What Costa Rica was 15 years ago (before the gringos came and bought up all the land), Nicaragua is today—cheap, warm, beautiful, consistent and relatively empty. The icing on the cake is Lake Nicaragua, which produces daily offshore winds that groom the country’s reefs, points and beach breaks into glassy perfection. Nicaragua’s popularity as a surf destination is growing rapidly, and it isn’t hard to imagine the country getting “gringoed out” ala its southern neighbor. For now, however, the dream of empty, quality waves still exists, which means there has never been a better time to head to Central America.
The Surf: While lacking the celebrated big-name waves of neighboring Costa Rica, Nicaragua does have a plentitude of great setups, with the majority being beach breaks and reefs. In general, this region is appropriate for beginner to intermediate surfers.
Five Waves Worth Surfing:
- Colorados: Perhaps Nicaragua’s most celebrated wave, this river mouth beach break is known for perfectly groomed overhead barrels. While its popularity can result in crowds, access is pretty difficult unless you are staying right at the break, so empty morning sessions are possible.
- Punta Miramar: A left hand reef/point that is typically offshore all day, this point is surrounded by a number of other beach breaks and reefs, making the Miramar region a good home base.
- Santana: Another quality beach break setup, this is one of the more popular waves in the country, and crowds can sometimes be a factor. It’s quite consistent, though, and usually worth it.
- Puerto Sandino: A sand bottom left point breaking off of a river mouth, Sandino is one of the longest waves in the region, and boasts rides of up to 300 meters. Less crowded than many of Nicaragua’s well-known spots, this wave is somewhat of a swell magnet, but is also susceptible to bad wind conditions.
- Outer Reef/Popoyo: A left hand slab that handles size, this left requires boat access, and is arguably Nicaragua’s best big wave/heavy water spot.
The Water: Like many Central American countries, the water in Nicaragua is somewhat dirty in developed areas, but clean everywhere else. Water temps hover around 80 F (27 C), although strong offshores in the winter can drop surface temps in some locations.
The Season: May through August sees consistent south swells and light to moderate offshore winds, making this the best season to visit. However, fall and spring are typically less crowded, so it may be worth risking less consistent swells for empty lineups. Winter (December through February) is typically lacking in swell, windy as heck and relatively cold.
The Vibe: The local surf scene in Nicaragua is growing pretty rapidly, with both residents and tourists paddling out in droves. Although not as busy as some other Central American regions, the most popular spots in Nicaragua definitely suffer from crowd pressures. Choose where and when you surf wisely, and paddle out with a healthy dose of respect. You shouldn’t have any trouble getting your fair share of waves.
Things To Do: If the surf isn’t cooperating and you are looking for some alternative entertainment, you can always visit the beautiful Lake Nicaragua and thank her in person for making this country one of the most offshore surf destinations on the planet.
Where To Stay: Nicaragua is full of surf camps, surf resorts, surf hotels, surf hostels, surf shacks…if it involves sleeping near quality surf, they have it. Price varies depending on the quality of your accommodation, but there is something for virtually every budget.
What To Bring: A good beach break shortboard, and a step-up if you are looking to charge. Wax, leashes and other surf accessories. A tent if you plan on going feral and searching out less-populated stretches of coast for unsurfed/uncrowded waves. A windbreaker jacket.
Getting There: Managua is the main international airport, and sees frequent flights from the US East Coast, as well as southern hubs such as Houston and Atlanta. Tourist visas are not required for citizens of many countries (for more information visit: http://nicaragua.visahq.com.) Airport code: MGA.