The Best Nicaragua Surf Camps
Nicaragua might be overshadowed, but there are still enough surf spots worth discovering there. Learn where they are and which surf camps are most suitable for you with our guide.
The surfing world is interesting in the sense that certain countries overshadow others for one reason or another. For example, Indonesia overshadows Costa Rica because its many islands scattered around the Indian Ocean offer more variety. On the other hand, Costa Rica overshadows its neighbor Nicaragua because there's more emphasis on surf tourism in Costa Rica.
That's not necessarily bad, though. In the end, if you make a surf trip to Nicaragua, you'll find similar kinds of world-class surf breaks (albeit only a few of them) in even less crowded surf spots. For beginner and intermediate surfers who just want to focus on improving themselves on unfrequented waves, this is surely an appealing aspect.
But, of course, before you decide to book a trip, you want to know everything about surfing Nicaragua. Which surf camp is the best for you to take the surf lessons necessary to advance as a surfer? Which surf spots should you visit and how tough are they? Do the shores of Nicaragua have consistent surf conditions, or should you book your trip with the season in mind?
Well, read on, as we're going to provide answers for all these questions and more.
Basic Travelling Information About Nicaragua
Nicaragua is another surf destination located in Central America, and therefore, it has a lot in common with its neighbor to the south, Costa Rica. It's easy to travel to, especially if you're living in the United States, it was colonized by the Spanish (and partially by the British), and declared their independence in the early 19th century. The majority of the country embraces Christianity despite its diverse culture and demographics.
Furthermore, it was once occupied by the United States. The reason we’re mentioning this is that the inner political turmoil the country had found itself in until the late 20th century is partially why surf tourism couldn't pick up the pace.
But, don't worry—since the democratic elections held in 1990, the country has been a favored destination for many surfers from all around the world. Now, you can (relatively) safely travel around the country, explore secret spots for surfing, and enjoy a cuisine full of papaya, mango, avocado, and maize if only to feel like a millennial at heart.
Mind that, though, it's the largest country in Central America, so moving around the country won't be as easy as, say, it is in Costa Rica, especially considering there's only one international airport in the country: Managua Airport. Still, you can rent a car for $20 a day, which is quite budget-friendly, and have more freedom when traveling. However, the best option would be to rent a 4x4, which can cost you up to $60 a day. It might shrink your budget a bit, but it'll be worth it as the geography of Nicaragua is not exactly sedan-friendly.
Weather and Water Temperature in Nicaragua
If you're living in North America or Europe, and there are surfers or particularly rich people in your social circle, you might have realized that they consider Christmas as a time to travel to South or Central America.
South America makes sense because the winter in the North means summer in the South, but that's not necessarily the case for Central America. Countries near the equator, like Nicaragua, don't really know what winter means. The coldest month in Nicaragua is mostly January, and even in January, the weather temperature in the capital city of Managua is at an average of 27 Celsius (80 Fahrenheit).
That being said, Managua isn't even on the coastline. If you're in Nicaragua for surfing purposes, you're probably going to stay at a surf camp or surf resort. So, you can count on the weather temperature to accommodate surfing, swimming, and comfortable clothing (i.e., shorts and t-shirts). Still, we'd recommend you pack a raincoat and a hoodie, too. The climate of Nicaragua is a tropical one, and that means unpredictable storms and crazy rainfalls. Better be ready for those.
The water temperature is also well within a comfortable range. The coldest average water temp in a year is mostly measured in January, and it's still quite a reasonable number for surfers and swimmers alike: 25 Celsius (77 Fahrenheit). From April through October, the water will be at its hottest, but it's not far away from the January number either: 28-30 Celsius (83-85 Fahrenheit).
In short, Nicaragua's weather and water conditions are always convenient for surfers.
Nicaragua Surfing Conditions
As with most tropical surf spots from all over the world, there are two main surfing seasons in Nicaragua as well: the rainy season (or the low season) between May and November and the high season (or the dry season) between December and April.
No matter the time or season, though, due to all the lakes inland and the unique geography of the country, there are always strong offshore winds in Nicaragua, which create great surf conditions. The namesake lake of the capital, Lake Managua, particularly functions as a funnel for those offshore winds, and thanks to that, the coastline enjoys these winds throughout the whole year. Combine that with the consistent southwest swell the Pacific coast receives, and you'll have something akin to a surfer's paradise.
However, it's not exactly a paradise for all surfers. Despite the offshore winds and the consistent swell, there are only a few spots where the waves can be called world-class, and they'll rarely rise more than head-high. Therefore, it's more friendly to intermediate surfers rather than advanced ones.
Regardless, there are pros to that, too. The best waves visit the Nicaraguan shores generally during the low season, and due to the unpredictable storms and rainfall of the low season, the beaches are as desolate as they get. So, you can test yourself in blissful solitude during that time. The rest of the year is not bad either as beginner and intermediate surfers can learn and improve in the best surf camps and on good waves that vary between knee- and head-high.
The Best Surf Spots and Camps in Nicaragua
Now that you have a general idea about traveling to Nicaragua and what you can expect from the country in terms of weather, water, and surf, we can get more specific. Which surf spots entertain perfect waves all year round? Which Nicaragua surf camp provides the best accommodation for beginner and intermediate surfers? Let's see.
Rapture Surf Camp Nicaragua, Playa Maderas, San Juan del Sur
San Juan del Sur was initially a fishing town located on the Pacific coast of Southern Nicaragua. Of course, it's still in Southern Nicaragua, but it's not only a fishing town anymore. As the country gained recognition from tourists and surfers, the town also turned into one of the hottest and most crowded party destinations.
It's also the home of some of the best surf breaks and subsequently some of the best surf camps in the country. Playa Maderas is one of those breaks. But, let us warn you that it's a place that can make us look like liars because we said that the breaks in Nicaragua were uncrowded.
Well, Playa Maderas is indeed crowded because it's easy to access whether you're located in San Juan del Sur or Managua. Moreover, there are shuttle services that carry people to the said beach, and on a good day, the wave lineups will make you think that you accidentally landed in Bali. The fact that it's one of the few surf spots that produce barrels and head-high (or more) waves doesn't help with the crowd either.
But, don't worry. There are enough waves breaking on the shores of Playa Maderas for everyone and a good number of surf camps and resorts that you can enjoy without getting tangled in the crowd. Rapture Surf Camp located in the jungle is one of those. The camp is scenic and budget-friendly, the surf guides are quite experienced, and they provide trips to nearby surf spots that have boat access.
Moreover, there are many room types that cater to all levels of luxury, a great kitchen, and the chill vibe you'd expect from a surf retreat. All in all, Rapture Surf Camp is the best option you have if you're going to settle in the San Juan del Sur area.
Miramar Surf Camp, Puerto Sandino, Miramar
Remember when we were telling you about the scarcity of world-class surf breaks in Nicaragua (at least when compared to hotspots like Indonesia, Costa Rica, or Portugal)? Well, you can call us liars once again because Puerto Sandino is world-class, all right.
It's a 10-minute boat trip away from the fishing town of Miramar located in Northern Nicaragua, and you can find the longest wave that hits the shores of the country there. It's so long that, even though it initially breaks on soft white sand, certain sections of it are on dry rocks and reefs.
That's certainly too much versatility for a wave, if only that were everything! It also produces great wall-like formations as well as barrels, and at certain times of the year (especially during the rainy season), it can easily go up to double overhead.
So, where to set camp to catch this mythical giant, you're asking? Well, you should definitely check out Miramar Surf Camp, which is as versatile as the Puerto Sandino wave. The surf camp offers two different programs depending on the level of the surfer. If you're a beginner or intermediate surfer, you'll be registered for a 5-day program and take surf lessons in accordance with your needs. If you're advanced, on the other hand, they're going to take you on boat trips to spots with high-difficulty waves and present challenges to you.
In addition to that, the in-camp opportunities are no less great than the waves you’ll have access to. The meals are great, the rooms vary depending on your budget, and the place is good for both sightseeing and socializing in a small and chill community whose members are all passionate about surfing.
Malibu Popoyo, Playa Santana, Popoyo
Popoyo is an amazing place. It's not only the perfect place to relax, enjoy delicious organic food, do yoga against the sunset, and have a good family time, but it's also amazing because the variety and greatness of the waves out there are surely top-notch.
You're a beginner who wants to gain more experience but you're afraid you can't find something to your liking in a place associated with advanced surfing? Don't worry! A 10-minute walk from Malibu Popoyo will take you to a location named Beginner's Bay. You're an advanced surfer? Well, relish in all those great left-handers, right-handers, barrels, A-frames, shallow reef breaks, and hills made of water that can rise up to 20 feet if the tide is high.
Just be warned that the place, especially the beach of Playa Santana, is home to many local surfing contests and therefore is quite crowded, although it’s nothing like the crowd you’d find in Costa Rica, Indonesia, or Portugal. So, it's better to follow the guidance of Malibu Popoyo's surf guides who have better local knowledge than you on how to respect locals and their culture. Otherwise, your surf vacation might not be as pleasant.
In addition to all the accommodations you can expect from a surf resort, Malibu Popoyo also facilitates many surf-related events. They even hosted our head coach Clayton Nienaber once in one of those events, and even though they misspelled his name on the poster, we're still wholeheartedly recommending them.
Moreover, Malibu Popoyo is also a yoga retreat, and they provide many other extra-curricular opportunities such as a horseback riding tour for their guests. So, we're sure that your time, whether you're surfing or not, will be well-spent there.
Giant's Foot Surf Camp, Playa Gigante, San Juan del Sur
Don't be fooled by the stable location of this particular surf camp as they don't really stay in one place. Their motto is "All the Waves," and they kind of deliver on that promise. The surf guides they have in their team have great local knowledge and they know which wave will be at its best at what time.
For example, if Manzanillo (a world-class but evasive wave since it rarely works, but when it works, may God help you) is at its best in the morning, they're going to take you there with their boat. If Panga Drops hit its peak towards noon, they're surely going to be on the move. Therefore, their location in Playa Gigante is partially strategic.
Thanks to their boats, they cover an area that starts from Playa el Yanqui on the South and goes as North as the Playgrounds. In-between those, there are other great surf spots such as Popoyo we covered above, Lance's Left, Colorados, and Outer Reef. They make sure that you can catch all those waves when they're at their best.
That's not all they do either. They also offer two different programs depending on your surfing skills and provide a video analysis of your performance, which is quite important if you want to get better. Moreover, there's unlimited rum and beer during your stay, which might be even more important than all those above combined. Of course, considering all that you'll get, you should be ready to pay a high price.
Surfari Charters International, Rivas
Compared to all that we listed above, Rivas appears as a rather underrated surf spot, but its proximity to Popoyo and Colorados makes it a good place to set camp. And that's exactly what Surfari Charters did: they set up camp at Rivas so that they could provide you easy access to all the great waves on the Southern Nicaragua shores like Giant's Foot.
But there is something that sets them up apart from other surf camps delivering a similar sort of service: their camp is all-inclusive, which means that you don't have to do anything except for sitting back, relaxing, and occasionally surfing and fishing. Yes, fishing, as they take you on fishing trips in-between waves so that you can enjoy the ocean on all fronts.
Of course, it means the Surfari Charters International is even less budget-friendly than Giant's Foot, but not having to do anything, fishing, and eating what you fished cooked by those who know what they're doing might just be worth it.
Nicaragua might not be one of the first surf destinations that come to mind, but it doesn't mean that your surf trip there won't be an epic one. With the right guidance, you can find surf camps that'll accommodate you the best. We listed the ones we favor the most and gave you our reasons why you should at least consider them. No matter which one you choose, though, we're sure that you'll enjoy yourself.