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“A great getaway” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Empalme a Las Playas

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Empalme a Las Playas
1/2 c N. al Empalme a las Playas Maderas y Playa Marsella, San Juan del Sur 00011, Nicaragua   |  
Hotel amenities
Ranked #3 of 20 hotels in San Juan del Sur
Kansas City
Contributor
16 reviews 16 reviews
9 hotel reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
16 helpful votes 16 helpful votes
“A great getaway”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 3, 2013

My wife and I have stayed at many hotels throughout Central America but on our first trip to Nicaragua,, we chose the Empalme a las Playas outside San Juan del Sur.
The hotel is located about 15 minutes by car outside S.J.D.S. It’s about a mile or so of pavement and another few miles of gravel drive off the main road into town. The hotel itself is about a 15 minute walk, maybe a bit less, to the beach and is located on a hill overlooking the forest/jungle. There are local shuttles available for rides into town.
The hotel is owned and operated by Roy and Karen. A lovely couple from California. Karen does all the wonderful cooking and Roy is the resident entertainer, host, magician and all around good guy. He will certainly keep you entertained. They have lots of games to enjoy in the evenings and even have a large movie selection to watch outside under the main shelter area. Breakfast is included with your stay and it’s not just a continental affair. It’s always a full blown eggs, pancakes, fruit, juice offering. You have the option of enjoying one of Karen’s dinners each evening as well. She’s a great cook and you should try to eat there at least once.
There are several other local family restaurants nearby that serve very tasty dishes. We sampled a few of them and were very happy with the meals.
The local beaches were very beautiful with no high-rise hotels and really not many buildings of any kind. They were actually quite empty considering it was the week before Christmas. If you like nice pristine beaches and scenery and not many people mucking it up, this is the place to go. You are certainly far away from the hustle and bustle. They do have good wi-fi however, if you need to stay connected a bit.
Each day you can hear the Howler monkeys “roaring” from the trees surrounding the riverbed just below the hotel. It’s quite easy to walk down and watch them as they swing through the trees.
The refrigerator is stocked with beer, water and soda and you can just help yourself whenever you like. They have an honor system sheet with your name on it and you just mark down when you grab a refreshment.
There are four cabanas to choose from. Three are family size, the best views, and one is set up with a single bed for couples. Be aware, the showers have only one temperature-cool. But, you will soon find out that this is just fine.
Roy and Karen are wonderful hosts and are really engaging, bringing you into their family. You play games together each night and we even went out as a group one evening to a nearby family restaurant for dinner. The hotel is also very kid friendly with darts, a ring toss game and bean bag to keep the young ones occupied. And, of course there are their two dogs, Shadow and Lika.
All and all the main attractions here are the remoteness from the crowds, the beauty of the jungle and beaches, the great meals and the friendliness of your hosts. We would highly recommend this location.

  • Stayed December 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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140 people have reviewed this hotel

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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (14)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Oak Park, California
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 28, 2012

By the time my wife, 8 year old daughter and I arrived at Empalme A Las Playas, we had been traveling throughout Nicaragua for 2 weeks and had many incredible adventures (volcano climbing on Ometepe, Rio San Juan and Pearl Lagoon just to name a few ) and met lots of terrific people. We purposely saved Empalme A Las Playas for the end of our trip because we thought it would be a great climax to an amazing trip based in large part on the excellent Tripadvisor reviews. We are very pleased to report that our 3 day stay with Roy and Karen actually exceeded our expectations!

When we first arrived, Roy and Karen made us feel right at home. During our stay, they made us feel like family and they went out of their way to treat us very special. The meals are served communal style so we always ate with the other guests and Karen and Roy. Karen cooked all of the meals which were always very delicious and among the best food we ate in Nicaragua. Besides the great food, we enjoyed meeting the other eclectic mix of guests and hearing about their travel adventures. Roy and Karen also introduced us to a very friendly and fun Australian family that lived at nearby Playa Marsella.

Our cabaña was very spacious and clean. The grounds were beautiful and howler monkeys came almost right up to our cabana. Roy and Karen recommended and booked a fascinating night time tour of the turtles nesting on the beach at LaFlor Wildlife Refuge and a zip line tour near San Juan Del Sur. The fitting climax to our stay was a very fun booze cruise. Roy and Karen joined us for the cruise which made it even more special. Roy has a great sense of humor and entertained us with a whole assortment of fun games. He was great with our daughter and drove her around in his four wheel drive on the beach.

We have traveled extensively throughout the world and stayed in some very cool places, but Empalme A Las Playas is definitely one of our all time favorites. Roy and Karen went out of their way to help make our stay very special and memorable, and a fitting climax to one of our best vacations. We wish we could have stayed longer. We highly recommend Empalme A Las Playas!!!

  • Stayed January 2012, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Nashville
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 23, 2012

From the very moment we arrived, Roy and Karen made my girlfriend and I feel extremely welcome and comfortable. They personally drove us down to the beaches within minutes of our arrival and shared beers and lunch with us at a beachside restaurant. We spent the next 2 days and nights at their B and B and had a great and truly memorable time. Dinners and breakfasts were delicious and were enjoyed by all in a family dining like setting. The other guests included a middle aged couple and a young family of four. We all got to know each other well, and this was made easy because Roy and Karen would spend the days hanging out with whomever was around the common areas. Not to mention that the rooms and the layout of the property is beautiful. Plus, it is only a 5 minute walk to the beautiful and quiet sandy beach of playa Marselles. Roy is a very fun guy to be with. We passed the evenings playing dice and darts, sipping beers and sharing stories. Of all of the places I stayed in Nica, this was by far the most memorable and enjoyable experience and I would recommend Roy and Karen to any fellow traveler.
Do bear in mind that there is no A/C and no hot water, but these are small sacrifices to make for a very nice experience. In addition, it is an easy 15 minute shuttle ride into the main town and can be easily done for 2 dollars per person each way. This way, you can enjoy the quiet and peace and convenience of being near playa marselles and away from the main town. Yet access to the main town is easy for the times you want to try a new restaurant or people watch.

  • Stayed December 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Nelson, Canada
Contributor
15 reviews 15 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 21, 2012 via mobile

Before we got to Empalme a las Playas our children missed home. Now that we've left, they want to be back at Roy at Karen's. Delicious food, lots of laughs, and a beautiful and homey environment. The dogs deserve their own review; we absolutely adored them. Can't say enough about all of you - thanks for making us feel so special. LRQV

  • Stayed December 2012
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, United Kingdom
1 review
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 22, 2012

When we embarked upon our recent adventure to Nicaragua little did we know what we were about to experience and how it would shape our perception of personal dedication and hospitality defined.

We didn't have anything booked when we arrived so we sat down in a dusty bar, ordered a couple of Tonas and browsed through the pages with accommodation, anything from 5* hotels to filthy hostels, just to get an idea of what to expect as none of us had been to Nicaragua before and simply put we didn't have a clue!

The first place we called politely said that they were full and couldn't accommodate us.

This is my first thanks to all of you who booked that hotel, from the bottom of our little hearts, thank you. Really.

We continued to browse through page after page and suddenly my partners eyes closed in on this place called Empalme a Las Playas. We looked at each other and continued reading, I mean after all, the name itself does sound fairly exotic!

After having read a few lines we quickly decided to call them to see if they had any rooms available and Karen who answered said indeed they did so we reserved a 'cabana', gave our details and started our fairly dusty and bumpy taxi journey towards San Juan Del Sur and what would be one of our best holiday experiences ever.

We had no idea what was waiting for us......

We arrived slightly later than advised and we couldn't call and advise of late arrival as none of us had any network connectivity so we were slightly nervous that they’d be upset however it turned out it couldn’t be further from the truth. We were there and that was the main thing!

Karen, Roy, Lyca and Shadow (the latter two being the amazing family dogs) all came and greeted us as we crawled out of the boiling taxi after the fairly bumpy ride from San Juan out to were Empalme is located (yes the roads are bad but that is outside their control). The two beaches Maderas and Marsella are super close but the place is remote enough to give you a feeling of total and utter tranquillity and peace of mind.

The cabanas are super quirky and neatly decorated (one would assume by Karen!) with everything you need for your 'jungle' stay! The beds are very comfy and there are mosquito nets all around (yes there are mosquitos in Nicaragua) so no need to worry about anything more than having a great night’s sleep! Roy even made sure we had our very own howler monkey singing for us, now that you don't get ANYWHERE else trust me.

The place is so idyllic and if you want to kick back and relax in the swinging chair’s then that's what you do or you could get yourself activated down by the beach (great surfing!) or play one of the many games Karen and Roy have available (of which I am sure Roy has invented half of them).

The place is just brilliant BUT, the thing that really took us by surprise was Karen and Roy's attention to detail when it comes to customer service and hospitality. I have never (EVER) been treated this well anywhere in the world and I have spent many years travelling the globe.

Staying with K&R (and Lyca and Shadow) is not like staying at a resort, it's like staying with friends! It took about 24 minutes and 3 tonas and we felt like we'd known them forever!
What they did for us during our stay is nothing short of incredible and they made our entire stay in Nicaragua worthwhile. They don't offer hospitality, they ARE hospitality, defined.

Karen's cooking is out of this world (although Roy will try and take some of the credit for it) and their humour, warmth and friendliness makes you feel like time is standing still allowing you to fully enjoy every single second of your stay.

I don't think I would ever be forgiven if I didn't mention Roy's magical touch. He's the local magic man and although I did see through it no one else did (sorry Roy!)

So, with a great cabana, utterly amazing food, a fridge that supply endless amounts of Tona (of course you have to pay for them but at $1.25 you feel like you are stealing from them) magic, jokes and seriously crazy stories from Roy and Karen and cosy kisses from the dogs what more could anyone ever wish for? Nothing is the answer. If you want a soulless resort with snotty staff and drones of rowdy drunks please refer to the Cancun pages in the Mexico brochure.

The only thing that almost ruined my stay was that Roy beat me at darts the last night and I still haven’t been able to drop this so I have to come back next year and get a re-match.

There are a thousand more things I could say but I won’t because part of the adventure is to experience it yourself so with these words I really, truly and utterly hope that you give Karen, Roy, Lyca and Shadow and chance to show you what Team Empalme is all about. Excellence.

Cheers.

  • Stayed November 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
San Jose, Costa Rica
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 18, 2012

I agree with the glowing recommendations of Empalme a Las Playas. Great place for our family of four to relax and experience coastal Nicaragua. Roy and Karen are great hosts, and really know how to cater to the kids. Great food, and beautiful undeveloped beach a short walk away.

  • Stayed October 2012, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New Albany, Mississippi
Reviewer
5 reviews 5 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 16, 2012

I was planning a trip with some friends who had never been to Central America before and came across this place here on TripAdvisor. While the reviews were great, I had no idea what a treat it would be to visit here.

The cabinas are our of this world...beautifully designed out of bamboo with rich furnishings and nice airy space. They each have porches that overlook a jungle populated with monkeys (while we didn't see any, we did hear them). And they're just a short walk from two wonderful beaches and several restaurants.

While the trip in can be a bit grueling in terms of the road conditions...it's not an uncommon experience in Central America...it's all part of the adventure.

And then there are your hosts, Roy and Karen, who are delightful...and ready to help out with logistics and short rides to the beach...and Karen's omlettes with avocado are incredible. Oh, and be sure and have Roy show you some magic tricks; he's very entertaining. As one person posted, it really is like you're there visiting with old friends....and the cost feels that way, too...it is a great value for your money and all your friends will be jealous when you show them the pics.

Anyway, it looks like someone had a bad review of the place...but they didn't even stay there! They should have taken them up on the offer of a pick up....they would not have been disappointed.

The bottom line...if you're looking for a low key, laid back and beautiful place to experience some beautiful Nicaraguan beaches this is the place. We had a blast and will definitely return.

Room Tip: Any one of the bamboo huts/cabins is what you want...they are so peaceful.
See more room tips
  • Stayed October 2012, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Additional Information about Empalme a Las Playas

Address: 1/2 c N. al Empalme a las Playas Maderas y Playa Marsella, San Juan del Sur 00011, Nicaragua
Location: Nicaragua > Rivas Department > San Juan del Sur
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Beverage Selection Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service
Hotel Style:
#2 Family Hotel in San Juan del Sur
#2 On the Beach Hotel in San Juan del Sur
#4 Romantic Hotel in San Juan del Sur
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
A true nature lover and beach goer treat. Spacious and quiet bamboo cabanas sitting in the jungle canopy above the river showcasing howler monkeys and many varieties of birds and wildlife. Within walking distance of Playa Marsella and Playa Maderas, said to be one of the best surf breaks in Nicaragua. A great place to relax, surf, trek and enjoy the natural beauty that is Nicaragua. We are as close to a nature reserve/eco lodge as can be without going through all the legalities to get the "stamp" of approval. Enjoy personal service and feel like you are at your home away from home. Offering personal service and satisfaction! ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Empalme a Las Playas Hotel San Juan Del Sur
Empalme a Las Playas Nicaragua/San Juan Del Sur

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