A sunset on the water from Punta Jesus Maria beach, Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

The 18 Best Known and Undiscovered Beaches in Nicaragua

If you’re travelling through Central America, chances are at some point you’re going to want to hit up the beach. Whether you’re looking for the absolute paradise of islands in the Caribbean Sea, the adventure of Isla Ometepe or best surf breaks on the Pacific Ocean, Nicaragua is a great place to kick back and take a break from the adventures of Central America (especially if you took the bus straight from Guatemala to Nicaragua like I did!).

If you’re looking for the best place to go surfing, you’ll want to stick to the pacific coast. From the incredibly touristy beach town of San Juan del Sur to the lesser known Playa Los Perros, practically everywhere in this area has beaches for more advanced surfers as well as shallower waters for taking surf lessons nearby. Click here for the best beaches on the South Pacific Coast.

If you want some truly beautiful beaches that are more out of the way, or you want easy access to the northern city of Leon, check out these beaches on the North Pacific Coast.

If surfing is not your bag and you’d rather kick back with some incredible views, warm water and unique rock formations, the Caribbean Coast might be for you. This area is known for perfect, white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters: click here for Caribbean beaches and islands in Nicaragua.

Finally, Isla Ometepe is the perfect spot for adventure and water sports. Isla Ometepe is on Lake Nicaragua and is just a 1 hour boat ride from the mainland town of Rivas. The beaches on Ometepe Island are great for water sports, kayaking, paddle boarding and seeing wildlife. 

Some of the information on this list has come from me personally visiting the beaches, some has come from things I’ve heard from friends whilst travelling, and a little has come from good old fashioned research!

Beaches on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

By now you’ll know that I visited Ometepe during my time in Nicaragua, and I went to each of these beaches. None of the beaches on Ometepe Island are huge, but they each have something that distinguishes them and are each worth visiting.

Punta Jesus Maria (West of the Island)

Punta Jesus Maria is a short tuk tuk ride or slightly longer walk from Moyogalpa, one of the main towns in the island and the one that the ferry arrives at from San Jorge. Along the small beach there are a couple of stalls where you can buy artwork, jewellery and use the bathroom, but that’s about it. It’s main feature is a piece of beach that stretches out into the ocean, getting thinner and thinner until it disappears. This is the best spot on this island to see a sunset. 

Playa Mangoes (Middle of the Island)

Nestled in the middle of Ometepe Island, Playa Mangoes offers calmer waters and is the go-to spot for any watersports. You can take a guide up the river that divides the island into two on kayak or paddleboard.

Playa Santa Cruz (Middle of the Island)

Playa Santa Cruz is the best beach to relax on, surrounded by lush greenery which kind of makes you feel like you’re in the jungle. It’s protected within a small cove, which means the waves here are less intense and it’s more protected from the wind, too. Around here there are a few places to eat, but don’t expect the amount of choices you’d get on the mainland!

Beaches on the Caribbean Sea of Nicaragua

On the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, all of the beaches that are accessible to tourists are on islands in the north of the country. I didn’t have time to visit the north of Nicaragua, so later I’ll hand it over to Jon Is Travelling to let you know more about these incredible islands!

Corn Island (Island on the Caribbean Coast)

Another secluded beach on a faraway island, Lulu beach is a little easier to get to, and you can do it by public transport. You can take the bus from Managua to Bluefields, and the public ferry from Bluefields to Corn Island. Or, alternatively, you can fly directly from Managua, which is faster but more expensive.

Little Corn Island (Island on the Caribbean Coast)

Of the two, Little Corn Island is generally more touristy but still provides the perfect water and tranquil experience you’re searching for on this side of the island. 

Here’s an amazing guide to the Corn Islands, Nicaragua by Jon Is Travelling!

Pearl Cays (Small Islands on the Caribbean Coast close to Pearl Lagoon)

Pearl Cays are quite hard to reach and, therefore, a little off the beaten path. The Caribbean Sea offers a seemingly untouched paradise with the bluest and more turquoise waters you’ve ever seen. Pearl Cays Islands are the perfect destination for a tranquil getaway.

Your visit to Pearl Cays is best arranged with your hotel, if you’re staying in the nearby towns of Pearl Lagoon or Little Corn Island.

A panoramic view of the city of Leon, Nicaragua

Read more about Central America

How to Get from Guatemala to Nicaragua by Bus

Beaches on the South Pacific Coast of Nicaragua

If you’re a surf trip enthusiast, this area towards the south of the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua is probably where you want to centre your time at the beach. The whole Pacific Coast has the best waves for surfers, but this area in the south has the most vibrant surf community. 

The centre of this area is San Juan del Sur, a very touristy but beautiful beach town. Whether staying in the surf-tourism centre is for you or not, you will more than likely pass through because this is where all of the inter-city buses stop! 

Playa Maderas (Maderas Beach)

Maderas Beach (or Playa Maderas, to the locals) is a long stretch of beach to the north of San Juan del Sur. It’s close enough that you could make a day trip there or stay in the towns of San Lorenzo and La Paquita nearby. It’s quite built-up with easy access to seaside-style shops and restaurants, and has areas suitable for various surfer skill levels!

Playa La Flor & Playa El Coco (Brasilito)

Nestled along the coast around half way between San Juan del Sur and the Costa Rica Nicaragua border, you’ll find this set of pristine beaches. They’re perfect for nature lovers, as they’re a little more off the beaten track than some of the other beaches in this area.

Playa La Flor and Playa El Coco are the bigger beaches in this area, but between them are several smaller beaches.

Playa Colorado (Iguana)

Playa Colorado has really easy access to Costa Esmeralda International Airport, so if you’re arriving by air then this would be an ideal first or last stop on your trip. This town offers a tranquil escape with practically no traffic and some of the best ocean views around. 

Playa Hermosa (Short Drive South of San Juan del Sur)

Known for its pristine beaches and coconut palms, Playa Hermosa is a favourite spot for beachgoers looking to escape the hustle and bustle of San Juan del Sur. You also have the option to stay nearby in the town of El Sucio, which has its own smaller beach called Playa Remanso.

Playa Manzanillo (Manzanillo)

There are two Playa Manzanillos in this area of Nicaragua alone, so beware before you book! The more well-established is further north (although still very comfortably in the south of the country). It is in the town of Manzanillo and home to Mukul Resort, a five star hotel. 

The other Playa Manzanillo is located close to the border within a secret cove, quite aptly named “The Secret Cove”. There are not many options for places to stay around here; the closest town is El Pochote, which is small in itself!

Beginner Bay, Popoyo Surf Spot & Playa Popoyo (Jiquelite)

As you can probably gather by the names of the beaches, Jiquelite is a great spot for surfers of all levels. The varied beaches provide both challenging breaks and areas suitable for beginners.

Note: although these places are named after a nearby town, Popoyo, the actual town of Popoyo doesn’t have a lot in the way of beaches. Popoyo is more an area for luxurious resorts and great restaurants than beaches!

Playa La Boquita (La Boquita)

Quite a bit further north you’ll find La Boquita. Pros: it’s fairly easy to access by road and offers a serene beach with lots to do. Cons: both of these things mean that it is quite touristy and often busy.

Playa Los Perros (Tola)

Playa Los Perros is tucked away from the crowds and offers a more secluded beach experience than a town like La Boquita or San Juan del Sur. It’s just north of Playa Colorado, and between the two beaches there are quite a few ideally located places to stay that give you great access to both beaches.

Playa Redonda (Redonda Bay)

Famous for its aqua wellness resort (Aqua Oceanfront Resort & Residences) and stunning ocean views, Playa Redonda is a perfect place to unwind and enjoy the beauty of Nicaragua’s Pacific coast. Because it’s inside a bay, the beach here is generally much more for relaxation than it is for surfing. It’s also close to El Gigante (see below!).

Playa Gigante (El Gigante)

Playa Gigante is, as you might have guessed, gigantic. It’s quite touristy and offers a lot in terms of things to do, like a Spanish school, a surf school, and sailing tours, too!

Beaches on the North Pacific Coast of Nicaragua

Playa Las Peñitas (Las Peñitas)

Las Peñitas is a lively beach town in the north of Nicaragua, but still on the Pacific coast, offering a vibrant atmosphere and lots to do. It’s the closest beach to Leon, quite a touristy city, around 20 minutes drive. It’s quite easy to access from the city by bus or car.  

Almost connected is the more northern beach of Playa Poneloya, another great place to visit and stay. Here there are options for watersports beyond surfing (who’d have thought it?!) including kayaking and paddleboarding.

Salinas Grandes & Playa Tesoro (Salinas Grandes)

Salinas Grandes and Playa Tesoro are two large beaches that join together the towns of Salinas Grandes and Puerto Sandino, a much less touristy place. These beaches are nesting beaches for turtles, which means you could come across some incredible wildlife during your trip here. Just remember to follow local guidelines to make sure you don’t disturb turtles whilst they’re nesting or hatching.

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