Neighbouring the popular holiday destination of Costa Rica, lies Central America’s best kept secret, Nicaragua. This Latin American gem, is blessed with 570 miles of spectacular coastline split between the Caribbean and Pacific Coast, giving visitors a choice of tropical waters or ample surfing opportunities. For those looking for a slice of paradise in an off the beaten track destination, check out this list of the 10 Best Beaches in Nicaragua.
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Map of the Best Beaches in Nicaragua
1. Yemaya, Little Corn Island
One of the most off the beaten track destinations in Nicaragua, is the tropical paradise of the Corn Islands. They are made up of two islands, Big Corn and Little Corn, situated about 50 miles off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua.
Yemaya in Little Corn is much loved by travellers in search of a relaxed island getaway surrounded by turquoise waters, white-sand beaches, and stunning coral reefs. There are also plenty of adventurous activities available such as scuba diving, snorkelling, and kayaking along this slice of paradise in Central America.
The best way to reach Little Corn Island is by flying 90 minutes from Managua to Big Corn Island, followed by a 20 minute boat transfer to Little Corn Island. The journey isn’t made by many tourists, ensuring Yemaya remains a beautiful hidden gem on the Caribbean side of Nicaragua.
Travel Tip: visit between July and March for lobster season in the Corn Islands.
2. Playa Maderas
Playa Maderas, is one of the most popular beaches in Nicaragua. Located on a bumpy dirt road 20 minutes north of San Juan del Sur, it is known for being an all year round surf spot. The beach is characterised by signature shark-fin shaped rock formations and a protected jungle cove, making for a beautiful view at sunset.
Playa Maderas caters for all levels of surfers due to the waves breaking in layers, so newbies can enjoy the smaller sets closer to shore, whilst the outer section is more challenging and suitable for experienced surfers. There are several surf schools in the area, including DreamSea Surf which I can personally recommend.
From Managua, Playa Maderas is a three hour drive or you can catch the daily beach shuttle to the beach from outside Casa Oro in the town of San Juan del Sur.
3. Redonda Bay
Located on Nicaragua’s Emerald Coast, Redonda Bay is only 85 miles south of Managua. The private beach is situated on the Pacific Coast and is made up of white sandy beaches and calm crystal clear waters. Perfect for swimming, snorkelling, sea kayaking, paddle boarding, and fishing – this is one Nicaraguan beach that won’t satisfy those looking to surf.
Those who want to hike should head up the sandstone cliffs between Playa Redonda and Playa Gigante for a panoramic view of the bay.
The best place to stay in Redonda Bay is in one of the treehouses in Aqua Oceanfront Resort, they come with private pools and howler monkeys as neighbours and are the only property to include entry to Redonda Bay.
4. Playa El Coco
Located 12 miles south of San Juan del Sur, Playa el Coco is most famous for the Olive Ridley Turtles that come to lay their eggs on this mile long stretch of golden sandy beach. If you want to get involved, visit the wildlife refuge of La Flor, a nature sanctuary that helps ensure hundreds of newly hatched baby turtles make their way safely to the Pacific Ocean. The mix of a surfers paradise and wildlife experiences make Playa el Coco, the ideal Nicaragua beach vacation.
A great place to stay is the Parque Maritimo El Coco, a resort surrounded by nature, with opportunities for cycling, horseback riding, and boat trips on the Pacific Ocean.
5. Las Peñitas
The fishing village of Las Peñitas is located on a three mile long stretch of beach on the North Western coast of the country. This well-kept secret is only 20 minutes away from the large city of León, a couple of hours away from the capital of Managua.
Las Peñitas is popular with the locals but it also great for beginners who are looking for surf lessons. Depending on the time of year, visitors can explore the nearby mangroves and visit the turtle hatchery on Isla Juan Venado. Many of those who stay in Las Peñitas also visit the close by volcano, Cerro Negro, to try their hand at volcano boarding.
The bungalows at Barca de Ora are one of the best places to stay in Las Peñitas, they offer cheap yoga classes, massages, and horse riding, making this one of the best Nicaragua beach towns to visit.
6. Pearl Cays
Dazzling turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, and coastal jungles, make up this archipelago of 12 cays located 20 miles off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua.
Only accessible by boat, Pearl Cays are home to some of the best beaches in Nicaragua. Secluded, and with little infrastructure, the islands are perfect for those who want to snorkel in the shallow lagoons and admire the untouched coral reefs surrounding Pearl Cays.
In August and September, the Pearl Cays are the nesting site for the endangered Hawksbill turtle, so time your trip if you want to help protect the turtle’s fragile eggs. The best way to reach the Pearl Cays is by boat from the town of Pearl Lagoon which takes one hour or by boat from Little Corn Island which is two hours away.
Another off the beaten track destination in Nicaragua is the black volcanic beach of Jiquilillo. Lined with palm trees and deep blue oceans, Jiquilillo beach is only populated by a few hostels and can be reached from the city of Leon by bus in three hours.
Jiquilillo is a great place to spend a few days relaxing in a hammock and eating your fair share of the local Coconut bread. Jiquilillo beach is also great for surfing, and there are plenty of activities in the surrounding areas. Including a visit to the largest mangrove forest in Central America, Padre Ramos, where you can kayak through the wetlands in search of sea turtles and birds.
If you’re a volcano lover, you should hike up to the crater of Cosiqüina Volcano, which provides panoramic views of the volcanic peaks of neighbouring El Salvador and Honduras. The best place to stay in Jiquilillo beach is Rancho Tranquillo, a rustic but homely hostel in this Central American gem.
8. Miskito Cays
The most wild and untamed islands in Nicaragua are the Miskito Cays. This remote archipelago lacks all infrastructure but was once popular with pirates. These days, the Miskito Cays, are only accessible by boat and most have no clean water, electricity or hotels to stay on.
There are however, some nearby fishing villages, making Miskito Cays one of the best places in the world to go island hopping. The pristine white sand beaches, emerald waters, and exceptional snorkelling make this secluded Nicaragua beach paradise so unique and special.
9. Punta Jesus Maria
Found on Ometepe Island is a thin stretch of black volcanic sand, that extends out into Lake Nicaragua creating a division in the water. The narrow spit of land, formed by water currents and sediments, can increase from 10 meters in wet season to 1km in dry season. From the beach there is a panoramic view of three volcanoes, Mombacho, Concepción and Maderas, in the distance making this one of the best beaches in Nicaragua. Punta Jesus Maria is a good place to swim and relax, and has an entrance fee of $1.
Isla Ometepe is one of the most famous places in Nicaragua and a decade ago was named a Biosphere reserve by UNESCO. There are plenty of places to stay and enjoy the nature and wildlife as well as the nearby volcanoes that can be hiked.
10. Popoyo (aka Playa Guasacate)
The off the beaten track village of Popoyo is gaining popularity with world-wide professional surfers. Popoyo is the most famous but there are other famous breaks in the area such as Lance’s Left, Playgrounds, and Playa Santa.
However the waves aren’t the only attraction, there are natural hot springs, tidal pools and a nature reserve to keep you busy for a few days. Situated along the Emerald Coast, Popoyo can be reached by bus from the town of Rivas, and it is a great stop for a trip to the best beaches in Nicaragua.
Has this list of the best beaches in Nicaragua convinced you to add this beautiful destination to your travel plans? Let me know in the comments.
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Like Best Beaches in Nicaragua? Do you want to explore more of the Caribbean? Read how to go off the beaten path in the Dominican Republic!