Tola Region Surf Spots
GPS: 11.459482, -86.112124
Likely the most famous wave in Nica; this consistent, flat-rock reef break is always a safe bet for those with limited time in the region. The left and slightly shorter right can alternate between long, rippable faces to steeper, heavier barrel sections depending on size and swell direction. Crowds can get heavy, but for good reason; during high season Popoyo receives offshore wind all day and is surfable on most tide levels. On a huge swell at high tide, more experienced surfers will paddle about 400 meters to Outer Popoyo. This mental, gaping slab looks perfect and manageable from a distance, but is not for beginners. It breaks over sharp, shallow reef and is known as the heaviest wave in Nicaragua.
GPS: 11.446437, -86.092791
Playa Santana is easily accessible and just plain fun to surf. Hit it around mid to high tide with light offshore wind and you’ll find yourself smiling, hunting barrels with the local groms. Keep it zen out there as the locals like to “share” waves. There are usually a few peaks to be found and if you want to avoid the crowds head to the north away from the point.
Type: Beach break
GPS: 11.432893, -86.081787
Rosada can be found about a half-mile south and around the point from Playa Santana. It’s a shorter, punchy left over a shallow reef and was completely empty while we were there. According to a local friend, there’s been a few shark sightings and people tend to avoid it. Try to keep your limbs close as urchin attacks are common.
The Bay in front of Mag Rock
Between Playa Santana and Popoyo right below the Magnific Rock Hotel is the Bay. It’s a (very slow) left that’s perfect for beginners and usually crowded around high-tide. This is where most instructors take their classes as the rest of the waves in the area require a moderate to advanced skill level.
GPS: 11.454471, -86.105562
Type: Reef to beach
Other notable breaks in Tola
Below are some notable breaks just outside of the Popoyo area.
Chacocente: About 30 to 40 minutes to the north of Playa Santana by car; Chacocente is a government controlled turtle sanctuary. If reached early in the morning, this giant beach offers fun, uncrowded peaks with the opportunity for some cover-ups.
Lances Left: On the far north end of El Astillero lies Lances Left. As the name implies, it’s a long lefthand point break over rocky reef. The easiest way to access this wave is by boat, but those looking to save money can make semi-treacherous, 40 minute walk to the break.
Playa Colorado: This beach break is one of the easiest places to find barrels in the region. However, it can get intensely crowded and is technically a private beach, so you can’t just drive in. If you’re not staying in one of the expensive resorts at Playa Colorado, you’ll have to access the wave by boat (which can also be expensive).
Things to Do Around Popoyo
Happy Hour at Magnific Rock
Although its a little pricey at other times, happy hour is the best time to hike up to Mag Rock to check out the incredible view. Cocktails are 2 for 1, although beer is still $1.50. They also have wifi.
The termales are just off the main road through Limon Dos and are perfect for loosening up tense muscles. You’ll most likely be charged a few bucks to enter and the locals may be doing their laundry in the pools.
Where to Stay
Although most of the hostels and restaurants are located in Guasacate, we found this area to too overrun with tourists for our tastes. We stayed on the southern side of the river, closer to the bay and Magnific Rock, where we found much better vibes (and prices).
This was one of our favorite places to camp, partly because of the atmosphere and partly because of the location. Right across the street from the beach, the campsite is positioned perfectly between Popoyo and Playa Santana. It’s about a 20 minute walk to either, making this the ideal place to settle down for a few weeks (or months).
Campsites are shaded, and some are protected by palapa. You can pull your car or motorcycle in and rest easy as the campsite is protected by a guard at nighttime.
Cooking is easy, which makes living here very, very cheap. There is a communal kitchen with a camping stove and fridge, as well as a daily fruit truck. We enjoyed making big family dinners with the other campers, pooling our money to buy fresh fish to make ceviche and soup. If you get lazy, you can walk up the hill to Magnific Rock for a beer or a meal.
Don’t have camping stuff? Friendly Omar can rent you a tent and sleeping pads. He also has surfboards.
Cost: $5 USD per night / $4 USD per night if you stay longer and ask Omar politely
Surfboard rentals: $10 USD per day