Surfing Nicaragua: the best unknown beaches

In this article we will dive into three of the lesser known beaches of Nicaragua including two that are slightly remote but worth the trip, boasting stunning scenery and include great un-crowded spots for surfing. These are Playa San Diego, Playa Tesoro and Las Peñitas (to be fair, the last one is relatively known but tends to have un-crowded waves compared to San Juan Del Sur) Most surfers that visit Nicaragua will end up either in San Juan del Sur, Popoyo or Puerto Sandino however these places tend to be overrun with tourists (especially in the case of San Juan del Sur) and the waves are crowded with surfers of all levels.

Mind the Gap at Playa San Diego

The first surf spot we will cover is Playa San Diego. Around 1 ½ hours driving from Managua, it is the closest beach to the capital. At the time of writing there has been on-going road improvements from La California to San Diego so expect this travel time to reduce in years to come. Playa San Diego is a long stretch of sandy beach with few hotels and one hostel: The Los Cordones eco-lodge, Gran Pacifica hotel and a hostel (also the best place to stay) called Mind the Gap. The entire stretch of beach has great opportunities for surfing. Right in front of Mind the Gap you’ll find great waves rolling in including an incredible left-hander called “The majestic left”. A bit further on the beach is a gnarly surf spot called “meatgrinders” due to its rocky bottom and hard barrels. On this beach you’ll find spots for both beginners as well as advanced surfers making this a perfect place to both relax and surf. Given how unknown this beach is expect to share the waves with just a few surfers.

General information about Mind the Gap

There are three ways of staying at Mind the Gap:

  • Private rooms ($35 or more)
  • Dormitories ($15 pp/night)
  • Campsite ($5 pp / with own tent otherwise $5 for tent rental)

Facilities & entertainment at Mind the Gap:

  • Board rental ($10 / $15 per day)
  • Temazcal, traditional native sweat lodge ($10 pp)
  • Spa (massage / facials)
  • Jujitsu lessons (the owner Diego is affiliated with a Jujitsu gym in Managua and they train each Sunday at Mind the Gap)
  • Restaurant & Bar
  • Kitchen for guests (there is a nearby small shop which sells general groceries for cooking)

How to get here by bus:

  • From Managua: take a bus (around 26 cordobas) to Villa El Carmen from Mercado Israel in Managua. Ask the driver to get out at La California (although saying you are going to San Diego will be sufficient). Once you get out the bus take a moto-taxi to the beach (150 cordobas)
  • From Leon: catch a bus to Managua but make sure to ask it passes Santa Rita. Ask to get out at the junction of Santa Rita. Here cross the road and wait for the bus to Villa El Carmen (this could take a while). Once on the bus to El Carmen, get out at California to catch a moto-taxi to San Diego.

Playa Tesoro

Playa Tesoro is long six km stretch of beach about 1 ½ hours away from Leon. This Canadian owned beach is quiet and boasts many opportunities for a tranquil getaway, great runs on the beach and some surfing a short ride away. We have not had the experience of surfing here ourselves however there are opportunities abound and similar to San Diego, it is a very quiet surf. Playa Tesoro does not offer dormitories but instead has cheap cabana style lodging which makes it a great getaway for couples or groups of friends to enjoy a great few days or weeks on the beach. There is a nearby turtle hatchery which releases baby turtles each night as well as the opportunity to go paddle boarding near mangroves.

General information about Playa Tesoro:

Although no dormitories, Playa Tesoro as both cabanas as well as houses for rent. A full overview can be found here. When we booked we did this through AirBnB.

Facilities & entertainment:

  • Swimming pool
  • Restaurant & bar
  • Paddle boarding & surf rentals
  • Turtle hatchery (30 minutes way)

How to get here:

Once you book a cabana or house at Playa Tesoro you can arrange a pickup through the owners from Leon. Own transportation is possible but not recommended due to poor road conditions on the way to Playa Tesoro.

Las Peñitas

Although not unknown (in fact, it is the closest beach to Leon therefore well visited by both locals and tourists alike), we are adding this beach as an exception due to the fact that it is still fairly relaxed on some days and waves are much less crowded than San Juan Del Sur. Best place to stay is Mano a Mano which offers great accommodation (both dormitories as well as private) as well as surf-board rentals and a good surf right in front of the hostel. The small bar in front of the beach makes this furthermore a great viewing spot to see other surfers out on the waves. If the boards here are not great you can get better boards at next door Pelikan Surf School & Rental.

General information about Mano a Mano at Las Peñitas:

Facilities & entertainment at Mano a Mano:

  • Dormitories
  • Private rooms
  • Surf rentals
  • Bar (no restaurant however but there are ample food places next door)
  • Kitchen for guests

How to get here:

Busses to Las Peñitas leave every 30 minutes from Sutiava Market, also known as “El Mercandito”, located in the Sutiava neighborhood in the western part of Leon City. The short 30 minute ride should not cost more than 12 Cordoba.

Conclusion

In this article we hoped to provide insight into some of the lesser known surfing spots in Nicaragua.In our opinion, out of these three beaches Playa San Diego has the best waves and surfing culture however you won’t be disapointed with any of these.

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