Popoyo, beach haze and lazy days

by  Alison, 08/05/2014

Prior to traveling to Nicaragua we knew very little about Nicaragua or its surf breaks. Popoyo was the one spot that everybody we talked to mentioned.  After our brief stay in San Juan del Sur we were ready to start life at the beach and we choose to head directly to Playa Guasacate. This beach has the closest access to Popoyo.

Popoyo benefits from the off-shore winds that come directly from Lake Nicaragua. This ensures that it blows off-shore nearly every day of the year. It is a beautiful peak with a left and a right that work through all tides. This is unusual in Nicaragua. Most breaks only work on a specific tide making it really important to plan your route via the tide times as well as the swells. I do admit that I was probably the most demanding in this respect as I fry if I surf in the mid-day heat. 

Popoyo is an extremely popular wave. The speed and hollowness of Popoyo changes with the tides allowing people of all levels to surf it. We stayed here for 10 days and there was always a crowd. No matter what time of the day, once it was light there were people in the water. There is a good crew of locals who know this break like the back of their hands. They have no problem dropping in on people or calling people off their buddies' waves. Despite this they were pretty friendly and so were the mix of ex-pats and tourists. 

For me personally, I can only say that I found surfing here challenging. While we surf reefs at home, I found this place intimidating. The crowds, the power and the hollowness of the wave all got into my head. All I had wanted from this trip was to surf all day long and I was getting jammed up and frustrated by fear.  However when I did finally ease into it, I loved it. Right or left this is a beautiful wave. My wave count may have been minimal but every one of those waves counted.

There are other breaks around. Playa Guasacate has the most deceptive shape. Like a mirage it reels you in thinking if you just walk a little further you will find an empty peak that doesn't unload itself and you on the shore. From what we have read I think you need to be there in the wet season to surf this beach properly. 

There is the outer reef in Popoyo. This is an even hollower, shallower, faster wave which works on large swells. 

Then between the river mouth and Popoyo itself there is a right hander that I found too shallow to even attempt a take-off. The one time we did paddle out there, the guy sitting next to me scraped the reef just sitting on his board. Not my cup of tea, though Ollie managed to sneak a couple. 

These are just the breaks within easy walking distance. If you have a car or even better if you decide to take a boat trip this area of coast line is littered with breaks. 

While we were at Playa Guasacate we stayed at El Club del Surf. A friendly, low key guest house which is located 100m from the beach. The guesthouse is run by a lovely Italian family (Fillipo, Barbara and their new beautiful baby boy). There are only a small number of rooms, which are clean and comfortable and have the choice of a fan or air conditioning. Fillipo and Barbara are originally from Sardinia and have been living and working here for 10 years. They are very friendly and accommodating and can set you up with any form of transport, boat trips, surf guiding and pretty much anything that you need. They also run a restaurant which serves local and Italian food. I know we were in Nicaragua but after days of rice and beans the home-made, stone baked pizza was amazing. 

While none of the rooms or hammocks have a view of the ocean, the guesthouse has direct access to the beach across a vacant lot. From here it is a 10 minute walk up the beach and across the river to get to Popoyo. This river crossing is one of the reasons we have no photos of Popoyo with a decent camera. The river depending on the tide time and swell size could go from ankle deep to over my head. It never seemed worth risking the cameras.

The area itself is tiny. There is no real town, just a strip of accommodation and restaurants on either side of the road. The local shops have limited produce and it you are intending to cook you better stock up before arriving. Eating out is pretty cheap. Portions are massive but after all the surfing you will be doing, they go down easily with a couple of beers or Nica Libres. 

However change is a foot. There are plans to build an international airport less then 30 minutes away and there are for sale signs in many of the lots and there were already plenty of new accommodation under construction. I am so glad we saw this area now. While it is not the undisturbed paradise it once was, it was still quiet and accessible to all. In a few years time I'm not so sure.


  1. Great posts on Nicaragua! Wow the surf looks like it was really firing. It was busy enough when i was there but that looks a lot more crowded. I think my Facebook photos of Popoyo might have been a bit misleading, hope you didn't get to much of a shock! Looks like it was a great trip.

    1. Hey Bren, thanks a million! Surf was fantastic but I'm not going to lie it was a bit of a shock to the system. 2ft swells over there mean something totally different to Lahinch. Took a while to get into the swing of things. I'm glad your Facebook photos looked like they did, otherwise I may have got intimidated before we even arrived. Though to be honest it was more the crowd then the waves that made it difficult as there was always some ripper taking off soooo deep.The trip on the whole was amazing. We loved it and thanks so much for all your recommendations :)

  2. Hi Alison and Ollie,
    thanks so much for everything that you wrote and to come here!
    I like your review and I think you had a nice trip and you visited rights spots!
    Really beautiful photos!
    Thanks a lot again and hope see you soon,
    Filippo and Barbara

  3. Very glad you liked the post. We loved staying with you guys and we have been telling all our friends how much we loved Nicaragua. Hopefully we will be lucky enough to stay with you again.