The Surfer's Guide to Nicaragua
While Costa Rica has been the darling of Central America for surfers, tourists, retirees and investors for
the past two decades, Nicaragua is the new belle of the ball. Surfers have heard about the uncrowded
breaks, investors have found an alternative to overpriced Costa Rica real estate, and more adventurous
tourists are finding the raw, unspoiled Central America they once found in Costa Rica. The skittish now
know that Nicaragua is Central America’s safest country. The informed have learned that 100 percent of
the 147,303 anti-personnel mines installed during the war have been removed. And everyone is marveling
in the country’s economic turnaround. Nicaragua is no longer a surfer’s secret or the new frontier. It is now
mainstream, or nearly so, with surf contests, surf magazine covers, Century 21 and golf condos.
And some pretty good surf.
The result has been a surge in tourism, up to 810,000 visitors in 2007, a one-third increase in three years.
Lonely Planet put Nicaragua in its top seven hotspots to visit in 2007. And with tourism now the economy’s
leading income source it is likely the successful politicians will be those who favor policies that make
Nicaragua increasingly comfortable for visitors, with more and better infrastructure, hotels and other
things that make it easier for you to get to the surf and enjoy more of it.
Now for the reality check: You’ve undoubtedly heard or read about empty surf and year-round offshores.
Well, don’t get too excited yet. Sure, there are uncrowded and even totally empty breaks, but you’ll need a
boat to reach many of them, and many of the boat-in spots have gotten crowded anyhow. And yes,
southwestern Nicaragua gets offshores roughly 320 days each year. But subtract the flat days during the
height of the offshores and the days where the offshores are just plain blowing too hard and you can cut
that number by about a third. But that’s still pretty good. How many offshore days do you get where you
Nicaragua is Central America’s largest country, so it stands to reason that it should have a lot of surf
potential, especially with over 250 kilometers of Pacific coast line. And it does. So “reality checks” aside,
Nicaragua is definitely worth a look. In fact, the surf is awesome.
In many ways Nicaragua is like Costa Rica. The weather pattern is pretty much the same. Most of the surf
comes from the Southern Hemisphere. The surf is consistent and the water is warm. Travel costs are low
and it’s way less crowded than your local break. But Nicaragua is also different than Costa Rica.
Surfwise, one of the biggest differences between Nicaragua and Costa Rica is that most of the breaks are
not yet accessible by vehicle, because there’s no coast road to speak of, so getting to the surf via boat is
pretty typical. Additionally, there’s much less lodging, so even where there is access to the coast, you often
need to travel to the surf. All of this is changing, though, as surf camps, beach lodges and condos are
sprouting up everywhere. The real estate market had been going hog wild from around 2002, driven by
expectations of “the next Costa Rica”, but it came to a screeching halt in 2007 when Daniel Ortega was
elected president after being out of office over a decade – a decade of dramatic growth. There’s been a
coastal highway in the works for many years, but no work has truly begun on it yet.
Nicaragua is a poor, Third World country. It’s the second poorest country in the western hemisphere, with
Haiti being the poorest. The literacy rate is low and the unemployment rate is high. Roughly 80 percent of
Nicaraguans have a daily income under $2.
Leave your Imperial beer, Pura Vida and Iguana Surf tee shirts at home. And don’t bother bragging about
how many times you’ve been to Costa Rica. No one cares. You see, the Nicas and Ticos don’t get along
very well. Without going into the history of it or some kind of diatribe, just know that the Nicas, being poorer
and less educated, are looked down upon by the Ticos. The Nicas are the migrant workers in Costa Rica.
They do the work many Ticos won’t, they make up the largest group of illegal immigrants and suffer
prejudice and humiliation as a result. There is also a history of border disputes and other things that have
kept the Ticos and Nicas apart. All you really have to know is that showing off your love for Costa Rica won’
t get you any brownie points.
One last difference from Costa Rica: They speak less English in Nicaragua, so you really should brush up
on your Spanish. Then again, there are fewer cops and radar traps, so you may not need to use that
Spanish as much.
Enough with the Costa Rica comparisons. Nicaragua stands on its own very well.
|Nicaragua is best known for its consistent offshore winds.
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