Surfing Central America: Nicaragua – Part 1

In search of the Endless Summer…

In 1966 The Endless Summer documentary, followed two surfers on an around-the-world surfing adventure in search of ‘The Perfect Wave’. World renowned surf locations featured including California, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa.

The film excited, and captured the interest of surfers around the world. Especially so for those with a desire to chase the sun as part of the surf-and-travel culture. The waves don’t move on from classic surf locations, but new surfing breaks (or secret surf spots), are now found more easily so the surfing adventure continues.

Central American Surfing

A few locations gaining popularity amongst the pro’s and amateurs alike, are found along the coastline of Central America. In particular Nicaragua, El Salvador and Panama are becoming big names for the surfing tourism industry. Even better, these surf locations also offer beaches for non-surfing activities, plenty of natural attractions, festivals and ecotourism as well. Here is Part 1 on Nicaragua, read Part 2: El Salvador and Part 3: Panama that form our Surfing Central America series.


Given “Nica” borders with the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, there is plenty of beach loving lifestyle available year-round. Nicaragua is particularly well known for offering some of the best ‘all-levels’ surf locations in Latin America, whilst also remaining uncrowded and very affordable. The crystal clear and warm waters off the west coast are a big draw card for any beach bum.

When to go

Skilled: May to November is wet season and winds are less predictable and swell is constant and forceful allowing the pro’s plenty of opportunities to demonstrate their skill.

Learners: December to April is the dry season, offshore winds are more reliable and therefore beaches are more mellow in general. Try to avoid a full moon, as it’s very influential on the tide.

Where to go surfing

San Juan del Sur – a well known popular surf break in Nicaragua. There are however, other surf locations that are worthy of a mention, mostly on the west coast where the Pacific Ocean rolls in the surf.

Playa Maderas – Apparently good wind conditions prevail as Lake Managua allows Caribbean Sea breezes to blow right over the west coast. Surf schools keep this place popular with tourists, but it’s still an ideal location for locals and experienced surfers and requires a short, cheap shuttle from San Juan del Sur.

Popoyo – for any surfer, the inner reef at Popoyo can be a scary place with coral reef, and urchins lurking in the shallows, but still, the skilled manage. The outer reef is for the skilled and crazy with swell reaching over 7ft (2m). You need to be fairly comfortable with the tide and the waves that break at Popoyo. Perhaps Popoyo is best served with popcorn, and a beach chair.

Playa Colorada – don’t forget your golf clubs and your affluent accent when you sashay into Play Colorado, popular with rich Americans splashing cash around. Of course, the tourists don’t affect the swell, and with sandbanks providing ideal surf breaks, experienced surfers are kept busy all-day long. Playa Gigante just 30minutes walk down the road, or a quick panga ride away (a local boat), is a far more local, authentic Nicaragua and offers cheaper accommodation.

Panga Drops – close by to both Playa Gigante and Playa Colorado, Panga Drops can have strong riptides and heavy swell. As a result, it is uncrowded, but can get popular when surf conditions relax and swell is smaller.

Lance’s Left – You need to access Lance’s Left by boat or by hiking from Astillero, north of Popoyo. It’s rocky, but sheltered from strong offshore breezes so waves and so waves tend to be rolling in barrels, perfect for long rides. Uncrowded, for a short time only, surf at it’s best.

The Boom – It’s known for being exactly what ‘gnarly’ stands for. On the coast of Chinandega, it’s popular with surfer pro’s. Surf conditions are most ideal in the morning, and the rest of the day might have you chilling on cocktails and reading books on the beach as the offshore winds taper off for less ideal surf conditions.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Nicaragua! Read Part 2 on El Salvador and Part 3 on Panama that form our Surfing Central America series.

For more trips ideas, thoughts or insights before booking your next vacation, talk to a Merit Travel Consultant first.

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