Nicaragua Surf Trip – Colorados, Panga Drops, Rancho Santana, Mag Rock
Our pampered family-style surf trip
We’ve literally been thinking about this spot for decades. Ever since we saw photos of an infinity pool pouring directly into what looks like perfect warm-water beach break waves. When a number of Maui families were heading down there, and we got the invite, we couldn’t pass it up.
Background: I’ve been to both El Salvador and Costa Rica before, so I’ll be using these neighbors to compare our experiences.
Let’s not waste time and get straight to the meat.
– Colorados was indeed the fast righthand (with some great lefts too) that we were hoping for. For the 8 days we stayed there, we scored head-high mostly glassy waves.
We had from 5 to 40 guys out at any one time. The advantage of having a house right in front was critical in assessing dawn patrol. We could get out and surf pretty much any wave we wanted for a good hour before the crowds filled in. When the tide was just right, and the swell filled in, the waves were INSANELY GOOD. Long, fast, glassy barrels. This is also when the crowd filled in. Boat tours would come in and drop off 4-8 guys at the best peaks. That all being said, the crowd was respectful. I never got dropped in on. Everyone could surf, so no foolishness occurred. And the current was strong every once in a while, aiding in pulling people away if you’re willing to paddle (or get out and walk a bit.)
I’m not in great surf shape anymore, but I managed to get a little head dip here and there. I definitely got into some caverns, but I didn’t come out. These waves are fast and almond-shaped, so unless you’re dropping into a very large set wave, it was a challenge fitting into these without getting smashed from one side or another. I tried to get barreled more than i probably should have, but I did enjoy just doing turns, floats, etc…
Central American Comparison
I think I had more fun at Punta Roco in El Salvador. The wave didn’t barrel, but it was long, big, glassy, and uncrowded. I definitely came out of more barrels along the many coastlines of Costa Rica and caught better waves. But that was a much longer trip with many different surf breaks. All in all, it’s hard to beat having the wave only steps away from your bed at Hacienda Iguana. The water was the perfect temperature. Not too hot and not cold. I wore a rash guard and boardshorts without discomfort, but I opted for a 2 mil wetsuit top because it handles my rashes better. I was still comfortable and not too hot.
I got a little frustrated with Colorados and headed down to some friends down the way that had a house in front of the much mellower Panga Drops. This wave still held up, but it was easier and didn’t close out as much. The most crowded I surfed it was with 2 other people I didn’t know. This was really fun for us and took the pressure off. Granted, it required a good-sized swell for it to be fun short boarding. Lots of lefts and rights and not much current. I stepped on stingrays twice without getting stung (I think they were stingrays.) We also took the wives and kids out to surf here on longboards, which was perfect. Easy paddle out, and plenty of mellow waves.
There’s a good chance we went out on the wrong day. We took our wives and kids out when it was pretty big and murked out. The water was brown, and the waves had some real size, which some of the keiki handled with true bravado. It was mixed up, but I could see how it would be perfect for longboarding on a cleaner day. The area is beautiful and not many people were there. rocks and sharp plant life seemed to make up the ocean floor, and I almost cracked my board jamming it into a crevice while duck diving. I would have liked to see this spot on a clean day.
Some Favorite Things
Staying on the beach, with pool views of Colorado’s barreling was unreal. It was expensive, but it was worth it. Waking up and watching waves from the bed was incredible. The entire Iguana community is gated with many different homes, restaurants, surf shops, groceries, pharmacies, and even chiropractic care all within the compound. We rarely left and didn’t need a car.
We had 2 golf carts, which was really useful especially when our friends took a place further down the beach. Also, not sure if it was just a seasonal thing or what, but butterflies traveled across our oceanview all day long. Not just a few but hundreds and hundreds traveling south. You can’t make that up. We also had these beautiful multi-colored crabs all over the place. each night we’d have to capture a few from each room to take out while the kids screamed with delight. They also loved living in my wetsuit top while I was sleeping.
We opted to have chefs cook meals throughout the day while there. It was a real luxury having 3 chefs with prepared meals and snacks from morning till night. We did zero dishes and did no cooking. Living like kings! That being said, we did head down to Pilis (just a 5-minute walk south along the beach.) They had great food, a pool for the kids, and a volleyball court. They also had a bar with delicious smoothies. At the other end of the beach, we sometimes took the much longer walk to Rancho Santana for incredible tacos. They have some shops and a surf shop there too. All in all, the food is what I expected and yearned for. We also had a housekeeper that was there each day cleaning up after our messy children. They don’t deserve it, but it just made everything easier for us parents.
Friends and Family
This would still be a great trip with just the boys for surfing. But having 6 families go made it way more fun. Our kids ran around from house to house to pool to pool. Our wives did workouts on the lanai with amazing views. And us boys enjoyed guilt-free surfing as we knew our families enjoyed their stays too. This is one of the few surf trips that made sense for our family. Most other surf trips are a bit more grueling and wouldn’t be fun for them. Sunsets at the pool with the families together will go down as some of my favorite memories.
What I would have done differently
I think I would have only had breakfast and a few dinners prepared at the house. Something planned out well in advance so we knew which nights or days we’d head out to try restaurants. Don’t get me wrong, it was fabulous having everything prepared for us, but we also opted for the higher-end package of organic food and top ingredients (they said fillet mignon, lobsters, etc…) We had beans, rice, tortillas, eggs, some steak/chicken, for almost every meal. I saw the ingredients, and at least 1/2 were not organic. We had lobster once. It was good, but we paid a premium for no reason.
Some of the restaurants nearby were great. Rancho Santana was beautiful with great food, and Pilis Bar and Grill was walking distance with delicious food and a pool.
Even after my friend that had been there for a week already told me to take it easy on the first day, I surfed for 4+ hours. My out-of-shape body tightened up like a pretzel. I should have stuck to one 2 hour session and eased into it. I also wish we’d pursued more beginner spots for the kids and wives. We had a few soft-top longboards rented and delivered from NSR surf shop and barely used them. I would also stay longer and just rent boards. I brought 2 boards, which was costly. If I had time to learn a new, rented board, it would be more cost-effective.
If we’d stayed longer, we would have explored more. Our good friend with the property down here mentioned Ometepe Island (that looks oddly a lot like an upside-down Maui) exists with the massive lake Nicaragua. I guess it has waterfalls, monkeys, and a natural spring called Ojo de Agua. I’d also like to visit Granada and Laguna de Apoyo.
We did 2 massages. For $35/hour, we should have had them every day. This is a regret that follows me around on every surf trip. Not sure why I haven’t learned so far.
As per usual, pretty much every family that went down got sick either with a stomach bug or the flu or both. We got a bit of both. Really the only thing we could have done differently was to book the trip for longer. A little over a week doesn’t leave much room to get better. Thankfully, we got sick on the way out. We take quality supplements, eat well, cherish our sleep, exercise, drink lots of clean water, and wash our hands on the regular, so there wasn’t much else we could do.
I arrived in Central America with an old board bag that is inflatable from a company that’s no longer in existence. It’s a great bag, and the main reason I chose to bring it was that I intended on leaving/selling my boards and just throwing the deflated bag into my regular luggage. That being said, even for shortboards, I would choose to get a board bag with wheels. I did a little research since then, hoping to find a new hard shell board bag with wheels. It’s crazy but I only found one new start-up working on them. A 6’5” hard surfboard bag case with wheels would be magic!