A Place Called Popoyo

Popoyo is one of the can’t-miss surf destinations in Nicaragua. If you’ve partied a little too hard at Sunday Funday in San Juan del Sur then I suggest making a move to Popoyo for a little soul time. A chance to take a break and recover from the beer bongs, pool parties and coked up convo. One of the main reasons for its popularity is its 354 day a year off shore winds and the versatility of a left and right hand break off Popoyo outer reef.

San Juan Del Sur| Sunday Funday

Getting there

So you will need to leave San Juan and take the 2 hour chicken bus to Rivas. From here you can either get a group of you and take a cab, or wing it with the chicken bus. I opted for the taxi with the searing Nica sun. If you take the chicken bus, particularly in the wet season you are risking arriving at high tide and apparently there is a bit of a river walk and the main river crossing can be risky at the best of times.

Find the ones you love... then find a mini van
Find the ones you love… then find a mini van

Where to stay

There are a few hostels in Popoyo and a major one on Magficic rock. Otherwise heaps of privately owned accommodation are being built by non locals looking to call this place home. Either way if you just show up, scout along the beach and enter residence, either you will find accommodation or be directed where you should go. Arriving myself without a booking I checked out most of them. Cannot recommend Popoyo beach hostel more highly. It’s run by a super friendly guy named Miguel. You literally walk off the deck, toes are in the sand and are a short stroll from one of the best surf beaches in Nica. If he’s not around he likely will be soon. So get a Toña from the bar and relax.

@lahnirose - Lahni Rose Tomlinson
Courtesy of  Lahni Rose Tomlinson| @lahnirose

The property is more like a converted home with high ceilings, super clean and ventilated dorm rooms and a massive communal kitchen. Power went out on several occasions so it was drinks by candle light and card games. The family that runs the place are super chilled, it’s almost like you’re staying at a close friends place. If you remember you’re in a remote location, and take life as it comes then you won’t be disappointed. On the other hand, if you’re the type of person to get ticked and write a bad review because you couldn’t get wifi, then don’t bother visiting.

After being in awe of the place and everyone I had formed friendships with on the way back from Sunday Funday, it was refreshing to experience the same beautiful people in such a chilled out atmosphere. Some of them also stayed at the Elephant place next door, which had all the conveniences of home for a little extra cash. Avoid the sunset villas on the other side, stayed there one night and it was pretty horrible, grass roots attitudes are ok by me, rudeness never is.

What makes this place so special?

Well the first night I arrived there was not a single soul on the entire beach and I had one of the most epic sunsets all to myself. After experiencing so many packed beaches through Central America it was if the sun was setting just for me.

The place is a little community. There is nothing to do except surf and relax. I witnessed a massive turtle come to shore and lay eggs. A heap of local kids crowded around to protect her. Or so I thought after muttering what little Spanish I knew I figured out they were just keeping an eye on their dinner. They ran off with the lot in a plastic bag, big smiles on their faces and the awaiting a beautiful “cena familiar”. Which bring me to food.

There is a hotel at the end of the dirt road that has and I say loosely a “restaurant” because I never saw any one eat there and a convenience store that has some basics. Depending on what staff member you get, the prices change daily however their attitude remains… lets go with aggressive. Some times you tell them what you will pay then sometimes they tell you.

Near the end of the dirt road is an old lady in a small hut that makes super yummy and very cheap flat bread. It equates to about 2USD for like 8 flatbreads and she’s an absolute gem of a woman. Then there is a fruit truck that passes by usually once a day if you stay close to the hostel. They stock whatever is available and on some days there’s even chicken. If the surfs good and you miss the truck then you’re eating eggs.  Its actually one of the best problems to have in the world. because when you do get the fruit truck timing right you appreciate it so much more.

The View from Magnific Rock hostel
The view from Magnific Rock hostel

If the surfs good and you miss the truck then you’re eating eggs.  It’s actually one of the best problems to have in the world.

On days where the surf is lacking it’s easy enough to get lost in the cheap beers and lovely company. That dodgy super market at the end of the strip also sells Flor de Caña for a reasonable price.  Anyone that is here really wants to be here. It’s the kind of place that after a long stint travelling makes you feel like you are home. Probably why so many internationals are buying up land.

If you have the chance to see it, do it now.  Everything about it was for me was incredible. Maybe, I was just lucky? Maybe it was just a time.  A place. A group of people that combined to create something I’m going to constantly tell other travellers about, and one day hopefully inspire my children to find such beautiful experiences in a place and a time in my life called Popoyo.

Quick link to video (Mostly filmed during a few rainy days) POPOYO 2014