Surf Destinations in Latin America
A guide to Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Mexico’s Sayulita.
Sandwiched between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Latin America consists of Mexico, Central America and South America. With over 33 countries, it is blessed with culture, beautiful beaches, wave conditions for all levels and some of the world’s most renowned breaks.
However with 20,000+ miles of collective coastline, we couldn’t possibly do Latin America justice with one guide for all its surf spots. So we are homing in on a selection of the area’s most treasured surf destinations … Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Mexico’s Sayulita. Let’s go … or should we say vamos!
Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
Verdad Nicaragua Hotel
The Lighthouse Hotel and Spa
Little Corn Island, Nicaragua
Free Spirit Hostel
Puerto Engabao, Ecuador
CR has been on surfers’ maps since the ‘60s and it’s a chilled and easy trip. The waves are consistent and fun, suitable for pretty much everyone, from those just starting out to the numerous pros who spend a few months here in winter, knowing that they’ll score good surf day in, day out.
Surf spots: Playa Hermosa, Playa Cocles, Playa Naranjo (Witch’s Rock), Playitas, Espadilla Beach, Playa Manzanillo, Playa Guiones, Playa Grande, Playa Negra, Playa Tamarindo, Playa Avellanas, Playa Santa Teresa, Jaco Beach, Playa Dominical, Ollie’s Point.
When to go: The prime months are May to September but there are great waves all year-round making this a good winter escape option.
Airport: San José (SJO). If you’re flying from Europe, make sure that your stopover in the US is at least two hours so you have time to clear customs and make your connection.
Watch out for: Sunburn and the odd jellyfish.
Alternative excitement: Visit one of the National Parks; go zip-wiring; or just grab a beer and watch the sunset.
Nicaragua is a dream destination for any surfer looking for warm and dry weather paired with consistent morning offshores and clean, fun waves. Late spring and early summer (from May to July) is the best time for swell, but that’s not to say the rest of the year isn’t worth a gamble too, as Nicaragua is one of the most consistent surf destinations you can travel to. Fresh produce and good food are easy to find and the vibe is chilled. Apart from surfing there are loads of adventure options to occupy your time and the country and people are beautiful.
Surf spots: Rivas, El Astillero, Playa Sardinas, Bus Stops, Panga Drops, Manzanillo, Popoyo, Playa Maderas, Playa Colorado, The Boom, Aschunchillo, Playa El Yankee, Playgrounds, Playa Hermosa, Miramar, San Juan del Sur, Playa Amarillo, Chinandega, Playa Santana, Playa Remanso.
When to go: The prime months are from May to July but Nicaragua gets swell all year round so this a good summer and winter surf trip destination.
Airport: Managua (MGA).
Watch out for: Tropical diseases, mozzies, reef cuts and banditos. When you arrive you’ll land in Managua, but don’t hang around in the city for long.
Alternative excitement: The old colonial city of Granada is worth a visit, or you could climb a volcano or go fishing.
If laidback vibes, cobbled streets, vibrant culture, boutique accommodation and aprés-surf bars sound like your thing, you’re going to love Sayulita. Oh, and did we mention the 15+ surf breaks? Located on Mexico’s Pacific coast on the Riviera Nayarit, Sayulita doesn’t serve up world-class waves, but they are consistent, gentle and suitable for all surfers. The line-up can be crowded but the vibe is friendly and easy-going.
Surf spots: Playa Sayulita (Sayulita Left and Sayulita Right), Stinky’s, Palmitas, Litibu Beach, La Lancha, El Faro, Punta Mita/Punta Burro and Bahia de Banderas. For intermediate surfers there’s The Cove/Bahia, San Pancho, Ostiones, Chacala and Anclote.
When to go: March – November is the key time bit there is good surf throughout the year.
Airport: Puerto Vallarta Ordaz (PVR)
Watch out for: Sayulita is a family-orientated town but we don’t recommend walking alone at night if you can help it. Plus take mosquito spray!
Alternative excitement: Sayulita is famous for it’s delicious and fresh local seafood and for being a laid-back party town so be sure to hit the bars and restaurants. Plus there are plenty of trendy and craft shops to hit.
Ecuador may be one of the smaller counties in South America, but with 2000+ km of coast, warm water and a variety of surf spots, it is one of the finest for surfing. Not forgetting its rich culture, beautiful landscapes, stunning wildlife and hospitable people. This small but mighty country is a surfer’s paradise for beginner, intermediate and expert surfers with its year-round swell and reefs, long points and sandy beach breaks.
Surf spots: Montañita (La Punta) Salinas, Atacames, Canoa, Punta Carnero, Playas, Puerto Chino (Galapagos), Tortuga Bay (Galapagos), Olon, San Mateo, FAE, Mompiche, Ayampe and Puerto Engabao.
When to go: December – June
Airport: Guayaquil International Airport (GYE) and Quito Airport (UIO)
Watch out for: Sunburn and mosquitos. Yellow Fever vaccination is required if travelling from a select list of countries so do your research.
Alternative excitement: The Amazon, the Andes and watch whales and sealions. Watch whales and sea lions galore in Machalilla National Park. Oh, and a little place called the Galápagos Islands for this who want to really adventure.