A panoramic view of San Juan del Sur beach, Nicaragua

The Best Beaches on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua

It’s no secret that the best beaches in Nicaragua are on the pacific coast. Whilst there are some great beaches on the Caribbean Coast and Lake Nicaragua, too, the pacific coast of Nicaragua just has too many beautiful beaches to compare. The Pacific Ocean has quite the reputation for being C-O-L-D, especially further south in Latin America, but you’ll be pleased to know that up here in Nicaragua (and in Central America in general) the waters of the Pacific Ocean can be just as warm as the Caribbean Sea. In fact, many people surf here without a wetsuit. 

If you’re into surfing, you’ll probably want to head straight to the south of Nicaragua, where the Pacific Coast is filled with small beach towns that gather around San Juan del Sur, a large and very popular beach town. The whole pacific coast of Nicaragua has great waves for surfing, but this area has the most vibrant and tourist-friendly surf community. 

In terms of location, I have sorted this list into geographical locations from north to south, so you can follow the list down the map if you want to! Keep an eye out for future posts on the best beaches around Lake Nicaragua and the Caribbean coast, or check out this article on beaches in Nicaragua.

I recently went travelling in Central America, so make sure to read my other articles with tips and tricks for travelling in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama!

Playa Las Peñitas (Las Peñitas)

Las Peñitas is a lively beach town in the north of Nicaragua, but still on the Pacific coast, offering a vibrant atmosphere and lots to do. It’s the closest beach to Leon, quite a touristy city, around 20 minutes drive. It’s quite easy to access from the city by bus or car.  

Almost connected is the more northern beach of Playa Poneloya, another great place to visit and stay. Here there are options for water sports beyond surfing (who’d have thought it?!) including kayaking and paddle boarding.

Salinas Grandes & Playa Tesoro (Salinas Grandes)

Salinas Grandes and Playa Tesoro are two large beaches that join together the towns of Salinas Grandes and Puerto Sandino, a much less touristy place. These beaches are nesting beaches for turtles, which means you could come across some incredible wildlife during your trip here. Just remember to follow local guidelines to make sure you don’t disturb turtles whilst they’re nesting or hatching.

Read more about Nicaragua: How to Get to Nicaragua from Guatemala by Bus

Beginner Bay, Popoyo Surf Spot & Playa Popoyo (Jiquelite)

As you can probably gather by the names of the beaches, Jiquelite is a great spot for surfers of all levels. The varied beaches provide both challenging breaks and areas suitable for beginners.

Note: although these places are named after a nearby town, Popoyo, the actual town of Popoyo doesn’t have a lot in the way of beaches. Popoyo is more an area for luxurious resorts and great restaurants than beaches!

Playa Los Perros (Tola)

Playa Los Perros is tucked away from the crowds and offers a more secluded beach experience than a town like La Boquita or San Juan del Sur. It’s just north of Playa Colorado, and between the two beaches there are quite a few ideally located places to stay that give you great access to both beaches.

Playa Colorado (Iguana)

Playa Colorado has really easy access to Costa Esmeralda International Airport, so if you’re arriving by air then this would be an ideal first or last stop on your trip. This town offers a tranquil escape with practically no traffic and some of the best ocean views around. 

Playa Gigante (El Gigante)

Playa Gigante is, as you might have guessed, gigantic. It’s quite touristy and offers a lot in terms of things to do, like a Spanish school, a surf school, and sailing tours, too!

Playa Redonda (Redonda Bay)

Famous for its aqua wellness resort (Aqua Oceanfront Resort & Residences) and stunning ocean views, Playa Redonda is a perfect place to unwind and enjoy the beauty of Nicaragua’s Pacific coast. Because it’s inside a bay, the beach here is generally much more for relaxation than it is for surfing. It’s just south of Playa El Gigante.

Playa Manzanillo (Manzanillo)

There are two Playa Manzanillos in this area of Nicaragua alone, so beware before you book! The more well-established is further north (although still very comfortably in the south of the country). It is in the town of Manzanillo and home to Mukul Resort, a five star hotel. 

The other Playa Manzanillo is located close to the border within a secret cove, quite aptly named “The Secret Cove”. There are not many options for places to stay around here; the closest town is El Pochote, which is small in itself!

Read more about Central America: What to Pack for Backpacking in Central America

Playa Guacalito (Guacalito de la Isla)

Guacalito de la Isla markets itself as a luxury, tropical paradise on the “Emerald Coast of Nicaragua”. Whilst it seems idyllic, and I’m sure it is, make sure you’re prepared for the price tag of the accommodation, restaurants and everything else in this area! It’s one of the best places to go if you’re looking for an upmarket, luxury experience.

Playa Maderas (Maderas Beach)

Maderas Beach (or Playa Maderas, to the locals) is a long stretch of beach to the north of San Juan del Sur. It’s close enough that you could make a day trip there or stay in the towns of San Lorenzo and La Paquita nearby. It’s quite built-up with easy access to seaside-style shops and restaurants, and has areas suitable for various surfer skill levels!

Playa San Juan del Sur (San Juan del Sur)

San Juan del Sur is by far the most popular town and beach in this area (and maybe in the whole of Nicaragua). If you’re getting the bus south from somewhere else in Nicaragua like Managua, Leon or Ometepe Island, chances are your bus will leave you or pass by San Juan del Sur. Although it’s touristy, places like this are touristy for a reason! It’s attracted a high number of immigrants from western countries lately due to its great combination of ambience, surf and ideal weather.

Whether or not visiting tourist hotspots is your thing, it’s worth spending the day in San Juan del Sur, just to see what all the fuss is about!

If you want to partake in water sports beyond surfing, San Juan del Sur is the place to do it. It’s one of the only beach towns big enough to have an industry for any water sports other than surfing, both because surfing is so popular around here and because many of the other beach towns are so small.

Playa Hermosa (Short Drive South of San Juan del Sur)

Known for its pristine beaches and coconut palms, Playa Hermosa is a favourite spot for beachgoers looking to escape the hustle and bustle of San Juan del Sur. You also have the option to stay nearby in the town of El Sucio, which has its own smaller beach called Playa Remanso.

Playa La Flor & Playa El Coco (Brasilito)

Nestled along the coast around half way between San Juan del Sur and the Costa Rica Nicaragua border, you’ll find this set of pristine beaches. They’re perfect for nature lovers, as they’re a little more off the beaten track than some of the other beaches in this area.

Playa La Flor and Playa El Coco are the bigger beaches in this area, but between them are several smaller beaches.

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