Surfing in Nicaragua: Complete Guide for Best Breaks for All Levels

Plenty of surf to be had

Nicaragua is a surfer’s paradise. With a mix of private and public beaches along two coasts, the Pacific Coast and the Caribbean Coast, there’s plenty of surf to be had. The Pacific Coast is famous for its world class pointbreaks and beach breaks, making it a popular and well sought out surfer destination. Nicaragua’s remote Caribbean coast is secluded, lined with thick jungle, and a few attractive beaches, such as the Corn Islands.

The most popular surf spots in this part of Central America are located near San Juan del Sur, including Playa Maderas, but there are plenty of other spots for beginners and pros alike. If you travel north, spots like Playa Gigante and Popoyo offer decent breaks without much of a crowd.

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Best time of the year to surf in Nicaragua

The best time of the year to surf in Nicaragua is during the summer. Swells tend to peak in July and August bringing in the moderate Southwest to West offshore winds from the Caribbean that Nicaragua is known for. All-day offshore winds are a thing here that bless the southern shores of Nicaragua surf breaks pretty much all year long. The water is also warm during this time too at 27-28°C (or 80-82 degrees F).

Autumn has respectful swell as well with consistent offshore winds, although it can be rainy at times. If you’re lucky, this will keep the crowds away and you can snag a solid surf session in between those rainy days.  

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Best places to surf in Nicaragua

With tropical climates, warm water, and epic beach breaks, it’s easy to see why surfers head to the south-western coast of Nicaragua. Many consider this area to be the precious gem in Central America’s surfing crown, boasting untapped beaches and some of the most consistent offshore winds on the planet. Here are some of the best breaks in Nicaragua.

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Playa Hermosa

Playa Hermosa is one of Nicaragua’s best kept surfing secrets (shh) located south of the town of San Juan del Sur. Over one mile long, the waves here are beginner-friendly while also varied enough to keep the intermediate surfer content and feature numerous peaks, walls, and the occasional barrel. It’s a fun surf break for all levels and does need more of a swell than other spots to break.

Pros

  • Empty
  • Fun waves
  • Lots of peaks to explore

Cons

  • Requires a small day use fee

Skill level:

All levels; beginner-friendly

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Playa Colorado

Say hello to world class surfing at Playa Colorados. As this is a private beach, it’s only accessible via boat or to the guests and owners at the Hacienda Iguana Development, so it has remained untouched. There are many surf spots, including reef and sandbars up and down this section of coastline, that offer some of the most consistent left and right breaks in the area.

Playa Colorados benefits from clean offshore wind almost every day and offers consistent barreling conditions with the best surf typically located just on the north side to right in front of the river mouth.

Pros

  • Almost always perfect surfing conditions
  • Smooth barrel riding
  • Smaller crowds

Cons

  • Private beach; harder to access
  • Peak low tides can get drained out with nasty rip currents

Skill level: All levels

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Playa Maderas

This surf break is close to San Juan Del and hosts a fine A-frame wave with peeling rights and frothy lefts. It’s easy to get to and takes no more than 20 minutes to reach by motorbike. Maderas is primarily a sand bottom break, however there’s a little rock ledge at the southern end of the beach that produces hollow lefthanders when the waves are shoulder high or bigger and the tide is running out. Just remember that the more swell there is, the higher the tide needs to for Maderas to work, since dead low will render it borderline unrideable due to the rip currents.

It's a great wave to learn on and ride on bigger days when the Southeast swells go off, which aligns with Nicaragua’s wet season (May to October).

Pros

  • Fantastic A-frame wave for learners
  • Variety of surf camps and hotels
  • Good range of breaks to the south

Cons

  • Sometimes small
  • Can be a trickier wave to learn

Skill level: All levels; intermediate to advanced when the Southeast swells go off

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Playa Amarillo

Playa Amarillo has something to give everyone. It’s often uncrowded beach break that offers fun lefts and rights and is a fun wave to surf. It neighbors Playa Gigante and is a short walk from Room to Roam! You can choose from the south end of Playa Amarillo which has a few sand bottom peaks with lefts and rights and a shallow reef break at the far south end or the punchier north Amarillo.

Playa Amarillo is a great beach break with little to no crowd that’s enjoyable for all skill levels.

Pros

  • Beautiful, untouched beach break
  • Waves for all abilities
  • Easy to access

Cons

  • Reef break only functions on occasion with the right swell size

Skill level: All levels

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Popoyo

Popoyo is arguably Nicaragua’s most consistent reef break, if not break in general. It’s a point break that easily handles large surf (think 8-20 feet) and breaks on all tides and swells. Its main break is an A-frame with rippable left and right walls breaking over a rock shelf, making it Nicaragua’s best slab. This surf spot breaks on all tides and sizes, which is why it’s known as one of the best consistent breaks in the country. It also has over 300 days a year of offshore winds, making it a surfer’s dream.

Outer reef popoyo is a 5-minute paddle from the main break and pumps heavy. It’s suitable for experts only as it’s a pipeline-style offshore slab that’s sure to thrill professional surfers.

Beginner Bay is also nearby and is a rolling slopey wave that’s fun for beginners located on the south end of the beach.

Pros:

  • Ideal surfing conditions
  • Solid surf at all stages of the ride

Cons:

  • Rip currents/undertow
  • Rocks
  • Crowds

Skill level:

All levels; outer reef is a pipeline-style slab suitable for experts only.

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Playgrounds

Often compared to a warm-water Trestles in California, Playgrounds boasts nice lefts and rights, with the left being the longer wave. The name of this one gives it all away, it’s a really fun, rippable wave. This wave goes from around chest-high and holds up to double-overhead!

Pros:

  • Suitable for all skill levels
  • Long rides
  • Super fun

Cons:

  • Only accessible via boat

Watch out for rocks

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Manzanillo

This is a left point break situated in front of a luxury resort community, so it’s best accessed by boat. On its best days it may have three-barrel sections with a long rippable face to follow. You don’t need the best swell here to surf, just the right swell. Be aware that you should be in solid shape to surf here as this break will make you work for it.

Pros:

  • Barrels!
  • Super fun
  • Long rides

Cons:

  • Requires a lot of stamina
  • Exposed rocks at lower tides
  • Reef and sea urchins
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Lance’s Left

Lance’s left is a friend, long left-hand point break suited for all skill levels. Named after the famous boat Captain who manages to keep this spot secret, it’s a really fun wave offering a 500-meter ride on its best days.

You can access this gem by parking in El Astillero and walking over.

Pros:

  • Fun, friendly lefts
  • Long ride
  • Good for all skill levels

Cons:

  • Hot rocks
  • Sea urchins in the rocky shore break

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Panga Drops

What a solid wave you are panga drops. Located at the North end of Playa Colorado, this wave produces shifty lefts and rights and can hold swell size and be surfed at every day of the year. As it breaks pretty far out, you should know this is a deep-water break, which can shift pretty quickly.

Pros:

  • Holds every size swell
  • Good for all levels
  • Fun wave with little crowds

Cons:

  • Strong currents on the inside
  • Stingrays

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