Las Penitas – Nicaragua – Information

Las Penitas - Barca de Oro - View of Bay 4

NOVEMBER 2017:

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OVERVIEW:

We came from Leon … where we stayed for 4 nights in the El Jardin Hostel.Leon - El Jardin - Dining Area

We paid a discounted price of US$15 / night (down from US$25) for a small Twin Room.Leon - El Jardin - Twin Room Entry

The En Suite was OK …Leon - El Jardin - En Suite Toilet

But the room was a little bit too small for 2 people to live in comfortably.Leon - El Jardin - Shared Kitchen

It had a small garden and a communal area with a shared kitchen.Leon - El Jardin - Back Garden

We stayed in the El Jardin Hostel so that we would be close to the Bus Terminal.

It was time to head for Las Penitas for some beach time …


LEON TO LAS PENITAS:

Las Penitas is located 18 km west of Leon on the Pacific coast (30 minutes by bus).Jiquilillo to Leon Map

We checked out just after 11am and walked to the Bus Terminal …Leon - Bus Terminal

… only to discover that the busses to Las Penitas do not leave from this terminal … they leave from another Street Terminal 4kms away on the western side of town.

We were accosted by the usual crowd of touts vying for our business. In the end, we negotiated a taxi down from US$5 (N$150) to N$100 to take us to the other terminal. A bus to Las Penitas was waiting on the side of the street. They are said to leave every hour … to us, it seemed to leave when it was full.

We got on at 12:00 noon and waited. We left at 12:15pm. We arrived in Las Penitas at 12:45pm (N$14).Las Penitas Town Map

When the bus entered town, it continued on north towards Poneloya … so, we got off at the T Junction to head south to our hotel in Las Penitas.

We had to walk nearly 2.5kms to our hotel. As we walked, the bus passed us … so, we could have stayed on our bus. I believe that the busses from Leon go to the end of the Poneloya road, turn around, come back to the end of the Las Penitas road, turn around, and finally head back to Leon.


ABOUT LAS PENITAS:

Las Peñitas is a fishing village and tourist beach community on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua. It lies next to Poneloya, Nicaragua.Las Penitas - Oasis - Sunset 1

It is becoming a more and more popular tourist destination and has recently (2009) received a new road. There are many hotel beach bars catering to backpackers, surfers, foreign aid project workers, religious groups, and expats.

Next to Las Peñitas is the Nature Reserve of Isla Juan Vanado popular with visitors for the wildlife and turtle migrations.

The area was originally populated by indigenous groups that (according to genetic testing) originated from the central plain Sioux Tribes.

Poneloya is a vacation home area for wealthy Nicaraguans. The locals are mostly fishermen, caretakers or they commute to Leon for work. There are many famous Nicas and politicians living there so there is a rather large police detachment of eight officers.

Several volcanoes exist near the town including Cerro Negro, Telica, San Cristóbal, Las Pilas, and El Hoyo.

There is a large diversity of fish, lobster, crabs and shrimp in the water. There is, also, a Prawn Nursery that employs about 250 locals. The prawns are hatched here but matured in other locations.


WALK AROUND – PHOTO GALLERY:

I start at the San Juan Venado Estuary.Las Penitas - Walk 5

In this area, there is a small community with a cluster of several hotels, restaurants, and bars.

Las Penitas - Walk 1

As you walk north away from this community it becomes open road with hotels dispersed along the sea side of the road every 50-100 meters.Las Penitas - Walk 2

And, it stays like this all of the way to the T Junction.

If you cut back down one of the public accesses to the beach you find few people.
Las Penitas - Walk 3

Most of the hotels that you passed along the road will have a bar / restaurant on their beach side.Las Penitas - Walk 4

The sands stretch north.Las Penitas - Walk 8

Until you hit the rocks that separate Las Penitas Beach from Poneloya Beach.Las Penitas - Walk 9

Here you will find a roundabout and a sports park.

Following the steps over the rocks you hit Poneloya Beach.Poneloya - Walk 1

And some cheap street food stalls next a small Comedor.Poneloya - Walk 2

You continue further down the beach to the Rio Telica Estuary.Poneloya - Walk 3

At this end of town you find a cluster of small, cheap beachfront Comedors.Poneloya - Walk 4

And more of the same back on the main road. Poneloya - Walk 5

We stopped for a cold beer in a Comedor that looked out over the Rio Telica Estuary.Poneloya - Walk 6

We spent some time watching fishermen land a catch of 14 big Rays. They cut off the best meat on the beach and quickly took these good cuts away for sale.Poneloya - Walk 7

The road back to the T Junction offers more beachfront hotels; the buildings along this road are a bit more tightly packed than those along Las Penitas beach road.Poneloya - Walk 8


WHERE TO STAY:

Accommodation-wise, this is typical of what you find online … this is for 1 night at the end of November 2017 (the first month of their ‘dry season’ – but High Season doesn’t start until December) …



HOTELS & HOSTELS (Nightly Rates):

BOOKING.COM:Las Penitas - Booking 1 Las Penitas - Booking 2

AGODA.COM:Las Penitas - Agoda 1 Las Penitas - Agoda 2 Las Penitas - Agoda 3

EXPEDIA.COM:Las Penitas - Expedia

PLEASE NOTE: Hotel and Hostel search sites usually display prices EXCLUSIVE of TAXES. You may have to add up to 18% to the displayed price to get the final price.



VACATION RENTALS (Weekly Rates):

If you plan to stay a week or more, another good option is to use AirBnB or TRIPADVISOR.COM to book a Holiday Rental / Vacation Rental.

Due to additional ‘service’ and ‘cleaning’ charges, Holiday Rentals are usually best rented by the week. A comparable search reveals the following … please note that these prices are in US$s …


TRIPADVISOR:Las Penitas - Tripadvisor

AIRBnB:Las Penitas - AirBnB

PLEASE NOTE: Vacation Rentals are usually displayed INCLUSIVE of TAXES but EXCLUSIVE of any ‘Security Deposit’ (if required). BUT, the displayed price may also be EXCLUSIVE of the host site’s Extra Fees (which can add as much as 16%).

In S.E. Asia, I wouldn’t touch AirBnB with a barge pole … in my opinion and experience the accommodation that you find is an absolute rip off. However, here, they are worth a look.



IN SUMMARY:

We wanted to be as close to a beach as possible and we wanted to ‘spoil ourselves’ a little bit. It looked like the best that we could do was something in the US$25-30 range including taxes.

PLEASE NOTE: People on a tight budget should look for accommodation at the far end of Poneloya Beach near the Rio Telica Estuary. This area offers more cheap eating options (about 8) than Las Penitas Beach (which only has 1 at the Los Cocos).


MY ACCOMMODATION:

We liked the look of a Bungalow at the Barca De Oro. I found their website – it was listed for US$32 / night. We could book directly with them online, but I decided to be ‘cheeky’.Las Penitas - Barca De Oro - Hut Grounds

I emailed them and asked for their best price for 6 nights. We struck lucky! They were running a promotion: ‘Book 2 Nights’ and get the ‘3rd Night Free’.Las Penitas - Barca De Oro - Bamboo Hut

We reserved our Bungalow by email (by sending my Credit Card details) and confirmed 6 nights for the price of 4: US$128. At US$21.35 / night, it bettered all of the other cheap options around. We checked into our Bungalow at about 2pm. It was built with all natural materials.Las Penitas - Barca De Oro - Las Penitas - Barca De Oro - Our Hut

It had a small balcony at the front.Las Penitas - Barca De Oro - Hut DeckLas Penitas - Barca De Oro - View from Hut Deck

Inside had 1 Double bed and 2 Single beds – all with Mosquito nets.Las Penitas - Barca De Oro - Hut Double Bed Las Penitas - Barca De Oro - Hut Single Beds Las Penitas - Barca De Oro - Room Entry

The en suite was at the back. Our sink was blocked – which was a bit of a pain. It had an ‘eco long drop’ toilet and a simple shower with good (cold) water flow.Las Penitas - Barca De Oro - En Suite Shower Las Penitas - Barca De Oro - En Suite Toilet

If you didn’t want to use the ‘long drop’, you could use the ‘western’ quality toilets near reception.

The Barca De Oro is bigger than some of the other cheap hotels around.Las Penitas - Barca De Oro - Lounge

There is a reasonable sized lounge area with hammocks and a large restaurant area near reception. They also have a pool table.Las Penitas - Barca De Oro - Restaurant Bar

There is a small upstairs terrace area with a view out over the San Juan Venado Estuary to the sea. We found this a pleasant spot and used it a couple of times to watch a movie in the evening whilst also watching the lightning show in the sky.Las Penitas - Barca De Oro - View of Bay 2

At high tide, the water fills the estuary.

The Bungalows are solar powered. When I was there, there was insufficient power being generated – there was no power available from the power sockets. However, the lights and ceiling fan worked fine. In the hotel communal areas there are very few power sockets available. If you need power to charge your laptop / smartphone this can be a problem … it was a problem for me.

PLEASE NOTE: The standard hotel rooms had power; it was only the Bungalows that did not.

MY ADVICE: Do not accept Bungalow #7 – it is next to the Bus Terminal and very noisy at 6am. If you need power to charge your laptop / smartphone over-night, do not book a Bungalow.


ACCOMMODATION SEARCH:

Have a look yourself:

Booking.com


INTERNET / WIFI:

You will find wifi in most hotel restobars. But, the internet is usually slow, you may still need your own Internet Plan on your Smartphone. We did.

In addition, there are regular power outages in Las Penitas / Poneloya. These outages can last several hours. During an outage, the hotels have no internet … but, your Mobile Plan should still work.Las Penitas - Barca De Oro - View of Bay 3

I bought a Movistar SIMcard in Jiquilillo.

I topped in up in Leon and bought a 7 Day MegaPack for N$100 which comes with 500MB of data, 20 minutes of call time, 20 SMSs, and unlimited Facebook / Whatsapp.

In Las Penitas, I got an H+ signal in our Bungalow that improved to a 4G signal on the beach.

PLEASE NOTE: Movistar run regular promotions (usually at least 2 per week) that can as much as Quintruple your top up. This only applies to call and text credits – not to data. Try and top up on a Promo Day. If you are a sports fan, they also do regular N$30 Promos that give you unlimited 4G internet for 24 hours … great for streaming weekend sports from back home.

Internet was poor throughout my hotel and, often, so slow it was unusable. It seemed OK up until 8am … and, then, seemed to get ‘throttled down’ for the rest of the day. To make things worse, Microsoft insisted on sending me a full Windows 10 Update … after 1 week, it was still trying to download it … on several occasions it burnt up my Smartphone Data (in the background) when I was using my smartphone as a hotspot. I ended up having to buy 3 more topups in Las Penitas.

PLEASE NOTE: When you top up in a store / tienda they will charge you a 10% fee. If you top up for more than N$100, they will charge you a flat rate fee of N$20.

MY ADVICE: If you use your smartphone as a hotspot for your laptop, make sure that you go into Settings / Network & Internet … highlight your smartphone and go into Advanced Options. Switch ‘Metered Connection’ ON. This will prevent Windows from using your Mobile Data Plan to download updates.


TRANSPORT:

A bus links the 4kms between Poneloya and Las Penitas (N$5).Las Penitas - Oasis - Sunset 2

There is a bus terminal at the front of the Barca De Oro Hotel. You can catch the bus back to Leon (N$14) from here … or flag it down as it drives down the road.

The busses to Leon start at 6:00am and go every 40-60 minutes.


EAT:

Prices are inflated. Meal prices are 150-200% the price of what you pay in Leon.

The only cheap place, a very basic ‘shack’ next to the Barca De Oro, offers a Desayuno Tipico for N$50. Add N$10 for a coffee. Alas, it wasn’t well kept and many people would not want to eat there. You are almost forced to pay the inflated hotel prices.


BREAKFAST:

A Desayuno Nica (Tipico) at the Barca De Oro is N$110 including 1 coffee.Las Penitas - Barca de Oro - Desayuno Nica N$110

Across the road at Los Cocos, you can get a Tipico for N$100.Las Penitas - Los Cocos - Desayuno Tipico N$100


LUNCH:

There are one or two Comedors near the T Junction; otherwise, you are eating in hotel restobars.

One exception is the Los Cocos. They have a selection of cheap eats that they display on the street or just inside.

Something like a 1-piece Fried Chicken meal costs N$60.


DINNER:

If you eat in a Restaurant, expect to see meal prices starting at N$200.

At the Oasis Hotel (one of the cheaper restobars), a 1.5lb whole Fried Fish meal costs N$220.Monterrico - Calle Real - Fried Fish GTQ50

A 2-piece Fried Chicken meal around town costs about N$200.

A small Prawn Ceviche at Los Cocos costs N$150.Las Penitas - Los Cocos - Prawn Ceviche N$150

An expat who has been living in Las Penitas for 8 years told me that Comedor Bertha do the best value seafood in town.

Comedor Bertha is a simple looking place found at the roundabout near the T Junction (a 2km+ walk from Barca De Oro).Las Penitas - Comidor Bertha - Seating

My son and I chose Lobster. My son had the Sizzling Lobster meal (N$330).Las Penitas - Comidor Bertha - Sizzling Lobster N$330

I had the Garlic Lobster meal (N$330).Las Penitas - Comidor Bertha - Garlic Lobster N$330

Both came with 3 medium sized whole lobsters. There aren’t many places in the world where you can eat such a big lobster meal for US$11!


IN SUMMARY:

Expect to pay an average of N$100 / US$3.35 for a cheap Breakfast with coffee.

Expect to pay an average of N$75 / US$2.50 for a cheap Lunch with fruit drink.

Expect to pay an average of N$200 / US$6.65 for a cheap Dinner with a Fruit Juice or Beer.


DRINK:

Expect to pay N$35 / US$1.15 for a 300ml bottle of beer and N$60 / US$2.00 for a 1 liter bottle.Las Penitas - Oasis - Sunset 3

There are 1 or 2 places that do a sunset Happy Hour between 4 and 6pm.

We tried the 2-for-1 cocktails (Margaritas and Mojitos) at Dulce Mareas at N$80 for two.


MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:

I didn’t do much shopping.Las Penitas - Barca De Oro - View of Bay 1

A 2 liter bottle of Cola from a store costs N$60; N$20 for a small 330ml bottle.


BANKS / ATMs / MONEY EXCHANGE:

There is an ATM on Las Penitas road near the T Junction. You will also find a Banco Lafise ATM half way down the Las Penitas road.Las Penitas - Lafise ATM

The Lafise ATM at Managua Airport allowed me to withdraw N$20,000 in one transaction … I don’t know what their maximum is in Las Penitas.


HEALTH & SAFETY:

The area has a low crime rate and, for the most part, is quite peaceful.

As always, exercise normal levels of caution … don’t make yourself an obvious target.

There is no reason to feel unsafe.

The main problem is Petty Theft … which is a ‘typical’ problem in Central America.

When I was there, mosquitoes were around but, not a big problem.

Don’t drink the tap water.


WHEN TO GO:

Daily temperatures range from 32°C to 40°C or more (90°F to 104°F and up).

Night time provides a reduction to about 25°C to 30°C, (77°F to 86°F).Las Penitas - Barca de Oro - View of Bay 4

The cool wind off the sea helps to make it comfortable.

November through April is the best time to go.


WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO SEE / WHAT TO DO:

You can do many of the same Day Tours that you find in Leon: Cerra Negro, etc. The prices are very similar to Leon.Las Penitas - Standard Tours

You can also find some local tours.

Las Penitas - Local Tours

The Barca De Oro invited me to join one of their trips into the San Juan Venado reserve: they were going in to plant mangrove trees as part of a re-forestation program.Las Penitas - San Juan Venado 1

We made our way upstream in a small boat.Las Penitas - San Juan Venado 2

Before jumping out into the shallows and wading through thick mud to plant the trees.Las Penitas - San Juan Venado 3


GETTING AWAY:

From here we head to Granada.

We could a Chicken Bus back to Leon (2xN$14), a taxi across Leon to the main Leon Bus Terminal (N$100), another Chicken Bus to Managua (2xN$?), and another Chicken bus to Granada (2xN$?). We may need to get a taxi between Bus Terminals in Managua (N$100?). We may also need to get a taxi from the Granada Bus Terminal to our hotel (N$100?).

Alternatively, the Barca De Oro have several Shuttle options: one of which is direct to Granada for US$15. It leaves at 8:30am. The Shuttle takes us to our Granada hotel. It may go via Managua City and Managua Airport on the way (this depends on which passengers are going where) which means that we arrive in Granada at 1:00pm.

The Shuttle may cost double of what we would pay using Chicken Busses … but the Chicken Busses option may take us twice as long … for the sake of US$7.50 each, we decided to book the Shuttle.

I will tell you more about that in a future post.


GRANDPAcking COSTS:

Here is a detailed breakdown of costs for 2 GRANDPAckers holidaying here to GRANDPAcking standard.

As a reminder, this “standard” requires 2 GRANDPAckers to:

  • Stay in an Hotel Double Room with Fan and Private Bathroom
  • Eat 3 ‘balanced’ meals each day in a budget restaurant

Read About – GRANDPAcking Costs if you don’t know how to interpret my figures.


SPREADSHEET SUMMARY:Las Penitas GRANDPAcking Costs



MY ACTUAL COSTS:

My costs are purely provided for information purposes. I do not always follow ‘GRANDPAcking Standards’. In fact, I deviate from them all of the time! But, my costs are real costs and they may help you formulate your own budget.

I lived in Las Penitas to GRANDPAcking standard.


COST OF EXISTENCE (COE):

Accommodation: We stayed at the Barca De Oro for (a discounted price of) US$21.35 / night.

Transport: We walked everywhere and didn’t take any trips out of town.

Communications & Fees: I topped up my Movistar SIMcard with N$208 and bought 2x 7 day MegaPack with 500MB of data, some call credits, some SMS credits, and unlimited Facebook / Whatsapp.

Food & Beverages: I spent an average of N$328 / day.

My COE was US$30 / day (54% of my total budget).


COST OF LIVING (COL):

In / Out Costs: It cost me N$114 to get from Leon to Las Penitas. This included a N$100 taxi to get me across Leon to the correct Bus Terminal.

Living Costs: I spent an average of N$98 / day on beer. I bought a pack of 20 cigarettes for N$55.

My total COL was US$34 / day (61% of my total budget).



COSTS FOR 2 GRANDPAckers:

COST OF EXISTENCE:

Accommodation: Book yourself into something for the first 2 nights at about US$25 / night. Once here, look around … you should be able to get yourself into a decent budget hotel for US$20 / night thereafter for a long-term stay. You are unlikely to get Breakfast included in that price.

Transport: There is a budget for 2 people to go on a weekly day trip to Leon or to some nearby sights (N$14 per person each way).

Communications & Fees: Your budget includes a N$50 Movistar SIMcard and 4x 7-day MegaPack (N$100+N$20 each).

Food & Beverages: Your budget is N$765 / day. This is to eat all of your meals from the lower quartile of the menu in a budget restaurant. You will, also, need to buy your own water (which is unlikely to be provided by the hotel).

Your COE is US$47 / day (85% of your total budget).


COST OF LIVING:

This leaves you US$8 / day (N$238) to LIVE on.

You can’t do much LIVING with that … organised day tours start at US$30.


CONCLUSION:

GRANDPAckers can get reasonable accommodation for under US$25 / night. Eating is 150%+ the price of Leon. You are a ‘captured market’ with very few options on keeping prices down.

Las Penitas is a quiet beach-life destination. There is not much partying to be done here … unlike places like Zipolite or El Tunco, there is no main street where nightlife is concentrated … it is more like El Cuco / El Esteron in El Salvador.

Las Penitas DOES NOT make it into my RETIREMENT REVIEWS.

TTFN


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