San Juan del Sur

I didn't get to spend much time in SJdS at all, so this is less a guide than a few tid bits of advice. For one thing, if you surf/have time to surf, that's a whole different thing. We only had time to try to enjoy being on the beach and eating a drink a bit.

There are some pretty views.

The Best Parts:

Take a walk along the beach in the morning.

El Gato Negro:


This coffee shop had a ridiculously cute sign up front about receiving a free kitten with the purchase of a coffee.

They had some games and magazines out for patrons to enjoy. The books were in good condition, a great selection, but they're all $12.50 USD as far as I saw. For a moment I started to feel like it could've been a coffee shop in the US.


Then out back on the porch, the neighbors right over the little wire fence have a little chicken (or duck or goose or whatever, I'm no farmer) farm going. Awesome.
And then it turned out they couldn't actually do espresso, but I think the lady said they had some saved up for lattes. I hoped so because I ordered an iced latte with vanilla (pure cane sugar vanilla!) (80c or $3.20 USD):Yum!!! I wish they'd had soy milk, but at the same time, it was so nice to drink a real iced vanilla latte again. Eventually we realized the power had gone out, so that they couldn't make espresso or their long and yuppie-detailed smoothie menu or basically half the menu. Apparently the power goes out all the time in Nicaraguan cities, often for a whole day or so at a time. Thus, we were pretty lucky that this was only our second black out of the nine day trip, and both only lasted a few hours.


Avocado Egg Salad Sandwich: The bread was really nice, a multigrain in which I could taste a nice amount of honey. The crust was crusty and the middle was soft. It was clearly being backed very close to my table, whether at The Black Cat or down the road. The salad though was bland, but it was the kind of bland vegetarians seem to be happy to pay for and eat in cafes all over The US.


That sandwich came with a fruit plate: The pineapple wasn't as ripe as it had been at Barista. The cantaloupe wasn't very flavorful. The banana was a banana. The fruit never impressed us anywhere in Nicaragua though, even when we bought shit from markets. Maybe they're just importing all their good shit to the US.
The Maui Wauie with locally smoked ham, pineapple, avocado-egg salad, and honey cream cheese on a toasted (when there's power) bagel (120c or $4.80 USD, everything here, apparently being US prices): I actually liked my funky egg sandwich, except that there were only about three little cubes of avocado.


Avoid:

The Royal Chateau hostel/hotel was a joke. We paid $7 extra for AC that barely worked, and when it did it only did after we spent an hour trying to figure it out, finally asked someone who worked there to help us, waited for ten minutes while he couldn't figure it out, switched rooms, and then spent another hour fiddling with it until we finally figured out a setting that wouldn't shut off after 5 minutes. We would've been better off with one of the cheaper rooms that would've at least come with a fan or two. It was 78f all night. We had been much cooler in Bigfoot. It smelled. The floor was dirty. There was a half used bar of soap on the sink. The towels didn't absorb moisture. The lady who checked us in was surly. There was a large lizard and two smaller ones crawling around. Calling the wifi spotty would be rather generous. We skipped the free breakfast after glancing at other patrons'.


Restaurante El Timon, of which was made in my worthless Footprints guide, which I should have thrown away after Matagalpa.

It did have a cute facade.

The Macuas were on a 2 for 1 special at the time, made with guava, rum and other juices. It was all right.

We asked the waiter what was in the Pasion en la Bahia drink, and he told us it was a mixed banana, rum, lime and soda drink, but when he came back with them he said it had turned out they were actually (weak) mojitos (except no one in Nicaragua is aware of the mint muddling process) with wine in it (maybe instead of rum). He did not attempt either an apology or an offer to get us something else.

We ordered the nachos with "shrimp ranch sauce," which turned out to be flavorless cassava chips with an ounce of jarred salsa on one side and an ounce of ranch on the other, served with pickled onions and about four pickled jalapeƱos. I was so hungry at the time I just gobbled a bunch down even though it was silly tasting. Then I asked the waiter where the shrimp or shrimp flavor was supposed to be, and he told us those were just some complimentary chips and salsa. We'd not gotten complimentary chips and salsa anywhere else in the country, so we just had had no idea that might happen.

The actual shrimp ranch sauce nachos: Not altogether a vast improvement, these were basically  shrimp cacciatore nachos with thick, slightly stale tortilla chips.

Daily fillet of fish with garlic sauce: It was so drenched in oil and garlic that we couldn't taste what looked like a really nice fish. Que lastima. We wound up feeding the fish and rice to a stray dog who was smart to include this disappointing restaurant in his rounds.

Once again Footprints was wrong not only about the location of the restaurant but also the quality ("Probably the best of the beachfront eateries!" Well if that's true, which it may be, they should have warned that that wasn't saying much and one should avoid all the beachfront eateries.)


It was after that meal that Shana was fed up with it all and ready to go to a resort. We walked all over and asked lots of people, trying to find Pau Hana, another Footprints suggestion. Yes, yes, I know, I know, I never learn. But listen: "Hawaiian-themed beach-front restaurant serving breakfasts, lunches, dinners, beers and fruity tropical cocktails. Open-mic on Tue night, if you fancy sharing your talents with the world."
Guys, our one night there was a fucking Tuesday night.
So.
Imagine my disappointment
when, someone finally seeming to know what I meant by
"Pau Hana, el restaurante, um, Hawaiian, con musica y... *holding up an air mic* Pau Hana,"
said, "Si, si, pero
ya no."

After a second or too, I realized/remembered what "ya no" must mean. Not anymore. Which is so beautifully appropriate here. For a second I was excited there, that he was saying si, si, he knew what I was talking about and we were, all other evidence to the contrary, about to find this bar that would serve us tropical cocktails made from fresh fruit (anything less wouldn't be Hawaiian, surely!) and where random, presumably moderately insane people would be singing and, god willing, reciting their laughable poetry.
And then, "ya
no."
How had something that sounded so awesome gone out of business? It was too good to be true. I should've known Nicaragua did not have this. Oh, Nicaragua.


The Hungry Pirate:

Much like Jack's/El Alamo/La Terraza/El Mirador, The Hungry Pirate is also Henry's Iguana or Iguana Bar y Restaurante:


The mixed drinks were shitty - another joke of a mojito (dunno why Shana was still trying). I was sticking with straight up rum.

Chili Cheese Fries: About 16 fries with an entire can of Hormel Chili, a sprinkle of cheddar fries, some black olives and a generous squirt sour cream - Blech.

Things I Would Try:

Most of all, instead of staying at some shitty last minute option like we did, book a room at the Casa de Olas before it's too late. They have a long, beautiful pool from which you can look out at the ocean. They have a resident monkey. Need I say more? The resident monkey is a hugger! Check it out.

As far as San Juan goes, people seemed to be having a really good time in the bars on the other side of the street from the beach. The street El Gato Negro is on generally seems like the best street for food.

A surfer we met in Leon told us we really needed to go to Mama Cera's for dinner but that we might have to try to stay at the hostel to get the lady's home cooking. We were too exhausted to bother with anything, but the guy did say it was the best meal he's ever eaten in his life. So, if anyone ever goes, let me know.

Menus:

El Gato Negro:


The menu is fun, if a little cray cray.



El Timon: