Popoyo Surf Guide: Best Surfing in Nicaragua

The Popoyo surf spots are consistent surf breaks suitable for all levels of surfing. You can find world-class surf spots at Popoyo Beach and its surroundings: from intense reef breaks to A-frame beach breaks, you can have a good day out surfing whether you are a beginner or an advanced surfer.

With this said, let’s (duck)dive into our Popoyo Surf Guide.

Popoyo Surf Overview

Located in the south of Nicaragua, Popoyo is a laid-back town that suits travelers looking to escape the nightlife rush that is San Juan del Sur and the crowds of Costa Rica. Consisting of over 300 days of offshore winds per year, and dozens of surf breaks around, all accessible by foot or by boat, Popoyo easily becomes one of the best surf holidays you could choose.

The Different Popoyo Surf Breaks

So you’ve arrived in Popoyo to surf some of the best waves of your life – but which Popoyo surf break should you pick?

There are four surf spots at Popoyo Beach:

Popoyo Main Break

A favorite wave for locals and tourists alike, Popoyo Main Break (known as Popoyo) is a point break situated on top of a rock reef. If you are interested in trying out reef surfing, this might be a good break for you.

Popoyo Main Break (also known as Popoyo Inner Reef) is a wave suited for intermediate and advanced surfers and works best during mid-tide. This A-frame creates amazing rights and lefts and has an easy channel to paddle out. Popoyo Inner Reef will hold swells up to double-overhead, creating carvable walls with regular opportunities for barrels.

The Popoyo Main Break is one of the best big-wave spots in Central America when the big swells come in.

Outer Reef Popoyo

Popoyo Surf Guide
Outer Reef

Outer Reef Popoyo is a break to be respected. This reef break is 5-minutes paddling away from Popoyo Inner Reef, and usually only attracts advanced surfers chasing Pipeline-syle waves.

Shallow rocks, powerful waves, and intense currents make Popoyo Outer Reef a very dangerous surf break if you are anything short of an expert.

Popoyo outer reef puts on a show for those at the beach or those surfing the inner reef too.

Beginner’s Bay (also known as Magnific Rock)

If you’re looking to try out surfing in Popoyo, Beginner’s Bay is the spot for you. Located in front of the large rock out at sea, beginner’s bay dishes out easygoing lefts on a sand floor, creating great waves for beginner surfers.

Beginner’s Bay works best from low to mid-tide. This surf break is recommended when the swell size is 3 feet or more but works most of the time, even when lower than 3 feet.

Playa Santana

When the conditions allow for it, visit Playa Santana for some barreling A-frames. This reef break is suited for advanced surfers looking and works best during high tide.

Find the channel to paddle out close to Rancho Santana, on the right side of the surf spot.

During bigger swells, Playa Santana becomes one of the hotspots due to the perfect barrels this wave creates.

Best Swell for Popoyo Surf

The best swell for surfing in Popoyo is a south or southwest swell of at least three feet. Most of the breaks have a clear channel to the line-up, but we recommend only going out when the period is 10 seconds or more.

How to get to Popoyo Surf 

The closest airport to the Popoyo surf town is Managua Airport, located 75km away. You can travel from Managua to Popoyo by taxi, by bus or by car.

Managua to Popoyo by Taxi

Taking a taxi from Managua to Popoyo should cost around $80-$100 for a 3-hour trip. As taxi drivers in Nicaragua don’t usually go by the meter, you need to negotiate the price of the trip beforehand.

By Public Transportation:

For a way cheaper option to get to Popoyo, take the chicken bus from the Rivas bus terminal going to Las Salinas/Tolas. The Rivas – Las Salinas/Tolas bus leaves the Rivas station at: 5.30, 9.10, 11, 12.50, 14.00, 16.00 and 16.50.

This transportation costs around $2.50 to $4.00.

By Car

If you’re looking to escape the hassle of public transports or the costs of taking a cab, you can also rent a car for the duration of your stay.

You can find cars to rent at Kayak.com for about $20 per day with the pick-up and drop-off locations at Managua Airport.

This will make your trip much more comfortable, but will be a lot more expensive than traveling via a chicken bus!

Best Popoyo Surf Season

The best season to surf Popoyo is from April to October, during the rainy season, due to the lower winds.

Rainy Season: April – October

The rainy season in Nicaragua is coincidentally the best season to surf in Popoyo. The consistent offshore winds in combination with the swells brought by the swell season offer incredible conditions, day in day out.

During the rainy season, the rivers flow out into the ocean creating stable sandbanks that build the carvable walls we all love.

The rainy season in Popoyo is adequate for advanced surfers looking to catch unforgiving barrels.

Dry Season: November – May

Even during the off-season for surfing in Popoyo, the dry season shows daily waves. Sometimes the offshore winds get out of hand, so use the time in the morning and late afternoon to enjoy the moments with less wind.

Even so, the dry season is a great time for beginners and intermediate surfers to hone their skills, as the swells are much less powerful and have more room for error than during rainy season.

If you’re looking to avoid the crowds or to progress your surfing, the dry season is the time to go!

Where to Stay for Popoyo Surf

It won’t be hard for you to find a place to stay in Popoyo. With multiple options, from super cheap hostels under $10/night to higher-end surf resorts priced around $200/night, you’ll easily find a Popoyo accommodation that suits your travel plans and your taste.

Budget Accommodations

For some insane bang for the buck, spend a night (or many) at one of the Popoyo hostels. Hostels in Popoyo are a great place to meet fellow travelers, hang out with other surfers and backpackers and even find other travelers to continue your Central America trip with.

Some of the best hostels in Popoyo are:

Click here to find more Popoyo hostels

Mid-Range Accommodations

There are great mid-range accommodation options in Popoyo that offer a more comfortable and private stay a few steps away from world-class surf spots.

Some of the best mid-range accommodations for Popoyo are:

  • Casitas Pacific (ranging around $60/night for two people)
  • Magnific Rock (starting from $60/night)
  • Casa Oeste (starting from $90/night) – this hotel is located in Playa Santana, a little further away from Popoyo, but we thought the hotel was worth the mention

Click here to find more mid-range hotels in Popoyo

Luxury Accommodations

The luxury accommodations in Popoyo offer an incredible getaway with all of the comforts you need to have an amazing time.

Listed below are some of the best accommodations Popoyo has to offer:

  • Malibu Popoyo (starting from $235/night) – an all-inclusive hotel located right on the beach with some of the highest quality rooms you can find in Popoyo.
  • Rancho Santana (starting from $450/night) – Rancho Santana gives you everything and more: the comforts of a modern home while maintaining the rustic and authentic Nicaraguan personality.

Where to Eat

If you find yourself hungry after a surf session, there’s nothing to stress about. Visit one of Popoyo’s many delicious restaurants listed below:

  • The Barrel Hostel, Bar and Restaurant is a favourite to dine out and hang out after the sun goes down. Indulge in their all-day breakfast, snacks or dinner dishes. Find their menu here.
  • Café Mediterráneo serves wholesome mediterranean food such as pasta dishes, lasagna, croissants, and more. The whole italian experience!
  • Dutchy’s Deli describe themselves as a place to hang between surf sessions. This trendy café serves interesting coffees (even oolong tea!), cold drinks and breakfast dishes/sweets. Check their menu here.

What to do in Popoyo besides Surf

While most people that come to Popoyo visit for the waves, there are other things you can do around the area. Flat days don’t have to be boring!

Tidal Pools at Guasacate Beach

The tidal pools at Guasacate Beach are a beautiful place to explore around Popoyo, spend some time and hang out. While there isn’t that much to do there, it is a really good place to spend some time at the beach!

Natural Hot Springs at Las Salinas

Visit the Hot Springs of Las Salinas to dip on hot mineral-rich water. The Hot Spring pools are maintained by local families and cost foreigners $3 to enter, while locals pay $1.

Visit Chacocente Natural Reserve

Visit the Chacocente Natural Reserve and participate in one of their activities like animal sightings, sea turtle sightings, visiting community farms, hiking, and more.

The Chacocente Natural Reserve is one of the largest wildlife refuges in Nicaragua and contains one of the most important beaches in the world, where Olive Ridley sea turtles come to plant their eggs.

Popoyo FAQ’s

Is Popoyo Nicaragua Safe?

While Popoyo, Nicaragua feels safe, a lot of the sections at the beach aren’t well-lit, so avoid walking alone at night.

Is Popoyo Nicaragua Good for Beginners to Surf?

Yes! Popoyo, Nicaragua has a surf break called Beginner’s Bay. It is an amazing surf spot to learn or improve your surfing!

How much money do you need per day in Popoyo?

Popoyo is a very cheap surfing destination, where you can live for $25-$40/day. You can find accommodation as cheap as $10/day and food for $5 per meal easily.

What is the best Popoyo Surf Spot?

Depending on your level of surfing, the best surf spot in Popoyo could be the Popoyo Outer Reef (advanced level of surfing) or Playa Santana (intermediate level of surfing). For beginners, Beginner’s Bay is the best surf spot.

Other Tips for Popoyo Surf

Bring cash with you

Popoyo is a place that has so much to offer… but keep in mind that Popoyo has no ATMs. Remember to bring enough cash with you to last for the duration of your stay and until you encounter an ATM again!

If you’re taking out a lot of money, I recommend you split it into a few different stacks and hide it in different places, in case something happens.

Wrapping up on Popoyo Surf

I hope this guide has inspired you to take a closer look into Popoyo and consider it as your surf destination this year. With surf breaks working every day, 365 days per year, there is really no excuse not to visit Popoyo.

Whether you’re a beginner looking into paddling out at Beginner’s Bay, or an expert chasing the adrenaline at the outer reef, we hope you have an incredible time during your travels, and that you find what you’re looking for. We have no doubt you will!

And while you’re at it – if you’re planning your visit to Popoyo, let me know in the comments what spots you can’t wait to visit!