In the actual bay of San Juan Del Sur there isn’t really any surfing, because it is a protected harbor. There are, however, good surf breaks close by. By car, the closest one is about a 30-minute drive. You can also rent a panga (a small boat) out of San Juan that you can use to take you to several surf breaks around there.
We’re located at Popoyo, further north of San Juan del Sur, about an hour and a half by car and probably 17 miles as the crow flies. Popoyo has really good surf breaks. The “offshore wind effect” here in southern Nicaragua is a huge draw for surfing and has put Nicaragua in general and Popoyo in specific “on the map” worldwide. Due to the offshore wind effect, Nicaragua is probably is one of the most consistent places to surf in the Americas.
If you look at a map of Nicaragua, you will see Lake Nicaragua, which is a huge, beautiful, freshwater lake in the center of southern Nicaragua, and no mountains. The trade winds blow from east to west (from the Caribbean to the Pacific). When these winds hit Costa Rica and Panama they get bottled up due to the mountains in these countries and are not allowed to push off to the Pacific Ocean. But in southern Nicaragua, the trade winds whip straight across the landmass, which creates the offshore winds here in Popoyo. As a result of this and other factors, we have around 300 days a year that are really favorable for surfing.
The offshore winds clean up the wave faces, whereas onshore winds make the waves confused and not clean. As a result, a lot of our surf breaks here will have perfect surfer’s conditions for the entire day whereas if you go somewhere like Costa Rica, you’re going to get onshore breezes a lot of times in the middle day. In southern Nicaragua, we basically do not have that onshore sea breeze for most of the year, which has made this area famous. I personally didn’t believe it when I was first told about it and then when I came down here it was hard to believe that something as variable as the wind could be taken out of the equation for surfing. So this phenomenon is a pretty special thing for this part of Nicaragua.
Popoyo is the name of the main surf break here (the most famous surf break in the country of Nicaragua) that’s about a mile down the beach from our house. Popoyo has the most consistent surf breaks in the Americas because it breaks on high tide and low tide, any direction, and we have almost always have the offshore wind.
And then there’s a really good wave at the main peak of Popoyo and there’s an outside reef that is the most world-class wave in the country. It’s very heavy and when it breaks it’s very big but it’s got these huge barrels for people looking for the triple black diamond of surfing.