Beaches West of León
- Where to Go
- The Best of Nicaragua
- Nicaragua’s Best Surfing
- Hiking Nicaragua’s Ring of Fire
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- Nicaragua’s Great Green North
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- Down the Río San Juan
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- Diving & Snorkeling in Nicaragua
- Managua’s Revolutionary Driving Tour
Only a 20-minute drive toward the coast from León (on a new road completed in 2009), Poneloya has been a playground of the Leónese elite for generations. Nearby Las Peñitas is better developed for foreign travelers who come looking for beginner surfing waves and nature excursions into the Isla Juan Venado Wildlife Reserve.
During Semana Santa, hotels at both beaches swell to capacity and double their rates.
Las Peñitas is more popular among beginner surfers, since the waves are a bit mellower and there are many boards for rent. It’s a rare exception along this stretch of Nicaragua’s Pacific shoreline, where the waves are less forgiving than the beaches around San Juan del Sur; they break faster and and with more force, and the currents are stronger. Poneloya in particular has a vicious undertow that makes it dangerous for casual swimmers; bathers die every year.
Exactly halfway to the coast from León, look for the turnoff for Rancho Los Alpes (Km 100.5, León–Poneloya road, tel. 505/8803-7085, rancholosalpes [at] gmail [dot] com), an old-style ranch house with nice rooms filled with handmade furniture and interesting antiques. This is an excellent spot for groups, with service and tour opportunities, excellent food and barbecues, as well as horseback riding and other day trips to beaches and volanoes.
Getting to the Beaches
Buses for Poneloya leave every 45 minutes from the Subtiava Mercadito, from early in the morning until 6 p.m. They stop first in Poneloya, idling for 10 minutes, then continue to Las Peñitas; the trip to the end of the road at Barca de Oro takes about 30 minutes with the new road. You’ll save time if you take a taxi from León (about $8–10, not bad if you have three or four people to split the cost).
The last bus back to León leaves Barca de Oro at 6:30 p.m., so you can easily do a day trip and end up back in your colonial room in León for dinner.
© Randall Wood & Joshua Berman from Moon Nicaragua, 4th Edition