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No matter if you’re a beginner or an advanced surfer, there is a lot to know about surfing in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. So, in this blog, we answer the most common questions including the best surf beaches (for all levels), where to take surf classes, info about surf camps, when to go surfing, and more!
Surfing in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua is popular among both beginners as well as the more experienced. With several beaches and constant swells, it’s no wonder surfing is one of the best things to do in San Juan del Sur!
My partner Bailey and I are not the most experienced surfers, so San Juan del Sur was a perfect place for us to work on our skills. The countless waves, sandy beaches, lack of rocks and reef, and cheap classes made the perfect combination to build our confidence and skills.
But with so many beaches, surf lessons, seasons, and surf camps around, how do you know where to start with surfing in San Juan del Sur?!
Well, this is exactly the problem we encountered when arriving in San Juan del Sur with the intention to surf. So for that reason, we’ve written this guide which is everything you need to know about San Juan del Sur surfing! We’ve included important information that even the most advanced surfers will need to know before catching a wave.
When to go Surfing in San Juan del Sur
In San Juan del Sur, surfing is best 2 hours before high tide until 2 hours after high tide. You can check any local surf report for the times.
For beginners, as the tide goes out the waves become less frequent making it easier to paddle out.
In terms of the best time of year to visit San Juan del Sur for a surfing holiday, it really depends on your skills level and how you’ll cope in colder water.
For beginners, January and February are the best months with the smallest swells. However, the water is also the coolest during this time. September and October also offer smaller swells that suit someone just learning to surf, plus, the water is warmer and there aren’t many tourists around.
For the more advanced surfers, consider visiting anytime from April to September. By November, the swells typically start to get smaller and you won’t find the size of waves you’re probably looking for.
Related Read: There are so many incredible things to do on Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua that you’ll definitely want to visit for yourself!
Where to go Surfing in San Juan del Sur – The BEST Beaches
Contrary to what you might think, you’re actually going to leave San Juan del Sur town to go surfing. The beach in town doesn’t get great waves, and as such, isn’t the most ideal spot for surfing.
There are a couple of great beaches only a short drive from San Juan town though, and they are:
This is my favorite surfing beach near San Juan del Sur. It is about a 20-30 minute drive from town and shuttles are very frequent and cheap at about $7 USD.
One of the great things about Playa Hermosa is the size of the beach. Because it’s so large, there is plenty of room to space yourself out from other surfers while practicing catching a wave.
It’s a great beach for beginners, especially as the tide starts to go out, but there are areas of the beach more suited to intermediate surfers too!
This remote beach can only be reached with a four-wheel drive in the wet season. But the journey to get there does make it less popular and therefore, much less busy!
Playa Maderas is best suited to intermediate or advanced surfers as the swells are typically larger than some of the other nearby beaches. But, that’s not to say you couldn’t learn here at the right time of year and tide time! We did it at our surf camp and had a great time! You can even book individual 2-hour lessons at this beach if you don’t have the time for a surf camp.
There is also this amazing yoga and surf retreat at Playa Maderas which is an awesome option for somewhere to stay nearby!
If you want a quiet place to surf, then Playa Yankee is a great choice! Located only 30 minutes south of San Juan del Sur, this beach is never very busy!
It is a beach that is good for all levels. Just be sure to bring your own board as there are no rental shops at this quiet beach!
A town rather than a beach, Popoyo is one of the top surfing destinations in Nicaragua. I know what you’re thinking, wasn’t that supposed to be San Juan del Sur? Well, the truth is that a lot of the best surf beaches are located between Popoyo and San Juan del Sur.
Popoyo is a smaller town though and the beaches closest to it are generally quieter and less populated with holidaymakers. The waves here also get huge and can get to 3 times overhead on a good day.
There are lots of guest houses and hostels available in Popoyo, so this is an option for a place to stay too!
Related Read: Just under 4 hours north of San Juan del Sur you can check out all the fun things to do in Leon– Nicaragua’s second largest city.
Preparing for Surfing in San Juan del Sur
If you’re planning to visit San Juan del Sur for a surfing holiday, then there are a few things you need to do in advance in preparation for your trip.
1. Get those arms and shoulders ready!
This may sound silly, but if you don’t take my advice you’ll know exactly what I mean!
When Dan and I started surfing in San Juan del Sur, we hadn’t surfed, or exercised for that matter, in months! Paddling out on your surfboard is much harder than looks (this is a warning for beginners especially) and after only an hour on your board, you will be very sore. This can also ruin your next few days of surfing too!
My best advice? Prepare for your surf lessons in San Juan del Sur with some push-ups and sit-ups in the weeks leading up to your trip! You’ll not only be less sore but also do a better job at surfing!
2. Book accommodation in San Juan del Sur or one of the nearby beaches
Remember how I said that San Juan del Sur is very touristy, well it’s true, and if you don’t book your accommodation in advance then you could miss out!
There are lots of nice places to stay both in San Juan del Sur town and on the outskirts. Some of the most popular, that will book up first, include:
the SPACE. – This hostel is located on the outskirts of San Juan del Sur town. It is extremely modern and zen and offers strong wifi, free yoga classes, a restaurant, and a super long pool. It is relaxing all while having a social party vibe at night. Every week they are one of the locations for the Sunday Funday pool party crawl. A dorm bed costs $14 USD whereas a private double room is priced at $60 USD.
Pachamama – Located right in the heart of San Juan del Sur. Although the facilities aren’t as nice as the SPACE. they do have a pool and the location is superb being right across the street from the beach. Plus, they are widely known as being one of the oldest party hostels in San Juan del Sur. A bed in a 10-share dorm is $12 USD and a private double room is $30 USD. This place is almost always fully booked so jump on it quickly!
You can check prices and book Pachamama on Hotselworld.
TreeCasa – This hotel has a gorgeous massive outdoor pool right in the jungle. It is located a couple of kilometers outside of town (20 min drive) so bring your own snack and water with you from town to save some trips. This is the place to come if you are looking for a more chilled atmosphere. The rooms feel like a treehouse and are luxurious yet affordable starting at $250 USD and have everything you would need. Some even have patios with amazing views!
You can check prices and book TreeCasa on Booking.com.
DreamSea Surf Resort – Located close to Playa Maderas, this resort is everything you need to relax, surf, and practice yoga. It is away from the hustle and bustle and a gorgeous little getaway! The property has an outdoor swimming pool, garden, terrace, and a restaurant and bar.
For breakfast, you can order à la carte, continental or American breakfast for an additional $7 USD.
You can check prices and book DreamSea Surf Resort on Booking.com.
3. Research surf camps and consider your options
Surf camps range in length, price, and what’s included. They also have limited spots so it’s important to book in order to ensure you get exactly what you want! I’ve written more about choosing a surf camp below.
4. Pack the right things
If you can, it is easier to bring things with you rather than trying to purchase everything in San Juan del Sur town. Make sure to bring your waterproof sunscreen, a rashy or long-sleeved shirt for surfing, an athletic swimsuit, a towel, and a water bottle.
If you have a surfboard, you don’t necessarily need to bring it as there are surfboards available for rent practically everywhere in San Juan del Sur!
Learning to Surf in San Juan del Sur
San Juan del Sur is the perfect place to learn to surf – and that’s exactly what I did! Having never been on a surfboard before, I was nervous but excited to get out there. To be honest, I had no idea that I would be catching big waves on my own within a couple of days, the surf camp worked!
If you have never surfed before, or are very much a beginner, I highly recommend either booking a couple of lessons or a full surf camp in San Juan del Sur. The only way you’ll get up on a board catching proper waves is with knowledge of the proper technique and someone giving you a push when needed.
So for beginners wanting to surf in San Juan del Sur, you have two options:
Sign up for a surf lesson
If you’re short on time or on a tight budget, consider booking a single surf lesson like this one, These lessons will give you the background knowledge you need to practice on your own, as well as teach you some skills.
In my experience, you won’t get very far with just one lesson, but it is a place to start and you can always book more lessons as you see fit.
This particular lesson costs $40 USD and the instruction portion lasts for 2 hours but you are free to use the board for the rest of the day until the company closes at 5 pm.
Join a surf camp
Surf Camps are popular in San Juan del Sur. These camps usually run for 5-10 days and include your accommodation, some food, daily surf lessons, as well as unlimited surfboard gear rental.
The surf camp we did went for 5 days and included all of our breakfasts as well as some lunch and dinners, our accommodation right on the beach, and a surf lesson every morning! I loved it as I felt like it was a quick course in surfing and I improved a lot very quickly. Plus the atmosphere was fun and we met lots of other travelers also learning to surf.
Related Read: Read about our firsthand experience crossing the Nicaraguian boarder to El Salvador – one of Central America’s most dangerous borders.
Renting Surfboards in San Juan del Sur and Surfing Independently
If you are an experienced surfer, you can just rent a board and surf on your own. Surfboard rentals are available pretty much everywhere in San Juan del Sur, and I mean everywhere! From hotels to restaurants to booths on the beach, if you want to surf you’ll find a surfboard to hire!
You’ll also need to get yourself to the best surf beaches. Check out some surf shops in town for their shuttle schedule or ask your hotel. Shuttles to beaches range in price but average about $7 USD per person.
Also, if you plan on surfing a lot, it may be more economical to buy a board in San Juan del Sur. Boards are available both from other travelers and second-hand shops. Once you leave you can then sell the board on and it will be much cheaper than a long-term rental.
Related Read: Be sure to check out our blog that is a complete guide to visiting Nicaragua including tons of great things to do and see!
Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!
We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.
They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!
Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)
Thanks for reading!
I hope this blog has helped you prepare for surfing in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, and answered any questions you might’ve had. I”m sure you’re going to love catching waves in one of the best places in all of Nicaragua!
If you found this blog helpful, be sure to check out the rest of our Nicaragua travel blogs including some of our favorite blog articles below: