Surf Destination: Playa Colorado, Nicaragua

Surfing Playa Colorado – 2021: Everything You Need To Know

What is Playa Colorado?… and How are the waves?

Why is this a great surf destination?

How to get there safely

What is Playa Colorado?… and How are the waves?

Playa Colorado is a consistent beach break with fast barrels (left and right).

The Left (Average Day)

The Right (Average Day)

These are the types of waves you’ll see consistently at Playa Colorado in the summer.

What Makes Playa Colorado So Great?

1: The Surf

Playa Colorados

This beach break gets hundreds of visiting surfers every year because of its consistency. From April through September you can generally count on the waves being good because:

  • The swell is consistent
  • If there is wind it’s usually off-shore
  • It breaks well on most tides, except extreme highs and lows (even then it can be fun with the right swell)

The waves can be fun from 2ft all the way up to 10ft. Under the right conditions you can see double overhead barrels… and people making them.

This is not a beginner wave. Under normal conditions it’s a fast breaking wave with good to very good surfers on it. You need to be able to get up quickly and tuck into the barrel or you’ll be left in the dust.

However it is relatively friendly to intermediate surfers and it’s a great place to improve your barrel riding. There’s no reef so the stakes aren’t as high as many other waves that barrel like this one. But… in my short stay there I saw multiple broken boards, leashes, and a few injuries.

If Colorados is too heavy for you and you’re looking for a more mellow wave, you can head to the other end of the beach…

Ponga Drops

On the North end of Playa Colorado is Ponga Drops. This wave is also quite consistent but much softer. The North end of the beach tends to pick up swell a little bit more than the South (where Colorados is), so Ponga is often 1-2ft bigger. However, this wave is much softer and very rarely barrels. It does have some fast sections, but for the most part you’ll be cruising and making long turns on most Ponga waves.

Ponga tends to break best on a low-mid rising tide, but depending on the swell can be good on almost all tides other than super low or super high.

If you want a break from the crowds and have a board with a little more foam… Ponga Drops is good call.

2: The Ease of Living

The Hacienda Iguana area is a gated and secured “ranch”. It’s location, demographic, and security create a surfer-friendly bubble that makes you feel like you’re no where close to the realities of a developing country.

Hacienda Igauna is basically a small, enclosed community made up of:

  • Visiting surfers from around the world
  • Full time retired expats
  • Wealthy Nicaraguans on a getaway from Managua
  • Local Nicaraguans working on the premises

You’ll find more foreigners here than you will Nicaraguans and the majority of them are here to surf. The permanent and semi-permanent residents all know each other.

Although the Hacienda Iguana property is quite large, the majority of the action is concentrated around Play Colorado.

As of 2021 the property includes:

  • A 9 hole golf course
  • A handful of 2-4 story condo complexes
  • A few small restaurants and mini-marts
  • Scattered privately owned houses (mostly concentrated by the Play Colorado beach)

In this community, most decisions revolve around the surf…

3: The Community

The Colorados community has a (generally) welcoming culture that most surfers fit right into. As long as you don’t make a kook of yourself, it’s an all-around good time, in and out of the water.

What are the economics behind the Colorados surf culture?

Here are the factors that make this destination “an all around good time”.

The Surf – Out of all attractions to this Nicaraguan paradise, the most heavily weighted factor for surfers… is the waves. When you have such a nice wave that is so consistent you get high stokage. A lot of surfers leave this break getting some of the best barrels of their life.

Surfers Out of The Water – Outside of the lineup everything involves either reminiscing about the last session or preparing for the next.

The central hub is Pili’s bar and restaurant which is literally right on the beach. This is where most surfers are either staging their next session or talking to whoever will listen about how sick their last wave was.

Permanent and Semi-Permanent Residents – Most people who live at or near Colorados are very welcoming. Owners and staff of establishments understand that visitors bring in a lot of revenue. Homeowners have a house in an amazing location and are generally well off; so they’re living a nice lifestyle and should be happy about it.

The Exceptions…

To properly set your expectations we have to also cover the exceptions. You have to know that this is not surf heaven. Therefore, some of the worst aspects of surfing still rear their heads.

Crowds – This is the most common buzz kill, but is still generally manageable for three reasons:

  1. Usually the waves are consistent so there’s a lot of turnover in the lineup
  2. It’s a beach break so peaks are spread out, unlike a point break where there’s only one small take off zone that gets dominated by the top surfers
  3. Most rides are above average (depending on what you’re used to). Waiting 20 min for a shot at getting barreled isn’t as frustrating as waiting 20 min for a closeout.

Agro Bros – We could hypothesize about these surfer’s source of angst for hours. I’m sure there are several variables involved, but I’ll save that analysis for another post. The important takeaway here is that even though you’re at a destination surf break, some people still get aggravated and can be aggressive in the water. Colorados is not immune from the typical small-time spat in the lineup.

The Local Special – You’re likely to see a few local Nicaraguan surfers out, especially when it’s really working. It’s not uncommon for one of them to blatantly cut you off. You’ll quickly learn which locals respect the right of way and which ones cut off visiting surfers. Whether you agree with this “local right of way” or not, it seems to generally be accepted at Colorados.

If you haven’t traveled to tropical areas before, you should also be aware of the general precautions: hot and humid weather, mosquitos, etc.

The Final Word

I hope this post has helped you hone in on a realistic expectation of Playa Colorado. Mostly because it’s in bad taste to end with the few negatives… here’s a few more things to look forward to:

  • Hot Bods – Personally, I was very surprised about how many good looking people there were at Colorados! There were more women than I expected… and they were surfing in next to nothing. Yes, most of them came with their boyfriends, but it was nice to have some diversity in the lineup.
  • Volleyball – There are friendly volleyball matches every evening and a makeshift slackline. If you want something other than beer and bro-talk after your surf session, these are your options.
  • Sunsets – If you’re there for a week or more, you’re likely to see one of the best sunsets of your life. On a partly cloudy sky the sun sets for ~2hrs, providing an orange glow and surreal horizon. Pair that with the stoke of a good wave and a cold beer…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *