Nicaragua is pretty famous for its good waves, but there’s still some almost empty breaks to be discovered, especially in the North of the country. In the South, where lots of tourists travel to surf (area around San Juan del Sur and Popoyo), you will always pay extra on the chicken bus to bring along your surfboard. They can usually strap it on the roof. As bus fares are really cheap, the extra charge usually doesn’t hurt. Where there’s waves, you will usually find a place to rent boards. The further away from the classic tourist trail you are, the more you will pay for it, though. In the surf towns, it’s easy to find any kind of equipment or a shaper to fix dings.
There’s not really any surf in town, unless there’s a huge swell rolling your way. But even then, bear in mind that this is a fishing village and lanchas will always have the right of way. That being said, there’s lots of awesome spots nearby. Any hotel or shop will offer cheap transport. The town is known as a bit of a party place. We were there in low-season and it was chill. There’s a huge selection of hostels, restaurants, stores, etc.
The best known spot is Playa Maderas. It’s also the most crowded and did feel a bit dangerous sometimes, as there were lots of boards flying around uncontrolled. You might want to consider staying at the hostel there at the beach, so you can avoid the crowds and head in for an early morning sesh. Because it is considered the best break in the area.
Another option is heading to Playa Hermosa, our favorite in the area. A beautiful, huge white-sand beach with lots of breaks. You will probably share your wave with only a handful of people, or you might have it to yourself. The transport will include the entrance to the beach and the right to relax in the hotel’s hammocks and use of their facilities. There’s also lockers to put away your stuff – you just have to leave a deposit for the key.
We also went to Playa Remanso, another beach break. It’s a smaller bay than Hermosa and surfers therefore concentrate in the same two spots. It’s still not very crowded though. There’s a few bars/restaurants for refreshments. Don’t leave anything at the beach, our gallon of water and very used flip flops were stolen.
There is more spots, but we only went to these three.
We were not staying in the town of Popoyo, but on the other side of the river in Guasacate. There’s a good selection of hotels and hostels and a few restaurants, as well as two tiny stores for grocery. The beach itself is actually awesome for surfing. It’s the only break around here with sand bottom. If you cross the river (5min walk), there’s the famous Popoyo wave, which is actually two different waves. We didn’t surf it, as we didn’t have a good swell and the best waves were always right in front of our hotel at the beach break. A bit further along the beach (another 10 minutes), you will get to Beginner’s bay. A beautiful setting with impressive rocks and a very mellow wave. There’s a left-hand pointbreak that can get pretty massive with a good-size swell, but the wave is still very friendly. As you might guess, it’s a good spot for beginners, but also fun for intermediates. It’s rock bottom. If you keep walking, there’s more spots, but we never surfed them.
Playa Gigante is a pretty sleepy fishing village with increasing surf tourism. There’s not much else to do here but surf. There’s one hostel that rents surfboards. Other than that, you won’t find any equipment here. You can surf in the bay where the village is (careful with the lanchas, fishermen actually head out to fish here ;-)). It’s a beach- and reefbreak that is more exposed to the right and gets smaller to the left. If you wanna avoid the boats or there’s no waves, you can also walk ten minutes to the next bay, called Playa Amarillo. This beach break with a few rocks gets waves very consistently and you usually don’t have a lot of crowd.
Further along the coast (a 45 minutes walk) is the infamous Playa Colorado. We didn’t surf there, it was just too far a walk with our surfboards. But it is doable. It’s easier to reach during low-tide, so you can cross over to the next bay over the rocks by the sea and don’t have to do a detour through the woods.
Only a 20-minute ride from Leon, Las Peñitas is a good option if you don’t have much time and just wanna head out for a quick surf. There’s a few hostels and restaurants, but not much else. You can probably rent a surfboard in one of the hostels, not sure though. There’s no equipment to buy. There’s a lefthander right in front of the restaurant ‚Playa Roca‘ and there’s another beach break if you head left, that is less protected and holds quite a lot of swell. There’s rocks strewn around, so I’d recommend checking the spot out during low-tide before you head in.
This one is really off the beaten path. It’s a fishing village not yet very accustomed to tourism, especially not foreigners. You might want to dress a bit more conservatively when walking through town. Jiquilillo has an almost endless black sand beach with various breaks. We usually surfed right in front of our hotel ‚Rancho Esperanza‘. A few times we headed over to where (the very friendly) locals surfed, in the harbor. The wave can get quite hollow and we even saw some small barrels. But in the morning and evening, there’s lots of boat traffic, so you really have to watch out for the lanchas. If the swell is bigger than 5ft, the waves close-out.
Rancho Esperanza has a selection of boards to rent, not many shortboards though. Needless to say, there’s no surf shops or any place to buy equipment.