A Travel Story: San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

As you can tell, 2013 has already been full of adventures for me. New Orleans last month and I just returned this weekend from a week-long yoga retreat in Nicaragua. It was an amazing experience! It was wonderful to be in nature and away from it all, enjoying morning and evening meditation and yoga classes as well as relaxing on the beach, drinking smoothies, and exploring what a beautiful country Nicaragua is. I also have to give a lot of kudos to Yogaville for organizing this wonderful trip, and express gratitude to all the people who shared the week with me. I never knew it was possible to connect with such a diverse group of people so strongly in such a short time!

We flew into the capital of Nicaragua, Managua, and then took a 2.5 hour ride to San Juan Del Sur on the Pacific coast. At the top of a very steep hill, we discovered our resort, Buena Vista Surf Club, located just above Playa Maderas, one of the top surfing beaches in the country. We had run of the resort for the week, and the owners, Marc and Marielle, and their staff (Ashley, Jose, Alex, and Jet) were beyond amazing. They were helpful and cooked the most delicious vegetarian breakfasts and dinners your can imagine. They were cheerful and blended right in with our group, even joining us for some of our yoga classes. The resort is an eco-resort designed by Marc and Marielle to blend seamlessly in with nature. They have treehouse-type bungalows for guests, as well as a beach house slightly down the hill (where I stayed with three other ladies). The first night there, I watched the sunset from the balcony of our beach house and then enjoyed a deep relaxation class before dinner. It gets very dark very quickly there, so by the time we opened our eyes at the end of our relaxation session, we were gazing up at glittering stars – what a start to the trip!


The main house where we ate our meals and had our yoga classes


The view from the deck – we spent our yoga sessions gazing out over the trees at the oceanIMG_4897_2 IMG_4895_2 IMG_4893_2 IMG_4828_2

Looking into the living room our our beach house, which I shared with three other women as well as an assortment of spiders and a few very chatty geckos


The balcony of the beach houseIMG_4831_2

A sailboat out at sunset

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Our second day there, I spent time reading and relaxing, as well as exploring the beach, drinking the first of many fruit smoothies (big fan of the pineapple-banana combination), and eating guacamole and veggie tacos at the shacks on the beach. We also spent beach time during the week boogie-boarding (many thanks to my new friend Padma for helping me learn to do this by just handing me the board and giving me a shove, literally and figuratively, and to Swamiji for showing so much joy and excitement in this activity), enjoying deep discussions in the sunshine, and making friends with the stingrays (no one stepped on any, but goodness, it is startling when they just start swimming over your feet and legs!)

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Aside from the stingrays that liked to boogie-board, there were plenty of other interesting creatures and beautiful flowers. Lots of really lovely birds flying about, dolphins frolicking in the water, geckos, creepy bugs hanging out by on the doors of the beach house, scorpions (note: if getting stung by a scorpion is on your bucket list, I highly recommend against it – I got a nasty sting our last night there that we’re 95% sure was from a scorpion, and it hurt like hell), and MONKEYS. How much fun is it to wake up to the noise of howler monkeys? (OK, only sort of fun, at 4 AM, it’s really a bit more annoying. The monkeys also thought we were incredibly interesting – they would often come and hang out around the deck during our yoga classes (probably laughing at us).

IMG_4885_2 IMG_4886_2 IMG_4888_2 IMG_4868_2 IMG_4968_2 IMG_4961_2 IMG_4967_2 IMG_4869_2 IMG_4871_2We didn’t just hang around the resort and do yoga – we also did some exploring of Nicaragua. One day, I went on a catamaran sailing trip, courtesy of Nica Surf and Sail. Zack, Byron, and Geraldo were really knowledgeable and friendly and we had a great trip. We did some sailing, then dropped anchor in a quiet cove called Playa Blanca, where we got to swim and walk on the beach, and also have homemade guacamole and salsa on the boat. We sailed back to San Juan Del Sur just in time to still see the sunset from the boat.

I also have to add that one of the most amusing things about the sailing trip was getting there – we had to take a taxi from the resort to the pier in town. Imagine a taxi – now erase that image and imagine a beat up old pick-up truck, with room for 4 passengers…a 6 people needing to get into town. Well, Nicaraguans are prepared for that – the bed of the pick-up taxi is outfitted with boards along the sides to make benches. So…along with another person from our group, Rene, and Dunia, the woman down the road from the resort who gives awesome massages, I rode into town in the bed of a pick-up. While a bit dusty, the breeze was surprisingly refreshing, and it is at least a good story to tell!

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I admit it, I broke the “no alcohol” rule while out sailing – the Jimmy Buffett part of my soul just didn’t think it was acceptable to be on a boat without a Mai Tai, and I had to try the Nicaraguan rumIMG_4910_2 IMG_4916_2

The statue in the distance is a giant Jesus statue. Who knew, Ohio’s Touchdown Jesus has a Central American cousin? ;)

IMG_4922_2 IMG_4920_2The day after sailing, we went on another adventure, to the Masaya Volcano and then into Granada for lunch and some sightseeing and shopping. Masaya is an active volcano, and it was pretty impressive to see the smoke pouring out (and to smell the sulfur – whew!). We didn’t have much time in Granada, but it seemed to be a quaint city with a lovely center square (lots of vendors!) and good spots to eat (we enjoyed lunch at the Garden Cafe). During our drive, we also made a quick stop at Lake Nicaragua, which was beautiful.


The garden courtyard at the Garden Cafe – great smoothies and brownies!


From the edge of the Masaya Volcano


An amazing example of the resilience of nature – even if the lava fields around the volcano, flowers are still growing


Masaya from a look-out point above

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Lake Nicaragua


After those two adventures, I spent the last few days of the trip just relaxing and visiting with the others on the retreat. I feel like the photographs don’t even really do this place justice. I had never given Nicaragua a thought as a vacation destination, but I am so glad I went, and I highly recommend it if you ever have the opportunity!