Right north of the well known tourist destination Costa Rica, lies the rather unknown Central American country Nicaragua. This country is packed with some of the nicest beaches and best surf spots you can find along the Pacific Coast. The coastline offers everything you need for an incredible and unforgettable summer and surf vacation: untouched and small sandy beaches, rough rock-formations, lonely bays and everything is wrapped in lush green rainforest. This spectacular scenery invites for long walks along the shore, extended fishing trips, sunset horseback riding along the waterfront and seaturtle adventures at night.
Furthermore, Nicaragua is a country made for surfing. With at least 300 days of offshore wind blowing from the inland to the coast, every day is blessed with perfect waves and the finest surfing conditions. Of course, this fact makes Nicaragua to one of the top surf destinations in the world. So, maybe amongst surfers it is not the biggest insider tip anymore, but you can still find your personal surf adventure and catch waves at uncrowded beaches. What is more, Nicaragua boosts with warm weather, good food, cool drinks and a variety of other activities, and you can have all that for low and affordable prices.
Get your perfect surf adventure
Of course, also in Nicaragua swell, tide and weather are factors that can be incalculable at times. However, at least the wind direction can be disregarded, as you will find consistent offshore winds blowing every day from the huge Nicaragua lake in the inland towards the shore. Nicaragua’s beaches offer easy as well as heavy beach and point breaks. The best way to catch them all, is to hire a car and travel along the southern Pacific Coast between the beaches of San Juan del Sur and Tola.
So, when is the best time of the year to hit the waves? The main wave season goes from March to September, right during Nicaragua’s rainy season. This means consistent waves, big swells and warm water in a setting surrounded by green nature and blossoming trees. From October till December you will find the bigger swells up north, but you will still have fun surf sessions at Nicaragua’s southern beaches. From January to March strong offshore winds blow from the coast. Sometimes too strong which results in a mushy waves and turbulent ocean.
This is the main surfer beach at San Juan del Sur. Five daily shuttles run between the town and the beach and several surf shops offer transportation as well. This costs you $5 and the drive takes about half an hour. Another option is to stay directly at or close to the beach. This also allows you to catch waves in the early morning before the crowds arrive with the first shuttle or to head out for a nice sunset surf after everybody left with the last transport.
Playa Maderas is a nice bay with everything the surfer heart may need during the day: small and delicious restaurants, bars offering cool and fruity smoothies, surf shops with board rental, rashguards and wax as well as surf teachers if you are new to the sport. The atmosphere at Playa Maderas is chilled-out and relaxed. You will find a fun beach break which comes up between 2 and 6 feet, working at all tides. However, the beach works best with the incoming tide, with bigger swells and even some tubes. If the swell is big enough, you will also find some locals surfing the right hand point break called ‘Machete’. But sometimes it is better to just watch some good surf, as here reigns the credo ‘respect the locals’.
This is a private beach in the San Juan del Sur area. Along the 3 kilometer long sand bay you will find untouched nature and empty waves. The spot is still a well kept secret among surfers and also day tourists are a rare sight. The beach lies only 12 kilometer south of the town, however shuttles do not run on a daily basis. Best is to ask at various surf shops, as normally a bigger group is needed in order to go to Playa Hermosa.
It is a quiet and relaxed beach, maintained by the Playa Hermosa Beach Hotel. You will immerse yourself in a laid back surfer atmosphere and the hotel offers everything you need in order to spend a perfect day at the beach: hammocks, cool drinks, delicious food, board rental, showers and an impressive scenery. Blessed with offshore wind, perfect waves hit the beach daily with five to seven peaks along the shore. You will find easy inside sections for beginners and fun outside sections for advanced surfers.
The beach belongs to a set of several beaches, commonly known as the Tola beaches. Popoyo is situated in a rather isolated stretch of the Nicaraguan Pacific Coast. At Popoyo you will immerse yourself in a laid-back and chilled out atmosphere. All breaks are reachable within walking distance along the beach. A nice place to stay is the beach town Guasacate, where you will find most Hostels and Hotels. It is a 10-minute walk from Popoyo and offers all tourist services you may need during your stay.
At the Popoyo area you will find yourself among many backpackers and surfers with only one goal in mind: catch the best waves of Nicaragua. Several surf competitions have been held at this beach, which affirms that it is one of Nicaragua’s best surf spots. Popoyo’s main break offers quality waves formed by the consistent offshore wind blowing from the Nicaragua lake. You can choose between the inside and the outer reef. The bay offers nice A-frame beach breaks in both directions, some barrels and heavy and strong waves with long walls. It works best by incoming tide, however, waves are very fast at low tide. The outer reef is only for very advanced and fearless surfers. It is dangerous but you will find perfect waves out here.
Relax on your beach towel and get tanned
Every beach is obviously just right to extend your beach towel and relax in the sun. However, most of Nicaragua’s common beaches are crowded with surfers. So why not exploring some different spot and chill out at a quiet beach aways from the typical tourist scene?
Playa Marsella is one of San Juan’s rather unknown and yet beautiful beaches. Right in the Playa Maderas neighbourhood, it is easy to reach. Away from the surfer crowd at Playa Maderas, you will encounter a totally different atmosphere. It is a quiet spot to relax in the white sand and take a refreshing swim in the blue ocean. As it is far less crowded that the other beaches in the area, some restaurant open only during the weekends,but there are several to choose from with nice views towards the sea. Otherwise, the small village Marsella or Playa Maderas are just a small walk and there you will find everything you need.
Discover secret beaches
Nicaragua’s Emerald Coast is still full of secret beaches and unspoiled nature. Some of these beaches are only reachable by boat or long walks by foot. However, sometimes it is well worth to spend some time in order to reach one of these hidden treasures. You will be rewarded with tranquility, untouched scenery, white and endless sand beaches, bizarre rock formations, deep blue ocean and what is more, you will be the only person enjoying all this.
Playa Majagual is maybe San Juan’s most beautiful beach: the long stretched sandy bay is lined with green palm trees on one side and the blue ocean on the other. You will feel like in paradise or at least on a tropic island. It is far away from all the tourist hustle and bustle and all you encounter is quietness and natural beauty. It is definitely not a surf beach as it lies protected in a bay. For this reason it is a nice spot to get away from the surfer scene and have some time to let your mind wander. Waves are small and perfect for a swim. It is the ideal spot for some time for yourself or to spend a nice afternoon with your friends enjoying a cool beer you brought from Playa Maderas.
This wildlife refuge extends over 4.600 hectare and protects the onshore biodiversity as well as the marine flora and fauna. Beautiful, virgin beaches extend over 12 kilometer, inviting you for long walks, good surf sessions and impressive sunsets. It is also one of the best places to witness sea turtle arrivals, as it is a famous place for its turtle protection. Furthermore, the dry forest is one of the most important ones in Central America, where you will find 276 different species of fauna.
Listen to the howler monkeys, observe birds, spot dolphins in the sea or go on a horse riding tour along the coast. Chacocente is paradise in every senses and far away from the masses, you will feel like in paradise. The place even offers some decent surf, as it still lies in the offshore wind region of the Nicaragua lake. Of course, here it is far less crowded, but you should always keep in mind that you are surfing in an wildlife refuge. Also you will need to bring everything on your own, as you will find no restaurant or surf shop along the beach.
Updated: August 1, 2015