The next turn is another right, and now you’re heading to Tola.
In Tola make a left when you get to the stop sign at the other side of the park, with the police station on
your left. You’ll make a right a couple of blocks later. Now you’re on a dirt road.
Follow the dirt road for a little over 20 kilometers and you'll reach the guard gates for Rancho Santana.
There are lots of turnoffs, but when in doubt just follow the signs to Hacienda Iguana (which you'll pass)
and Rancho Santana. You’ll know you’re almost there when the road turns right and you enter a big valley
where you pass Hacienda Iguana (and Colorados and Panga Drops).
If you're not staying in Rancho Santana and just heading to surf the breaks pass the guard gates and
keep going until you arrive at the turnoff in Limón. It's just pass the second culvert-like creek/river
(depending on the time of year) crossing and has a bunch of signs. If you miss it just ask, everyone
knows how to get to Playa Santana. This is how you get to the beach breaks.
Plan for about 3 to 3.5 hours driving time. The total distance is 160 km. Fill up on gas in either Nandaime
or Rivas. The big gas stations are all on the big highway. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions. And don’t
drive at night. Lots of drunk drivers!
Get more from The Surfer's Guide to Costa Rica & SW Nicaragua, available at SurfTravelGear.com.
The Surfer's Guide to Nicaragua - Santana
Driving to Santana
Leaving the airport go right toward Tipitapa and Masaya.
Don’t drive into Masaya itself. You’ll get lost.
Towards the end of Masaya take a right at the big circle, you’ll
be heading towards Catarina but still on the outskirts of
Go through Catarina and take a right at the big fork in the
road (not at the circle; that’s too soon) and head to Nandaime.
The road joins the Carretera Sur at a “T” intersection in
Nandaime. Go left and head toward Rivas.
When you arrive at Rivas you’ll see signs for Tola, Hacienda
Iguana, Rancho Santana, Arenas Tola, etc. Go right. (If you
want groceries you’ll need to head into Rivas and look for the
Pali store. Ask directions – Donde está Pali super mercado?
– Don’t be shy.)
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The beach breaks are fairly popular and sometimes crowded, mostly with locals. Rancho Santana is a
private development, “The Cadillac of beachfront communities,” as International Living describes it, but
you can get in here if you try. House rentals are available, so unlike most of the Nicaragua breaks you can
stay right there, with clubhouses, wireless internet and all sorts of goodies, if you have the dough. You
don't need to pay the big bucks to stay in the development. You can also stay at the Surf Sanctuary which
is near the beachbreaks.
People often ask if you can walk to Rancho Santana from Playa Iguana. It's a long walk. You're more likely
to encounter surfers walking to Colorados from Rancho Santana than the other way around, so maybe
that says something.
Rancho Santa Surf
If you've never been to Nicaragua, or Rancho Santana, you're
probably most familiar with the photos of the reefbreak left at
Rosada. But unless you take a boat, rent or buy a place to
stay in the exclusive Rancho Santana development, or walk a
long way in, you're more likely to surf the public access
beachbreaks at the north end of the development. And you'll
The reef at Rosada is often compared to La Jolla’s Big Rock,
hollow and juicy. When it's on it can break for over 100 yards.
Rosada needs a bit of a swell to start working.
The beach breaks at Playa Santana are peaky and hollow.
On the south end of the beach the waves are shaped by a
wedge bouncing off the reef and the sand from the
rivermouth. The quality drops as you head north, but so do
the crowds. (If you go far enough north you reach Popoyo!) It
breaks best on higher tides. You'll know the tide is coming up
when the locals start arriving.
|Playa Rosada left reefbreak at Rancho Santana.
It's firing, but there's no one out because it's not PERFECT.
|View of Playa Santana beachbreak from the restaurant at Rancho Santana