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“Warm and Welcome Getaway” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Empalme a Las Playas

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Empalme a Las Playas
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1/2 c N. al Empalme a las Playas Maderas y Playa Marsella | Left Before the Road Splits to Playas Marsella and Maderas, San Juan del Sur 00011, Nicaragua   |  
Hotel amenities
Ranked #5 of 21 Hotels in San Juan del Sur
South Kingstown, Rhode Island
1 review
“Warm and Welcome Getaway”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 8, 2014

My familiy of four was looking for an escape to warm weather, good body surfing and lodgings that were affordable and comfortable, and we found it with Roy, Karen and Marty. Their compound offers simple but comfortable features, their location is a ten minute walk to Playa Maderas, the best body surfing/surf beach in Nicaragua, and there's always Tona in the fridge and activities to engage the guests. Our hosts took a sincere interest in my adult and teenage sons, Roy and Marty drove us to and from the beach and coordinated activities that made the 5-day getaway memorable. Karen is an amazing cook! You're close enough for day trips to San Juan del Sur or Lake Nicaragua. Our hosts did a great job of building relationships among and with their guests. An intimate experience you can't get at a resort. Gracias Roy, Karen y Marty! Hasta la proxima vez!

  • Stayed December 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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145 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Location
    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 (15)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Statesboro, Georgia
Senior Reviewer
10 reviews 10 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed January 4, 2014

Among the closest accommodations to Playa Marsella, Karen and Roy run a small compound of spacious no-frills (especially beds and bathrooms) bungalows. The atmosphere in the compound is very communal. Empalme is best for families and for those looking to socialize with other travelers. Pleasant, though not perfect for couples and for those looking for privacy and quiet.

Accommodations include breakfast - served family-style around 8:30 a.m. - and Roy and Karen offer family-style dinners most evenings for a fee. Food is good, but there are three other restaurants open for dinner within a few minutes walk of the compound for equal or less money...just ask for a flashlight (night comes early and very dark around here). In fact, the best part of Empalme is it's proximity to Playa Marsella. Such a nice stroll! Though at night the darkness and barking dogs may keep some lodgers from venturing out for dinner.

Roy and Karen's right-hand man is Marty. He was more than helpful throughout our stay (giving rides to Playa Madera, answering general questions, finding flashlights, opening the gate for us at night, etc.). Roy and Karen recommend a group of 6 drivers managed by "Richard" for transfers to Managua, Granada, Ometepe, etc. - so do we. Richard's folks were very reliable.

Beware of the road that leads to Playa Marsella from the main highway - 5 km takes 30+ minutes. Then again, why come to Nicaragua if you expect smooth roads and all-inclusive resorts. Those can be found one country south.

  • Stayed December 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 2 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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Bristol, United Kingdom
Reviewer
4 reviews 4 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 13, 2013 via mobile

Roy & Karen's place was our last stop in Nicaragua before crossing the border into Costa Rica. I cannot recommend it highly enough. We made the booking after reading the incredible reviews on trip advisor and were not disappointed. Marty the son went out of his way to make us feel welcome. Karen's food was by far the best we had eaten in three weeks of touring Nicaragua and Roy is hands down the funniest guy I've ever met, he had us in hysterics all week. Maderas beach; a short but hilly walk or an even shorter lift in the car (something Marty was always happy to offer us) down the road has great surf and a couple of bars, far better than San Juan del sur itself. Twice in our stay we saw monkeys from our balcony as well as humming birds, toucans and even a saltwater crocodile down by the beach! We spent several memorable nights playing games in the bar area at Empalme, laughing til it hurt. The whole family have taken hospitality to a new level and we were genuinely sad to leave. Thank you for a great week-we felt part of the family! Rach and Dave x

  • Stayed December 2013
    • 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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Anchorage, AK
Senior Contributor
35 reviews 35 reviews
12 hotel reviews
Reviews in 24 cities Reviews in 24 cities
33 helpful votes 33 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed December 6, 2013

Of all the reviews from our three week visit to Nicaragua, this review is by far the hardest to write as our visit to Empalme a Las Playas was clearly cursed or born under a bad sign and we ended up shortening our stay from 4 nights to 2 nights. First off, Roy, Karen, and Marty are three of the most caring hosts you're ever going to encounter. Roy is the game master extraordinaire, Karen is an amazing cook and host mom, and Marty is clearly the next generation of gifted host (he was amazing with our kids). With a team like that what could possibly go wrong? Amazingly, a whole heck of a lot! In the first 12 hours of being at Empalme a Las Playas our kids had learned a couple of new swears from Roy, one of the dogs bit our youngest (who spent 3 weeks in Nica surrounded by animals with no other negative incidences), and we spent the first night's sleep with ear plugs in trying to reduce the noise from quad ATVs roaring by the property and loud music playing at a neighboring property. The area is beautiful, and likely a fine spot for couples or surfers, but we needed a more peaceful, family-friendly environment.

Roy, Karen, and their son Marty are great hosts who really care about the quality of experience their guests have while staying with them. However, the Playa Marsella/Madera area is growing rapidly and showing the signs of largely uncontrolled growth in usage and development. If you're a family looking for a tranquillo visit we would suggest looking elsewhere. Marsella/Madera may have once been insulated from spring break atmosphere of SJDS but that day has passed.

  • Stayed November 2013, traveled with family
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 2 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 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.
nicachick, Owner at Empalme a Las Playas, responded to this review, December 10, 2013
Thanks for the review
This is a very nice family with two nice kids 4 and 9. So, I apologize to you for any dirty words that offended you or your family. As for the dog, he was playing with your 4 year old, however it did scare him, and I again apologize. We will rethink our policy of allowing children in the future. We did enjoy your family and hope your travels are good ones..
Roy
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Toronto, Canada
Reviewer
4 reviews 4 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 24, 2013

I must say without a doubt, for various reasons, staying with Karen and Roy was the best decision we made on this trip. And the reviews didn't lie. Reading through them before our trip, felt like we already knew Karen and Roy. Beautiful, honest human beings, there to help when you need it, stories to share, dart playing, amazing food. The location couldn't be more perfect, five minute walk to calm, picturesque Marsella beach, and a short drive with Roy to Maderas for surfing. Common area for Karen's unbelievable breakfasts, late night beers, making friends. Butterflies and humming birds all around. They take amazing care of their property. Their dogs - Badger, Shadow and Laika - are awesome. The private cabanas are made of natural bamboo, and sleeping in them felt like sleeping outdoors in comfort. What an experience.

We already can't wait to come back. Thank you Karen and Roy for making this trip unforgettable. We will be seeing you in the future.

Valery

  • Stayed November 2013, 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.
nicachick, Owner at Empalme a Las Playas, responded to this review, December 3, 2013
May I say that it was our pleasure to have you as our guests and thank you very much for sharing your experience with other potential future guests!! We are happy to hear positive reviews and that we made an impact and impression for your vacation that is dear. Please know you are always welcome back should you return to the area. We love fun and adventurous travelers and hope that your next travels are as well. Thank you !!!
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Ketchum, Idaho
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 20, 2013

With a few awesome cabanas on stilts in a well kept jungle, Empalme is an amazing place to stay. Outdoor shower for after the beach, indoor bathrooms in the cabanas for nightime convenience, it was easy to relax in such a casual setting. It was also so nice have hosts like Karen and Roy. As though we had known them forever, they gave us a quick tour to show us how to walk to the beaches (Maderas and Marsella both easy walks), they introduced us to friends, scheduled a boat trip and zipline tour for us as well. They drove us to town when we wanted to see San Juan del Sur, told great stories...and there son Marty had a couple great movie suggestions for movie night....on the outdoor projector.
We felt safe and taken care of, the food was great and the beer was cold! It was one of the highlights of our trip, waking up to Monkeys in the trees, chilling with friendly dogs, listening to good stories...We'll be back again for sure!

  • Stayed November 2013, 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
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
nicachick, Owner at Empalme a Las Playas, responded to this review, December 3, 2013
Thank you for taking your time out of your busy schedule to write your travel experience and sharing your views with other travelers We are glad you had a positive experience and look forward to a time that we might meet again! It is always a pleasure to have adventurous, gentle people as guests and it makes our jobs more like leisure. Please know you are always welcome back should you return to the area! Enjoy your holidays and keep in touch! Wishing you luck on your ventures and adventures!!!
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Austin, Texas
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 28, 2013

My boyfriend and I chose to stay at Empalme a Las Playas solely based on the phenomenal reviews we read on trip advisor--we thought they were too good to be true. We originally only booked the room for 3 nights, unsure of what to expect, but extended our stay 2 more nights once we were there. The reviews were spot on and Karen and Roy really are as great as everyone says they are. Everything at Empalme was exceptional, including the cooking, location, lodging, hospitality, views, price, and company.

Neither of us are particularly experienced travelers and were not sure what to expect or do on this trip. We just knew we wanted to go to the beach, relax, and have an adventure. Karen and Roy were such an important part of making our trip everything we had hoped it would be. On our first day arriving at Empalme, they took us to the two beaches nearby and even introduced us to some of their friends and locals. They made us feel very comfortable which allowed us to acclimate to the country more quickly than if we had stayed somewhere without such hospitable hosts.

I initially had reservations about the rooms since there was no A/C and it looked like it had more of a camping feel. I have a hard time sleeping when the temperature is too warm, but I was pleasantly surprised at how cool the rooms felt at night. Our room had 2 fans so we were able to put them on either side of the bed, and the fans make a big difference. One night we even turned the fans off because it was raining and felt very cool in the room already. During the day the rooms get hot, but we were usually at the beach or in the common area, so it wasn't a problem.

The rooms are clean and well kept. The cabanas are pretty open so occasionally bugs and lizards get in the room, but the mosquito nets keep them off the beds. We enjoyed the experience of feeling connected with nature and the surrounding jungle. The sounds at night were a great part of the experience.

Playa Marsella is very close to Empalme. It was an easy 5 minute walk past dogs, chickens, pigs, ducks, a couple of restaurants and even a crocodile. The beach is so beautiful, in a very natural way. It's surrounded by cliffs covered with trees and greenery, and pictures really don't do it justice. The water was a clear/green color and the temperature was warm, perfect for swimming. The sand had a flour-like texture and felt great to lay in. This beach felt very private and was often empty besides us, or a couple other people. We visited this beach daily.

Playa Maderas was a 15 minute walk away, up a pretty steep hill. Most of the times we went to this beach, Roy drove us and seemed happy to do so. This was a surfing beach and we took a surfing lesson here that Roy set up for us the day before. We paid for an hour lesson but definitely got 2 hours out of it. This was a fun beach to visit and meet some of the locals and expats that stay there. We were even invited to Karen's birthday dinner/party at Playa Maderas which was really fun.

Like everyone else said, the food was awesome. Karen is an excellent chef, and Roy is an enthusiastic server. We looked forward to waking up in the mornings as there was always coffee(really good coffee!) waiting for us. We got to drink our coffee and sit in the swing chairs while Karen prepared breakfast. Everything she made was so good, especially her homemade granola and the smoothies. We also ate dinner at Empalme one night--the coconut mango rice was like nothing I've had before, the chicken was so moist, and the salad was unique and delicious. They have a tally system so you can serve yourself beer(tona!) and other beverages.

We weren't sure what to expect with the weather since we were going during the off season, or rainy season, but the weather was perfect. It only rained a couple times while we were there-mostly at night-and the rain left the scenery so green and lush. We would recommend anyone go during the off season.

If you're considering staying at Empalme, do it. We had such an incredible trip and feel so lucky to have met Karen and Roy, they're exceptional people. Empalme has our highest recommendation!

  • Stayed September 2013, 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
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
nicachick, Owner at Empalme a Las Playas, responded to this review, October 1, 2013
WOW!! Just wow! Thank you for your high accolades! We enjoy the people that we host and do what we can to make them feel comfortable, at ease and well cared for. It is happy guests that makes our 'job' fun. Thanks again and enjoy your future vacations. Please know you are always welcome back at "Empalme"
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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 | Left Before the Road Splits to Playas Marsella and Maderas, 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 Best Value Hotel in San Juan del Sur
#2 Family Hotel in San Juan del Sur
#3 On the Beach Hotel in San Juan del Sur
#4 Romantic Hotel in San Juan del Sur
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Number of rooms: 4
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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