The old saying, “You should have been here yesterday”, doesn’t really carry much weight in Nicaragua.
The reason being that this Central American country, with more than 350 km of Pacific coastline, warm waters, slabby beach breaks and winds that blow offshore 300 plus days of the year, is one of the most consistent surfing destinations in the world.
Heck, it may even be the most consistent country for waves, with plenty of swell hitting its shores from April all the way up until the end of November.
Nicaragua is also incredibly easy to get to from America and Europe, with flights leaving The States, Canada, Paris, Portugal and Spain regularly.
This accessibility means that flying to Nicaragua to escape the cold over Christmas time has become a ritual for many surf mad US and Canadian citizens.
Needless to say, the ‘Land of Lakes and Volcanoes’ is a popular destination for travellers and surfers from all over the world. Despite its reputation as a backpackers paradise though, Nicaragua has managed to stay affordable.
A cold can of beer at a beachside bar will set you back a paltry $2 in the main tourist town of San Juan Del Sur while a 1 L bottle of the country’s naughty water, Flor de Caña, costs only $5 (about as expensive as it gets).
The food is delicious and Nicaragua’s village and city markets are often overflowing with a fantastic selection of local produce and freshly caught fish.
There’s even a great selection of accommodation options on offer, ranging from cheap as chips bed in a hostel dorm room for $10 a night to the more luxurious and suitably pricier boutique resorts that’ll charge you a small fortune for a sleepover.
All things considered, there are worse places you could visit.
Luck out and you’ll surf more decent waves during a two-week stay in Nicaragua than you would in a whole year at your local.
Time it when that part of Pacific goes uncharacteristically flat and you’ll still get to enjoy beautiful sunsets, water that rarely drops below 25°C, cheap food and drinks plus a lifestyle that’ll have your heart rate resting at around seven beats per minute.
Don’t believe me?
Check out our list of the top 5 best surf spots in Nicaragua and see for yourself why both neophytes and pros alike accumulate a little drool in the corner of their mouth whenever they hear somebody mention the swell blessed and sun kissed land of lakes and volcanoes.
Playa Maderas is one of the closest surf breaks to the charming little fishing village slash party town of San Juan Del Sur, with shuttle services running people to and from here a few times a day.
It’s super easy to get to and takes no more than 20 minutes to reach by motorbike. This does mean it’s susceptible to crowds when it gets good though, with plenty of local rippers and gimlet-eyed gringos alike all jostling for a wave in a pretty condensed takeoff zone
Maderas is primarily a sand bottom break, however there’s a little rock ledge at the southern end of the beach that produces hollow lefthanders when the waves are shoulder high or bigger and the tide is running out.
Just remember that the more swell there is, the higher the tide needs for Maderas to work, since dead low will render it borderline unrideable due to rips.
On an average day out at Maderas you’ll be treated to playful little runners and maybe even a couple of head dips. Manage to score it when it’s pumping though and you can expect some short but fun barrels and punchy three-to-the-beach walls.
Maderas is suited to surfers of both intermediate and advanced skill levels, whereas beginners might find it a little challenging to get out the back. That being said there is a little restaurant on the beach where you can rent a board if you’re feeling plucky.
The Boom is located in the north of Nicaragua, approximately 45 minutes northwest from the city of Chinandega.
This is far and away from any major gringo tourist hotspots, meaning it stays relatively quiet in terms of crowds all year round.
Given its remoteness, The Boom is best accessed by staying at a surf camp or homestay accommodation in the area. Some of the more popular options are ThunderBomb Surf Camp and Joe’s Place.
The Boom is a sand bottom beachie that’s known for being one of the hollowest waves in Nicaragua.
It also breaks close to shore, meaning it takes only a few strokes to get out the back. The drawback here is that the rides are short, but better a quick and intense wave than a long and lacklustre one, right?
Mid tide going low with swell that’s shoulder high or bigger will see you exiting the water some time later with an acute case of barrelitis.
Manage to time it when it’s really good and you’ll never want to leave, since all it really takes to get pitted is for you to take off, set your line and stall a little.
Waves at the The Boom detonate virtually on the shore so when it’s big it can be rather heavy.
This makes it more suited to advanced surfers, however intermediates may also find it the perfect spot to refine their barrel riding technique when it’s smaller.
Just try not to get pitched headfirst if possible, because that bottom can feel more like concrete than sand if it’s solid.
Don’t neglect to take a couple of extra boards or at least a backup either.
Plenty of surfers make the trip to Nicaragua just to surf Playa Colorado, located 2.5 hours drive from Managua and just over 1 hour north of San Juan del Sur.
That’s because this picturesque stretch of white sand hosts some of, if not the best waves in Nicaragua. Essentially, it’s where you go when you want to get tubed off your head.
The flipside of having barrels on tap though is that Colorado is actually a private beach, meaning it can only be accessed by boat or panga, by trekking 20 minutes through unforgiving scrub or by forking out the dough to stay at the Hacienda Iguana Resort.
Still, it’s worth the effort when it’s good. And good it gets.
There’s a surfable wave on most tides as long as there’s swell and its possible to sit in the lineup with next to no one else on a quiet day.
Like The Boom, Playa Colorado can get pretty tricky on the mid to low tide with headhigh plus surf.
A steep take off that doesn’t leave much room for a drawn out bottom turn coupled with stiff offshore winds makes it all too easy to get hung up on the lip.
Consequently, this is where most surfers come unstuck. The result is a severe body slam that’s exacerbated by a guillotine like lip and in some cases, a snapped board.
Intermediate and advanced surfers will have a ball here once they get it wired, but don’t feel too embarrassed if you find yourself cartwheeling from the lip on your first few waves.
Popoyo is a small beach in the Tola Municipality, located a few clicks north of Playa Colorado.
It’s quaint and charming and many travellers tend to come here once they’ve had enough of partying in San Juan Del Sur.
There are a few local restaurants, homestays, Airbnbs and hostels, however the real drawcard is the fact Popoyo offers up a couple of solid surfing options.
The first of these is Playa Popoyo – a sand bottom beachie that’s perfect for beginners right up to advanced surfers looking to wet their rails.
There are channels that run either side of the main takeoff zone which makes paddling out a breeze, plus it can hold a fair amount of swell, so you’re all but guaranteed to score some decent rides during your time there.
The waves are super playful on a good day and it’s not uncommon to catch a couple that allow for more than three turns all the way to the shore.
But Playa Popoyo does indeed get crowded… even by Nicaraguan standards.
Luckily though you can always paddle out to the often-daunting but sometimes-epic Outer Reef when you get sick of hustling for sets and want to surf a lefthander with a bit of grunt.
The Outer Reef, as you may have guessed, is a near exposed slab of barnacle incrusted rocks and other underwater unmentionables that peaks and heaves just off Playa Sardina.
It can easily hold swell that’s double overhead and is what is known as a wave of consequence.
It isn’t particularly technical mind you, but scooping into a bomb at the Outer Reef requires a fair amount of courage. A stand tall cover up isn’t out of the question if you do manage to wrangle a good one.
It nearly goes without saying then that the Outer Reef is more suited to advanced surfers with prior experiencing negotiating the many intricacies of a reef break, which includes constantly accounting for the current so you don’t end up wearing the biggest set of the day on the top of your head, among other hazards.
Playa El Yankee
Playa El Yankee is about 35 minutes south of San Juan Del Sur by car or bike.
Many of those who head in this direction looking for surf tend to opt for Playa Hermosa instead, which means El Yankee is still somewhat uncrowded, although there’s no doubt its becoming more and more popular with locals looking to escape the throngs of floundering gringos found at Playa Hermosa and Remanso.
With barren and rocky hills that fall sharply towards the sand and only one dilapidated beach shack to be seen from the water, surfing Playa El Yankee often feels like you’re far from civilisation, making it an idyllic little spot for surfers with an adventurous streak.
The waves have the potential to offer up a few different peaks when it gets good, however Playa El Yankee is best known for the wedgy lefthander that breaks at the southern end of the beach.
This wedge picks up even the smallest swell and like all wedges, has the ability to slingshot you from the take off, meaning your first turn is often your best one.
It’s not a particularly long ride but its novelty ensures good times and a tonne of fun when it’s on.
Speaking of, for Playa El Yankee to fire it needs a solid headhigh plus swell and an outgoing tide.
If you rock up when there’s not much water you may snag a couple of barrels, although this’ll require some very aggressive stalling given the way wedges work and the amount of speed you’ll generate from the takeoff.
It’s a great wave to test your mettle on though and one of the best spots to check when everywhere else looks ok but for whatever reason doesn’t seem to be doing it.
Just make sure to take some water and a little food with you, since you won’t find any cafes or restaurants in close proximity.
Which may just be one of the best things about surfing there.