Nicaragua will always hold a special place in my heart, so expect a plethora of posts about the land of Flor de Caña to be coming soon. But first, let’s talk BEACHES! In the surrounding area of San Juan Del Sur, you will find nine beaches that you can explore, surf, and enjoy being a beach bum  during your time in the south. I personally had the luxury of only visiting five of them, but each of the ones I have been to have a different personality and aspect to offer based on what you are looking for.

Playa Yankee
This beach is one of the more secluded beaches I have encountered. It is a wide stretch of land with good waves, beautiful views, and clear water. The only human encounter you will find on this beach is the small house before you enter the beach and the empty hut at the end of the beach that some of the local surf shops use for BBQ’s. This beach is usually $10 to get to usually one by using one of the town shuttles and has been the only beach where I have seen dolphins jumping in the distance!

Head to Playa Yankee and you will have the beach to yourself! Bring snacks/drinks because there is nothing there!

The tide comes up really high on the beach…here’s your evidence 🙂

❤❤ Such a beautiful and secluded beach ❤❤

Backpackers Tip: This is the best beach for camping, just watch out for sand flies!

❤ Camping at Playa Yankee with some of the crew from Hola Ola and our workaway ❤

Sunsets are just the worst in Nicaragua 😍😍

Playa Hermosa
The name says it all. This beach is so beautiful!!! If you only have time for one beach while you are in SJDS, I recommend you go to this one! It’s a $10 shuttle from any of the local surf shops and is the best location if you are looking to learn how to surf. The beach has a place to stay as well as a bar/restaurant.  The prices can range from $7-10 for food and drinks, so if you are on a budget like I am then I recommend grabbing a few $1 Tonas and some snacks from a local shop to hold you over.

Grab a table or hammock to leave your stuff and head to the waves!

There are surfboards for rent at the beach if you don’t have one!

There is a small area of rocks, so depending on the tide you have to be careful! I just love this picture.

My girl Dasha and I soaking up the rays at Playa Hermosa! We met in Granada and were inseparable for two weeks! ❤

Look at how beautiful this view is! My girl Dasha enjoying the view!

Stay for sunset! You won’t be disappointed.

Playa Maderas
This is the best beach to go to if you are really into surfing and can actually rip up the waves, or even get on your board (haha, I try!). The beach is small with a lot of rocks to the right of the beach, but the water is beautiful, the waves are great, and there is so much surfing to watch! There are two restaurants and a hostel on the beach, but they are expensive so bring your own stuff here as well! You can grab any shuttle from town for $5.

Look at all those waves back there!

Frozen drinks, salty water, and this view is all ya need!

Beautiful place!

Playa San Juan Del Sur
This is the first beach that you will see when you arrive to San Juan Del Sur, since the town sits right on it’s shores. This beach is perfect for sitting at one of the local restaurants and enjoying the sunset, or soaking up some sun during the day on the sand. Sadly, this is not the best beach to swim in as of November 2016. When I was here in November of 2015, it was a clean beach where a lot of locals and tourists alike would swim in. However, after the hurricane in November of 2016 the water became very dirty and the storm brought in a lot of trash so sometimes your ankles will feel trash floating around. Nonetheless, this is the beach of the town and is still beautiful to sit at and enjoy the sunset and sound of the waves. If anyone has or will be there after this blog has posted, please let me know if this has changed!

November 2015, when the water was more clear. What a beautiful sight at sunset!

Sunset in the background and Cristo in the distance.

This is the view of the entire beach of SJDS from the top of El Cristo.

I just love the sunsets in Nicaragua *in love*

Cristo watches over San Juan Del Sur as the sun sets

Playa Remanso
This was one of the last beaches that I visited and I regretted waiting so long to go! As soon as I stepped out of the shuttle and set my eyes on this beach, I fell in love! The view was beautiful, the beach was nearly secluded apart from a few locals, the water had just the right mixture of waves, rocks, and clarity, and there are so many areas to explore up and down the beach. Oh, and don’t forget the SUNSET! They were to die for! Sadly, in low season there are only a few shuttles that go here, but if you get a group together it’s easypeasy to head on over there for $5 each!

View of Remanso from around the bay

Nicaragua will always be one of my favorite places for sunsets!

Evening bonfires at Playa Remanso

❤ Mermaid Life for EJ ❤

Long stretch of land with just a few shops there

Have any of you been before?! Which one is your favorite?! If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?! Get your butt to Nicaragua and check out the amazing beaches of San Juan Del Sur! They are some of the most beautiful that you will see!

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Dancin Around The World has been volunteering in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua for the past month at Hotel El Pacifico. Last year I was in Nicaragua in November, and after leaving the country I knew in my heart that I would be back again. I absolutely love being in Nicaragua. I am completely drawn to the food, the people, the culture, and the landscapes. There’s just something about this country that calls to me!

Typical day at El Pacífico 🙂

 

In order to travel and stay in one place long term, without spending a lot of money, I headed to workaway to find an opportunity.

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EJ (right) from Asheville, NC and Tabea (left) from Germany

Garfield: the unofficial mascot of the hotel

 

For those of you who do not know, workaway is a website that backpackers/travelers use to find volunteering positions around the world at hostels, hotels, farms, vineyards, etc. You can create an account here. All you have to do is sign-up, pay the fee for one year ($29 for a single person, $39 for a couple or two friends), and create a profile and description about yourself and what you offer. Once you have signed up, you can start contacting business based on countries, cities, and/or type of work. The general gist in each location is that you will be required to work a certain number of hours per day (4-6 depending on which opportunity  you get) and in return you are provided a bed, and if you are lucky food as well. Each business will list exactly what they offer and the amount of work that is required of you within the description.

When searching for an opportunity in Nicaragua, I knew I wanted to be right by the ocean and so I focused on San Juan Del Sur. Since I had already been to this city, I knew there would be ample amount of things to do, I already knew my way around, and it’s a beach town. It’s been on my bucket list for sometime now to work in a beach town, so I was super stoked when an opportunity came up! I applied for about five positions in the San Juan area by sending an e-mail about how I could help their business and what I had to offer. I received two rejections because they were already full, two did not reply at all, and one offered me a position. When I sent the e-mail to each business, I told them about all of the things that I could offer their business and why they should choose me. If you are looking for positions, I highly recommend making yourself stand out as best you can! For example, I mentioned that I had over five years of customer service, I speak fluent Spanish, and I have experience in organizing events and teaching latin dances. If you speak the language of the country you are looking for an opportunity in, it helps a ton!

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Wendy from Ghant, Belgium taking over the kitchen with her skills

 

El Pacifico Hotel is where Dancin Around The World has been volunteering for the past month. It is a hotel with twelve rooms, a pool, bar, and a view of El Cristo at all times. There are usually around six volunteers at a time and duties include checking clients in and out, making breakfast in the morning, washing dishes, chatting with clients, and tending bar. The deal with this hotel is pretty sweet because there is minimum cleaning required. In return for volunteering five hours a day for six days a week, you receive a bed and groceries to cook each week. When you’re traveling, the highest expenses are accommodation and food, so having these things covered saves so much money. More funds for cerveza and shuttles to the beaches!

EJ and I enjoying one of the local beaches on our day off!

 

My time at El Pacífico has been one of my fonder traveling moments and a place that truly started to feel like a home. The other volunteers became a little family to me as we would share our day with each other, cook and eat meals together, share rum on the beach, and enjoyed spending time together. I feel so blessed to have met so many great people, shared so many wonderful memories, and was able to be in a great town for the month of December without having to pay a ton of money! I truly am going to miss this place.

Our Christmas tree and white elephant gifts 🙂

Christmas dinner with the other volunteers

 

If you are looking for a way to travel for free than workaway is the best way to do it! Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions on the experience or how you can do it too!

The ladies of El Pacífico 💜💜

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During our time in Nicaragua we had the great fortune to come across two great Salsa spots in two different cities. The first salsa spot that we found was a bit by chance and research. Before coming to Leon, I had done a quick google search to see if any blogs mentioned anything in the area and I came across one post that mentioned a location called La Olla Quemada; however after hoping for a legit salsa place in Antigua and being a little disappointed, I was a bit weary if this place would be worth our time.

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La Olla Quemada

We arrived in Leon on a Thursday and after we dropped our bags off at the hostel and begin walking around town in search of dinner, we saw a sign that said there was salsa every Wednesdays. Now, as we are getting used to this backpacking lifestyle, we tend to forget what day of the week it is. No joke. When you have no responsibilities and no job to make sure you attend, the days of the week tend to blend together. So, as we saw this sign we were very excited because we legit thought it was Wednesday. We made our way to the location to scope it out before we committed to it later in the night to only find out it was the night before. Whomp Whomp Whomp. We walked around a bit and ended up talking to a waiter outside of a restaurant and asked if he knew of any salsa places. He said the only place to salsa is La Olla Quemada, which happens on Thursday.

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We arrived at La Olla Quemada, paid our 50 cordobas ($1.75) entrance fee, and headed to the bar for a drink. The dance floor was already packed and the music was good, very good. We sipped our drinks (mojitos because it was so hot) and watched the dance floor. The dancers here were good, and it was easy to spot those that were salseros because they were all wearing Salsa Nicaragua shirts. We learned later that the Nicaragua Salsa Congress was happening in a few weeks (Nov 13th-17th) in Managua and they were trying to promote it. We danced a lot, sipped mojitos, and chatted with the locals. This place gets very hot because it is small and Leon in it self is hot, so be prepared! Dancers- you can bring your heels or you can decide not to. I brought them, but  did not put them on once as the floor was too packed and I saw that no one else was wearing them. If you are a female dancer and you want to dance with one of the local good dancers, you will have to suck it up and ask one of them. I found that they are used to tourists that don’t know how to dance so they did not dance with me until I asked one of them and they saw that I could actually dance (this happens a lot to us dancers though). Enjoy this place, its a gem in the hot city of Leon.

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Heating up the dance floor!

The second salsa spot that we were able to find is in Managua. We actually traveled to Managua from Leon for the sole reason of dancing at Fandango in Managua. I had heard from so many friends, locals, and guide books that this was the place to dance in Nicaragua- and they were right! We went there on a Thursday night and the entrance was free. We were lucky to actually have a large group that was with us this time, because our AirBnb host brought his gf, other renters, and his cousin to join us. When we arrived there were a good amount of people on the dance floor and a decent mix between travelers and locals. The DJ played a good mix of music with the majority being salsa with a few songs of bachata and merengue throw in as well.Salsa Managua

There were a mix of dancers at this location varying from those thatdanced soley when the DJ played salsa and a few tables that would only dance during a bachata song. I would say that there were more dancers present then there were individuals that didn’t know how to dance. Since we were there on a Thursday it was a little quieter than it would be on a Friday or Saturday. Our Air Bnb host said that it gets very packed during the weekends. Dancers- go ahead and bring your shoes to this location because there is room to dance and show off your skills! I was happy that I brought mine.

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What a great group at Fandango! Thank you to Inti, our AirBnb host!

Overall, dancing in Nicaragua was a real treat for us and the dancers were extremely nice and excited to dance with non-local dancers. If you are a dancer and traveling thru Nicaragua, you have to check out at least one of these two places; you will not be disappointed!

 

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We decided that after three days of sweltering heat in Leon that we were in need of a beach. We made a beeline for Las Penitas and checked into a Bed and Breakfast that had been recommended via another backpackers blog. Sol y Mar is located right on the beach and is situated with an adorable back porch with swings and hammocks to lay in. Each night is $20 for a room that has a queen and twin bed, along with a private bathroom and includes breakfast in the morning which consisted of eggs, bread, coffee,  and the famous pinto de gallo of Nicaragua. We stayed in this location only for a night due to the lack of wi-fi and the less than homey feel to it. We were rather disappointed by the customer service provided by the two women that worked the morning and evening; however we think that they were not the actual owners of the place. We read in someone else’ blog that they had a wonderful experience; however since it was during the off-season we think the owners were away and the usual management of the place was not up to par. Regardless, this place was beautiful and a great location to relax and be right on the waves.

Oscar taking a moment to relax and watch the Nicaraguan waves

Amrine trying to master her slack line skills. Champion in the making!

Amrine trying to master her slack line skills. Champion in the making!

The day that we arrived we spent swimming in the ocean and getting our asses handed to us by the waves. The waves were the highest and most aggressive that either of us have ever experienced. For lunch we walked the entire length of the town, which is really just a bunch of “comedors” and mini-tiendas where you can buy sodas and a few snacks. Most of the restaurants in Las Penitas you can get a fish dish from 120-300 cordobas (this is between $3-11 for a very large piece of fried fish with rice, beans, and a small salad). Its quite a deal!

Oscar about to devour his $3 meal!

The view from the dorms. Surfing Turtle Lodge is paradise!

The next day, we decided that we needed a bit of a change from the lazy bed and breakfast that we were staying at and instead made our way to the Surfing Turtle Lodge. From where we were located in Las Penitas, we had to take two buses to get to Chele’s Bar where we got a boat to the other side of the cove (cost was $1) and then a horse drawn carriage picked us up along with our bags and drove us to the lodge. The lodge is located on a little island near Las Penitas and is an absolute paradise. We spent three days in this location, each day in the morning looking at each other and instantly agreeing to stay one more day. The lodge is located right on the beach and its a quick one minute walk and your toes are in the waves. The lodge has hammocks all over the place, a volleyball court, yoga in the morning, volleyball competitions at 4pm everyday,  slack-line, ping pong, and a fully stocked bar with daily cocktails. This place is a backpackers paradise! We paid $12 for each dorm bed, which up to this point was the most expensive bed we have paid for, but for all of the people we met at the lodge and the experiences we had it was all worth it.

One of the exposure photos we took with our Lumix camera during the lightning storms.

Happy in Paradise! And…trying to keep our smiles as the sand burns our feet.

We literally spent the three days at the lodge lounging around enjoying all of the amenities and reading as we listened to the waves of the beach. Since we stayed there at the beginning of November and it is technically still the rainy season, we were given the gift of amazing lightning shows each night. Thankfully, it only rained one night that we were there, however the other two nights it only rained deep in the ocean so we were still able to enjoy the views. Oh and before I sign off: if you stay in the upper dorm (where we stayed) you are in fact sleeping with bats. Yes, those noises that you hear at night are bats. Quick tip: make sure you secure yourself a bottom bunk, otherwise you might find yourself waking up covered in bat shit. No joke.

Horse and carriage anyone?

There’s our luggage! Horse and carriage anyone?

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The bus ride across the river as we are dying in the heat!

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Leon has already exceeded our expectations in the past two days. When we first arrived in the city, after a 16 hour bus ride, we made our way to Hostel Sonati. When we walked in the door, the entire location was full of people, music in the background, and pupusas for sale. The woman at the front desk said that the event would end in an hour and it was an event for the community to raise funds for their Eco-projects. I instantly already loved this place because they were giving back to the community. Our past two nights have been wonderful here and so far has been my favorite hostel to stay in because it is very clean, quiet, and run by Nicaraguans who know all the best spots to go.

On the way to the Volcano!

We were both exhausted after the long bus ride, but we went out to grab some dinner and made plans for our next day to do Volcano Boarding at Cerro Negro. We didn’t want to make another mistake of missing a tour and having to stick around an extra day, like we did in Flores, so we surveyed a few places for the tour and decided on Bigfoot Hostel for our tour. The inventor of the sport is the owner of the hostel and their tour seemed to be the best bang for our buck. Despite our exhaustion, we made it out to a salsa club before getting in some good rest for the next day. I’ll be covering a review of the salsa place in Leon in a separate post.

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The whole group before we head up to the top of the Volcano in the background!

We met at BigFoot Hostel at 8:45am the next day and boarded the truck to head to the volcano. It was a full tour, with about 25-30 participants, and the ride lasted about 30 minutes upon the rickety truck. The guide is a really outgoing guy, whose name I’ve forgotten, and he set the mood for the day from the very beginning with blasting music on the back of the truck the entire way to the volcano.

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We carried the boards all the way too the top and they were heavy!

Once we arrived at the volcano, it was about a 45 minute hike up the side of the volcano all the while carrying our own board and jumpsuit. We didn’t bring any water up with us because the guide told us we would have to dump it out at the top anyway.  The guide did a really good job of making the hike up the entire mountain continue in fun spirits with stops along the way to tell the history and story of volcano boarding and how it began and stopping for photos along the way.

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Another group shot before we head down the volcano!

Once we finally arrived at the top of the volcano, we all got into our bright orange jumpsuits, snapped a few photos, and waited in anticipation for instructions on this extreme sport! There were three lanes which had been created so that more than one person could go down at a time and the guide hopped on his board and made his way down to the middle of the volcano where he stopped so that he could snap photos of each of the boarders as they made their way down the volcano. I for one, am terrified of falling in general, so this entire experience was a bit out of my comfort zone, but I was still excited to experience this once in a lifetime experience offered only in Nicaragua.

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Oscar making his way down the Volcano like a pro! Look at that volcanic rock fly!

We watched a few people head down the volcano,and then Oscar and I got into position at two lanes next to each other. Oscar headed down first and then I followed in the lane next to him. Oscar went down pretty fast, clocking at 34mp going down. I  hopped onto my board and started my way down completely terrified because I couldn’t see the end (haha). The top of the volcano is a little slow, but once I hit the middle of the volcano where the guide was stationed, the board picked up speed and I was flying down the volcano with rocks flying up around me, my feet feeling the heat from the volcano, and the wind in my hair. It was  such a fun experience and definitely one that I would recommend to anyone who will be making their way to Nicaragua. I only wish that we could have gone down the volcano more than once!

After we all had boarded down the volcano we hopped into the back of the truck where we were all handed an ice cold beer, which was just what everyone needed after standing in the heat for about an hour from the whole experience. We made our way back to the hostel where there were ice cold mojitos waiting for all of us, which we sipped while we watched the slideshow of all the photos our guide had taken. The hostel offers a shuttle to their beach house hostel, which is about 25 minutes away, which leaves at 3:00pm every day. After being in the hot sun all day on top of the volcano, Oscar and I decided it was only logical that we board the shuttle and spend some time in the ocean to cool off.

 

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Another group shot at the top of the Volcano! Look at that coordination!

The beach side hostel is exactly what we were hoping for complete with a pool, view of the ocean, pool table, and bar. We made our way to the ocean, but realized that this trip would not be one where we would be enjoying with a nice calm swim. The waves were almost as high as the both of us and with such force that we were both hesitant about entering. Instead, we made our way back to the pool, grabbed a drink, and enjoyed the view. Around the time of the sunset we walked for a bit along the beach enjoying the sound of the waves and the incredible view. We set up the gopro to record the entire sunset, as it was one of the most beautiful ones that either of us has seen, and settled ourselves in the sand to enjoy. After a few minutes of enjoying the view out of nowhere, a wave reached all the way to where we were (and we were pretty far out) and wiped us both out completely. We looked back at the location where we had rested the Go Pro (which we thought was safe and was far away from the water), and the Go Pro was gone. RIP to our GoPro, along with all of the photos and videos from the day of volcano boarding. 🙁 🙁 🙁

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Beautiful sunset as we watch the fierce Nicaraguan waves

Happy Halloween to everyone back in the states! Today is my favorite holiday, but instead of dressing up and dousing my face with fake blood we will be spending it in a more traditional manner. There’s a local carnival happening tonight in the plaza and we plan to check it out. There is supposed to be vendors, a parade, and a ton of folkloric dancers. Those of you in the states, have a Halloween shot on us both and scare some kids!

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