The Pacific Ocean is a mere 12 miles from Leon so this morning I hopped on a bus full of Nicaraguan daytrippers (and more than a couple westerners) to visit the beachside communities of Poneloya & La Peñitas.
The main problem with beaches in this part of the world is that private property development blocks off almost all access to the beach. This is very nice for the people who own houses there but not so nice for the casual visitor like me. I spent 90 minutes walking a couple miles this morning trying to find my way in.
For sale/for rent signs abound. Beautiful, huge mansions sit on lots next to totally ruined shacks while there are occasional parcels of vacant land. The Lonely Planet blames foreigners for driving up local housing & land costs.
I had a taste of this affect when I was informed, to my shock, that the rate for my chosen hotel room (with AC) has doubled to $50 per night. At 11.00 a.m. it was 93 degrees Farenheit in the shade, so AC seems necessary, but these rooms didn't really seem worth the cost. However the beachside restaurant looked clean & professional and featured $10 fish dinners on the menu.
I'm not really a beach bum type, though I identify with the surfer crowd which hangs out here. Like mountaineers, ski bums & yacht crew, they're the type who work seasonal jobs at home to pay for trips to cool places abroad.
Although Poneloya & Las Peñitas are fairly sizeable, there's not much commerce happening apart from the hotel/restaurant biz. I found only one cyber cafe and only a couple basic ma & pa corner stores. And there was no sign of any good coffee even at the $50 per night joint, so maybe an overnight there isn't worth it for me. Just give me the cooler, higher ground with all my creature comforts & a few really old churches.
But I'm very impressed with the relaxed security situation. Unlike in El Salvador or Honduras, these private dwellings and scattered businesses on the Pacific didn't sport much of the usual tall, intimidating walls & gates topped with razor wire or electric fencing. And I didn't see even one armed guard anywhere!
Check back tomorrow to see if I decide to return to Las Peñitas for a day or two anyway. . .