The liveliest beach action is at San Juan del Sur, once a sleepy little Pacific coast fishing village, now the country’s main seaside destination, complete with a handful of lovely hotels and port-of-call for occasional cruise ships. But San Juan del Sur so far remains a laid back and charming place, whose beach is clean and mellow, whose lively seaside restaurants serve up heaping plates of fresh-caught snapper, shrimp and lobster, and whose evenings are rum-soaked and starry.
San Juan del Sur is an action place, offering guided horseback riding tour, zipping through the forests on a Flying Frog Canopy Tour, excellent deep-sea fishing and scuba diving—roughly a 45-minute boat ride to see multiple reef fish at only 15 feet. And visitors are always welcome to join in soccer and volleyball games, regularly in play at the beach on weekends, while nightlife centers around beach bars and cafes, as well as hotel and other restaurants.
San Juan del Sur earns her role as a Mecca for surfers, who have a choice of neighboring beaches (14 of them) reached by dirt road or boat taxi. The best beaches for surfing and/or sunning to the north are Playa Madera, famous with surfers for one of the country’s best breaks, but a good beach for beginner surfers also; Bahia Majagual; Playa Ocotal (in front of Morgan’s Rock Eco Lodge). South of San Juan del Sur, best beach awards go to Playa El Coco with its world-class sands and setting, and El Ostional, just a stone’s throw from the Costa Rica Border.
Getting there: 80 miles (130 km) from Managua.

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