It’s no secret that I have always wanted to learn to surf. A scuba diver and marine biologist through and through, the salt water runs through my veins. I was totally stoked when the opportunity presented itself in Nicaragua for Joey and I to go surfing.
San Juan del Sur is known as the surfing capital of Nicaragua and with good reason. A fishing village turned tourist town, San Juan del Sur is blessed with a laid back vibe, brightly colored houses and crescent shaped bays that dot its coastlines. Averaging a mere 15,500 local residents, this town has a the pelican filled harbor and city center of only 3 squared blocks. In this small place, it doesn’t take long to recognize faces and make friends.
Though the main beach in town is not the best for surfing (or swimming for that matter), there are 22 other pristine beaches in the area that will keep even the most advanced surfer happy.
1. Playa Hermosa: To me, Playa Hermosa is my idea of the picture perfect beach. A 20 minute drive south of San Juan del Sur, getting to this beach requires a fair bite of off-roading through the jungle. Unlike most beaches around San Juan del Sur, Playa Hermosa charges an entry fee of $2 USD per person. The small small fee helps pay for the access to; the restaurant, hammocks, freshwater showers, washrooms and chairs. A fair price for the amenities offered by this private beach, Playa Hermosa leaves you wanting nothing. If you’ve brought your camera and cell phone with you to take some memorable photo’s of your surfing session the beach also has private lockers to protect your valuables.
2. Playa Maderas: Playa Maderas is San Juan’s most popular surf beach thanks to its year round waves. Getting to this beach takes about 20 minutes in a recommended 4X4 vehicle. A few small restaurants, surf shops and hostels in its vicinity, Playa Maderas’s wave breaks are good for all surfing levels whether you are right handed or left handed. Enjoy playing in the rolling waves and sandy bottom or take a sunset walk along the beach at the end of the surf day, it won’t take you long to fall under Playa Maderas’s spell.
3. Playa Remanso: Small but mighty, Playa Remanso is located about 15 minutes south of San Juan del Sur. The closest surfing beach to town, the white sand beach and steady waves make it an ideal location for learners to get their boarding legs. Hungry after a long session on the water? Playa Remanso has a small bar and shaded area where you can relax, eat and recoup. The only thing to be cautious on this beach is the lack of lockers and security for valuables. One of our hostel friends even had his flip flops taken from the beach while he was out surfing.
We did some shopping around San Juan del Sur before finally booking with a company. Recommended by a friend that we had met at our hostel, One Love Surf Shop was who we decided to surf with, and looking back on our action packed day we certainly were not disappointed. At 10AM a group of 12 of us strapped our boards to the roof and boarded a truck turned beach bum transport and began the drive to Playa Hermosa. It was a wild jungle ride through rushing rivers and howler monkey territory but when we finally arrived the ocean side paradise greeted us with open arms.
We did an hour surf lesson with one of the surf shops instructors which included some on shore technical practice before hitting the waves. From the second we put our big toes in the water we knew this was a sport we would completely love. We spent the rest of the morning being tossed around in the white water of many breakers and cleaning lots of sand out of our bathing suits before breaking for lunch.
Over a delicious beachside burger served at the Playa Hermosa Ecolodge Bar Joey and I noticed the colorful columns holding up the roof and survivor banner hanging in the restaurant. Just when we thought this place could not get any better, we found out that Playa Hermosa we the site of one of our favourite TV shows; Survivor. In 2010 and 2011 respectively, this site had played host to Survivor Nicaragua and Survivor Redemption Island. We immediately recognized some of the immunity challenge poles in which contestants had to climb to the top and hang there with little to no hand and foot holds. After talking to our surf instructor we even found out that he was contracted part of the crew to help out on set. The beach oasis of Playa Hermosa had once again managed to dazzle us.
We concluded our day on the water with faces burnt to a crisp, hair encrusted with salt and arms covered in board rash but I wouldn’t have expected our amazing surf adventure to end any other way.
Weather you come to San Juan to party on Sunday Funday, take a 20 minute hike to the Jesus statue overlooking the city or just to catch some radical surfing waves, you won’t grow bored here in this bopping little town. Hang a ten dude!
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