La Casa Feliz (one block east of the market, tel. 505/8689-7906, www.lacasafeliz.com , $7 pp dorm) caters to surfers, offering a bunk, a key to the front door, kitchen, and bamboo showers. Surfboard rental and lessons are available on call; after the session laze around in their TV room or use their free Internet. This place could use a fresh paint job and a few night tables.
Surfers also like to stay above the Arena Caliente surf shop (tel. 505/8636-1769, www.arenacaliente.com ). Hostel Beach Fun (tel. 505/2568-2441, $7 pp shared bath, $25 d with TV and fan, $10 more with a/c). The 16 rooms are small, but the owners are nice and the place is centrally located. You can rent a quad (don’t even think of driving it on the beach) for $17 per hour and arrange rides to local beaches and trips to La Flor .
Hospedaje Don Wilfredo’s (25 meters east of El Timon, www.hospedajedonwilfredo.com ) is a terrific value at only $6 pp with fan and private bathroom. The hostel is centrally located just steps from the beach. Ask for a room upstairs for good natural light and air flow.
Hotel Estrella (located where the market road meets the beach, tel. 505/2568-2210, hotelestrella1929 [at] hotmail [dot] com) was the first hotel in San Juan del Sur , constructed in 1929. Less glamorous than its glory years, Estrella is still the only place in town where you get an oceanfront balcony for $7 a person (so make sure you get one). Drawbacks include a surly manager, bats, and having to walk downstairs to use the 1929-era bathroom.
Next door is the Hostal Esperanza, a chill work-in-progress right across from the ocean. Ten bucks gets you a thin mattress in a dorm room, use of the kitchen, and free Internet. Or string up a hammock in the patio next to the mango tree for $5.
Casa Oro (tel. 505/2568-2415, www.casaeloro.com ) is a popular dorm-style youth hostel just west of the central park; bunk up in 8- or 12-person dorms for $8–9, $19 double with private bath plus $10 if you use the air-conditioning. They run three convenient beach shuttles daily, undercutting the competition Wal-Mart-style, to the chagrin of the smaller tour operators and taxi drivers. Guests love the daily surf report and travel info, lockers, TV lounge, and free make-your-own pancakes on the weekends.
Find a warm welcome, kitchen, and parking at Rebecca’s Inn (25 yards west of the park, tel. 505/8675-1048, martha_urcuyo [at] yahoo [dot] es, $16–20, all with private bath), run by Martha, who grew up in this house and can tell you about the local lore in English.
Across the street, the Posada Puesta del Sol (tel. 505/2568-2532, lalacard98 [at] yahoo [dot] com, $10–15 d) has five simple rooms and gives deals to students studying Spanish in town.
Mama Rosa has been welcoming foreigners into her home for eight years, mostly students from nearby Spanish schools . Clean, simple rooms with decent mattresses and newish sheets run $10 per person (with fan and shared bath).
Stay at El Encanto del Sur (75 meters south of the park, tel. 505/2568-2222, $20 d with fan, $30 with a/c,) for a traditional hotel on a quiet street with plenty of privacy. Tax, private bathroom, TV, and Wi-Fi are included.