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ULTIMATE Guide to Surfing in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua (For ALL Skill Levels!)

ULTIMATE Guide to Surfing in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua (For ALL Skill Levels!)

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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

two people surfing a wave in Sa Juan del sur
Look at Daniel go!

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.

Where to go Surfing in San Juan del Sur – The BEST Beaches

Bailey hanging out at Playa Hermosa near San Juan del Sur
Just having a break at Playa Hermosa after catching a few waves!

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 great beaches only a short drive from San Juan town though, and they are:

Playa Hermosa

This is my favorite surfing beach near San Juan del Sur. It is about a 20-30 minute drive from town and shuttle 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 beginers, especially as the tide starts to go out, but there are areas of the beach more suited to intermediate surfers too!

Playa Maderas

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 at our surf camp and had a great time!

There is also this amazing yoga and surf retreat at Playa Maderas which is an awesome option for somewhere to stay nearby!

Playa Yankee

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!

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 as preparation for your trip.

1. Get those arms and shoulders ready!

paddling on a surfboard in san juan del sur
Paddling is a lot more work than it looks!

This may sound silly, but if you don’t take my advice you’ll know exactly what I mean!

When Dan and I starting 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

Daniel at a pool bar at our hotel in San Juan del Sur
Just enjoying the pool bar at our hotel in San Juan, Surf Ranch Resort!

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:

Naked Tiger – This hostel is located on the outskirts of San Juan del Sur town. It offers incredible views and an infinity pool. It is relaxing all while having a party vibe at night.

Pachamama – A party hostel located right in the heart of San Juan del Sur. Although the facilities aren’t as nice at the ‘t super luxurious, they do have a pool and the location is superb. This place is almost always fully booked!

TreeCasa – Located a couple of kilometers outside of town, this hotel has a gorgeous outdoor pool right in the jungle. Rooms are affordable but luxurious and have everything you would need. Some even have patios with amazing views!

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!

3. Research surf camps and consider your options

A surfer at Playa Hermosa, Nicaragua
Going out for a sunset surf with my surf camp!

There are lots of different options for surf camps or surf lessons. While you can book some of them when you arrive, it is nice to have done your research before.

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

sitting at the beach, Playa Hermosa near San Juan del Sur
Enjoying a beet after surfing! Bringing a beer with you to the beach isn’t a bad idea to enjoy after you;re done surfing!

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, athletic swimsuit, towel, and 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

A lady surfs at Popoyo Beach
That’s me, catching a big wave after only a couple of days of classes at my surf camp!

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 booking either a couple of lessons or a full surf camp in San Juan del Sur. The only way you’re going to get up on a board catching proper waves is with knowledge of the proper technique as well as 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, 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.

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, 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.

Renting Surfboards in San Juan del Sur and Surfing Independently

Daniel waxing his surfboard in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Daniel, waxing his rental board!

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 me much cheaper than a long term rental.

Read next: Be sure to check out our blog that is a complete guide to visiting San Juan del Sur including tons of great things to do and see!

Before you go…

Dan and Bailey take a selfie in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Thanks for reading our blog, and we hope you enjoy San Juan del Sur and have fun learning to surf!

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:

21 Fun Things to do in Granada

Where to Stay in Ometepe

ULTIMATE Nicaragua Travel Guide


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