Sunday, March 20, 2016

Toña vs. Victoria Beer - Which is better?

In Nicaragua, the 2 main beers of the country are Toña and Victoria.  The majority of people find themselves choosing Toña's over Victorias, but why?  Is it the marketing? taste? what is it?, as both beers are now brewed by Compania Cervecera de Nicaragua.  Toña has risen to become more popular than Victoria, although Victoria was produced 19 years before Toña.  Check out the facts below, and let us know in the comments, which one do you prefer the most?

Toña  (4.6%) 

Toña is a 4.6% lager that was introduced in 1977 by ICSA as a direct competitor of the Victoria brand. After the 1996 merge, CNN relaunched the Toña brand as a traditional Nicaraguan beer, often associated with the local culture and customs.

Toña is a golden Lager beer with a smooth and refreshing flavor. Toña has a 4.6% alcohol content and it is brewed according to the strictest brewery standards from the best malts and hops available in both North America and Europe. Toña is currently sold in six of America’s Western States and there are plans to expand this range to an additional eleven USA states. One of the things that makes the Toña so popular is that it is a taste experience. Its name, rich flavor and origins give appeal to the various aspects of the drinkers mind and senses resulting in a well-rounded drinking experience. It is also a high quality brew and this is clearly reflected in the taste of the beverage. 

Reviews for Toña:



Victoria (4.9%)

Victoria is a little stronger than Toña at a percentage of 4.9%.  Pilsen introduced it in 1942 and it is the oldest and one of the most popular beers in Nicaragua.  There is another version called Victoria Frost, which is a softer version of the beer, and it was introduced in 2004.  Victoria Frost is at 4.9% as well and it is the only beer in Nicaragua that is produced with a micro filtration process. The newest of the Victorias is the Victoria Maestro which is the countries first dark brew, and it has a 5.1% alcohol content and was introduced as a seasonal item in 2011.

Victoria is often rated two notches lower than Toña in terms of popularity, but it is a softer beer that many prefer over its competitor. Served cold throughout Nicaragua, Victoria is tasty and perfect for quenching a strong thirst. Of course, the only way to know if you really like a beer or not is to try it for yourself so the next time you visit Nicaragua, give the Toña and the Victoria a try and see which one you like the most. 

Reviews for Victoria:

http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/9048/26313/


Tips:

 - CCN is trying to promote Victoria's more, so they are selling them less to the bars, restaurants, etc... This means that at some places, they might be selling Victoria's for cheaper or have better deals, such as buy 2 and get one free.

- In Nicaragua, they re-use the bottles for both beers, so before you drink out of your beer for the first time, wipe off the top with a napkin, it will usually be dirty.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

How to get from the Managua airport to San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

If you are looking at this article, you are most likely flying into the Managua International Airport (MGA) also known as the Augusto C. Sandino International Airport.  You have a variety of options to get from the Managua airport to San Juan Del Sur.  Below we will outline the different options.

Airport Shuttle - $110 + tax - 1 way for 1-2 people

Surf Ranch Shuttle
The safest and most reliable way are the airport shuttles that we offer our guests at the Surf Ranch Hotel & Resort.  The shuttles are used for everyone, even if you are not staying at the resort.  The shuttles run 24/7 by qualified drivers and you can book within an hours notice.  You will be greeted by one of the drivers at the airport with your name on a sign, as soon as you leave baggage claim area and you will be escorted to the vehicle.  The great thing about this is that after a long day of flying, the last thing you want to do is be hassled and surrounded by the swarm of taxis.  You can also pay and reserve online in advance so you do not have to worry about paying in cash, exchange rates or even tips.  You can book online here


Renting a Car - $50 - $100 + tax per day

You are able to rent a car from the Managua International Airport, and you have a variety of options including Dollar, Avis, and Easy Rent a Car.  You will need a valid drivers license and need to be 25 years or older. The great thing about renting a car is that you have freedom to go anywhere you like and anytime you like.  However along with this comes a lot of responsibility.
There have been many incidents of tourists renting cars which is great to know before deciding to do so.  In Nicaragua, first of all, if you accidentally hit someone, do not move the vehicle or it will be your fault.  You will need to wait hours until the police show up and you will have to pay $500 - $1500 in damages to the company of the vehicle you rent if it's fairly bad.  In Nicaragua if you hit someone and kill them, you will be sent to jail right away, not something you want to be doing on your vacation.  Driving in Nicaragua is not like back home.  You are dodging animals, people, horse carts, semis, sometimes all at the same time. 

Another thing to watch out for are the corrupt transit police, which on average have around 8 stops from Managua to San Juan Del Sur.  If you make it through all of them, you are lucky.  If not, and they waive you over, the police will take your ID, give you a ticket for no reason and say you have to go to the bank to pay then pick up your ID in a few weeks, which in reality, you will never see it again, unless you bribe and pay them on the spot, which is usually 100 - 200 cordobas.

If anything, I would suggest to find another way to San Juan Del Sur and rent a vehicle in San Juan Del Sur, from Avis, Budget, etc... That way you avoid the risk of highway driving and being targeted by thieves as soon as you leave the rental car parking lot.  That is another story in itself.


Taxis - $80 - $110 for 1 - 2 people

Another option would be to take a taxi from the Airport to San Juan Del Sur.  The downside to this is that as soon as you leave the airport, you get swarmed by taxi drivers and you have to bring out your spanish skills and start bargaining.   We have a lot of experience with taking taxis and can not recall a time where it went perfect.  Once you get to San Juan Del Sur, if you want to go anywhere else than downtown, they charge you an extra $5 - $20 dollars.  They also sometimes demand tips upon arrival.  Or ask you for money if they get pulled over.

 Another important factor is that you need to make sure the taxis are real.  They should all have the licence plates with red/white on them.  Otherwise they are not a real taxi.  Unfortunately, there have been many incidents with "fake" taxis robbing tourists.  Their most popular method is picking up 2 of their friends a mile down the road, they get in, put knifes to you and spend the next hour going to all of the ATM's with you, getting out all the cash that your debit cards and credit cards can take out for that day.  Not really a great way to begin your trip.  We have had friends who had this happen, but they took it to the next level and left them naked in the middle of Managua with nothing but their passports and a few bucks. Make sure that they are not "collectivo" taxis and that you want to go directly to your destination without any stops. However like anything, just be careful and know what you are getting into.  Do not be a naive tourist. Pay more for a legitimate taxi to take you to your destination.  Bargaining down a few bucks is not always the answer, as you get what you pay for.


Flying - $200 - $300 per person

 The newest way of getting to San Juan Del Sur would be to fly from the Managua airport to the new Costa Esmeralda airport in Tola, which just opened.  From Tola, you can take our Surf Ranch shuttle or a taxi to San Juan Del Sur or anywhere on the Emerald Coast.  You might even just want to hang out in this new tourist hot spot and then visit San Juan Del Sur near the end of your trip.  San Juan Del Sur is still about an hour drive south from the Costa Esmeralda airport.

There are two daily flights from the Managua International Airport on Saturdays and Sundays.   You can fly through Sansa or La Costena airlines, which you can view times and book here (scroll to bottom of page).

Above are the 4 main ways to get from the Managua International Airport to San Juan Del Sur, which is just over a 2 hour drive.  There are other ways such as hitchhiking, chicken bus, etc...however we do not recommend it and hope you do not even consider it for your own well being.

Tips:

* If you decide to rent a car from the airport, make sure you have a phone with internet access, install an app called Waze, this way you can see all the locations that the police are stationed along the way so you do not pass on a solid line, etc...and get pulled over.

* If you get pulled over by police, do not pay them unless you absolutely have to do so to get your ID back.  Then pay just 100 - 200 cords.  If you pay $100 - $200 usd which a lot of tourists do, it ruins it for everyone else.  Just pretend you do not speak spanish (even if you don't know how), and make it hard for them.  Half the time they will just give it back and tell you to go.

*If you rent a car and get in an accident or someone hits you, stop and do not move your car until police arrive or it is automatically your fault.

* If you are taking the Surf Ranch airport shuttle, the drivers will stop anywhere you like on the way, if you need to pick up drinks or food at a gas station along the way, do not be afraid to ask.  If you are a resort guest, the drivers, upon arrival at the Surf Ranch will provide you the key and show you to your room if it's after 11pm, when the reception closes.

Top 30 things to do in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

There are many things to do in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua, but we have compiled a list of the top 30 things to do.  You will most likely not get to do all of them, but at least you will have a list to choose from to make your stay here in Nicaragua an enjoyable experience.




1. Walk to the Jesus Statue - This is something almost everyone does and it's worth it!  On the north side of town on the hill, stands a huge jesus statue.  From town, to the top, the walk is around 40 minutes, or you can take a taxi or drive up.  The last 100 feet you can not drive as the hill is super steep.  The entry costs around $1 - $2 usd to get into the gates.  But the view is amazing, you can see the whole town, valley and even Costa Rica.

2. Skateboarding - There are 2 skateboard parks in San Juan Del Sur.  There is a bowl on the way into town on the main highway at Finca las nubes, and a full street plaza park with everything to skate at the Surf Ranch Hotel & Resort, check out the park here.

3. Live Show - Every Thursday, the El Timon Restaurant (on the beachfront) has live folkloric dance shows during its cultural evening.  There is also sometimes before or after live music as well.  A great way to start the night off before continuing the party.

4. Surfing - There are many beaches to surf around San Juan Del Sur.  The most popular include Maderas to the North and Remanso and Hermosa beach to the south.  You can get there by taxi or surf shuttles at any of the surf shops or hotel that you are staying at.  For more details on the surf, click here.

5. Reading - If reading and coffee is your thing, go check out Gato Negro.  It is the breakfast spot visited by mostly only expats and tourists, great breakfast and they include over 3000 books to choose from.

6. Relax Poolside - There are a handful of pools at hotels and resorts in San Juan Del Sur, however almost all of them, you need to pay $5 - $15 usd just to enter, then buy food and drinks on top.  Not to self promote or anything :), but at the Surf Ranch, we keep our pool free to enter for everyone, you will just need to buy food and drinks, but there is no minimum limit.  There are free shuttles to and from town, here.

Live Band - Los Probrecitos - Go listen to San Juan’s most “famous” local band. Giovanni and his collection of talented local musicians span all musical genres from classic rock and reggae, to blues and salsa. They play at a different venue in town almost every night. Check out their facebook page here for an up to date schedule.

8. Soccer with the Locals - Every day and especially on Sundays, the locals like to play soccer on the beach at sunset.  Don't be shy, take your shoes off and join in on the action.

9. Del Sur News - Grab a copy of the Del Sur News.  You can find them at Barrio Cafe or any of the more popular locations.  The paper is weekly and filled with all of the top events going on that week.  You can also check out their site online here.

10. Coconuts - Drink fresh coconut water from a coconut.  There are a bunch of guys on carts with coconuts that go around selling them.  They pull out a machete and cut it right in front of you and give you a straw.  It doesn't get fresher than this.

11. Baseball Game - Every sunday, almost every baseball field has a game going on.  Drive out to any baseball field with some friends, get some beer and make a day of it.

12. Rock climbing wall - The only rock climbing wall in San Juan Del Sur is located at the Surf Ranch, and is 30 feet high with 3 sections from beginner to expert.  Ropes, harness, shoes, helmet, chalk and everything is included, go check it out.  More details here.

13. Chicken Lady - There are now multiple chicken ladies around town, which set up shop on the side of the road and cook the best and cheapest meal you have ever had.  They grill up the chicken in front of you and serve it with cabbage, plantains and gallo pinto for a few bucks.

14. Fishing - There are many ways to go fishing, whether you want to rent some rods and fish from the rocks surrounding the town, or go out on a boat for the day.  You can go on a panga for a quick trip, go deep sea fishing or even on a booze cruise, while the lines are out.  Almost all of the boats do not let you hold the rods as the guests let go of them and lose them, however maybe a couple of the local boats will still let you.

15.  Party - The nightlife in San Juan Del Sur is known from all over. People flock here just for the nightlife.  There are many bars open at night, the most popular being Iguanas Bar, Howler, Arribas, new one call (Lit) which was the old Black Whale, and Crazy Crab which is where you end up at 4am.

16.  Farmers Market - Every Saturday or so, there is an Expat farmers market, where expats sell their goods that they grow on their farms and land, with many things you can not find in the rest of the country including different homemade sauces, BBQ pork ribs, jerky, etc...  It is located at Big Wave Daves.

17. Learn Spanish - There are now many spanish schools where you can take classes for a few hours a day to brush up on your spanish.  Hey, it doesnt hurt to take a few classes.

18. Art Plaza - On the main strip, there is now a set location for all artisans to sell their pottery, paintings, jewellry, etc...a great place to pick up something as a souvenir.

19. Horseback Riding - This is a great thing to do, especially with a friend or loved one.  Located south of San Juan Del Sur, is Rancho Chilamate.  You will be set up with a cowboy hat, boots and your own horse.  You can choose between a jungle, highland, valley or beach tour. The best part is that they take photos of you, and also posing with your cowboy gear on at their ranch. Check out their site here.

20. Airbag Jump - Located at the Surf Ranch, is a giant inflatable airbag.  Jump or flip into it from the platforms which are 12 feet and 20 feet high.  Awesome way to get your adrenaline levels up.  Check it out here.


21. Try a Nacatamale - Definitely a must.  Some people like them, some don't but it's worth the try.  They are filled with masa and wrapped in a plantain leaf, tied with string into oval bundles before being steamed for several hours.  You can buy them from vendors on the street, but it's typically served on Sundays, as a "hang over" food.

22. Petroglyphs - Located by "Da Flying Frog" canopy tours, there are 1500 year old petroglyphs by a small waterfall.  You can go to the canopy tour area and ask for a guide to take you their and pay him a few dollars.

23. Sailing - Spend half the day or full day sailing.  Their are a few different options, however we do recommend the Pelican Eyes sail boat, you can see more details here.  It's cheaper than the rest but has better quality.  Open bar and food are served, as you travel north or south, taking in the scenery, including dolphins, turtles, and sunsets.

24. Trivia Night - Head over to Republika bar for Trivia night which they have weekly.  You form groups of 4 - 6 people and drink and eat as they call out trivia questions.  The top groups get prizes which usually include a large bottle of rum.  A great way to start the night off.

25. Monkeys - See if you can spot a howler monkey.  You can see them along the ways to the surf beaches, and there are many of them at the Surf Ranch resort which pass by the jungles edge that the resort sits on, everyday around 2 - 5pm.

26. Work Out - There is a public gym in San Juan Del Sur located at an old storage building, ask for directions, everyone knows where it is.  It costs a few bucks to use, it's a great way to meet people and get in shape.  Also there is now a new private gym at the Surf Ranch Resort, however it is free to use and available for guests only.  If you are not staying at the resort, you can not use it unfortunately, but it's great for guests as it keeps it private.  See more details here.


27. Motorcycle Tours - You can rent a motorcycle or quad from a variety of places in town.  It gives you freedom to explore, and you can even take a day trip out to explore the island of Ometepe as well.  If you know how to ride a motorcycle, this is a great idea to explore and experience Nicaragua.

28. Ziplining - There is a 17 platform Zipline course at Da Flying Frog Canopy Tours. Great way to spend part of your day as you fly over the jungle canopy.  You can even rent horses from them and check out the petroglyphs as mentioned above.

29.  Yoga - Take part in a yoga class or retreat.  There are many options available from 3 night - 7 nights and more.  You can see more details here.

30. Scuba Diving - Last but not least, would be to go explore the underwater world of the Pacific Ocean.  There are 2 scuba shops, we do not recommend Neptune divers as they are not PADI certified, but at the time of writing, there is a new PADI certified scuba shop opening up in town.  The visibility is not the best but there are some good spots and ship wrecks.

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This is a list of top 30 things to do in San Juan Del Sur, and the most popular.  If you know of anymore, please do not hesistate to add it to the comments below.  Enjoy your vacation in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua.  You can also contact us at booking@surfranchnicaragua.com for more details or questions related to any of the above mentions.