San Juan del Sur (45 minutes)

Once home to the port at the Pacific end of the trans-isthmian maritime route that bid farewell to northern treasure seekers rushing off to the gold fields of California, San Juan del Sur has fully awakened from its peaceful slumber to become the hub of the beach scene on Nicaragua’s Emerald Coast. This lively fishing village has everything required for days on end of leisure and excitement: from outfitters providing fishing, surfing, horseback riding, and sea expeditions to language instruction to yoga to international cuisine to bustling nightlife under the stars. Dramatic cliffs crowned by a floodlit 134-meter statue of Christ the Merciful protect the entrance to its perfect half-moon bay. The town’s main strip runs right along the sand and is packed with watering holes and cozy restaurants ideal for meeting and carousing while gazing on postcard-perfect sunsets, cold drink in hand. Cruise ships frequently call at San Juan del Sur, joining the flotilla of fishing vessels and pleasure craft that can always be seen bobbing in the harbor.

La Flor Nature Reserve