Will San Juan del Sur finally get a cruise ship terminal?

The cruise terminal project has been promised since 2010

San Juan del Sur
Tim Rogers

San Juan del Sur

The Sandinista government’s long-stalled plans to built a cruise ship terminal and tourism center in San Juan del Sur appear to be back on track.

First Lady Rosario Murillo announced this week that the government is prepared to start a bidding process for construction of the tourism pier, estimated to cost around $2.5 million.

“It’s a great project that is scheduled to be built by December 2015, with a cost of $2.5 million — a project that will create better conditions for the arrival of cruise ships,” Murillo told her family’s media outlets.

The tourism project, which has been talked about since 2010, will have a commercial center and a recreation area, Murillo promised. The first lady said there will be model of the project on display in the mayor’s office, for those with a taste for tableaux.

The plan for a cruise ship terminal in San Juan del Sur was first rolled out in 2010, and then quickly rolled away.

“The plan includes designing a new dock where passengers can disembark directly onto the port instead of being transferred from the cruise ship to the port by a local boat,” said then-Tourism Minister Mario Salinas in a March 27, 2010 press release. Without offering details about the cost of investment, Salinas said the master plan focuses on redesigning the port’s facilities by including restaurants, souvenir stores and other attractions.

“This project will represent a very significant investment,” the former tourism minister said. “The decision has been made to initiate the design of this development plan as soon as possible, which will probably transform the port into one of Central America’s most attractive sites. Since we are expecting an increase in cruise ships entering the country, we need to improve the infrastructure of our ports and the services they provide.”

The cruise ship pier was announced at the same time as new plans were unveiled to finally complete the coastal highway — a project that was later abandoned for the umpteenth time. Since then, little has been said about the tourism pier, and many expected that too had been shelved, especially as cruise ship tourism dipped.

Based on early growth of cruise ship arrivals, Nicaraguan tourism officials estimated in 2010 that Nicaragua would now be receiving somewhere around 100 cruise ships a year, during the October – May cruise ship season. Instead, those numbers have fallen.

According to numbers published recently on a government website, Nicaragua attracted 45 cruise ships in 2008, 42 in 2009 and 35 in 2010. The 2013-2014 season, which ends in May, is expected to bring only 28 cruise ships to San Juan del Sur — far from the original projection of 100.

By thawing its plans to build the cruise ship terminal in San Juan del Sur, the government hopes to reverse the current trend.

Overall, Nicaragua expects to receive 1.3 million tourists this year, a 6.5% increase from last year’s numbers, according to INTUR.

  • Pepe Turcon

    Love San Juan, part of my growing up took place there and SJ was a small tiny village with a very active port, sometimes we had 3 to 5 cargo ships waiting to load coffee, sugar, cotton and unloading cars, equipment and the like.Fishing was very artisanal, much like it is done today in Casares.
    The fun part was to go visit the ships and get a taste of the world with produce from the world over, usually German as the Nord Deutsche and Hapag ships were the best to arrive.
    You have to remember that up to the 70’s Nicaragua was numero uno in Central America and to Costa Rica you went to visit the only thing there: the ojo de agua!
    In 1960 to 1970 dollars today (2014) Nicaragua is like in the 12th Century…
    I was recently at San Juan and was disgusted with the whole thing: a very dirty filthy aspect with cheap bars all over and full of also filthy tourists, mostly gringos and probably what they call white trash. Surfers at the bars drinking beer and Rum, most are probably alcoholics with the Surfing as excuse, what would Bill and Bob say to this…
    The “Villas” are full of wana be sort of new rich mostly political class depending on the government in charge at the time and who have nothing in common at all with San Juan and showing their ridicule in their Toyotonas and totally out of sync.
    The locals have been pushed away by the people who bought them out with new greenbacks and instead lots of shirt stores much like a broke Key West with very little money.
    The only thing that is still there is the ice cold water in the ocean, thanks God.
    We need a real revolution in Nicaragua, more than ever before.

    • Ken Morris

      But Pepe, I’d be curious to know what alternative you propose. From other posts, I gather you hate the FSLN so-called left, but I can’t imagine a right-leaning liberal government being other than more encouraging of the kind of tourism development you dislike in SJDS. With a liberal government Nicaragua would get even more of the greenbacks pushing the locals aside to make way for even more alcoholic tourists, and at least the FSLN is trying to find a balance. I’m not arguing with you, just curious what kind of “real revolution” you might favor. I personally don’t see an alternative to staying roughly the course the FSLN is on regarding tourism, do you?

      • Pepe Turcon

        The revolution of honesty, “thy own self be truth”, remember? That would produce integrity in Institutions starting with the judicial system, no coke turning into talk to name the latest.

        • James O Sullivan

          What you really want is Utopia, Pepe. If a real effort were made immediately to improve Education and Infrastructure and remove Corruption then the process of development would follow. It would still be 30 years before the benefits would be obvious. Not sure how bishops would improve anything though. Let the people stand on their own feet rather than depending on the crutch of religion.

          • Pepe Turcon

            We are a Catholic country like it or not and the important thing besides the message, is following the message and practicing principles that are still among the large majority of Nicas , starting with honesty. That is the what the flock is actually demanding to the Bishops who together with Francisco in Rome want to accomplish. It is not Utopia at all, it’s a path and is not about perfection but progress. Well….Faith is a gift after all.
            If by education you mean….New York? You can keep it.

          • James O Sullivan

            I am European- not A GRINGO. By education I mean teaching some rudiments to enable that 93% to have some chance at university.

            Your ‘path’ has been tried before and there are still no results. The Nicaraguans have to learn to make some effort and not just sit back waiting for some magic man in the sky to solve their problems.

          • Pepe Turcon

            Avión pues…

    • Erik Jota

      Why so grumpy?

  • Pepe Turcon

    “Hoy es el día más hermoso de nuestra vida, querido Sancho.
    Los obstáculos más grandes, nuestras propias indecisiones;
    nuestro enemigo más fuerte, el miedo al poderoso y a nosotros mismos; la cosa más fácil, equivocarnos; la más destructiva, la mentira y el egoísmo; la peor derrota, el desaliento; los defectos más peligrosos, la soberbia y el rencor; las sensaciones más gratas, la buena conciencia, el esfuerzo para ser mejores sin ser perfectos, y sobre todo, la disposición para hacer el bien y combatir la injusticia donde quiera que esté….”…

    Don Quijote de la Mancha….MIGUEL DE CERVANTES

  • Sinibaldi

    a luminous song…


    of a

    day in





    tender desire.


  • http://www.opwr.org/ Indio Jones

    I was in the San Juan Del Sur Mayor’s office to take a look at the designs of the jetties and revamping of the port. The engineer stated that the plans are not finalized, but it was his belief that modifications shall commence in 2014. The actualization of this plan if coupled with quality assurance of eco-tourism would certainly be a mutual benefit for citizens and travellers.

  • http://www.opwr.org/ Indio Jones

    As an owner of a park and recreation in the outer perimeter of SJS, I would agree that the economic activity of SJS has seen some change. I am not an economist, nor a sociologist. However, my take on this is that development of quality places with quality service are in the incubation phase. Tourism in SJS can certainly seem like a Jaguar. It seems to come and go. There are moments of excitement as it arrives, and it leaves just as quickly as it arrives. The spots on the jaguar could represent the “double backpackers” that are arriving into town. Whatever their motivation, (booze, babes, recreational drugs, waves, or just looking for the cessation of the common rules enforced by their own homeland), they are numerous and don’t contribute nearly as much income to the region. What I think we might be missing is the solid foundation being built in SJS as these transients frequent the bars and boutique shops. New quality roads (not perfect), several new quality resorts and inns, graduates from hospitality, and local chapters of CANATUR, INTUR, Rotary International. I prefer the agricultural realm of El Ostional, but I certainly visit the docks one the cruise comes in to see what can be done to improve the possibility that SJS can find a niche market that integrates consistent quality service, culture preservation, and positive environmental impact.