After breakfast we checked out of the hotel and took a $1.50 taxi ride to the Budget car rental in Granada. The lady at Budget didn't speak any English so the rental process took a while. Since I had already made a reservation I brought the confirmation letter and that seemed to make things go smoothly except that they needed me to provide a Nicaraguan address in order to rent a vehicle. I just gave them the address of Hotel Terasol and that seemed to satisfy her. Our car was a new Daihatsu Terios 4x4 - I've driven them before in Costa Rica - it's a 3 cylinder, decent for two people but not a lot of power.
We drove to Volcan Masaya and paid the $4/person entry and drove straight to the top of the volcano. There is a visitor center there but since we had all of our luggage in the car we didn't want to leave it out of our sight. The top of the volcano is pretty cool - definitely worth a visit. An English speaking ranger gave us some information and took us on a tour pointing out parts of the volcano and some history. He was pretty nice so I gave him a $3 tip.
We headed back down the volcano and off towards San Juan Del Sur. Just as we were going through Catarina we got flagged over by two police. One of the cops came to the window and told me (in Spanish) that I had crossed the line when making the turn (I didn’t) and that the fine was $80, he would take my license, and I would have to go to the bank to pay it and then go to the police station to get my license back. He then showed me a bunch of American driver’s licenses that he had confiscated. He then said or I could pay the fine now for only $60. I knew that he was full of shit so I just played dumb and said a lot of “no entiendo” and “no tengo dinero” I showed him that I only had about $10 in cash and some credit cards in my pocket. After a while I must have worn him down and he settled for 100 cordobas ($5). It was a pretty stressful event and whenever we saw a police checkpoint on the road I had visions of getting stopped every time and having to pay them off – fortunately this wasn’t the case and we didn’t get stopped for the rest of the trip.
We made good time to San Juan Del Sur arriving at around 2pm. We Drove around for a bit looking for a place to stay finally settling on Hotel Colonial - $54/night with powerful a/c, HOT water, cable tv, secure parking and breakfast. Had some beers and Nachos (with canned cheese) at Big Wave Dave’s and then went to Iguana’s right on the beach for some Cuba libres while we watched the sunset over the harbor.
After the sun went down we walked around looking for a place to eat dinner finally settling on the Italian restaurant at O Sole Mio which is located in the La Dolce Vida hotel – We had focaccia, salad, 4 glasses of wine, and I had chicken with a red sauce, Kat had a spaghetti all for $35 – delicious!