Getting from San Juan del Sur to Granada is simple. It involves catching a ‘chicken bus’ to Rivas where you transfer to another bus straight to Granada. The whole journey between Granada and San Juan del Sur takes around 2 hours and costs less than $2.
Read on for more details, tips and photos about how to get from San Juan del Sur to Granada, Nicaragua.
San Juan del Sur to Granada
Travelling from San Juan del Sur to Granada was our first experience riding a ‘chicken bus’ in Nicaragua.
A chicken bus is basically old American school buses which were donated to Nicaragua.
So what’s with the name then? Occasionally you’ll find yourself sitting next to a chicken being transported by a local. Apparently it was more common 20 years ago but we still managed to spot one on our bus.
Anyway, if you’re worried about whether it’s safe to ride a chicken bus in Nicaragua – don’t be. The buses are perfectly safe and a great way to see local life up close.
San Juan del Sur to Rivas (Step 1)
From San Juan del Sur you can catch the chicken bus from Avenida Mercado (click for Google Maps location).
Details about the timetable were a little wishy washy and we found ourselves sitting around on an empty bus for an hour because we didn’t time it right.
The buses leave from near the market. The chicken buses are quite ubiquitous so you shouldn’t miss them.
Hop on the bus and find yourself a seat. As the bus is driving someone will come around to collect the fare (15 Cordobas – $0.50 USD).
The journey from San Juan to Rivas takes around 30 minutes. If you have a lot of luggage, they will strap your luggage to the roof. Unless you’re a pretty, single girl be prepared to pay a tip (we were asked to pay $1 USD).
Rivas to Granada (Step 2)
The chicken bus will take you all the way to Rivas bus terminal (Sorbeterias La Terminal) where you can transfer straight onto a bus to Granada.
This is perfect because Rivas is in our view the seediest place in Nicaragua. If you read our post about getting to San Juan del Sur from San Jose, Costa Rica then you’ll know our views on Rivas well.
But I digress. You can conveniently jump off your bus and walk to the neighbouring buses to find the one with signs to Granada.
In our case it was the bus right next door, and a local even helped point us in the right direction. I didn’t say most of the locals aren’t cool – just the taxi drivers who will blatantly lie to your face.
Board your bus bound for Granada and find a comfy seat for the 1.5 hour ride to our favourite town in Nicaragua.
The bus from Rivas to Granada costs 30 Cordobas ($0.90 USD).
Arriving in Granada
We found the journey from Rivas to Granada quite cathartic.
Trundling down the road in an old school bus, wind in your hair (did I mention there’s no AC? – no worries) and watching the leafy banana plantations roll by is an unexpectedly positive memory of our Central America trip.
Nicaragua is full of interesting juxtapositions. You’ll see kids in old clothes chasing chickens on the side of the road to the backdrop of whirring rows of modern wind turbines generating clean, green energy.
Before long you’ll snap out of your day dream and find yourself in sunny Granada.
The bus will drop you almost to the centre of town where you can easily walk to any centrally located hotel.
San Juan del Sur to Granada Bus Tips
We caught the bus from San Juan del Sur to Granada and the return from Granada to San Juan del Sur.
We didn’t encounter any trouble at all on either occasion. If you follow these tips I’m pretty confident you’ll be safe too:-
- Travel during daylight hours. We might of mentioned that Rivas is our least favourite place in Nicaragua. Unfortunately it’s a poor, run down town with a poor reputation. Even during daylight hours we realised we didn’t want to be stuck there after dealing with unhelpful, unscrupulous taxi drivers.
- Keep your bags near. If you’ve got a large suitcase (as we did at one stage) make sure it’s all secured properly and stow it on the top of the bus. We usually always keep our luggage with us but it was just impossible on this journey as the bus was too crowded. We figured if our bag was too big for someone to inconspicuously decamp with it, we’d be safe (and we weren’t proved wrong).
- If you’re short on time, consider taking a cab from San Juan del Sur to Rivas for about 100 Cordobas per person (at least 2 people).
- Enjoy the ride. Embrace the rustic charm of the chicken bus! Heck, in Rivas you can really go to town and order all sorts of fast food from vendors coming from bus to bus serving everything from fried chicken to coke in little plastic bags (RIP earth).
Where to Stay?
Top 3 places to stay in San Juan del Sur:
- Budget – From $15 USD – this cosy family run accommodation has received consistently good reviews for years due it’s excellent hospitality and central location.
- Mid Range – From $30 USD – Casa Anadalucia has comfy bungalows featuring an infinity pool overlooking San Juan – perfect for cooling off when the power if out (which is often). Watching fireflies dance about as the sky darkened was an unforgettable experience.
- Luxury – $$$ – Bungalows are kind of the thing in Central America. At 92m2 the bungalows in this 5 Star Ecolodge are more like luxurious villas.
Top 3 places to stay in Granada:
- Budget – From $20 USD – Hotel Glifoos is a great option for the budget traveller. You get a nice double room with private bathroom so it does represent good value for money. The only downfall to this hotel is the windows are not properly protected from mosquitoes.
- Mid Range – From $35 USD – We stayed at El Almirante Hotel for the majority of our time in Granada. We liked having breakfast made to order each morning, powerful air conditioning in the day time and a nice pool to cool off in the evening. Central location and lovely staff.
- Luxury – Why do something ordinary when you can stay in a unique island lodge. Imagine a 436m2 area all to yourself. Your neighbours will be Nicaragua’s rich and famous.
For Leon, we’ve prepared a dedicated guide the Best Places to Stay in Leon.
Considering venturing north to Leon? Well if you like the idea of volcano boarding, eating exceptional street food and admiring art nuevo street art then you really must go.
More Nicaragua Travel Blog Posts
Don’t miss Ometepe Island – one of Nicaragua’s most unique attractions featuring twin volcanoes, natural emerald colored fresh water lagoons to swim in and the best breakfast we’ve had in years. Oh yes, there’s plenty of avocado on toast baby.
Ometepe to Granada – for a detailed guide to how to travel by chicken bus without getting ripped off in Rivas.
Granada to Leon – traveling to Leon involves a transfer in Managua. After hearing some tall tales of the perils of the capital city, we opted for a $12 shuttle on the way there. It was less than ideal with cramped quarters with many other wary tourists. But we did get there safely.
On the return journey we braved the shuttle bus to Granada. While it did involve a transfer in Managua, it only consisted of walking 30 seconds to another bus within the same terminal. This bus was spacious, clean, cost only $2 and we got to experience a local experience including candy vendors. Plus the time difference was surprisingly minimal. Check out our photos and decide which option you prefer.
San Juan del Sur to San Jose, Costa Rica – If you’re heading south from Nicaragua then we’ll show you how to get there including crossing the infamous Nicaragua – Costa Rica border.
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