Meet the Nicaraguan Beach Town That Should Be Your Next Winter Escape

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Photo: Courtesy of Inside Elsewhere

There’s so much to see in Nicaragua that it seems almost silly to offer a guide to tiny Playa Maderas. Still, this surfer’s paradise in the southwest corner of the country is quickly becoming a go-to spot for those seeking an under-the-radar alternative to San Juan del Sur’s youth-hostel party scene. Here, a few things to keep in mind should you decide to make the trek.

Photo: Courtesy of Inside Elsewhere

Photo: Courtesy of Inside Elsewhere

Where to Stay

We stayed at the completely enchanting Maderas Village and loved every second of it, but nearby hotels Buena Vista Surf Club and HulaKai are excellent options as well—both are a short walk from the beach and offer sweeping ocean views, yoga classes, and fun, family-style dinners that make for a good chance to bond with fellow travelers.

If you’re craving a less social experience, rent one of the many secluded villas that dot the valley instead: Casa Tres Peces or the treehouse-like Casa Arbol are particularly lovely.

Photo: Courtesy of Inside Elsewhere

Photo: Courtesy of Inside Elsewhere

Photo: Courtesy of Inside Elsewhere

Photo: Courtesy of Inside Elsewhere

What to Do

The main reason to head to Playa Maderas? The beach. With its signature shark-fin-shaped rock formations and protected jungle cove, it’s so gorgeous that it can be hard to tear yourself away. And the break is pretty fun too. Though it can get a little crowded, the beach has a friendly sand-rock bottom and a consistent swell that’s good for all levels.

Boards can be rented for about $5 from any of the surf shacks that dot the beach. Grab a lesson from one of those guys, or head a few meters up the road to Rebelde Surf School and ask for Juan Carlos, a local favorite.

There are a handful of bars on the beach for ceviche, cold beers, and fish nachos. There’s even a “secret” beach just to the north—it’s an easy walk at low tide along the sand (follow the path until you literally can’t go any further). If you have wheels, Playa Marsella, a wide beach just south of Maderas at the mouth of Quebrada el Baston, is just a few minutes’ drive away. You can’t surf there, but it’s usually pretty empty and a nice change of pace.

For those craving a little adventure, Lake Nicaragua and Isla de Ometepe are relatively close and offer surreal views, hiking, and something that sounds a bit crazy but awesome: volcano boarding. For a more mellow adrenaline rush, book a sunset catamaran trip with Nica Sail n’ Surf—it includes an open bar, a ceviche lunch, and swimming at a private white-sand beach that has water so clear and turquoise, you’ll swear you’re in the Caribbean.

21614069855 d552299c5b k Meet the Nicaraguan Beach Town That Should Be Your Next Winter Escape

Photo: Courtesy of Inside Elsewhere

20992895953 b6656fd4de k Meet the Nicaraguan Beach Town That Should Be Your Next Winter Escape

Photo: Courtesy of Inside Elsewhere

Get There

Playa Maderas is about a three-hour drive from Managua, a 20-minute drive from San Juan del Sur, and about three hours from Liberia, Costa Rica. Though we recommend arranging transportation via four-wheel drive taxi from Managua Airport (about $100 USD) through your hotel, it is possible to take the bus from Managua to San Juan del Sur and then a beach shuttle from Casa Oro to Playa Maderas—if you don’t have rolling suitcases or time constraints.

If you’re entering from Liberia, you’ll have to cross the border into Nicaragua. The easiest and most economical way is to take the local bus (about $2) from the Liberia bus station to La Frontera (also called Peñas Blancas), then continue through the border checkpoints on foot and get a taxi on the Nicaragua side.

Alternatively, you could take the Tica Bus. It’s comfy, air-conditioned, and easy—they handle all your customs paperwork at the border. However, it can take some time to get over the border—you’ll have to wait for everyone else on the bus to have their paperwork processed as well. If you do decide to take the Tica Bus, don’t forget to book your seat 24 hours ahead of time; the bus originates in San Jose and will not stop in Liberia unless you’ve made a prior reservation.

Good to Know

As far as crime rates in Central America go, Nicaragua has one of the lowest, second only to Costa Rica. That being said, it’s also a lot less developed than its neighbor to the south and has one of the poorest economies in the region. Use common sense, and avoid traveling the roads or using public transit at night.

Nicaragua’s currency is the Cordoba; the exchange rate is roughly 27 NIO (Nicaraguan Cordoba Oro) to the US dollar. The best local beer is Toña—it is cheap and delicious, and you will want to bring it home by the case.

21614053475 5d79203a7d k Meet the Nicaraguan Beach Town That Should Be Your Next Winter Escape

Photo: Courtesy of Inside Elsewhere

Photo: Courtesy of Inside Elsewhere

Photo: Courtesy of Inside Elsewhere

Inside Elsewhere is a travel website dedicated to free spirits near and far. From Bali to Brooklyn and everywhere in between, Christina Pérez and Thomas Beckner explore the best places to stay, eat, shop, and play. Let’s get out of here. Follow along on Instagram at @inside_elsewhere.

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