Once you come into town, find a place to stay, and if it isn’t raining (this is the wettest place in all of the country), stretch your legs a bit to get a feel for the village. You will find a library that claims to have internet (didn’t the last time I was there) and an interesting selection of books available to peruse (in Spanish), a park painted up like a basket of easter eggs, a boulevard (but no cars) and a lot of long, long sidewalks.
If you are going to be waiting around for a while, go check out Blue Lagoon (Laguna Azul), a cool swimming hole perfect for picnics on the other side of the river. Ask your hotel to help you find transport. From there you can also cross over and visit the beach, though it isn’t much to brag about. Another really cool place to visit are the ruins of the old Greytown. There you can see four cemetaries that have been there for well over a century, as well as the old dredge that stands rusting, guarding the entrance to the lagoon. Again, organize transport with your hotel.
The real gem of the region is a day up the Indian River. The Rio Indio is incredibly wild and beautiful, and you are pretty much guaranteed to see monkeys and, on a sunny morning, loads of iguanas sunning themselves in the trees above the river (watch out, they sometimes highdive when startled)!
If you want to experience the Reserva Indio-Maiz as it should be experienced, raw and wild, ask around in San Juan for Coyote or Fish, two Rama indians (father and son) who were born and raised in a village deep in the Rio Indio. They speak an easy-to-understand Rama English and can take you to their village of Makengue for a night or two. Once there, you can learn about bush medicine, sleep surrounded by howler monkeys and hike to the mysterious Canta Gallo archeaological site. Bring some sturdy boots (mudboots are preferrable) and a hammock for overnight trips!
There are several other people that do trips up the river, but I strongly advise going with a Rama indian guide. The area is sacred to the Ramas, plus, nobody knows the area, flora and fauna or history more than the Ramas, and they all speak English. A trip can be organized through the leader of the local Rama community, Alicia McCrea.
People in town are pretty friendly and there are a few places to grab a beer or dance on a Saturday night, but not much going on during the week.
Restaurant Familiar – is a nice place to grab a beer and sit at the one table on the waterside.
Local sports bar – Directly across the sidewalk from Familiar where you could see whatever is being broadcast from Costa Rica
Local dance hall – A larger than expected place under the Sabor Tropical restuarant and also across the street from Familiar. You will find it either packed or empty, but rarely in between.
bar/dance hall painted rasta colors – Walking along the waterside south from Familiar you will reach this place sitting right on the water (the name escapes me…anyone?). Definitely worth checking out on a weekend.
El Diamante – has a little bar open until midnight on weekends (or when people are there to drink). It isn’t bad, but it isn’t Bluefields!
Anything I missed or changes to be made? Let me know!