I was trying to take a nap but my body wasn’t having it. Work at the scuba shop had me accustomed to waking up at 5:00 AM and getting to bed by 9:00 PM. That early bedtime wasn’t going to fly for Sunday Funday. With the nap not panning out as planned, I decided to embrace my inner energizer bunny. Day drinking was happening with whatever energy I had.
I touched upon Sunday Funday in my overview of San Juan del Sur. The event counts as one of the biggest bar crawls in Central America. Picture a bunch of party-goers in paradise, covered in glitter and paint, getting shuttled around in the back of pick-up trucks. Phones, sunglasses, money, and your dignity are likely to be lost.
A few things to consider when partying abroad: Nicaragua is not a rich country, similar to many of countries that appeal to backpackers. You will find a massive cultural difference between backpackers and locals. Events like Sunday Funday bring cash into the local economy, but they also highlight the worst parts of backpacking culture. These communities give us memories for life, the least we can do is show some respect. Despite this I witnessed a number of people disrespecting local property and causing public disturbances. I even saw one girl steal a dried mango slice from a street vendor, then coyly asked if it could be free. A bag of mango slices were probably like a dollar, if you can cough up the money for Sunday Funday then you can fork some over to a local trying to make an honest living.
Admission costs $30 or 900 córdoba and includes a tank top and wrist band. Why the exchange rate favors USD instead than the native currency, I will never know. Drinks are not included and cost 60 córdoba (~$2) each throughout the event. Tickets go on sale at 9:30 AM and can be purchased at Hostel PachaMama. Each participant must be present to get a wrist band, so that nobody shows up to buy passes for friends. The pre-game kicks off at noon, but we didn’t arrive until closer to 2:00 PM.
Pool Bar #1: Hostel PachaMama (Pre-Game Pool)
If I’m perfectly honest, I would not describe this as a pre-game. PachaMama was absolutely packed. Think more along the lines of a steamy basement fraternity party that migrated its way to an enclosed pool bar, where everyone wore matching shirts and enough glitter to blind a small animal. It became immediately apparent that I was an elder in this scene. Long gone are my days of college parties, but there were many individuals of such an age that were clearly discovering the magical effects of alcohol. Some people went too hard, too early, as evident by the several stumble-sprints I saw to the bathroom.
After dodging beer fountains, aggressive dancing, and massive displays of PDA, I arrived at the bar and found extremely long and disorganized lines. Everyone seemed to be eager to get their drink on in order to catch up. The bartenders clearly felt disgruntled by the heavy numbers, but my sympathy stopped there as I watched them play heavy favoritism to the drunkest (and often time rudest) girls.
Pool Bar #2: Hotel Ana Mar (Beachside Pool)
I was happy for some fresh air and space upon leaving PachaMama. Our group of six opted for a rum stop prior to Ana Mar. We bought some red solo cups, Flor de Caña, ginger ale, and coke and set up our DIY mini bar on the beach. Sunday Funday drinks are more expensive than typical drinks in the area, so this stop actually ended up saving us a bit of money in the long run. We made our way to Ana Mar and I found a strategically placed hot dog stand right at the entrance. Kudos to that guy for understanding how drunk gringos work. I immediately ordered a loaded hotdog and bonded with some Canadians who were in line with me.
The hotel sits right next to the beach and the pool looks out onto the water. Why a nicer hotel like this was cool with hosting a Sunday Funday spot was beyond me. Our friends from Surfing Donkey called me out on not making it into the pool yet and came up with the appropriate solution of pushing me in. Don’t worry, they let me hand over my phone and sunglasses. I splashed around for a bit, watched a few chicken fights, then grabbed a seat at the edge of the pool. This was actually the only stop where I made it into the pool. Why, you ask? There are too many unshowered backpackers who have been doing any range of activities with each other, and I couldn’t seem to shake that image.
Adventures with Sunglasses
This is the stop where Steve almost sacrificed his sunglasses to the Sunday Funday Gods. A little background here: Steve, normally low maintenance, is incredibly picky with sunglasses. He found a pair of Tumi sunglasses that he loved, which met their demise last summer. Steve proceeded to spend literally an entire year looking for another set that he liked just as much. He was about to give up when he found another pair of Tumi’s, quite like his last set, for an amazing price.
We spent well over an hour aggressively scavenging the pool, deck, bar, and bathrooms to no avail. Having given up, we filed in line to hop on a shuttle to the next stop. We passed several of the staff members on the way out when Steve found his sunglasses on one of them. Steve’s hesitation to approach him didn’t really matter, as I was already on my way over. I asked (in Spanish) if he had found the sunglasses that day and explained that Steve had a pair exactly like the ones on his head. He paused for a second and then handed them over. I thanked him profusely and gave him a couple of dollars to grab a drink. He probably assumed the sunglasses were gone for good and snagged them for himself. He seemed more worried that we were going to get him in trouble. We understood that and wanted to make it clear that we weren’t going to make a fuss.
Pool Bar #3: The Naked Tiger Hostel (Hillside Pool)
In pure Central American style, the shuttles turned out to be pickup trucks with benches in the cab. We had a great chat with other Funday-ers as we made our way to The Naked Tiger. This hostel sits on one of the hillsides that overlook the town. The timing couldn’t have been better and we arrived to for a great view of the sunset.
The Naked Tiger was different than the other stops with a ticket system. Everyone needed to purchase tickets at the door if they planned to drink more or eat a hamburger. Drinks were 1 ticket each and burgers were 3 tickets. Despite my earlier street hotdog, I found myself pretty hungry. I thought that the burgers were subpar at best, but it did the job. I’m not exactly a burger connoisseur after a day of drinking.
We spent the majority of the time talking with a couple of German girls from our hostel, who were telling us about their prior travels. They were backpacking through Central America, like many other folks that we had met along the way, and were finishing up a few weeks in Nicaragua before heading to Costa Rica and Panama. Several of our hostel friends rotated between our conversation and the pool. By this time, I was starting to feel tired due to my lack of a nap, and I was getting a bit restless to move on to the final stop.
Pool Bar #4: Arriba’s (Sans Pool)
Finally, the shuttles arrived at the front entrance and we hopped in to make our way to the final stop at Arriba’s. This bar seemed to be the transition from Sunday Funday to the normal nightlife circuit. Plenty of Funday-ers dispersed here, and we started seeing more people in normal clothes finding their way to the bar. There wasn’t a pool here, but I did find a baseball game on TV. The World Baseball Classic was happening at this time and Mexico was crushing Venezuela in an early round. Nicaragua is one of the few countries in this region that ranks baseball above football (soccer to us Americans). Having participated competitively with the sport since I could walk, I appreciated this part of the culture.
We met up with the folks from our hostel and enjoyed our final drinks on the beach. By this point in time, I was practically falling asleep. Steve took mercy on my exhaustion despite not feeling tired himself. We concluded our Sunday Funday at midnight and made our way back to the hostel. We easily could have walked, but since it was just the two of us in matching Sunday Funday shirts, we opted for a cab in order to not draw too much attention to ourselves.
We had a ball, but we didn’t find Sunday Funday to be all that different from past day drinking events. This is partially due to the fact that we couldn’t share it with our closest friends! If we could magically transport them down here, this would rank higher. I would only do this again with close friends who wanted to check it out.
The price definitely factored in to my overall score. This ends up being a pretty expensive outing after admission, drinks, and food.
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