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A local’s guide to Nicaragua’s most remarkable beaches and surf breaks

Updated: Jan 21, 2023

Every beach in Nicaragua has a little something different to offer

From vibrant colonial cities and hip, laid-back surf towns, to volcanoes, waterfalls, rainforests, endless surf breaks, and hidden secluded coves where you can have the whole beach to yourself, Nicaragua, a Central American country that sits between the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, really does have something for everyone.

But, when it comes to Nicaraguan beaches, the southern coast, where Verdad is, seriously has the best the country has to offer — and the variety is endless. White sand, black sand, private and secluded, lively and vivacious, wild and untamed, empty or lined by several restaurants and shops… you name it, Nica’s got it.

So, whether you prefer digging your toes in the sand and kicking back with a cold beer watching the sunset, catching a dope wave, relaxing with your family by crystal blue waters, or strolling along untouched stretches of sand without seeing another soul, the toughest choice you’ll have to make on your visit to our shores will be which beach you should visit each day.

To help, we’ve listed our personal favorites:

Playa Escameca Grande

We admit we’re biased, but we think Playa Escameca Grande is the best beach on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua. It's a quiet and serene place where only the sounds of waves crashing, howler monkeys and other exotic creatures can be heard amidst the quiet chatter and laughter of the humans enjoying the beach. It also has a darn good surf break, which you’ll share with a few super welcoming locals and other hotel guests. There’s never a line up here, we promise! With a consistent off-shore wind and a reliable beach break, it’s our favorite surf spot and mostly unknown to tourists. So, if catching a nice, easy wave without a crowd is what you want, you will find it here! This surf spot is great for beginners, but more advanced surfers love the waves here as well.

Rio Escameca Grande sits at the south end of the stretch of light sand, where you will find a beautiful estuary home to countless species of birds, monkeys, and fish, including snapper and snook. You can rent a paddleboard from us and paddle your way up the river on water, or follow the trails that take you alongside the river and over the hill to Playa el Coco.

We are also partial to the tasty local fare served at Rancho Tortuga, right on the beach. Chef and owner Nery and her team make delicious fish tacos, ceviche that ranks right up there with the best you’ve ever tasted, and plenty of other delicious fare. Our favorite dish is the pan-fried fish platter served with tostones, and a stewed tomato and onion side that perfectly compliments the tender fish. It’s only available when Nery is able to pick up fresh whole fish in Ostional, a small fishing village south of us, but luckily that’s often.

Vital Actions also runs a turtle sanctuary here. You’ll find Tim and his crew nurturing several nests and it’s not at all unusual to witness baby turtles being released if you're down at the beach around sunset.

There’s so much to explore right in our own backyard. Best of all, it’s all right outside the front door of your casita and easily accessible from our really awesome walking trails.

Playa el Yankee

Another beach you can walk to right from Verdad, Playa el Yankee, is a surf spot favored by the locals. There is never — and when we say never, we mean it — a crowded line up here. Playa Yankee has a faster stronger left wedge that short boarders love, so it’s a place for the more adventurous traveler. You won’t find a surfboard rental hut or restaurant on the beach here, and the surrounding area, though a few houses dot the hillside, is still wild and untamed. It can be quite a challenging wave, so we don’t recommend it to beginners.

Walking the beach, you will notice how striking the coastline is, with its long stretch of light-colored sand bordered by jungle and jagged volcanic rocks rising from the ocean floor. If you head over at low tide there are several tidal pools that you can take a dunk in to cool off on your way. Local fishermen also come here on foot to catch dinner from the cliffs on either end of the long stretch of beach which is about ½ a mile long.

Playa el Coco

Unlike Yankee, Playa Coco has a super gentle wave, making it a very kid-friendly beach. And there’s an added bonus – the wildlife. There’s a small turtle sanctuary run by Vital Actions here, as well as parrots, iguanas, sloths, howlers and more.

You can access this beach from the trails south of Verdad (the hike is somewhat challenging, either over the hillside, or over the rocks only at low-tide) and you will arrive at the quiet beach lined with rock formations and vegetation. Playa Coco is another one of the most stunning beaches in the area and you really can find everything there: homes to rent, a small hotel with a pool, restaurants, a protected maritime park, beautifully preserved flora, a dreamy sandy beach and fun waves perfect for body-surfing. The respect for Nicaragua’s rich wildlife and flora here is especially evident — the local community works together to preserve this exotic beauty.

Playa Maderas

Considered one of Nicaragua’s best beaches by many, Playa Maderas happens to also be the most popular surf spot on the string of bays that runs north from the hub of San Juan del Sur. There are a few places where you can rent a board, and several restaurants right on the beach. The break caters to all levels of surfers because the waves break in layers. Newbies can enjoy the smaller sets closer to shore, whilst the outer section is more challenging and better suited to experienced surfers.

The beach is also known for its signature shark-fin shaped rock formations and a protected jungle cove, making for a beautiful view at sunset — especially with a cool drink in hand! More than anything, though, Maderas stands out because of the vibes. Despite being close to the town of San Juan del Sur, it retains a real jungle charm. You’ll end each day with salt in your hair, sand on your skin, a mix of sunscreen and sweat on your brow, and surely a smile on your face.

Playa Marsella

Playa Marsella is less well known than her sister bay of Playa Maderas and is a much quieter spot. With a long, white sandy beach stretching from one end of the bay to the other, Marsella is strikingly beautiful. And the large iconic volcanic rock formation in the distance is a well-known vista.

We should note, there are rarely surfable waves at Playa Marsella. Instead, it is known as a beautiful beach to enjoy swimming, walking, kayaking, horseback riding or as a launching spot for a panga boat ride to check out all the little coves along the coast from the water which is usually crystal clear, so you can see right down to the sandy bottom.

There are two restaurants on the beach here as well. The one to the right is one of our absolute favorites. It’s a family run business, with a focus on local seafood. They make a fantastic fish and rice dish that’s similar to paella, and a fish stew chock full of shellfish with a deep rich flavor that is uniquely Nicaraguan. Be ready to go at it with your hands as there’s no way to be dainty with this dish! There are lovely handmade wooden deck chairs that line the perimeter, and the owners welcome you to hang out after your meal to take a swim or a siesta.

Playa Majagual and Mathilda

Playa Majagual really isn’t that hard to reach — it’s less than 20 minutes from the main hub of San Juan del Sur — but it’s one of the area’s best-kept secrets. At any given time, typically no more than 10 people can be found on the beach. If a secluded, untouched, off-the beaten path vibe is up your alley, this is the beach for you. It’s a complete disconnection from noise and a full immersion into nature.

With just one little ranchito to eat at, offering basic but decent food, Playa Mathilda is sister to Majagual. The two beaches are divided only by a rock formation and the access point to both is within a block of each other. We love to pack a little picnic and spend the day relaxing along these waters.

Playa Remanso

Playa Remanso is another good option for playful waves and it is probably one of our favorite spots to stay after a surf session to enjoy the sunset and the good company of friends. It’s a great beach for beginners to learn and it’s also known as Nicaragua’s best longboarding spot. There are a few small, family-owned ranch style restaurants that offer all of Nicaragua’s specialties, from ceviche to tacos and of course a variety of cocktails!

The views and sunsets from this bay are really sweet – you can even see the mountains in Costa Rica on a clear day! Of all the beaches in the Nicaraguan province of Rivas, Playa el Remanso is one of the most popular today thanks to the friendly, relaxing atmosphere where locals and visitors mingle and the excellent surf. It’s definitely a popular spot for the surf schools based in San Juan del Sur to bring their clients, so you won’t have the break to yourself here.

Playa Hermosa

One of the best maintained beaches in the country, Playa Hermosa — which literally means ‘beautiful beach’ in Spanish — offers visitors crystal clear blue waters and gorgeous scenery. World famous for its outstanding surf, it is a must visit if you are looking to catch some fun, punchy and uncrowded waves.

This is the place that most surf competitions come to in Nicaragua. But if you think Hermosa is just for surfers, think again! The beach covers over one mile of coastline and like the name suggests, it is extremely beautiful. The area is a wonderful place for those who are searching for a quiet spot to relax on the sand, take in some of that warm tropical sun while enjoying the natural beauty of Nicaragua.

There is also a hotel situated right on the beach with a restaurant, a bar and a number of amenities like outdoor showers and hammocks. You’ll be charged a nominal fee per person at the entrance gate, and then you’ll drive down a dirt road through the jungle to get to the beach.

Fun fact: the road was always there, but when Survivor Nicaragua was shot here, the production widened the road and “improved” it to make way for their crew. 😉

Playa Popoyo

The furthest from Verdad on our list, and known as the surfer’s headquarters on the southern coast, Playa Popoyo’s competition-level waves are a big draw for anyone who dreams of catching “the big one.” But be warned, this is not a beach for beginners. Even our own surf pros have been known to “eat it” here during swell season.

The beach itself is also incredible, but if you aren’t a surfer, you have to have the right

mindset to enjoy your visit to Popoyo. Nicaragua has a number of jam-packed places with tons to do, but this is not one of them. Popoyo is not much of a surf town but a small string of hostels, surf shops and houses lined up behind the beach. There are a few restaurants around, but they are spread across the span of the huge beach. It's also popular to buy fresh fish from the local fisherman on the beach and have them grill it for you for just a few dollars added to the cost.

About a half-hour walk from the surf break, Nicaragua’s coastline gets even more magical. Particularly stunning at sunset, the beach is home to a series of rock formations that reveal stunning tide pools when the tide is out.

Playa San Juan del Sur

Last but definitely not least, you can’t talk about the beaches in Nicaragua without mentioning the cool surfer hub that is San Juan del Sur. Easily the most visited beach town in Nicaragua, San Juan del Sur is the center of community life in southern Nicaragua. The mile long beach is soft, wide and flat. Once a sleepy fishing village, it’s changed a lot over the years. There are several bars and restaurants along the beachfront, where you can grab a table right on the sand. You’ll find everything from traditional local fare, to pizza, pasta, sushi, and even a burger or Chinese food. Its central location makes it a great home base to explore the beaches north and south.

This is the place to come for people watching, and perhaps frolicking in the sea with local families or weekend visitors from Managua, but not a place to spend a relaxing day at the beach. Come “happy hour” and on into the evening, you’ll hear a steady beat from the speakers at the beachfront restaurants, and the bars can get a little rowdy on the weekends.The party here can go above and beyond with a blend of the local and international crowd taking it all in.

Early mornings, joggers and dog walkers are out, and there are often volleyball games, soccer (football) games, and a friendly mix of locals, expats and tourists enjoying the sights and sounds as the day goes on.

Whatever beach you find yourself at during the day, we look forward to winding down with you at Verdad when you return!

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