San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Evolving over the past decade from a small fishing village to a burgeoning resort town inhabited by expats seeking low-cost, warm-weather living, San Juan del Sur, on a horseshoe-shaped bay along the southern Pacific coast of Nicaragua, continues to generate buzz. It helps, of course, that this rustic and casual port-meets-resort town offers easy access to the colonial city of Granada, excursions to canopy zip lines, and a youth-oriented surf culture.
What We Love
The Beaches: There are 15 nearby, most featuring reef breaks ideal for surfers looking to catch a wave. But a few, such as Playa Marsella, are perfect for a relaxing swim or snorkel.
Access to Granada: It’s a 90-minute drive to one of the oldest colonial cities in the Americas — founded in 1524 — but it’s well worth it. Known for its colorful Spanish Colonial churches, from the brilliant blue exterior of Iglesia San Francisco to the red and yellow neoclassical dome of the Cathedral of Granada, this city on the shore of Lake Nicaragua is a step back in time. Savor a cup of bold Nicaraguan coffee in a 17th-century courtyard or take a horse-drawn carriage ride past photogenic wooden doorways lining sleepy cobblestone streets.
Best Known For
Rainforest Adventures: If you're not into surfing, how about soaring? At Da Flying Frog Canopy Tour, you can zip-line across 16 lines past trees filled with howler monkeys and birds or rappel down a waterfall.
Volcanoes: It’s also possible to hike the trails in Masaya Volcano National Park, home to two smoldering volcanoes, as well as enjoy an aerial view of Masaya Lagoon.
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Who It's Best For
History Buffs: Anyone who has a thing for the Spanish Colonial era will be fascinated by the beauty and lore of Granada.
Surfers: If being at sea has you itching to hop on a board, you can rent one in town and hit breaks ideal for everyone from novice to expert.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Be Wary of the Sun: This region is close enough to the equator to burn skin with a vengeance, so cover up and slather on that SPF 50.
Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.