Mention “Central America” to most surfers and their thoughts more often than not revolve around hammocks, tequila, sand-bottomed points and sombreros. And rightfully so, Mexico has long been a favourite destination for surfers around the world, and the waves don’t disappoint. But there seems to be a slight swing in the trend and many travelling surfers are now learning that Central America is not entirely all about Mexico, or even Costa Rica. Places like Nicaragua and Panama are starting to garner more attention, and as word spreads, so do the number of surfers passing through these regions.
Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of surfing in Nicaragua:
Where: Nicaragua is situated in Central America and is bordered by Costa Rica in the south and Honduras in the north. The main surfing region is on the Pacific coastline.
What: You will want to bring the basics for surfing in the tropics ie: boardshorts, rash vest, sunblock, sunglasses, hat, spare leashes, fins and a basic ding repair kit. On the surfboard front you should look to bring about two or three boards – a good choice would be your regular shortboard and a step-up or semi-gun as there are spots that break in even the biggest of south swells.
There is a good variety of consistent surf in the area, and the plus side to this region is that the winds are offshore the majority of the time due to the big volcanic lakes in the interior of the country. The spots I surfed were Playa Colorado’s and the Popoyo area. I also did some exploring around San Jean Del Sur.
When: The prime time for surfing in Nicaragua would be from April to September, which also happens to be the dry season, with the Pacific Ocean serving up a consistent groundswell from the S/SW direction. Combine this with the steady offshore winds that Nicaragua is known for and you are guaranteed groomed perfection in the southern and central parts of Nicaragua.
Why: This question should probably be “why not?”. With warm water, regular-as-clockwork offshore winds, consistent southern ocean swells, a wide variety of surf spots suitable for all levels of surfer, and minimal crowds thanks to Nicaragua still flying under the international surf travel radar, there aren’t too many reasons not to visit this region. Sure, you can probably score better waves in the Mentawais, but it will cost you – lots. And yes Bali might have it’s fair share of world class spots, but be prepared to share them with a million Aussies, and an Italian guy named Luca wearing lumo orange hotpants instead of boardies.
How: Flights to Managua all pass through the transit hub of Panama City. There are good connections to Panama City from most major cities in the U.S.A, however, if you’re travelling from South Africa it might be preferable to fly in via South America. Panama City is the travel hub for Central America and there are daily flights connecting to Managua. A tourist card is required for South African citizens and can be obtained on arrival (the fee is US$5) and is valid for ninety days. Always check the latest Visa and entry requirements prior to travelling as these things do change from time to time. A google search will yield several options for surfing accommodations in south and central Nicaragua. I stayed in the self-catering accommodation of Hacienda Iguana, which has Playa Colorado as its main surf beach. However there are several places to stay ranging across all budgets in the Popoyo region, so do your research according to your budget preferences.www.playacoloradosurfandturfcondos.com
Inside Tips: It’s offshore the majority of the year. Go there in swell season and you will be scoring long period groundswell groomed by offshore winds. It is not as popular as Costa Rica in the south, however word is getting out that there is some amazing surf to be found and the numbers of surf travellers is on the increase. There are lots of eco tourist type things as well, like volcano treks etc.
How much: In regards to the financial side of things one can choose the shoestring budget option which will require more time and local lingo skills – and the adventure/misadventure that comes with that type of mission. The convenient alternative is the all-inclusive surf camp deal, which will cut your trip shorter, but you’ll have the bonus of having all the finer details taken care of by your camp of choice while you spend your time chasing surf. If you’re flying return from South Africa it would be advisable to investigate further with your travel agent and decide if you would fly via the United States or South America. The flight costs vary weekly, and your travel agent will be able to offer you the best available deal at that particular time.
The costs once you arrive would also vary depending if you choose the DIY route, which is very economical as Central America is a traditionally cheaper part of the world. If you choose the all-inclusive camp with all the bells and whistles then it would be more on the pricey side, but then you get good bang for your buck in regards to actual surf time.
No matter what type of trip you are looking for you will find it in Nicaragua.