The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

- Robert Frost

the 1 less traveled by

A move to Nicaragua

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Mombacho Bridge

6 Day Southern Nicaraguan Itinerary

I’m not travel agent, but after 2 years of living in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua I’ve had my fair share of friends and family come visit. My husband and I blundered the itineraries of the first couple visitors by planning extraordinary adventures for them to conquer while on their 1 week vacation away from grind of North America. Turns out, people go on vacation to mostly relax! Lesson learned, we now have perfected the best course of action to crush Nicaragua from an San Juan del Sur base.

Day 1: Take in paradise

Playa HermosaWe’ve learned that when coming to San Juan del Sur, what everyone really wants to see is a beautiful beach. The most beautiful beach, maybe in all of Nicaragua is arguably, Playa Hermosa. For a $3 entrance fee, this beach comes with palapas equipped with hammocks and tables & chairs, bathrooms, fresh water showers, surfboard or boogie board rentals, spa services, horseback riding, and of course a restaurant and bar. It’s easy to spend the day on this massive white sandy beach and soak in the tranquility you came for.

For Dinner we usually opt for something more lively and take our visitors to the only brewery in town, Cerveceria. Here you can sip on strong beer, order from a American-Style menu, and listen to live music.

Day 2: Enjoy town

San Juan del Sur has a lot of offer and it’s nice to devote a whole day to enjoying downtown. For Breakfast we like to take our friends to our favorite spot, El Gato Negro. The house roasted Nicaraguan coffee always hits the spot. It’s easy to get lost in the mouth watering food descriptions, but you really can’t go wrong with what you order.

Villas de PalermoAfter breakfast a stroll on the bay or walk around the shops is a good way to work off your meal. This day is all about leisure and spontaneity, so do what you want. If shopping is what you crave, do it! If having a cocktail excites you, go for it!

We love Villas de Palermo pool & restaurant, so if our visitors are not staying someplace with a pool or feel like going out, then this is the first place we suggest. The food is good, so it’s a great place to soak up some sun and enjoy some lunch with an ocean view.

Happy Hour is a big part of our life and our new favorite spot is The Beach House. Sunsets are always spectacular in San Juan del Sur and this nautical-inspired restaurant is the perfect place to end the day.

Day 3: Get some culture – Granada

Quesillo placeStart your day early and grab a quesillo for breakfast on the way, just outside of Catrina. Quesillos are a corn tortilla wrapped around a soft white cheese with cream. If you want, they will add an onion & vinegar based chili. You eat them by ripping a hole in the plastic sandwich bag and chewing pieces out of it, so it’s a great food for on-the-go.

IsletasFirst stop is Isletas de Granada. Drive East through town until you reach the lake, then South until you come to where all the boat tours leave from. There’s a restaurant connected to the boat dock, so if you’re interested in a full meal or a drink before or after your ride, they’ve got you covered.  An hour boat ride through the Islets should be no more than $20 for the whole boat. They take you around the small, individually owned islands while you admire the homes. Last stop before you return is Monkey Island where they feed a few bananas to the inhabitants and then you weave your way through the other side of the islands. There’s longer tours where you stop at an island restaurant, but I’ve only done the hour long.

Depending on your mood, Granada has a lot to offer. Horse & buggy tour around the town, tour of the cathedral, Chocolate Museum, A butterfly sanctuary, hanging in the park, or just leisurely strolling through town, stopping in on whatever you fancy.

Our favorite place for lunch The Garden Cafe, not only because it has delicious food, but because they devote 2 whole rooms to the workmanship of local craftspeople and non profits.

We usually head home before dinner because we don’t enjoy driving at night out of town. If you do stay for dinner, Restaurante El Zaguan is a great choice. If you’re too tired to go out or cook, Don Monchis Pizzeria delivers all over San Juan del Sur.

Day 4: Action thriller

Parque AdventuraStart with a delicious culture experience at the Mercado in town. There are 4 different restaurants to choose from. All are good, so choose the one that has seats available.

Zip Lining, or Canopy Tour as they call it in Central America, if fun and relatively cheap in Nicaragua. Parque de Adventura is our favorite to take visitors because the Polaris ride up the narrow trail is an experience of its own. Once at the top there is a huge platform where you can buy a sandwich and drinks and take in the massive views. There is also a little park for the kids and an iguana sanctuary.

El TimonFor happy hour, get to the beach between 4pm & 6pm and go to El Timon for $1 appetizers. This place gets over priced outside of happy hour, so walk over to G&G Gourmet for an outstanding meal at affordable prices.

Day 5: Volcano Day

Mombacho ViewGet a breakfast bagel to-go from Dale Pues and start at Mombacho Volcano where you can take a tour to the top and walk the perimeter or do the coffee tour. The views from here are out of a fairyland, so prepare yourself to be astonished.

Laguna de ApoyoGet to Laguna de Apoyo no later than lunch time. All the resorts there charge about $6 to use their facility for the day. They seem to all have kayaks, floating docks, SUP boards, and restaurant with servers. We usually go to Laguna Beach Club, but we hear Monkey Hut and Paradiso Hostel are great as well. Relax, swim, and enjoy the spectacular view of an imploded volcano.  

Masaya Volcano 5Give yourself at least an hour travel time to get to Volcano Masaya by 5pm. There might be a wait, but you’ll be one of first groups for the night tour and be able to watch the sunset over the active, glowing volcano.

Day 6: Hermosa again

It’s your last day before back to the grind, so why not enjoy a relaxing day on the beach again. Start with a smoothie, or maybe a piña colada and chill. For dinner, the new mediterranean restaurant, Jicaro Garden is a great way to end your vacation. Leave full, happy, and relaxed.


There’s so much to do in Nicaragua beyond what is reachable in a few hours from San Juan del Sur, but most of our friends & family don’t have the ability to take more than a week away. You are still able to get a taste of what Nicaragua has to offer without having to explore the whole country. This itinerary has been tried and true with just enough relaxation, culture, and action to keep you talking about Nicaragua for years to come.

Fun at Monteverde

Trip to Monteverde, Costa Rica


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Our friends had a vacation to Monteverde booked and their United States friends ended up not being able to go, so they invited us! We jumped at the chance to take a vacation to a part of Costa Rica we had heard was magical. Monteverde is in the cloud forests in the northwestern part of Costa Rica. It is known as the birth place of zip lining, or canopy tours as Costa Rica and Nicaragua call it. It seems like most places also have suspension bridges, Tarzan swings, and bird watching trails as well.

Crossing the Costa Rican boarder
                      Crossing the Costa Rican boarder

We hired a van to take us to the boarder and then rented a car through Alamo on the other side of the boarder in Costa Rica. We had a lot of stuff and were worried about carrying it all the way through, but luckily they had guys with carts waiting right at the entrance to the boarder so we didn’t have to carry much ourselves. We paid them about $8 since it ended up being two guys who had to pass our luggage cart once entering the next country.

We stopped at the Africa Safari Adventure Park on the way, which ended up being a great stop for everyone and since is was almost halfway through our travel day, a good break.

About an hour before Monteverde the roads got pretty bad. Very bumpy. We even pulled over once thinking we had a flat! It was getting dark and rainy so the last hour wasn’t a pleasant drive.

Stella's Bakery
          Playing in the tea cup outside Stella’s Bakery
Fun with animal statues
                                     Fun with animal statues

Our friends had rented a house and it ended up being in a great location. We could walk down to a coffee shop called Stella’s Bakery, a place called Whole Foods (no, not that Whole Foods), and there was a little park with statues the kids could climb on. It was only a 10 minute drive to the main town of Santa Elena and about 20 minutes to most of the zip lining places.

 

The first night we ate at a far too fancy Italian place called Tramonti. They had a lot of glass & knives pre-set on the table and did not give off a kid-friendly vibe. My mushroom pasta was delicious though! After dinner we stopped by a market for a couple items and then headed back to our house.

 

Even though it was quite windy and cold the first day, we decided to go to Sky Adventures and do the suspension bridges. We were worried that the conditions would be worse the next day. Kharron doesn’t own a jacket, so after eating breakfast at the house we went into town to find some rain coats and parkas.

Sky Adventures was really fun. We did a small loop on the suspension bridge before our reservation on the gondola/Sky Tram ride up to the top of the mountain. It was truly freezing up there, so while the ride was neat, the visibility was lacking and the weather made it barely enjoyable. We drove into town for a substantial lunch at Treehouse Restaurante & Cafe and then went back to Sky to do a larger loop on the suspension bridges.

I'm Hidden

Waiting for dinner
 Waiting for to-go dinner

That night we thought it would be easier to pick up to-go food from Monteverde Beer House, but it took awhile to get our order and didn’t make for great to-go food as the name would suggest.

Orchid Cafe
             Daddy trying to work during breakfast

The next day ended up being beautiful and our friend Jason and their son Brooks wanted to go zip lining. We first went out to a delicious breakfast at Cafe Orchid Coffee Shop while Kharron tried to get some work done. Then went back to the house for some relaxation. After all of us ate large burritos at Taco Taco, we dropped Jason & Brooks off at Selvatura Park and went back to the house for naps for the little ones. When we picked them up they had had a blast. A couple of the zip lines were really long, the longest being 1000 meters!

Monteverde sunset
                              Monteverde sunset from our house

On our last night Kharron made us an amazing beef straganoff dinner. It was nice and cozy in the house and we all had fun playing around. After the kids went to bed the adults played a short game of Heads Up before calling it a night.

 

 

The next morning we ate a quick breakfast at home and were on the road by 7am. A hurricane was approaching the east coast of Costa Rica and Nicaragua and we wanted to make it back through the boarder before the heavy rains started. We all made pretty good time and drove straight through except for a quick lunch stop at a fried chicken restaurant that had a kids play area. Returning the car and getting through the boarder was quick. It helps to have kids because you get to cut the line.

We really like traveling with this family. They have a similar schedule and same pace of day. Sharing a home is family friendly and fun. The kids are close in ages so everyone has a friend. Azalea plays very well with Brooks (usually) and it is adorable watching them together. I’m sad to say that they have decided to move back to New Mexico earlier than planned. We are truly going to miss them.

San Juan del Sur Rodeo

San Juan del Sur Rodeo

Last year we missed the local rodeo, so this year I wanted to make sure we went. I had heard the bulls were treated poorly, but when traveling, I like to experience the culture’s traditions, so I went, despite the pit in my stomach.

The rodeo was on Nica-time, so we had some cold beers in one of the pop-up bars outside the rodeo while waiting for it to begin.
The rodeo was on Nica-time, so we had some cold beers in one of the pop-up bars outside the rodeo while waiting for it to begin.
SJDS Rodeo
Bull clearly winning this round

Besides the empty beer cans being tossed at the bulls and the small holding area where I’m sure the bulls were less than happy to be squeezed in with each other, the mistreatment of the animals was not that bad…on the day we went.

 

 

 

 

 

Here are  a couple videos from that day.