traveling through Nicaragua, or Central America to take a week and surf in San Juan. Don’t forget to check out Sunday Funday as well! I was in San Juan del Sur during a mild time. High season in San Juan is supposed to be crazy. Mid-December to early February is high season.
If you enjoyed this post about a cheap tropical paradise – then don’t forget to check out my book, A Bachelor’s Guide to Central America. Click here to find out more.