...and a few familiar ones too!
In the four years we’ve been here on this magical hillside, we’ve had guests come stay with us from all over the world: from Europe, Canada, The United States, Israel, and even Japan, as well as the neighboring Central American countries Costa Rica and El Salvador. No matter where our guests come from, we know from reading our reviews that they’ve all enjoyed relaxing and taking in the peaceful beauty here at Verdad, but we’ve also noticed the folks who come here have a strong desire to engage in our community, meet locals and immerse themselves in a true Nicaraguan experience.
Be it catching stellar waves down at Playa Escameca, sailing up the coast on a catamaran with dolphins swimming alongside, flying through the jungle on a zip-line, watching the sunset from horseback, or speeding out to sea on a Zodiac to go deep sea fishing and returning with fish for dinner, our guests are often seeking adventure while they are here too. With that in mind, we started a few new partnerships in the New Year with folks who offer a slew of new activities unique to Verdad, so that we can feed that desire to explore beyond our boundaries, and connect you with some amazing Nicaraguan people. Don’t worry, we’re still hosting our old favorites too, but we are super excited about these new partnerships, and all the new activities we now offer!
In December, we partnered with our friends Kolt Robbins and Ninoshka Ruiz for all things scuba related, plus fishing adventures and a not to be missed hike to some very special and secluded private waterfalls. Their dear friend Robin, who owns several acres of land deep in a rainforest just south of us, will take you on a journey that is truly otherworldly.
Kolt, a resident of nearby Big Sky Ranch, started Pacifica Aventuras when he was a senior at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. It was there that he won an innovators fellowship award granting him $10,000 to launch his business. A veteran of the US Army, Kolt, who has “always had an entrepreneurial spirit” developed the idea for Pacifica Aventuras as a way to integrate his talent as an outstanding leader of experiential travel, his fluency in Spanish, and his desire to create a sustainable tourism model. After traveling to every country in both South and Central America, Kolt knew the moment he stepped across the border into Nicaragua that he was somewhere very special. “The Nicaraguan people exude a genuine warmth, and hospitality that really stood out to me,” says Kolt. “I knew Nicaragua was a place where I could show up with my talents and good intentions and really make a difference in people’s lives.”
Scuba Diving + PADI Certification
Pacifica Aventuras offers the ONLY PADI certification available in the area exclusively through Verdad Nicaragua. In fact, the program is the only one in all of Southern Nicaragua. This course fast-tracks you to PADI certification in just three days of in-person training, with self-paced e-learning either here or at home.
Start your vacation e-learning the basics through an online platform before getting geared up and into the Verdad pool with a professional PADI scuba instructor. (Depending on how much advance notice we have, you might do the e-learning portion back at home, either before or after your trip.)
At the Verdad pool, you’ll learn how to set up your scuba gear, clear your mask, and do some basic underwater navigation and safety procedures. Then, we’ll take you out to the open ocean. You’ll go on four open water dives over the next two days starting at about 10-15 feet and, once you’ve mastered the necessary skills, progress to about 40 feet on the second ocean day.
In early December Maya and Olivia, part of our Verdad family, were the first “guests” to complete the certification process. Right from the start, Oliva was so thrilled to be able to breathe underwater, exclaiming that she could “stay there all day,” even though there was nothing at all to see in the pool besides her teacher Cristian. Seeing tropical fish and bright blue coral in the ocean the next day was definitely way more interesting! It took Maya a little bit longer to get the hang of her scuba gear, but after the last dive on their third day, she deemed the experience “very cool.” They’re already planning on where to go diving come summer, and are super psyched to see more of the underwater world that’s opened up to them.
Pacifica Aventuras will also take beginners out on Discovery Dives. These dives, which allow you to discover if scuba diving is something you want to pursue, are designed for people who are interested in scuba diving, but don’t yet want to take the plunge to get PADI certified. You’ll do some lessons with the gear on land, then head straight into the ocean to dive, going anywhere from 5-20 feet, depending on your level of comfortability. A certified instructor is with you at all times.
Pacifica is also happy to take a group of certified divers out too (4 people max). Several fantastic reefs ranging from 15-50 feet are a short distance offshore, offering a chance to see a beautiful array of coral and marine life. “There is an undiscovered, untouched realm of life in this region” says Kolt. Southern Nicaragua offers a unique opportunity to explore an underwater world that not many people have had the opportunity to see.
Cristian Jolem, who conducts all the scuba lessons with Pacifica Aventuras, has been living and working in the area for 20 plus years. He’s best known around town for developing a homemade submarine of sorts (yes, he really did craft this thing himself) that he uses to sink artificial reefs. These man-made reefs help to rehabilitate and repopulate the sea by drawing marine species such as lobster, octopus and red snapper, which provide sustenance to the local community. So, instead of following an unsustainable path of constant consumption with no rejuvenation, the reefs are helping to bring balance and sustainability to the region. If this is of interest to you, Pacifica is running a “sponsor a reef” program.
In addition to working tirelessly to revive the natural reefs off the coast of Ostional, Cristian sets aside teaching and being a mad scientist, to don a Santa suit during the holiday season, traveling up the Pacific Coast from San Juan del Sur to Playa el Coco, bringing good cheer to several local villages. He cultivates that great white beard (see photo) in the months leading up to Christmas specifically for his Santa day job.
Fishing + Deep Sea Fishing
Enjoy the beautiful Pacific Coast of Nicaragua from the best perspective of all, and bring your haul back to Verdad where our chefs will prepare whatever you catch for your dinner. Guests have enjoyed everything from yellow-fin tuna to rooster fish, local dorado, mahi-mahi, and even marlin!
Charters usually depart at about 7am and are available for either half-day or full-day tours. We normally leave from Playa Ostional, about 25 minutes south of us (or from our beach if the weather permits). Pacifica also has a 36 ft Zodiac they use for deep sea fishing tours. That boat launches from the port in San Juan del Sur.
Wherever you launch from, as you head into deeper waters, the team sets up fishing poles to begin trolling, with the hopes of, of course, catching fish! If you’re successful, your boat crew from Pacifica will filet your catch right there on board and prepare a delicious ceviche. No matter what, during your day of cruising along the coastline and further out to sea, you will have the opportunity to see an abundance of wildlife at sea.
Snorkeling + Spear-fishing
After your morning fishing fix, we'll head to one of our secret snorkeling locations, where you'll have a chance to see a variety of sea life going about their day. Pacifica Aventuras has one NEMO, an underwater breathing apparatus, which allows you to explore the rock reefs 10 feet below the surface without the need to come up for air. While one guest uses NEMO, others can explore the reefs snorkeling with our experienced guide.
The boat travels along the lush and mountainous coast of southern Nicaragua, which has countless reefs and numerous coves. It’s an opportunity to see some beautiful tropical fish, sea turtles, dolphins, sharks, and sometimes even a whale.
Guests can also try spearfishing. There are several types of fish that you can try to spear while exploring the underwater world. When you return to the boat, we'll serve that freshly made ceviche and drinks, and you can chill either on board, or oan a float tethered to the boat.
Located in a remote corner near the border of Nicaragua and Costa Rica is an epic adventure hiking in a nearby tropical rainforest. This waterfall tour is truly a local experience you don’t want to miss!
Departing from Verdad, we head south and drive in a 4x4 (there’s no other way to access it, other than on foot or by horseback) through a dense jungle until we arrive at the starting point of the hike. There, you will be introduced to Robin, a local pastor, and his family, as well as his farm. You’ll hike through the paths of the jungle and river systems until you arrive at the first set of waterfalls. There are several natural swimming pools that escalate all the way up the mountain. In all, you’ll see seven different waterfall systems throughout the hike, all unique in their own way. Some even have multiple cascades within a single waterfall, and several have natural swimming pools where you can lounge “poolside” or jump into the refreshing water.
As you hike, you’ll discover the different local flora and fauna (amazing air plants, orchids, and wild birds of paradise plants, as well as birds that fly) and learn about the history and culture of the village. Robin and his family cultivate nearly everything they need to survive, and only rarely venture out of the rainforest for supplies.
While the sun is likely still shining above the rainforest canopy, it is typically quite cool and dark for the majority of this tour, and you will definitely get your feet wet! The duration of the journey is approximately three and a half hours, but it can be longer or shorter depending on how much you want to explore or how long you relax at the swimming holes.
The tour ends with a simple lunch featuring ingredients cultivated by Robin and his family and cooked by Robin’s wife, with a little help from a few of the younger family members. It’s a remarkable experience eating and chatting with Robin and his family at a common table. We wish they bottled the homemade hot sauce, which has an uncommon, unique flavor imparted from the cone peppers they use to make it.
It’s simply delicious!
BIG SKY RANCH
Back in December we also developed a partnership with the folks at Big Sky Ranch, a small, well-maintained ranch where they care for and board numerous horses in the foothills of Escamequita. We’ll take you to the ranch in our 4x4 and you’ll saddle up there. Where to go is up to you! They have two tours that are about 2 ½ hours long. On the beach tour (which is offered only at low tide) you’ll ride through the jungle to the shore where riders can race side by side down the secluded beach, and then crack a beer and take in the gorgeous surroundings, before heading back. The jungle tour takes you on trails deep into the jungle. The wildlife you’ll witness is varied and abundant – monkeys (white-face, spider and howlers), sloths, toucans, parrots, badgers, iguanas, and even jaguarundis are hanging out as you ride by. Or, join a happy hour ride on the last Thursday of every month. Both experienced and inexperienced riders are welcome. Your professional riding guide will choose a horse that’s right for your skill level.
NOTE: We’ve curated a cool Adventure Package that gives you a taste of a number of our new experiences over a week-long stay. Check out this page on our web-site to learn more.
Hikes + Trails
We’ve had a fair amount of downtime these last two years, so we seized the opportunity to cut a new, really awesome trail system that connects Verdad to our beach, Playa Escameca, as well as Playa Coco to the south, and Playa Yankee to the north. You can step out the front door of your casita to explore the surrounding tropical forest trails leading to these three local beaches, or head up to the Verdad lookout at the top of the hill and take in the striking vistas from above. The extensive network of trails connects you to everything on the surrounding hillside, without the need to walk on the road.
Our maintenance crew hauled hand-hewn tree stumps to sit on at the top lookout (we are still not quite sure how they pulled that off) and built a small bench at an overlook a bit further down below. Although we recommend unplugging while you are here, we have spotted a guest or two using these “rest stops” as a home office. You certainly won’t get a seat with a view quite like ours at home!
If you aren’t confident venturing off on the trails on your own, we are happy to have one of our staff guide you. We recommend taking a tour with a guide your first time out to Coco or Yankee to learn the way. At low tide, you can get to both of these neighboring beaches over the coastal rock formations. It’s really quite striking and happens to be a favorite hike for our dog Cello.
We’ve loved the team at Salt Nica ever since we first came to Nicaragua 12 years ago. There’s nothing quite like exploring the coast from the sea on their 47 foot catamaran. They spoil you with a bottomless bar and spread of tasty appetizers, including some of the best ceviche around — all while cruising the Pacific listening to a handpicked selection of great music, unless you feel like plugging your own device into their sound system, which they’re happy to let you do!
Salt Nica does half day and full day tours, giving you the opportunity to swim, snorkel and explore some of our favorite spots, and of course sun tan on the large deck with plenty of space to relax. As you sail back to the port in San Juan del Sur with the sun setting in the background, you will likely see dolphins, sea turtles, and maybe even whales, while you sip a delicious cocktail and hangout with the crew.
If you want to see the town of San Juan del Sur and the surrounding tropical forest from a completely different perspective, we’ll take you to check out a canopy tour where you can zipline over the treetops of Nicaragua’s tropical forest.
The crew at Parque Aventuras will take you up to the top of the mountain in a rugged 4x4. From there, after a quick intro to zip-lining techniques and signals, you’ll glide through forest and climb suspended stair bridges, all while enjoying a bird's eye view of the incredible landscape. Completely immersed in nature, this is about as close as you can get to feeling like a monkey while also seeing the real thing! Guests have spotted spider monkeys, white-faced capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, toucans, hawks, sloths and much more from platforms that act as pit stops on your way down the mountain. The final platform with a modest restaurant offers stunning views of the San Juan del Sur bay and the surrounding beaches as well.
Verdad Surf School
It’s certainly no longer a secret that Nicaragua has some very awesome surf breaks, but what isn’t as well known (but should be!) is how amazing the surf coaches at Verdad are. They all have a background in instruction and a true passion for surfing, but what makes these guys stand out is that they work with you one-on-one, tailoring what they teach to each individual, so that everyone comes away with the knowledge and skills they need to confidently cruise a wave. We also incorporate photo and video analysis into our lessons, so you can see exactly what you’re doing right and wrong and we can help you correct anything that needs to be tweaked. We have a number of different packages that include surf. Click back to our SURF page to learn more.