Surfing in Popoyo, Nicaragua
Ally Toullec - 18th October 2016
Who does not dream about a surf trip packed with clean waves, hot sun and amazing food? Well, that’s exactly what we found in Popoyo, Nicaragua.
Nicaragua, in case you were wondering, is the largest country in Central America. Like the majority of central american countries, it has a coast on each side: The caribbean one, great for scuba diving, and the pacific one, rich with a variety of beach and point breaks. Did I mention that the wind is also offshore most of days? Not the kind that holds your board, sends splashes in your face and makes you paddle like mad. No, the good kind, just holding the wave enough for it to perfectly peel, and on bigger days to reveal a perfect hollow shape for you to park in. Dreamy, right?
After looking at several options, we decided to stay at Popoyo, in the Rivas region about 3.30 h drive from the airport of Managua. And be prepared, because this is no peaceful Sunday drive. The road to Popoyo is for most of it pure off-roading through the back country, just crossing dried out river beds and small villages, while local pop blares out of the 4x4 stereo as the soundtrack of a very bumpy ride.
We ended up staying a few minutes walk from the beach at NicaWaves, a surf hostel owned by an American guy which resemblance to Kelly Slater on land is uncanny, and not far off once in the water.
Popoyo has a few spots which you can walk to such as Popoyo Reef, one of the most popular wave, but you will need to pay for taxis to get to the more remotes breaks or rent a car. My favourite spot was Santana, a really good little beach break about 10 min drive from Popoyo.
Conditions wise, Nicaragua is pretty perfect. Beautiful sunshine every day and warm waters meant that all I needed was my girly GlideSoul shorty wetsuit in the slightly chilly early mornings, and my hot pink GlideSoul neoprene bikini for the rest of the day (don’t forget to lather some ocean friendly sunscreen though!). The local coast offers plenty of options whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced. However the swell also vary with the year. The waves can be really small in Dec - Jan but soar to a solid 7ft+ and more later in the year.
The perfect waves and weather means that some waves can get really crowded so be ready for some paddle battle at times. Localism is everywhere and while the locals are lovely on land, these are “their” waves and they will let you know that, but I never really had any problem for the month we were there. There are however some completely uncrowded spots and we scored perfect Lance’s Left (Goofy footers paradise!) on our own!
It’s also important to remember where you are, Nicaragua offers some incredible waves, landscapes, culture and food but about 80% of the population lives on less than 2$ a day and Popoyo is experiencing its worst ever drought with 4 years without sufficient rain. Respect the local communities, think about what you could do to help them, and probably don’t walk around flashing your latest iPhone 7 which you are pairing with your brand new iPad to transfer the photos from your massive SLR. Exercise common sense while walking alone at night as although most places are safe, things happen everywhere.
Overall, Popoyo was pretty amazing, with gorgeous sunsets, incredible landscapes (volcanoes!), great food, awesome waves and beautiful culture (explore nearby Granada and lake Nicaragua!). It’s also a great way to practice your spanish as not that many locals speak English.
Where to eat: Try the fish tacos at the little restaurant right on Santana beach.
Where to drink: Magnific Rock hostel is basically the best spot to drink cocktails and watch the sunset while listening to chilled out tunes. They do crank it up in the evening.
Where to stay: NicaWaves offered a pretty stellar service, good food and has a wicked pool.
Text and photos by Ally Toullec, GlideSoul Ambassador