Though San Juan del Sur (SJDS) still clings to its village atmosphere, the town's beaches, booming real estate, and proximity to Costa Rica have put it firmly on the map as an international hotspot. In recent years the town has grown to almost 19,000 residents, with expatriates taking advantage of the exquisite views from the hillsides to build dream homes that look straight out of Miami. Beaches situated just minutes from San Juan del Sur still offer the chance to have the sand to yourself. From the beachfront road, walk up the bluff on the south side of town to see the lighthouse, the remains of William Walker's ruined fort, and a great view of the town and bay. Even if you aren't staying there, the view from Pelican Eyes Piedras y Olas is worth the climb up the hillside. Catch the sunset and enjoy a drink from their poolside bar. The beaches south and north of San Juan del Sur are some of Nicaragua's most beautiful and they receive few visitors. Located 12 miles south of SJDS just beyond Playa El Coco, La Flor Wildlife Refuge is host to a phenomenon seen in few other places worldwide: the nesting of endangered Paslama turtles. The reserve also serves to protect the surrounding tropical dry forest and mangroves (manglares), and the wildlife viewing is good. Just beyond Morgan's Rock Ecolodge the road turns inland at the village of Brito. The road leads to Tola and continues on to the half-moons of sand collectively known as the Tola Beaches. The area includes little-visited beaches known for great waves and Refugio de Vida Silvestre Río Escalante Chacocente. The area is a challenge to access, but intrepid travelers won't be disappointed by the secluded stretches of sand, many of which are slated for imminent development. Everything you need to know about this region of the Pacific Lowlands is here - where to stay, where to eat, what to see and do, how to get around. Color photos and maps throughout.
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