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Mexico and Costa Rica get most of the tourist traffic in Central America, particularly for surfing, but it’s nearby Nicaragua that offers some of the most affordable options for the surf traveller. Getting there isn’t quite as easy as flying to San Jose or Cancun, and transport within the country can be a little sketchy at times, but once you give into its shakier side you’ll find a country rich with reasons to fall in love with it.

Of course, one of the main draws to Nicaragua is its perfect surf beaches in the South. The stretches of coast around San Juan del Sur offer breaks that rival anywhere else in Central America. Added to that is it’s extremely affordable daily living expenses, great weather and plenty of other activities to make a leading surf destination in its own right. If you’ve got two weeks of holiday to spare this year, this trip comes as highly recommended.

Surfing in Nicaragua Video:

[part title="There Are So Many Beaches"]

The Pacific Coast of Nicaragua boasts top class surfing, with a great selection within 10km of the tourist hub of San Juan del Sur. All beaches can be easily be reached from San Juan – there are very regular surf busses from town.

One of the most popular surf beaches in the south in Playa Madera – a good spot for beginners and advanced surfers. Because of the nearby Lago de Nicaragua, there are 300+ days a year of off shore winds, meaning you can catch good waves daily.

Slightly further to the North is the Popoyo Surf Zone – a 10km long stretch of beaches with 10+ nearby rights and lefts. For more information, check out popoyasurfzone.com.

Map - Managua to Popoyo Surf Zone:

View Nicaragua's Popoyo Surf Zone in a larger map

[part title="San Juan del Sur Rocks"]

San Juan has a reputation for being a chilled out spot. The bay makes its breaks considerably calm – more like the French Riveira than Southern California; you’re more likely to see a Nica family than a surfer here. Brightly coloured houses give the town a unique personality, and it’s a far cry from the luxury resorts and high rises that become familiar in Costa Rican resorts.

Fire Show in San Juan del Sur

However, the relaxed daytime vibe quickly seesaws into a party place after dark. Travellers staying around Casa Oro and PachaMamma hostels shower off the sand of the day and head out into the town.

If you want to drive the most out of this party scene, then make sure you’re there on a Sunday – because Hostel PachaMama runs ‘Sunday Funday’ – probably Central America’s biggest traveller party.

Pool Party at Pelican Eyes Hotel during 'Sunday Funday'

[part title="Nicaragua is Incredibly Affordable"]

If you’re from Europe, you’ll likely be slightly put off by the long flight time to Managua and the expense. This will likely set you back at least £650 (near 800 Euros) as well as take at least 12 hours of travelling to arrive.

Tona - a hella cheap and delicious beer

But like many backpacker destinations, once there it’s incredibly cheap. On most beaches it is $10 board rental for a full day, and under $25 for a two hour surf lesson. Added to that is bottled beer being under $1 (even in restaurants) and you can dine on lobster daily for under $10 a meal. If you're happy sleeping in dormitories, you will rarely pay more the $10 at any time of year.

If you go with anything but the smallest of budgets, you’ll be living pretty well in Nicaragua. Nearby Costa Rica, which is actually a more popular surf destination, is far more expensive once your there.

[part title="Omotepe Offers an Outdoor Adventure"]

If you’ve got a bit sunburnt, or just had enough of the beach, then Omotepe offers a great alternative to the surf. It only takes a couple of hours to drive down to the ferry terminal from San Juan del Sur or Managua, then head over Lago de Nicaragua to a beautiful volcanic island.

Omotepe Island from midway down Concepcion.

If you fancy an outdoor challenge, then you can hire a guide for $20 and go up one of the two volcanoes. The larger one, Concepcion is still active and a rather more challenging hike than than adjoining Maderas. It’s highly recommended that you take some decent footwear for this (I didn’t – it hurt). Hikes take about 10 hours to complete.

[part title="It's Hot All Year Round"]

Mpora Sun 2

Mpora Sun 2

You don’t have to go so far to escape the cold of the UK, but you’re pretty much guaranteed good weather any time of year. The average temperature is a fairly steady 25 Celsius (80 Fahrenheit) for more of the year – with it only being marginally colder in January than the Summer.

If you would prefer going in the dryer months, then the rainy season tails off in December, staying dry until May.

[part title="There's Plenty of Other Things to Do"]

San Juan del Sur, the surrounding beaches and Omotepe offers an adult's adventure park within very close proximity, but if you head further north Nicaragua has plenty of other activities.


You might want to miss the messy capital city of Managua, but exploring the cafes and churches of nearby colonial Grenada is a pleasant couple of days.

Grenada, Nicaragua

Leon and the Vulcan Cerro Negro

Much can also be said of the Northern city of Leon – but the highlight for the action sports enthusiast is to go volcano boarding. You can head up 500 metres of Vulcan Cerro Negro, put on a jumpsuit, then speed down volcanic ash on tabogan – reaching speeds of up to 80km/h.

A Mountain Bike Speed Record at Vulcan Cerro Negro:

The Corn Islands

If you also want to explore the Carribean side of Nicaragua, it’s possible to take a flight to the Corn Islands for less than $200. It’s a calm and tranquil place, with abundant diving and where lobster is served as if it’s a commodity.