Ahhh, Nicaragua is a Central American nation well-established on the vagabonding surfer’s map. The country boasts an abundance of world-class surfing setups, from a-frame reef breaks to outer reef bombies and flawless barrelling beach breaks.
Popoyo, in the country’s south, is a small surf town hosting some of Nicaragua’s best waves and is the capital of surfing in Nicaragua. Throw in year-round tropical temps, affordable costs of living, and accommodations for all budgets, and you have a recipe for the perfect surf trip. Here’s everything you need to know about surfing in Popoyo.
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Best Time of Year to Surf Popoyo
Popoyo has consistent waves year-round, with the most giant 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, and it was too cold to surf in boardies during my February trip.
Popoyo - Best Surf Spots
With such an abundance of spots, you are spoiled for spots to surf in Popoyo; here are some of the best.
A long stretch of beach break, with punchy a-frames, peaks the length of it. Down in the south end of the beach, you see the classic left wedges breaking off the headland. Super fun, but it can get crowded.
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.
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 sands right, produces some playful beach break peaks. The most affordable accommodations are also situated along this stretch of beach.
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.
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.
Where Is Popoyo?
Getting To Popoyo
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. Flights are expensive to Managua, but check out the cheapest fares here.
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 DiscoverCars.com
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.
As you drive into Popoyo, the main road turns abruptly into dusty dirt rods, and it is at this moment you feel transported into proper Central American surf trip territory.
Popoyo Surf Spot Map
Popoyo Surf Forecast
Where To Stay?
Nicaragua is one of the cheapest surf destinations in Latin America. Around the Popoyo region, there are several accommodations 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
With a unique aesthetic, yes, the venue does look like a Melting Elephant is, the hostel is a super cheap backpacker option with dorm rooms starting at $10-15 per night—a great way to meet fellow travelers, located right on the sand at Playa Guasacate.
Hostel Sunset Villas
Another fantastic budget option just down the beach from Melting Elephant, 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.
Best Mid-Range Options
Popoyo Surf Camp
Suyo Cabanas is a beautiful collection of beach cabanas are located on the sand at Playa Santana, a proper paradisical setting with great sunset views and clean cabana rooms; basic but a beautiful and great location for surfing Playa Santana. This is where I stayed on my trip!
Best Luxury Options
Where To Eat In Popoyo?
While there is no town or central area of Popoyo, it is more a series of dusty streets with accommodations and restaurants spread across it. Among the roads are a few great places to eat to get your fill after surfing all day. Here are some of the best places to eat after a day of surfing in Popoyo.
A great place to get your pizza fix after surfing all day is located on the main street behind all the main accommodations at Playa Guasacate.
One of the best places to eat in Popoyo. Unfortunately, it was closed during my off-season visit, but based on the reviews online, you will be satisfied eating here.
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. One small shop (Tienda) gives cash back for small amounts, and you can pay by card, but otherwise, your options are limited.
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.