Surfing Popoyo | The Ultimate Destination Guide (2024)

Popoyo, in Southern Nicaragua, is a small slice of coast regarded as the capital of surfing in Nicaragua. This small stretch of coastline has dozens of breaks, from a-frame peaks to thumping beach breaks. Throw in year-round tropical temps, an affordable cost of living, and accommodations for all budgets, and you have a recipe for the perfect surf trip. Heck, it’s even offshore for 300+ days of the year! Here’s everything you need to know about surfing in Popoyo. 


Table of Contents

Best Time of Year to Surf Popoyo

Popoyo has consistent waves year-round, with the biggest swells hitting the coast from April to October. This is when the area starts to crank and produces those classic Nicaraguan waves you’ve dreamed about. The wind is permanently offshore due to Lake Nicaragua; seriously, it’s offshore almost 360 days per year! 

The only time to avoid surfing in Popoyo is in February. The winds in February are crazy strong, and although it’s offshore, it makes the waves challenging to surf with chops coming up the face. The water is also surprisingly cold at this time of year due to the upwelling caused by the currents and strong winds. Seriously, it was too cold to surf in boardies during my February trip! 

Playa Santana
Playa Santana

Popoyo - Best Surf Spots

Playa Santana

A long stretch of beach break, with punchy a-frames, peaks the length of it. Most of the action is focused down by the headland, where wedging lefts break off the rocks at First Peak. This is the best peak on the entire beach. But as you’d expect, it gets crowded with local groms and travelling surfers all looking for a fix of wedgy fun. Just next to it is “Second Peak”, a slightly less wedgy version of “First Peak”. The further north you go, the more shapeless the beach gets as it becomes less affected by the refraction. 

Popoyo Reef

The main reef in Popoyo and the break is super crowded due to its proximity to most accommodations. That said, the wave is one of the best in the area, a perfect A-frame reef with a long left and short right. User-friendly with faces for turns, airs, and even the odd barrel section. The lefts are by far the longest, and provide more wall! 

Popoyo Peak
The Peak - Overhead & Blustery

Popoyo Outer Reef 

When the largest swells hit the Nicaraguan coast, you must look beyond the beachies and standard reef setups. For something more adrenaline-fueled, the outer reef at Popoyo is a solid left-hander, throwing top to bottom, and only works during enormous swells. Only for expert surfers and hard-charging maniacs. 


A long stretch of beach that, when the sand banks are right, produces some playful beach break peaks. The most affordable accommodations are also situated along this stretch of beach. 

The Peak - Popoyo Surf Spot
The Peak

Playa Colorado 

Playa Colorado is what you come to Nicaragua for. Classic hollow beach break with long sand-bottomed tubes. If you’ve ever watched videos of Nicaragua, you’ll have seen Colorado in action. True Central American surfing paradise and the opportunity to get the wave of your life.

However, the waves in Colorado come at a price. You have to either stay at one of the luxury resorts on the sand or walk in from Gigante. (This is what I did, and it took 45 minutes each way). You can’t drive into Colorado with surfboards in your car, and yes, they do check. All beaches in Nicaragua are public access though, so no one can stop you walking or taking a boat in. For more information, read my full guide to surfing Playa Colorado. 

Beginners Bay  

If you or your partner want to learn surfing or just surf something mellow, there is Beginner Bay between the psycho outer reefs and thumping beach break sessions. Just south of Popoyo Reef, Beginner Bay is a crescent-shaped bay with a mushy left-hander where you can ride whitewater, and it’s the perfect place to learn how to surf in Popoyo. It’s one of the best beginner surf spots in Nicaragua. 

Excerpt from "the Latin American Surf Tales"

Where Is Popoyo?

Getting To Popoyo

By Plane

From overseas, you’ll need to fly to Managua. Popoyo is around a 3-hour drive from the city. Many Latin American airlines fly from North America; otherwise, you’ll transfer through other Central American cities. Check out Skyscanner or Kayak for the cheapest fares. 

By Car

From Managua, you can either hire a car or negotiate a taxi. The drive is around 2-3 hours, but as with most journeys in this part of the world, it usually takes longer than planned. 

As you drive into Popoyo, the main road turns abruptly into dusty dirt roads, and it is at this moment you feel transported into proper Central American surf trip territory. Find cheap rental cars on 

By Bus

You can also find a chicken bus (old American school buses common in Latin America) down to Popoyo, which is super cheap, and yes, people bring livestock on them. You can’t book the public buses online, so you’ll need to head to the bus station in Managua. 

Popoyo Surf Spot Map 

Popoyo Surf Spot Map

This is just one part of my Nicaraguan surf content. Check out my full breakdown of surfing in Nicaragua or my guide to surfing in Northern Nicaragua. Or, if you’re learning to surf, check out my guide to the best beginner surf spots in Nicaragua. 

Where To Stay? 

Nicaragua is one of the cheapest surf destinations in Latin America. Around the Popoyo region, there are several accommodation options, from budget backpacker hostels to sleek beach cabanas. While there’s not much in terms of luxury resorts, there are plenty of options for all budgets. Here’s a pick of some of the best, no matter your bank balance. 

Best Budget Options 

If you’re looking for something cheap, cheerful, and a stone’s throw from the surf in Popoyo, Barrel Hostel has everything you need. Dorm rooms start at $13 per night, and the property is located right on the sand at Playa Guasacate. The Peak is around a ten-minute walk along the sand. 

Another fantastic budget option just down the beach from Barrel Hostel, you can grab a dorm room here for $10 power night. Nothing special but Hostel Sunset Villas has everything you need for a budget surf trip. This is where I stayed on my three-week trip to Popoyo! 

Best Mid-Range Options

Right on Popoyo Beach and directly in front of Popoyo Reef–one of the most reliable spots in the area. Popoyo Surf Camp is one of the best/most value-for-money places to stay in Popoyo. 

Suyo Cabanas 

Suyo Cabanas is a beautiful collection of beach cabanas located on the sand at Playa Santana, a stunning setting with great sunset views and clean cabana rooms; basic but a beautiful and great location for surfing Playa Santana. I stayed here for the last few nights of my Popoyo trip! 

A new property just opened at Playa Santana. In walking distance from the beach at Santana and a slightly longer one to Beginner Bay and The Peak, this is one of the best places to stay for surfing in Popoyo. A beautiful property with cool, clean dorm rooms, a pool, bar, and a lounge space under a beautiful concrete aesthetic. Lots of travellers and surfers passing through–one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed at. 

Best Luxury Options

Malibu Popoyo

The pool, sun terrace, and fantastic restaurant on site combine for a perfect place to stay in Popoyo. Malibu Popoyo is one of the best places to stay in town! If you’re after a more luxurious stay in Popoyo, look no further. 

Perched on the cliff overlooking Playa Santana, the sprawling Rancho property is one of the most plush places to stay in the entire area. If you want to stay right on the sand, in a beautiful setting, and be right in front of fun waves, this is your spot. 

Playa Santana - Popoyo Surf Spot
Playa Santana - Looking Inviting

Non-Surfing Activities In Popoyo 

There aren’t many things to do other than surfing in Popoyo. The place is a true surf destination and while there are many waves to get your surf fix, relaxing on the beach and tucking into a good book is how you spend downtime in the area.  

If you’re looking for non-surfing activities, you’ll need to head further afield and check out Lake Nicaragua and the many volcanoes that dominate the landscape. San Juan Del Sur is also worth exploring if you’re after more of a party and upbeat backpacker vibe. 

Tips For Surfing In Popoyo


There are no ATMs in town, so you’ll need to get cash BEFORE getting to Popyo, as many restaurants don’t accept cards. There is one small tienda at Guasacate that provides cash back and accepts cards. Also, there is a new shop at Santana (next to Tukasa Surf House) that accepts cards and offers cashback. 

Distance Between Spots

While Popoyo does enjoy a high concentration of surf spots, there is still some distance between each. For example, by staying at Playa Guasacate, you can walk to The Peak, Beginner Bay, and even Playa Santana, but you’ll need a boat or car to reach Playa Colorado, and vice versa. 

Avoid February

While you can still get waves in February, I’d avoid it if you can! This is because the wind is strongest at this time of year and even though it’s offshore, the strength makes things tricky to surf. Additionally, water temps drop significantly at this time of year, meaning you might need a wetsuit! 

Popoyo Water Temperatures

Popoyo has warm waters (average 28°c) year-round, and you’ll only ever need a pair of boardies and a rash vest (for sun protection). That said, if you visit Popyo in February, the area often experiences cooler currents and makes things surprisingly chilly! So, pack a shortie or wetsuit top at this time of year. 

Water temps from

Play Colorado (Popoyo Surf Spot)
Little Right at Playa Colorado

Final Words

Popoyo is a must-visit destination for all traveling surfers. If you’re traveling on a budget in Nicaragua, Popoyo should undoubtedly be part of your itinerary. With an abundance of waves of all abilities, you won’t be disappointed. Just don’t go in February! 

If you want to get inspired to go on your next surf trip, check out my other surf destination guides or head over to my YouTube channel. I create regular surf travel content and hope to inspire you to get on the road and chase waves. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Untitled design (3)

The Latin American Surf Tales

A Solo Surf Journey Through Mexico, Central & South America