Between San Juan del Sur  and Ostional  on the Costa Rican border are a number of excellent beaches, and the Ostional bus will take you there, if you can afford to wait; otherwise, do like everyone else and bum a ride with someone with a vehicle, including the several shuttle options leaving from San Juan del Sur center.
You’ll first pass through Barrio Las Delicias, which includes San Juan del Sur’s stadium and cemetery, followed by a fork in the road known as “El Container.” Turn right here to get to Playa Remanso, about a kilometer down a path infamous for robberies: Don’t go alone. It’ll take about 25 minutes to get there on rough dirt roads.
This slow surf break is great for beginners, so expect to share it with all the new friends you met over beers last night. There’s a shady outdoor bar right on the sand where you can purchase snacks and drinks at inflated prices. At low tide, look for bat caves, tidepools, blowholes, and various wildlife.
Walking 30 minutes south around the rocks brings you to Playa Tamarindo, followed by Playa Hermosa just under an hour later (it’s a 20-minute walk from the bus stop at El Carizal, farther down the road toward Ostional). Ask in the surf shops in town about safety precautions and public access to these beaches.
A 30-minute drive south of town is Playa Yanqui. This powerful and fast wave that rolls into a giant beach was almost destroyed by one of the new developments when the owner decided to build a “viewpoint” going out into the sea. An effort by local surfers and activists prevented the construction and for now, this break remains one of the best in the area.
Look for a sign at a fork on the main road before you get to the Yankee Beach development; go right and then left at another sign, then over a hill for a photo-worthy view of what awaits. Park at the small house on a hill at the south end of the beach for $3 to prevent theft. At low tide you can park right on the beach.
Places to stay in this area are limited. Carol and Alan rent out three cozy rooms at their charming bed-and-breakfast, Latin Latitudes (www.latinlatitudes.com , $60–80). They’ve landscaped with native plants, used local construction materials and installed solar panels on the roof. Orquidea ($180, three-night minimum) is a high-end retreat with a luxurious pool perched atop the hills. Book in advance for both.
Lomas del Bosque (a few kilometers down the road to La Parcela, tel. 505/8376-7206) may be up and running by the time you read this. You can stay in a rustic cabin and wake up to the roosters while assuring your tourist dollars support the local community. Go horseback riding, butterfly-watching, and let your host, Don Miguel, point out the various tropical plants and crops. Some knowledge of Spanish would be helpful.