The Las Penitas Hit List
We had two days to get from Boquette to León. Unsure of how long the border crossing into Costa Rica from Panama would take, we left Boquette at 5am and reached the frontera by about 9am. We assumed that on the Costa Rican side there would be an army of chicken buses waiting to take us to San Jose. There weren’t. There weren’t even any cars we could flag down and hitch a lift with. Luckily a Ticabus bus came through the border and so we gave the driver 20 dollars to take us to San Jose. He even kicked someone out of their seat so we could sit together… Clearly customer satisfaction is taken very seriously here. After one night in sketch central we struggled through another 5am start and completed our journey into Nicaragua. One more border crossing and finally at 4 in the afternoon we arrived into the city we would callhome for the next couple of months. León.
Our tenure at Bigfoot was only intended to span 8 weeks. However as the slogan says, “the only danger is never leaving” and 8 weeks has turned into 12.
“We’re a party hostel” was the warning in our welcome email and that they are – our nights were hard, loud and alcoholic, and when we weren’t working they were even harder! This would have been perfect if we were 20, but we’re 30 and after two weeks of non stop partying, the hangover kicked in and we were ready for something more chilled.
And so we relocated to Bigfoot’s beach side hostel 20km away in Las Penitas.
It is a small fishing village which isn’t necessarily on the map – however I am certain in five years time it will be. The beaches in this part of town are lined with three types of property: the high end luxury villa which wealthy Nicaraguans keep as their summer homes; derelict and broken beach front spaces that are just crying out for an investor; and what is currently a handful of beach front hostels which are either made or are in the making.
We’ve been in Las Penitas for about two months now and this is what we know:
The best burgers:
The Lazy Turtle – owned by Canadians Ryan and Val this little restaurant / hostelito started life out as a Mexican restaurant. However one day during those early start up days Val was craving a good old cheeseburger and was struggling to find a good one around – so she decided to add one to her menu. Over the past two years the Mexican half of the menu has shrunk and the burger side of things has expanded to include classics like the the Canadian which comes with Maple Bacon, or the Momotombo which is basically jalapeños and habaneros with a little beef in between – only those ready to enjoy it twice need apply!
Best derelict house
Located on the cliff on the edge of Las Penitas and the neighbouring beach of Poneloya, this crumbling structure is home to what has the potential to be one of the most spectacular infinity pools in Nicaragua. Whilst the foundations of this place are laid bare, there once was a pool here – with a little love, a lot of effort and perhaps the funding requirement of a small Latin American country this could be quite the romantic getaway.
Best weird dog
Echo, the Beach House hostel dog – whilst a little OCD, this dog definitely has character! Our favourite memory of this dog was when Rafal was playing with Echo on the beach. He was kicking a ball around and accidentally kicked it to the shore line – the waves were rolling closer and closer threatening to sweep it away forever into the currents of the Pacific. But Echo and Rafal were locked into a battle of the minds; neither was willing to get the ball, their eyes fixed onto each other and their bodies as still rocks on the beach. Finally Rafal broke and headed towards the ball; Echo jumped up, triumphant in his win, ran with him to the shore. Rafal kicked the ball into the air and oddly Echo ran in a completely different direction – we both started laughing at his stupidity… But then the ball curved around in the air and landed right at Echo’s feet. Apparently wewere the stupid ones.
Best observation from a local
This is by far our best story from Las Penitas. As the season turned from dry to rainy, the swells in the ocean picked up and creeped ever closer to the shore line. One day we noticed some people from the village digging a ditch – we asked one the local lawyers who used to frequent the bar why they were doing this. He said with the straightest face “I suppose it must be to do with their lack of education”. We could only stare back at him.
It’s certainly been fun getting to know the area.