My boyfriend and I were so happy with our recent three-night stay at the Pacific Bay Hotel, just before Holy Week. It was an amazingly tranquil place, with its serene, sunny hilltop location and our room (number 7) which looked out onto the ocean. Managers Gabriel and Gabriella proved to be the perfect hosts. Though they've only been running the hotel since November, they have the perfect knack of being there when we needed them, but never being intrusive.
There were only a few other guests also there during our stay, (those that were there were fun to meet), and so breakfasts and dinners on the open air terrace were tranquil. It seemed, at times, like we had the place to ourselves. The hotel's gentle, "adopted" dog Blackie even acted like our pet, following us on a few early morning walks to the beach and making sure to sun himself right outside our room. Sweet boy.
Rudolpho, the waiter for many of our evening meals, was always cheerful and playfully insisted that we try to learn better Spanish while we were in Nicaragua, so he diligently coached us with phrases and words while we did our best to converse with him in our limited Spanish.
Meals... another plus here. Both managers, and their help, are excellent chefs and though the menu is somewhat limited, the food is exquisite and very reasonably priced. Fresh fish cooked to perfection, succulent (local) chicken, lobster thermidor and tender beef, full breakfasts (our favorite being the tipica, with its hearty eggs, gallo pinto: rice and beans). Also, There was always someone around when we were thirsty for anything from a coffee to a Toña (beer) or rum cocktail.
The hotel's pool may be small, but was perfectly adequate and cooling, though on a terrace with barely any shade. The hotel might add some umbrellas for those who like to escape the sun once in a while, but I'm sure they will over time.
The pristine Playa Marsella is just a few minute's walk down the hill and along a short winding road. Every time we were there, it seemed like our private beach. Though there is a "fancier" resort as well as two casual local cafe/bars right near its shore, there were never more than 10 people or a few riding sand buggies on the beach at any given time, and in the mornings, often none. We knew about the other beaches to the right of ours, the hippiesque, surfer-friendly Playa Maderas, and Playa Majagual, but only visited them quickly during our horseback ride. Both seem lively with their surfer population and very worth revisiting.
The hour-long horseback ride, with guide Eric and his energetic beagle who ran beside us the whole way, was a highlight. Eric, who owns five well-maintained horses in a small stable near the hotel, timed it perfectly so that we'd reach Masaya Beach, with its dramatic rocks which step out to the sea, during the peak of sunset. He gave us "free reign" to trot and gallop whenever it was safe, and even though it was my boyfriend's first horseback ride, he seemed a natural. It was an incredible experience and we can't recommend it enough. Just book it through Gabriella a day ahead.
One afternoon, we got a ride (and back) from Gabriel to the more honky tonk main beach and town, San Juan del Sur. Before making our way to the beach, he drove us up a winding, paved street with posh white villas dotting the cliffs to see the infamous Christ of the Mercy Jesus statue, (just erected in 2009), the second largest after the one in Rio. We didn't go all the way up and into the statue itself, but stopped for photos on a point which overlooks the gorgeous, curved bay of San Juan del Sur. From this vantage, it seemed so quiet.
Upon reaching the beach town below, we found what we expected, a more Coney Island version of a Nicaraguan Beach, packed with families, dogs, a few horses, and many backpackers and carousers, including a vibrant transvestite dancing to the clanging beat of her friend's drum. There are wall-to-wall knick knack and beer sellers, restaurants and bars right on the shore, ranging from the tacky "girls drink free on Thursday nights" spring break party variety to more upscale fish eateries that also serve fresh tropical rum drinks on shady thatched-roof terraces with a view of the beach. Though we only spent a couple of hours in San Juan town during the day, the place seemed to be packed with every kind of entertainment place, from the bawdy to the sublime.
Room 7 on the corner has the ocean view and a great breeze because of its extra windows
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.