Friendly Faces, Beaconing Breezes and Voluminous Volcanos.
The political history of Nicaragua along with it’s many natural disasters have made traveling to this Central American Country a curse to many potential visitors. Unfortunately, positive news about Nicaragua is rarely heard, making you wonder if anything has changed within the course of time. Well plenty has changed since the time of the Sandinistas. Nicaragua is in it’s second decade of stable democracy and combined with less investment in military and more investment in education and health gives hope to other developing countries.
When to Go
The Pacific coast of Nicaragua has a plethora of different point breaks and beach breaks that work all year long. The best time to be there is spring and fall. The waves are best during the summer which begins the rainy season. This can be an ugly muddy time to get around as any Central American traveler will tell you.
The best thing about the surf in Nicaragua is Lake Nicaragua. What??? A Lake? Yes, this magical lake which sits in the lower middle of the country is so big it regenerates the trade-winds from the Caribbean and creates perfect offshore winds all year long. It also has a massive volcano in the middle called Concepción. The winds work pretty much all day long unlike Costa Rica where you have to get up super early to have a fun session. This is important to the hung-over surfer who mainly surfs in the afternoons. An added bonus to the constant offshore breeze is the absences of annoying bugs which can ruin a trip if not careful.
Managua is the capital and where you mainly fly in from the States. The airport is pretty tiny and the rental car companies will try to scam you. Make sure you have an agreement with a rental company before you arrive as the prices jumps substantially when trying to make arrangements on the spot. Managua is a real tricky city because there are no street signs. Directions are all made based on landmarks which makes it close to impossible to navigate for newcomers. It may be a good idea to have a GPS or hire someone to get you going in the right direction. The roads in the cities and the Pan-American Highway are pretty good. Once you make it to the coastal area you’re going to wish you rented the bad ass 4 Wheel Drive Toyota Hilux. Even though it’s not necessary to have a 4WD during the dry season it does help.
The people of Nicaragua are the most approachable people in the world. They are super happy to have people from all over the world visiting their country. Not many people speak English so having a decent Spanish vocabulary will help tremendously. They’re also very modern and all have cell phones which is pretty amazing for a developing country. The majority of the country is Catholic which you notice when visiting the cities. Many beautiful churches and cathedrals work their way into the cityscapes. Especially in Grandada which is an old colonial city that makes you feel as if your in 16th century Spain.
Where to Stay
Rivas County is where much of the action is in Nicaragua. It sits in the southern part of the country near Lake Nicaragua. Finding a place to stay near the surf is pretty easy and not too expensive. Popoyo is the backpacker’s nugget. It offers cheap places to stay and a pretty vibrant local cuisine. The wave there is one of the best in the country and breaks at all tides. You can also get to other breaks near by with very little hassle. Further south is Rancho Santana which has much nicer places. It has a very elegant restaurant, a few pools and access to wifi. Santana is the beach break many locals like to frequent. It usually breaks best at mid-tide. A bit further south is Playa Iguana which is similar to Rancho Santana and offers some really nice places to rent. Here is where you find Panga Drops and Colorados. These two waves are really fun and can get you tubed all day long. Even further south is Gigante and San Juan del Sur. There are many different breaks in this area and offer more city flavor and wide variety of places to rent.
wanderlust-online.com at Rancho Santana