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Enjoying the Simple Life in El Gigante

Thoughts Put into Words by Ashley Turevon

A small fishing surf pueblo located just over an hour north of San Juan Del Sur, El Gigante, Nicaragua has proven to be one of those hidden travel gems. Perhaps not as well known as many of the other coastal surf towns, but for those in the know, this is the surfing spot to be. The town is aptly named “big foot”, when translated from Spanish, to describe the giant foot hills that locals believe to look like giant’s feet. There is a natural ease here in the way land meets sea, and perhaps a complete reflection of the ideology of how one lives life here. 

In setting the scene and entering into town, you are greeted by a newly installed colorful sign that reads Playa Gigante, maybe to match the colorful attitudes of the locals that I believe may have been surfing long before they could even walk. Off of the main road, the town makes way for dirt roads, roaming pigs, classic cars, and roof hatched structures called “palapas”. Friendly faces are everywhere, and a sense of community is strong here, as the town is home to less than 1,000 people. Not only have I been adopted by various street dogs, but by the local children as well, who continue to prove to reach new levels of sassiness that motivates you even more to work on your Spanish as you want to be included in the local jokes here that keeps you on your toes. While being used to the sort of overt individualism that runs rampant in the states, one usually finding it normal for passersby to keep their heads down and hellos to themselves, I believe it to be a sort of insult here if you don’t say hi to your neighbors as you walk around town. Sun-kissed and over tanned with radiating rays of gratitude for the simple life, I find it hard to believe that I’ve found a place even more laid back than island life, but alas it exists right here in El Gigante.

In crossing the street, running parallel to the main road, one is greeted with the main strip of beach, Playa Gigante. The playa is lined with beach bars, colorful panga boats, and around sunset you’ll catch the locals participating in their daily game of football. Not only do the humans run to catch the sunset, but I catch about every local dog out there enjoying the waves too. It is the perfect spot for a swim or a kayak as the waves tend to stay a bit smaller on this section of the coast. And when I begin to tell you that the sunsets here are incredible, somehow even that is an understatement. I honestly felt a bit emotional during my first sunset here, captivated by the changing golden orange and pink colors and even the clouds seemed to have this grandiose painted feeling. In that moment, the sky had gifted me with the best present, presence.

In walking further down Playa Gigante, you’ll find at the south end there is a trail that leads to the top of said “giant’s foot”. About a 20 min hike to the top, the trail starts gradual and then becomes a bit steeper, so be prepared to do a little bit of climbing up over rocks. Once at the top, you are met with such a quiet serenity and views of neighboring bays. It was a welcomed silence that just as the water reflects a deep blue, you are almost encouraged to close your eyes and sit with the deepest parts of you.

About a 10-15 min walk from the main strip of town, naturally down a dirt road lined with lush trees and farm animals, Playa Amarillo is the popular surf spot and perfect for all levels. Mid-day surfs become a sort of social scene to catch up with friends, and is another great way to meet people if you are new in town. The waves are consistent and so are the familiar faces, always laughing and providing a source of encouragement, which is so helpful especially for a newbie surfer like me. Not only is this playa great for surfing, but as the sun starts to set, it’s a cozy spot to look at the stars and have a bonfire with friends.

Just around the corner from Playa Amarillo, is Playa Colorados which is usually a destined spot for the more experienced surfer, finding the swells to be even larger there. You can continue down the dirt road past Amarillo to get there, or be careful in walking over the rocks around the corner at the north end of the playa.

But honestly, the most amazing part about this town is, I feel like in traveling, you automatically leave some time, or expect this transition period of settling. That you plan to allow space for yourself to arrive at a place, not just in your physical body, but most importantly, mentally. El Gigante was different. Immediately on waking up on my first morning here, I was gifted with a sensation I’m not always used to: feeling right at home. It was like my entire travel experience had just taken one long exhale. There was suddenly no pressure to be anything less than completely authentic. There was no need for makeup, no need for fancy clothes, heck, no need for even shoes (I have since begun to wear shoes here at least a small portion of the day, finding my own personal limit at having crusty mud in between my toes). And amazingly enough, there was no question of even imagining myself that I should be anywhere else in the world. It was completely accepted that this place is exactly where I am supposed to be. I am allowed to just be. Any doubt of self that held previously in my mind seemed to just vanish, like the singular driftwood that gets carried away out into the vast ocean abyss that only can be understood as ones expansive consciousness. And I find a strong sense of empowerment here, with my schedule being dedicated to only doing the things that bring me joy and peace. I am not on anyone else’s time. My own pace and maybe perhaps the suns as well. I arise early to find comfort in my morning routine, I wind down when the sun sets. And I take the rainy days as a further excuse to rest. 

Friends have asked with a town so small if I ever find myself bored, and in all veracity, no. When I am not teaching yoga, or working on surfing, or reading, writing, practicing Spanish, my time is filled with contentment. I don’t have to be constantly doing something to be filled with a sort of interest for life and my surroundings. For myself personally, I believe that to be the destination of one’s personal journey. Life has proven over and over again that if that is the one goal I am chasing, a sort of bliss, life will not steer me wrong.

And as easy as it is to find yourself in solitude and moments of reflection, if that is the sort of experience you are looking for here, don’t let the slow pace fool you. When it’s time for a party, there ain’t no party like a Nica party cause the Nica party don’t stop. I’ve witnessed the kids out dance me many times. Or have personally fallen prey to setting a time boundary of being home by 10pm, but somehow salsa’d my way into the early morning hours. Life is what you make it, and you can find your slice of how you like to embody it anywhere you go.

So if you’re ready, for even just a moment, to take a break from the rat race, the shoulds, the comparison, and embody the simple things, then what are you waiting for? As we watch the world become even more digital, more consumed with advancement at any cost, it is even more important than ever to protect these special spots in the world that hold connection, nature, and ease at the top of its priorities. I consider it a gift that life has led me here. I also consider it a gift, the ability to travel at such a slow pace. When you spend such a lengthened amount of time in one spot, in various places all over the world, you really begin to understand different perspectives and the needs that are not like your own. And I will not waste time in learning from and giving to such a beautiful place in this world. Sometimes you are given just a singular window for impact, and you must be ready to show up with the same enthusiasm that sparked the wondering and questioning in the first place.