Playa Santana Nicaragua is a natural launching pad for surfing the plentiful breaks in this part of Nicaragua, the one known to be blessed with plenty of swell and near-constant offshore winds.
Getting to Playa Santana
There are a couple of options for getting to Playa Santana – from Managua or Liberia, Costa Rica.
These two options actually end up being about equal in travel time despite the additional border crossing if coming through Costa Rica. However, in my case, the direct flights available to Liberia make up for the extra step.
The one thing to keep in mind is that the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, at least the one at Penas Blancas closes at 6pm. We were lucky to make it through on our travel day as our flight to Liberia actually landed an hour ahead of time.
We had no idea until we got there how close we were to spending a night somewhere along the road (it wasn’t obvious exactly where this would have been possible, and may have required a cab ride back where we started).
No one had mentioned this as a possibility, including some of the blogs I read on the matter, so there you have it, my little piece of gold that may save your day.
Ok, moving on to Playa Santana.
Playa Santana is about an hour and a half drive from the frontier at Penas Blancas. The good folks over at Mar Adento had set up someone to meet us as part of our surf package with them.
There were a couple of things I really enjoyed about this part of the effort to get to Playa Santana, aside from it being pretty awesome to walk across a border with my surfboard.
First, the road to Playa Santana runs right along the magnificent Lake Nicaragua (or Lago Cocibolca to you purists). I had looked at a map, but didn’t expect the road to be so close to the shores with unobstructed views of the lake.
While I have had some amazing views of Lake Nicaragua from the air – puffing volcanos and all – it was cool to be running along its shores so quickly after my first steps in this new (to me) country.
The next part of the ride that I really enjoyed may have been just because it was Friday evening at about seven o’clock as we began to roll through the towns along the way.
People were beginning to gather in groups along the road and outside of little bars, the end of the work week being celebrated the way it is the world over.
Heading west at Rivas and rolling through the town of Tolas, you could just feel the easy weekend vibe beginning to take over. On a longer trip perhaps a chance to explore these towns will come up. But on to Playa Santana.
Compared to my trips down in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica, the road into Playa Santana seemed to be in really great condition. It was getting hard to keep our eyes open after about twelve hours of travel as we rolled into town and towards our destination.
We weren’t in time for an evening surf, so settled for a dip in the pool to wash the journey off and headed to the Happy Coconut for some dinner. Some of our crew had arrived earlier than us and already sat with that surfed out look that we would achieve just the next day, but it being my first surf trip to Nicaragua, I could only look with anticipation for what laid ahead.
Where to Stay in Playa Santana Nicaragua
When you look up Playa Santana Nicaragua, you will inevitably come across Rancho Santana. Rancho Santana is a gated community that occupies the point at the south end of the beach with the surf break conveniently right outside its clubhouse.
However, as you walk up the beach, there are some amazing places to stay outside of the gates of Rancho Santana if that really isn’t your scene.
Just across from Rancho Santana, right at the break, are a few small places to stay. Castillo’s Beach House and SoLost Eco-Boutique and Cabanas are two options that will put you close to the waves.
Further up the beach and across a river (that may be some issue for walking across in the rainy season), are the larger hotels of Costa Oeste and Mar Adento (formerly Buena Onda Seaside Resort).
Mar Adento would be our home base for the week.
Surfing Playa Santana Nicaragua
The break at Playa Santana is enough to keep most surfers busy for a stay in the area, but it helps to be able to explore. The beauty of this spot is that you are within striking distance of a bunch of breaks that can suit the needs of a variety of surfers – from beach breaks to long points to the barreling Playa Colorados.
Our guide at Mar Adento worked to put us in the right spot at the right time. I’ll leave it to you to find these places for yourself.