Pelican Eyes Resort: San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua
I was drawn to Nicaragua because it has yet to become the hotbed of international travel that Costa Rica has become, and that is part of what makes it so charming and unspoiled. San Juan del Sur is a little known gem of a surf town situated on a calm bay, not too far away from the volcanic mountains, where you can sample the rich local coffees. Its unexpected and untamed beauty give it the look of a Jurassic Park movie, especially on the Pacific coast where the undeveloped mountain sides are surrounded by clear turquoise waters.
When I first got off the plane in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital city, I Immediately sensed a different pace of life. I was initially drawn to the slower pace of the day I knew would be present in a sun drenched, rural and very religious country. On the plane ride down from Atlanta, many people began praying loudly in Spanish at every hint of turbulence, something you will find yourself doing on the bumpy and insanely twisting roads out to the coast. As you pass through the dense urban landscape, it is apparent that there are no roadsigns to the side streets and traffic laws appear to be non-existent or solely based on a honking system that I couldn’t comprehend- needless to say- hire a driver at the airport (about $70 for 2 people for the 2 hour trip to San Juan del Sur).
Pelican Eyes is the perfect beach destination for any traveler that is looking to have every world class luxury amenity at the tip of their fingers. It is centrally located on the rustic hillside overlooking San Juan del Sur’s distinctive crescent shaped bay and the grounds are lush with local plants, cute lizzards and the biggest pink flowers dust every stone walkway. There are a range of accommodations at Pelican Eyes, from smaller studios to entire villas. My boyfriend and I rented a townhouse, which was essentially one floor of a villa. It was complete with a private entrance, air-conditioning, kitchen, a balcony overlooking the ocean, living room and a huge California king bed. Everything about the townhouse was immaculate from the gorgeous locally inspired stucco architecture, to the airy natural feel of the interior decorating. I loved the gracefully arched high ceilings, as well as the ability to spend the evening stargazing from one of the balcony’s luxe wooden lounge chairs.
One of the wonderful parts about Nicaragua other than it’s stunning multitude of natural landscapes, is that you can stay at a highly awarded place, like Pelican Eyes, for about $150 a night. A place like we rented, would be upwards of $300 in any other major tourist destination. The resort is complete with two onsite restaurants serving some of the freshest cuisine I’ve ever tasted, and that is saying a lot considering I come from Vermont- the land of farm to table dining. For more high end fare, check out La Cascada which is located next to a beautiful flower garden on the edge of one of the infinity pools. At night it is lit by candles and tiki torches and you can try out their house drinks made with local rum and the bright and sweet passionfruit juice made in house, the drinks are so good it borders on dangerous. The restaurant has nightly specials showcasing the bounty of the ocean in addition to their succulent cuts of locally sourced steak with sides like drunken vegetables, fried plantains and avocado or mofongo with chimmichurri, which is sort of like a garlicky mashed potato topped with a cilantro and parsley sauce.
In the morning they serve up the typical Central American breakfast of rice and pigeon peas with eggs and salsa, as well as a variety of exotic fruits such as papaya and starfruit. The coffee is really where its at if you like to get AMPED on caffeine, which I do. It is strong and has a smooth bold taste, you can even go to visit the coffee farms up in the volcanoes about 2 hours away. Speaking of excursions, the staff at Pelican Eyes did a phenomenal job hooking us up with every adventure we wanted to go on, at a fair price. This was especially helpful as me and my boyfriend do not speak very good Spanish and most people in the town do not speak much English.
For 100 US dollars we took a 2 hour private surfing lesson at a secluded beach with some of the nicest locals, who were patient, and got us very excited about the sport. We both caught our first waves that day, and afterwards the lesson included beer and rum drinks, of course. You can also take a day long yacht trip on Pelican Eye’s own 41-foot sloop for about $100 per person. Our trip is on the boat is still on of my favorite memories from this visit to Nicaragua. We met other hotel guests from all over the world and enjoyed the pristine waters from aboard this relaxing and glamorous boat. On board, the chef catches fish and prepares a delightful ceviche, served alongside a bean dip, guacamole and salsa and there is unlimited beer, water and rum punch! The destination for the day long trip is a private beach about 3 hours away from San Juan Del Sur, there you spend the afternoon swimming in the calm cove, taking pictures, exploring the wilderness around the beach and getting a tan. On the way back you get to watch the sunset and consume as much rum punch as you are able to, which for me is really only like 2 or 3… if I’m not trying to fall off the boat!
At the end of your sailing journey you can check out San Juan del Sur’s nightlife, where ladies drink for free most nights, which is code for extremely strong drinks and heavy flirtation. There are a number of great restaurants in town, like Barrio Cafe where you can find local favorites as well as standard western fare, dine outside for the wonderful moonlit ambience. Or for something light check out Simon Says Smoothie Bar, run by a couple of American ex-pats who have infused a very Jack Kerouac vibe into the place. Everyone in town is very friendly, keep in mind most people don’t speak English and you will want to stay away from the ATM’s as it can be dangerous especially at night. Beyond that it is a very safe place and is very well lit in the evening, and if you don’t want to walk back to the hotel you can have them pick you up from town as well and spare you the uphill march.
If you are in the market for a trip that actually feels like an adventure off the beaten path, but you still want the comfort and convenience of a luxuriously appointed hotel, with the most incredibly kind and helpful staff, I definitely recommend Pelican Eyes and San Juan del Sur to you! It is a family friendly place if thats your life, or if you are a singleton you will certainly enjoy the nightlight in the downtown area, where you will meet travelers from all across the globe enjoying their $2 cervesas by this slice of ocean paradise.