The anti-San Juan del Sur
Playa Maderas, Nicaragua
Once a sleepy fishing village, San Juan del Sur is now one of the more popular tourist destinations in Nicaragua and known for it’s surfing, yoga, and Partying (the capital ‘P’ is intentional…) – two activities I don’t do and one thing I’m not longer good at or seek out. Call me “old,” but I’m at that point in life where I’d rather drink some cocktails next to a quiet pool and fall asleep in a hammock at 9 p.m. Everything I was reading and hearing about San Juan del Sur was the complete opposite of that, particularly the amount of enthusiastic backpackers we met traveling there solely for Sunday Funday, one of the more infamous parties in Central America. It just did not seem like my scene, but we were going that direction not only because it’s simply a well-known beach close to the Costa Rican border (we were ending the trip at a wedding in Tamarindo), but also due to laziness and a lack of research on other options to visit.
Luckily while on Ometepe Island, I happened to read and article about Playa Maderes, just a eight kilometers north of San Juan del Sur. It was still a surf and yoga town (good vibes…), but completely laid-back and devoid of the party scene. And that seemed to be the draw for everyone else as well – a chill beach, seemingly off the beaten path, where you could actually relax and not be surrounded by the Sunday Funday mindset.
The gorgeous and empty beach combined with a few nights at the unbelievable Hulakai Hotel was an absolutely perfect alternative to the apparent sh*tshow of San Juan del Sur… Playa Maderas was definitely my beach scene and awesome end to another Nicaraguan trip…
(When traveling these days, I’m all about some of the nicer (or at least mid-range) hotel options, but I do still enjoy the social aspect of hostels. However, I tend to find one or the other – a dumpy place with an awesome atmosphere or a sweet place with a boring atmosphere. When I found the Hulakai Hotel online, I immediately thought about how amazing it looked, but it also seemed potentially romantic and very “couple-ish,” which was not exactly ideal for us three dudes traveling around together. That was absolutely not the case – Hulakai found a way to combine an amazing property with an awesome social atmosphere, complete with nightly family-style dinners. It’s not only a highlight of my Nicaraguan travels, but a highlight of ALL my travels…)