Beaches North of San Juan del Sur
- Where to Go
- The Best of Nicaragua
- Nicaragua’s Best Surfing
- Hiking Nicaragua’s Ring of Fire
- Nicaraguan Arts & Crafts
- Nicaragua’s Great Green North
- Sportfishing in Nicaragua
- Down the Río San Juan
- Nicaragua’s Celebrations & Fiestas
- Volunteering in Nicaragua
- Diving & Snorkeling in Nicaragua
- Managua’s Revolutionary Driving Tour
To get to Madera or Marsella, stop by any of the surf shops in San Juan del Sur. Rides cost $5 round-trip. If you’re driving, access these beaches via the road to Chocolata, just east of the Texaco station. Much of this road served as the old railroad grade for a railroad never built.
Seven kilometers along, turn left at Chocolata to a fork in the road: left goes to Marsella and Madera, right to Majagual. The drive out, on a newly-paved road through the ex-mayor’s cattle ranch, is simply beautiful. It’ll take you about 20 minutes to reach either beach.
This pleasant, breezy beach is one of the closest to San Juan del Sur and you can drive right up to the sand, making it a popular day trip for Frisbee throwers and sunset watchers. On the weekends a small restaurant on the beach serves ceviche, fried fish, and cold beer.
One of the most consistent, easy-to-access surf breaks from San Juan, Madera is enjoyed for its medium-speed hollow wave that breaks both right and left, best on incoming tides. There’s parking right on the beach, and the place turns into a popular hangout around sunset. Surf shops bring groups here several times a day, so you won’t be surfing solo.
Hospedaje los Tres Hermanos, a simple wooden bunkhouse with a kitchen, offers lodging for $7 per person and cheap meals ($2 breakfast, $5 lunch), and rents boards by the hour.
A short walk north is Hideout Surf Camp (ddwysdwy [at] hyahoo [dot] com, $10 pp dorm, $20 private room) followed by, another five minutes north along the beach, Matilda’s (tel. 505/2456-3461 or 505/8818-3374, $4.50 for a “perma-tent,” $8 dorm, $30 d private room with bath) right on the beach, perfect for swimming.
Buena Vista Surf Club (tel. 505/8863-4180 or 505/8863-3312, www.buenavistasurfclub.com, $90 d) leans towards luxury and gets good reviews, located in the hills above Madera, from where you can watch the waves while doing yoga on an incredible wooden deck.
About 1.5 km from the beach, Mango Rosa (tel. 505/8403-5326, www.mangorosanicaragua.com, $95 d) has a pool, volleyball court, hammocks, restaurant, and bar under a shady rancho. They’ve built with an environmentally friendly sewer system and are careful about energy use.
Twelve rough kilometers from San Juan del Sur, this beautiful beach was formerly a peaceful backpacker-surfer retreat; it was purchased by investors and is now home to a 15-foot-tall cement wall surrounding their private property. The beach remains accessible, but the charm is gone.
Morgan’s Rock Hacienda & Eco Lodge
Playa Ocotál is the home of a much-hyped ecolodge at the vanguard of Nicaragua’s upscale tourism market. Morgan’s Rock Hacienda & Eco Lodge (tel. 505/8670-7676, www.morgansrock.com) is an exclusive resort surrounded by a 1,000-hectare reforestation project and an 800-hectare private nature reserve; its 15 elegant, hardwood cabins are built into a bluff above the crashing surf on the beach below.
As few trees as possible were felled during construction, so you’ll have to walk a 110-meter-long suspension bridge through a lush canopy to reach your cabin, which is the most luxurious and beautiful treehouse your childhood fantasies ever dreamed up. The structures—as well as the main lodge, which features a gorgeous infinity pool—were designed with all local materials and feature ingenious architecture and attention to detail.
You’re on vacation here, so no phones or Internet, but there’s plenty to do: sunrise kayak tours of the estuary, tree-planting excursions, and tours of their shrimp farm and sugar mill, where they brew their own Morgan’s Rum. More than 70 workers are employed to grow and produce much of the restaurant’s vegetables, dairy products, herbs, and other needs.
A cool $258 per person per night gets you a cabin, three meals, all you can drink of local, nonalcoholic beverages, and two tours a day. Prices vary by season, so call or email to reserve your room. The facilities and services are for guests only, so sorry, no day-trippers.
© Randall Wood & Joshua Berman from Moon Nicaragua, 4th Edition