Surf Nicaragua! The complete, essential guide to budget surfing trips



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Nicaragua’s beautiful beaches are perfect for surfing, but what do you need to know before you go? Weather, budget, accommodation, transport, surf lessons, what to eat and drink, and other fun activities? We’ve got it all right here

When to go to Nicaragua

Close-up of man surfing — Getty ImagesDecide when to go to Nicaragua based on how much surfing experience you have — Getty Images

Deciding when to go depends on what you’re looking for and your level. More experienced surfers tend to look for the wet season, April to September, as this means two things: firstly, the swells are higher, and secondly, it’s not tourist season, so prices may well be lower than at other times of the year.

If you’re just starting out or have less experience, November to April is the best time for you to visit Nicaragua. The waves are milder, the weather is warmer, and this means that if you need to take a break from the water, there’s more chance of nice weather in which to do other things.

Budget for Nicaragua

Let’s break down a basic budget (in US dollars) for a low-cost surf break.

Hostel: $7 — $30 per night

There’s a massive range of places to stay (some of which we’ll look at later), but for a budget trip, there are plenty of hostel options.

Board hire: $10 — $20 per day

Many places will also rent out boards for seven days while you only pay for six. Inexperienced surfers beware, however — virtually everywhere operates a completely understandable “you break it, you buy it” rule, so don’t try anything too extreme early on!

Meal in a local restaurant: $5

You can find great locally sourced seafood, as well as staples like rice and beans and treats such as donuts, wherever you go.

Local beer: $1.30

After a day on the waves, grab yourself a cold bottle of Toña and relax on the beach.

Surf camp: $15 — $270 per day

If you’d prefer to get a package deal, there are surf camps that will set you up with the whole lot — accommodation, board hire, meals and so on — for a single, set price. Depending on location and what the camp offers as extras (yoga, a gym, food, drinks, excursions, etc.) prices vary wildly, but you can usually choose exactly what you want out of your camp, so there’s something to suit every travel time and wallet. Again, we’ll look at this in-depth later.

The best beaches in Nicaragua

Playa Maderas

Surfboards on sand at Playa Maderas — Getty ImagesPlaya Maderas offers a challenge to more seasoned surfers — Getty Images

Around 20 minutes by shuttle bus from the party town of San Juan del Sur, Maderas can get busy, but with good reason. Intermediate to advanced surfers come here for the challenge, although beginners might find it a touch too aggressive. Change your mind, though, and there’s a restaurant on the beach that also rents boards.

Playa Aserradores

Located in El Viejo, northeast of Chinandega, this beach is known for its black, volcanic sand and a wave known as El Boom, one of the hollowest waves in the country that breaks close to the shore. It’s a short ride, but intense enough for most!

Playa Popoyo

View over Playa Popoyo — Getty ImagesPlaya Popoyo is great for all surfers, beginner or otherwise — Getty Images

One of the most popular beaches in Central America, Popoyo is great for everyone, from beginners to advanced surfers. Channels to either side of the central swell zone make it easy to paddle out, and the decent swell means a fun ride back to the shore.

Those looking for a real challenge, however, can head to the Outer Reef for some of the heaviest waves and technical challenges anywhere in Central America. Recommended for the pros only.

El Yankee

The popular Playa Hermosa is nearby, but for those feeling adventurous, El Yankee is the place to be. Surrounded by rocky hills and barren shacks, the whole place feels forgotten about, and is known for a fun left-hand wave that guarantees a short but exciting ride. Just remember to bring food and water with you because, as mentioned, there’s nothing there. Might make a change though, right?

Puerto Sandino

Group of people sat on beach at Puerto Sandino at sunset — Getty ImagesPuerto Sandino is where you’ll find the longest waves in the country — Getty Images

Home to the longest waves in Nicaragua — up to 500 meters — you’ll be based in Miramar, around 15 minutes from the town of Puerto Sandino and south of the city of León, the second largest in the country.

Surf lessons for beginners in Nicaragua

Woman with surfboard on beach — Getty ImagesIf you need lessons in surfing, staying at a camp is the way to go — Getty Images

If you are a beginner and you’re looking for some guidance, a surf camp might be a good idea. Not only will you receive lessons, but you’ll also get to meet people doing the same thing as you. You’ll make new friends, socialize and improve together. It’s always easier when you’re starting out to find someone of your level — you can fall off and be embarrassed together!

If you’re going it alone, lessons cost around $30 — $40 for a two-hour session, and generally include the board for the rest of the day so you can improve on what you’ve learned.

Where to stay in Nicaragua

Surf camps

At the budget end of the surf camp range, you’ll find places like SOLID Surf Camp Nicaragua. A bed in a dorm room costs $15 per night, but you can add extras like meals, activities, board rental, and free drinks during happy hour. The nice thing about this is, when you book, you know exactly what you’re getting for how much, and you can also help the local community by joining one of the camp’s volunteer programs.

Rapture, near Playa Maderas, is slightly more, with dorms from around $40 a night and private rooms for two people costing $120 a night. This includes shuttles to other nearby beaches and evening parties in beautiful surroundings.

The Popoyo Surf Lodge ramps things up further, with rates based on number of people. From $270 per night for one person to $170 per person per night for a group of four, this price includes everything you could want: airport transfers, three meals a day, unlimited surf sessions, visits to local hot springs, boat trips, parties, and excursions to the surrounding countryside.


If you prefer to stay in a regular hostel, you’ll find plenty of options as well. The surfer’s favorite, San Juan del Sur, has scores of hostels available, with dorms from around $10 per night and private rooms hovering around the $30 mark.

If you’d prefer to base yourself in a city and travel to the coast each day, dorms in hostels in León can be found for as little as $7, heading to $25 for a private room.

Transportation in Nicaragua

Bus in rural Nicaragua — Getty Images Transport in Nicaragua is cheap and geared up for tourists heading to the waves — Getty Images

If you’re staying at a surf camp, you might find that airport transfers are included in the price. If not — and assuming you arrive in Managua, the capital — there are coaches to the northern Pacific coast that take around two and a half hours at a cost of around $15. Bear in mind that these only depart three times a week or so, so you’ll either need to time your arrival well or amuse yourself in Managua for a day or two. That shouldn’t be a problem, though!

If you’re heading to the south, local buses to San Juan del Sur take approximately three hours at a cost of around $2.

The Atlantic coast is less popular with surfers, but there are waves to be found on the Corn Islands. It’s eight and a bit hours by bus, then a 10-hour ferry ride for around $20, all in.

Other activities in Nicaragua

Woman on beach with snorkel — Getty ImagesThere are lots of other water-based activities to try in Nicaragua — Getty Images

As mentioned above, if you stay on a surf camp, there’ll probably be plenty of extra-curricular activities available to you, either as part of the package or as optional extras.

Boat trips are almost always an option, with either half-day or full-day programs often including paddleboarding, fishing, snorkeling and the like. If it isn’t included — or you’re looking for a private boat trip — expect to pay around $25 for a half day and $40 for a full day.

Come evening, you’ll probably spend a lot of time at beach bars getting to know the other people who’ve come to experience the country. It’s not generally a place for wild, all-night parties; more to chill out with a drink, chat, listen to music, and watch the sun go down over the waves.

Rainforst dirt path in Nicaragua — Getty ImagesNicaragua’s vast rainforests are just begging to be explored — Getty Images

If you’d prefer to head inland, there are a number of companies now specializing in trips to explore the rainforests of the country’s interior. From single-day trips to week-long adventures, you’ll see wetlands and jungle, marshes and mountains, as well as some of the indigenous wildlife such as parakeets, eagles, monkeys, crocodiles, and maybe even pumas, jaguars and ocelots.

That’s the essential guide to surfing in Nicaragua! However you choose to experience it, it’ll be something you’ll never forget.

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