With a broken jeep, we headed out of expensive Costa Rica for inexpensive Nicaragua. We figured getting our jeep fixed, would be cheaper in Nicaragua and the trip from Arenal to the Peñas Blancas Border crossing between Nicaragua and Costa Rica was a breeze. Once getting to the border there are few things you need to realize. The border itself is one of the easiest border crossings in a vehicle in Central America. Both times passing through, there were no searches or even an official wanting to see if we were even driving a car. All they cared about was paperwork and money.
Pay the fees in white building that looks like a truck loading zone, a little walk through the masses of parked semi-trucks near the immigration area, and make sure you have lots of copies of everything or it will slow you down. However, if the copier is working next door to customs, there is a little copy shop that can do them for you. Once through customs head back to immigration, also an easy endeavor and get stamped out. Before we knew it, we were on the Nicaraguan side going through the motions again. This time an official asked us to open the back, she peeked inside and was either satisfied or too tired to look through all our crap. Within 1 hour and 30 minutes we were through both border crossings and on our way to San Juan Del Sur and the Naked Tiger Hostel!
The Naked Tiger Hostel
San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua And The Naked Tiger Hostel
We got to San Juan Del Sur and the Naked Tiger Hostel by midday after failing miserably on finding a place to camp. We finally arrived at the Naked Tiger and spoke with Megan the owner. It was a Saturday and the infamous Sunday Funday Pool Crawl was the next day. There were no beds available (so don't show up on Friday or Saturday thinking you will find a bed) therefore we were offered an area on the balcony where we could set up our inflatable bed. Surprisingly enough, the area was great and we were practically sleeping under the stars.
5 Things To Know About The Naked Tiger Hostel
- The Naked Tiger is a hostel outside of town perched on a hill. Getting up their steep driveway is a task in of itself, but worth it. Once arriving, there was ample parking, a huge mansion turned hostel, and a pool. Oh yeah, and the most incredible view of the valley, ocean and city below. We were sold! Were not what you would call partiers. We only party once in a great while, and this is a party hostel to the max! When you walk in, the first thing you see is the bar to your right, lounging areas to the left and a pool right in front of you with half-naked people partaking in party games while cannonballing into the pool.
- The Naked Tiger also has a restaurant where it serves great food for reasonable prices. There was no place to store food, but if you had a way to keep non-perishable food or a hot plate, you were able to make your own. While at the Naked Tiger, we ate just about everything once and it was all good. They set up a tab for you and when you check in, and you pay for all the debauchery in the end. (in more than one way) The upstairs is where most of the rooms are and the balconies. A wrap around balcony and another common area are framed by rooms with multiple bunk beds, all open to air with incredible views. We setup our bed, chairs, and cooler in one corner of the balcony and created a little apartment space where we could relax.
- Another thing we really liked about the Naked Tiger was that the staff there were the best of any hostel we have stayed. All volunteers who work there in lieu of rent and an occasional meal, were non-judgemental, always ready to make you have fun, and were some of the best people we have met while traveling in Central America. They welcomed you to the hostel with a beer or shot, and every night at sunset, they would have a shotgun ceremony where they throw-out some party rhyme and then shotgun a beer. The pool never closes and the rules are to a minimum. This makes for a somewhat lawless existence. Respect other people and you are respected. Rare in the hostel world!
- The owner of the hostel is Megan. She is a Canadian who bought the hostel years ago and lives there much of the year. She is no ordinary owner, in fact if you didn't know she was the owner, you would think she was there sharing a room with all the other travelers. She has set up one of the best hostels in the world. There are lockers to put your things below the bunk beds and extra ones outside. There are free shuttles into town and back throughout the day and a surf/beach shuttle and boards to rent daily as well. There were always activities planned throughout the day, and most days had a theme or party scheduled for the evening. Drunken Mario Kart, Taco Tuesdays, Beer Pong Tourneys, and a host of other activities daily and nightly. There were plenty of bathrooms and showers with hot water as well. Half priced tickets to Sunday Funday were also included if you stayed Sunday. Megan runs a tight ship. The mattresses were steam cleaned after every checkout and on request, and the hostel was kept surprisingly clean for a place of such sweet mayhem.
- If you want to sleep and simply relax at the Naked Tiger forget about it! Sunday is a whole other thing and we will talk about that later, however the party really never stops at the Naked Tiger. We had some earplugs and our balcony was above the pool and party area where music would bump until the wee early morning. We actually got used to it and you will too. All that partying wears you out and you get sleep when you can. If you are looking for a place to come and chill out, this isn't the place. If you are looking for a place to come and party, meet incredible people from all over the world, and take part in the biggest roaming pool party in the world, then this is the place.
What were WE thinking?
Sunday Funday Pool Crawl
Sunday Funday Pool Crawl
We snuck into the Sunday Funday Pool Crawl the first time we went through San Juan Del Sur on our way to Panama. It was so much fun we weren't really sure we were ready for the following day and actually getting to do the whole thing. Alright... of course we were ready, in fact we were excited. The day begins like any other at the Naked Tiger however surprisingly quiet. Around 12pm - 1pm the festivities start. You register, pre-game and get your free t-shirt. The shuttle then takes you to PachaMama, the other hostel that co-hosts the pool crawl. There you meet up with other people signed up intown and 200-500 of you go to the beach to a pool party at the Hotel Anamar.
Dj's spin, you are greeted with a shot from a communal bottle and whistle-blowing bartender, beer tents, booze and body-painting stations make for a good start to the party. You hang out here until around 5pm once everyone is nice and toasty and you get shuttled back to the Naked Tiger before sunset. Of course you want to see sunset from the hill! Then the party really gets going! DJs, pool party, masses of people, drunken debauchery, and more.. more... more alcohol. Around midnight, everyone gets shuttled back into town to finish up at a bar on the beach called Arribas Bar. Even though the party fizzles a bit and people drop off throughout the day, it's still a good time in a bar atmosphere on the beach. Sweet Jesus!
We opted to miss out on Arribas. We had gone the first time we were in SJDS (San Juan Del Sur) and decided to stay home... however the party wasn't over at the Naked Tiger either. Those who stayed partied until the early morning hours and we can say it was one of the best times we had partying in our lives. It was like New Years Eve and St. Patricks Day wrapped into one long day. But really it wasn't about the partying. We met so many cool and interesting people. We met some life long friends. We did it again, two more Sundays after this one!
The Nicaraguan Rodeo
Nicaraguan Rodeo, San Juan Del Sur
Around the middle of June begins rodeo season in SJDS. We were told about it from the staff at the Naked Tiger and figured we would get some of our friends from the hostel, pile into the jeep and head down into town to see what all the hubbub was about. Arriving to the makeshift ring, made with basically cut down saplings and sheet tin, was a "kick in the pants" and realization that we weren't in Kansas anymore. The sounds of the grandstand band of tubas, and other horned instruments played on. It was basically a big dusty lot where they put up an event that lasts a week or so everyday. So what is a Nicaraguan Rodeo and how is it different from one we see in the United States.... EVERYTHING!
Paying the Fee and Entering
We went to the ticket booth which was basically a 10x10 inch wide slot in some sheet metal, where you put your few dollars through and they pass back a ticket. You are then led through a maze of small tree, supports that make up the grandstands. Pounding feet, a cacophony of yelling people, and bohmp bohmp.. bohomp bohmp... music from the tuba-heavy horn band create a echoey creepy feeling below the grandstands that make you wonder if it will all come down on top of you. We rushed through and decided to stand along the ring, instead of sitting on this "accident waiting to happen". We then realized that not only were we not in Kansas, but really nowhere near the United States and a rodeo circuit.
Bucking Bulls and Cattle Prods
Yep that was basically it. Bucking bulls and cattle prods. Evidently anyone can go into the ring if you feel brave enough. Shelly did it in between bull matches and some of the locals told her it was too dangerous for her in there. There is a gate with a "volunteer" (not professional rodeo rider) on the back of a bull in baseball catcher garb waiting to ride the bull. The gate opens, and the bull bucks until he falls off. If the bull doesn't buck him off, which we saw numerous times, they would hit the bull with a long stick full of D cell batteries and a point on the end, delivering a shock to get the bull mad. Mostly it was a bunch of people running around a ring with a bull chasing them. Total chaos!!! It was sad and funny at the same time. Sad for the bull, but with the tuba band playing, people cheering, people running around a ring and the complete disorganization of all... it was a sight to behold. Like nothing we have ever seen before and probably never again.
San Juan Del Sur The Town
San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua is a small town of mostly tourism. It's also a growing town. The town itself is fairly peaceful. We could only wonder what the town thinks of 2-500 drunk gringos running around their quiet little town ever Sunday Funday. There was a lot of construction in the downtown area on improving the roads and sewer, and there were some great restaurants and bars with a good selection of international cuisine. We were even able to get a craft beer, something we hadn't had since Tamarindo, Costa Rica. The place was called the Nicaraguan Beer Company. A nice place with good beer. Some guys from California started it up a few years back and it also had some really good mac and cheese, not something you usually find in Central America. We also wanted to get the Jeep fixed intown. There was a guy who said he could fix our transmission. However, the shop looked less than professional, and we figured it best to just push the jeep backwards and find suitable places to park where we could pull forward, than get the transmission fixed there.
5 Things to do in San Juan Del Sur (in no particular order of importance)
- Big Jesus: There is also the Statue of Jesus you can visit. We never went, however some of our friends who went said they liked it. It's quite a hike up to it up stone stairs, or you can drive/ cab it. So if you love Jesus, hiking and gorgeous views, this might be for you.
- Surfing: This is a surf town! Big time! Lessons to big wave riders, love San Juan Del Sur. Some of the notable places to surf are world-famous which include; Playa El Remanso, Playa Maderas,Playa Hermosa, Ocotal, and the list goes on. Or you can learn on some of the easier waves on the bay intown.
- Las Nubes Adventure Park There's also an adventure park with zip lines, rappelling, and other hanging around tree stuff.
- Scuba Dive: We checked into it, and it was too expensive for our small budget, but there is some spectacular pacific diving in Nicaragua apparently. There were a couple PADI Shops in town and might be worth checking into.
- Take a Catamaran Cruise with Nica Sail and Surf: 75 dollars per person for a 5-6 hour ride on a catamaran with all you can drink and all the ceviche you eat sounds like a pretty good deal. We didn't do this either, however heard it was a great time!
Changing Our Perspective
Change In Perspective
We spent 3 weeks in San Juan Del Sur. 3 weeks of relaxing, partying, rodeos, getting tan and enjoying life. This place just sucks you in and keeps you here. After 3 Sunday Fundays we were done however. One morning I was awakened by a group of Scottish blokes that were obviously having the time of their life in the pool at 6am still sauced from the night before singing Chumbawamba's only hit Danny Boy. "I get knocked down, But I get up again ,You are never gonna keep me down, over and over and over again." If this wasn't enough to want to want to wring their necks, they then plopped themselves down on other people's beds in the room right next to where our inflatable mattress was. Brady snapped. He went up to them and told them the disrespect was over the top, and to calm it or else... We had to get out of there! The weeks of staying here was taking its toll, so we decided to head to Ometepe (volcano island on Lake Nicaragua) to relax. We were both beginning to get sick from all the immune system depletion and we went and spent a few days relaxing in solitude. We came back to the Tiger, and after a few more days, packed up the Jeep and headed to Managua to see if we could get the Jeep fixed there.
So Why You Must Experience San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua And The Naked Tiger At Least Once In Your Lifetime?
Because, this life isn't a rehearsal, there is no run through, you only live once. Experiencing all that life has to offer is essential. Again, we aren't "partiers" and this lifestyle is about 15-20 years behind both of us. However, we had a great time. A time we will always remember and look back upon fondly. We met some people from all over the world who we will keep in touch with and feel as if they are lifelong friends. We "camped out" on a balcony for 3 weeks in the biggest and best party hostel (quite possibly the world) and lived to tell the tale. We are good for quite a while however, and it was time to change our perspective again. You should do the same often.