Rumour has it that surf’s up in Southern Nicaragua (map) these days. Not found by the crowds just yet, warm water waves most of the year, and a coast line scattered with good surf spots. It’s where the off shore winds blow all day long and never badly influence the waves. The place of dust and dryness, the place of smiles and friendly faces. Sounds like the perfect spot for a week of eat, sleep, surf, repeat, right? The Southwest coast of Nicaragua is renowned for some of the best uncrowded surf breaks in Central America, so it’s time to shine some light on these gems!

Popoyo surf in Nicargua
Sunset at Playa Guasacate

General Southern Nicaragua surf info

The surf in Southern Nicaragua is good all day long, so be ready for multiple surf sessions a day. Regardless of swell direction, tide or swell size, there’s always a break working. Do bring your shorty on this surf trip, as the water can be freezing. Especially during sunrise and sunset sessions, a little summer suit isn’t a luxury. Southern Nicaragua has an abundance of surf spots ranging from hollow beach breaks, long point breaks to racey reef breaks, so every surfer can eat their heart out. Best time to visit is between April and October, with its prime months being between May and September. However, we went in March and had perfectly fun waves and some bigger swells as well.

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Playa Maderas

Playa Maderas is the beginner surf spot in Southern Nicaragua. The consistent beach break attracts a lot of people who are trying their first steps in the world of surfing. It works best with a Southern/South Western swell. Playa Maderas is probably the most crowded surf spot in Southern Nicaragua, so be aware of the flying foam boards and some fast moving locals. The place is easily accessible by car or foot depending on where you’re staying. There’s a few beach bars selling basic drinks and food. But if you’d like to have something good I would recommend going to Machete Market Cafe. Great coffee, good vibes and delicious food!

Waves at Playa Maderas Nicaragua
Playa Majagual in Nicaragua

Honestly, Playa Maderas wasn’t really my cup of tea. It might be the time of year (beginning of March), but the waves weren’t that inviting. Closing out and messy, plus a whole bunch of idiots having no idea what they were doing. While watching it for a day I lost count of the (almost) accidents happening here. I’m sure it can get amazing here as well, but honestly, there are better spots around.

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Balcones de Majagual

If I ever had to write a book, get something done without distractions or simply just want to escape reality I would book a trip straight to Balcones de Majagual. Up in the hills of Playa Maderas this gorgeous place is just pure tranquility. The Japanese inspired design of the houses is serious future house goals. There are several houses with space up to 8 people, which makes it the perfect spot for a surf trip with friends. The beds are super comfy, the kitchens are well equipped with basically anything you can think of, there’s a bbq on your outdoor terrace overlooking the Pacific and an infinity pool to cool down in. Need anything else? We guess not!

We do have to warn you. A reoccurring pattern in our quest for beautiful destinations seems to be those difficult dirt roads, which often require a 4×4. Balcones de Majagual is no exception in this and a 4×4 is not just a luxury, but needed (unless you love to carry your bags up a 70% incline hill).

Sunset view from the terrace at Balcones de Majagual Nicaragua
Sunset at Playa Guasacate

Playa Manzanillo

Manzanillo is a fickle left hand reef point break that might be one of the hidden gems of Southern Nicaragua. The swell does need to be big enough and coming from the South-West in order for it to wrap into the bay, but if it does it might just become your favourite wave in the area. On its best days it can offer three barrel sections and a long ripable face to follow. Manzanillo works best on mid tide.
Only accessible by boat or if you feel like splurging by staying at the 5 star location Mukul.

Playa Colorado

Playa Colorado is a river mouth break that mostly goes left, and occasionally right. The wave is known for its big barrels and becomes better once the swell gets bigger. You won’t be the only one chasing barrels however, as the wave is getting more popular and known. Playa Colorado works on all tides (preferably South-West swells), giving it a different character depending on your moment of paddle out. In general it’s a powerful and consistent wave, hollow, racey and ripable, waiting for you to give you the barrel of your life.

Barrel wave at Playa Colorado Nicaragua
Surfer at Panga Drops at Playa Colorado in Nicaragua

Panga Drops

In case you wanna ditch the crowds, you might want to check out Panga Drops, at the Northern end of Playa Colorado. It is definitely not as consistent as Playa Colorado, but definitely worth keeping an eye on, on busy days. Playa Colorado is a private beach and is accessible either by boat, walking from Playa Gigante or if you stay in the community of Hacienda Iguana.

Playa Santana

If you like your barrels then Playa Santana is where you wanna go. Even if you don’t want to get barreled, this is where you will get barreled, so the locals say. This A-frame beach break wave turns on at mid till high tide, and keeps on working till outgoing mid tide, more or less. Even though it can be a powerful, punchy wave, the spot is suitable for both intermediates and more advanced surfers. Playa Santana is accessible by foot, car and boat.

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Playa Santana in Nicaragua

Malibu Popoyo

Located between Playa Santana and Popoyo you can find one of my all time favourite surf hideouts; Malibu Popoyo. Ideally my holiday would look something like that famous eat, sleep, surf, repeat, and that’s exactly how you roll at Malibu Popoyo. Waking up in a comfy bed, twice a day surf sessions with a surf guide, delicious food (oh, how I miss their breakfasts), napping by the pool, watching the sunset on the beach with a cocktail in my hand. Pure happiness. The spacious rooms with king size beds and rain showers are literally all you need after a day spent in the ocean.

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Swimming pool at Malibu Popoyo Nicaragua
Surfing at Popoyo Nicaragua

Surf at Malibu Popoyo

As for the surf, Jared is your guy. Whether you’ve never surfed before, or like your waves gnarly and barreling, this guy knows where to take you. Staying at Malibu Popoyo includes daily surf trips, so whatever wave you are looking for, Jared will bring you there. Because of the amazing collection of rental surfboards at Malibu Popoyo you can travel light and pick your HyptoKrypto, Mayhem or Slater Design on the spot and even swap boards depending on the conditions.

Popoyo

The beach of Popoyo has several breaks for different levels, but the main draw of this place is the Popoyo main break. A world class, always working, beach break with picture perfect A-frames. Lefthanders, righthanders; this wave is spilling goodness all day long.
About 200m left from the main break, towards Playa Santana and Magnific Rock, there’s a more friendly beginner break. Or if you feel like Popoyo’s main break got nothing on you, you can always give The Beast/The Outer Reef a try. A monstrous wave that only the best expert surfers can handle. Even from a distance this wave was intimidating.

Surfers at Popoyo beach in Nicaragua
Fina Popoyo beach bar in Nicaragua

Make sure to grab some sundowners at Finca Popoyo, a beach bar overlooking the main break and The Beast. Stunning sunset views and frozen cold beers guaranteed.
Popoyo is accessible by car, foot or boat, depending on where you’re staying.

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Playa Guasacate

Playa Guasacate is your perfect hangout if you wanna surf every day without too much effort. No need for boat trips if you don’t feel like it, no need for cars or motorbikes to get to the spot, everything you need is on walking distance. There’s the river mouth spot for beginners/intermediates which works best on mid to high tide.
And then there is Popoyo’s main break. A two minute walk (and a little swim through the river with high tide) from your bed and you’re on one of the best surf spots of Nicaragua.

Surfers at Playa Guasacate Nicaragua
Two Ten Surf accommodation in Playa Guasacate Nicaragua

We stayed at Booking twoten, which is a brand new place with little houses as close to the Popoyo surf spot as you can get. You got your own little kitchen, hammocks swaying in the wind, and the sound of the waves as background music. Basically anything you need without breaking the bank.

Just down the road you can find The S’cool Yard and Club Surf Popoyo, our two favourite food spots in town. The S’cool Yard is a laid back bar with a skate ramp and some seriously good burgers and Asian fare. It reminded us a bit of Pretty Poison in Bali, but then without the hype. Club Surf Popoyo is your not so standard Italian restaurant. Really, really, yummy pizzas, pastas and tiramisu. Their seafood tagliatelle is so full of flavour and comes with crunchy focaccia, a dish I could seriously consider eating every day.

Playgrounds

Playgrounds is living up to its name; a fun and playful wave suitable for both intermediates and advanced surfers. It’s a reef break and offers some of the best ripable waves of Nicaragua. The wave mostly breaks left, but can have some short right-handers as well. Playgrounds is only accessible either by boat.

Surfer at Playgrounds Nicaragua
Surfer at Lance's Left Nicaragua

Lance's Left

This break works best during low to mid tide and can hold some very long lefts. It does need a bit of swell in order to hold the almost 300-500m rides. However, Lance’s Left is a fun, consistent, break for all skill levels and does break on almost all swell sizes.
Accessible by boat or if you walk around the point of Playa Astillero during low tide. Be aware of petty theft here, so don’t leave anything at the beach.

Bring on the Nicaragua surf days

This was our first visit to Nicaragua, but definitely not our last. We loved the rawness of the landscapes, the little dusty towns, the endless stretches of coastline, the constant waves, the friendliness of the people. It’s a whole lot cheaper than Costa Rica as well, which makes it a more budget friendly option or just a reason to extend your holiday a little longer. Even though planning a surf trip isn’t what it’s used to be these days, we wouldn’t waste a second doubting on a trip to surf in Nicaragua. So, see you when we can Nica waves!

Love,
Marthe

Recap

Do you rather look at images than reading stories? No worries, we have a short recap of everything you need to know below.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Nicaragua for surfing is between April and October

Our hotel picks

If you are on a bit of a budget TwoTen Surf home is your best pick, but if you wanna go for proper holiday vibes than Malibu Popoyo and Balcones de Majagual is where you wanna go.

Currency

Nicaraguan Cordobas or US Dollars.

Water temperature

Between 24ºC or 75ºF in January/February to 29ºC or 84ºF in June - October.

Best surf spots

Beginners: Playa Maderas or Magnific Rock
Intermediates: Playa Popoyo, Lance's Left
Advanced: Playa Popoyo, Playa Colorado, Playa Santana, Manzanillo.

Weather

An almost always steady 28 ºC or 82ºF.
Dry Season: December - April
Rainy Season: May - November

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