In 21 Days from Managua to San Jose by only public transport. You would say tough, I now say doable. But I could not have done it alone, without my colleague and travel companion Ignacio it would have never been possible.
Flying to Managua over Madrid and Miami, does that count as a flag? Have I been in the US now?……Unfortunately not. I will have to go there another time, New York I will see you soon!
- Do you want to roughen it up, work on your emergency Spanish! (see below)
- Cash is king.
- Enjoy the tropical wildlife and prepare to travel long distances.
- Be ready to surf the best offshore conditions in your life.
If you ask me how I packed for this trip, you can ask my flatmates, Martin and Adam as I only had 2 hours to pack for this trip after I arrived to Ericeira, Portugal from Amsterdam, Holland. All I can say is pack light (a friend wrote at great article about that, simpel reizen, it is only in Dutch though) Travelling with nothing but hand luggage saved me a lot of time and if you are covering over 500 km (see map above) if feels as a gift from God.
Arriving in Gigante Bay was a relieve after 36 Hours and 4 countries passed by. I quickly checked my email after a 23 Hour flight over a beer and some nachos. I could relax again. Central America is still a stretch from Europe, but more and more direct flights are opening up, like (LONDON – LIBERIA)
Surfing North Nicaragua and El Salvador
Later that day I would meet Ignacio(Nacho), my travel partner for the next 21 days. We would visit 26 Resorts/camps/ boats often sharing rooms and beds to find the best destination for LUEXs clients. The Tola, popoyo area is hosts the most resorts in Southern Nicaragua. Unfortunately, there was only time to visit the South but luckily did Ignacio also travel the north before meeting me, so that area is also covered: surfing waves like Chicken Bowls, Check out Miramar or even Las Flores Resort.
Surrounded by Wildlife
Aqua, Rancho Santana, Mukul & Morgan’s Rock all have their own character, but they have 1 thing in common, they are all located in an oasis of green and nature. The 5-year draught has influenced the nature a bit, but all resorts pull their weight to preserve the wildlife. Monkeys, boars, sloths, they all receive water from the resorts. Morgan’s rock offered a nature tour and during this jeep adventure we rode into the forest to look for sloths, (insert special bird) monkeys and, (insert special animal). Southern Nicaragua is the perfect mix between culture, surf and that all for great value for money.
Transportation and the Chicken bus
As we have to know how to travel around in order to advise our clients we often travelled via “chicken” bus. Taxis and shuttles are definitely more convenient. A chicken bus costs around 2$. For longer trips I would recommend shuttle companies that you can book online. Don’t fall for the rip-off middle men. They try to sell tickets for all kind of busses. The best is to buy the ticket at the driver and his companion or for shuttles online with your credit card. Quickly double check what the locals pay with your necessary emergency Spanish. If you want to roughen it up, you need the basics. But a big smile already brings you half way!
A 10 words crash course
- Left – Izquierda
- Right – Derecha
- Where is the surf? – Dónde esta la ola?
- How far is ……? – Qué tan lejos esta …..?
- Numbers : 1-Uno; 2-Dos; 3-Tres; 4-Cuatro; 5-Cinco; 6-Seis; 7-Siete; 8-Ocho; 9-Nueve; 10-Diez
- Where is the restaurant? Dónde esta “La Soda”?
- Where is the ATM? Dónde esta el cajero automatico?
- Where does the bus depart from? De dónde sale el bus?
- After you (to be polite and make friends) Usted primero.
- Excuse me – Disculpe
- Thank you – Gracias
Final stop in Nicaragua
The final stop before we had to cross the border was San Juan del Sur, this USA spring break destination has a lot to offer – read Sunday Fun day and 2 people even died partying – but we were not looking for crazy parties. The best surf spot is 10 minutes north, called playa Maderas. This left hander is the home of Rapture camp. This camp is located at the top of the hill overlooking the nature and the bay, beware for monkeys as they try to steal your food and “shiny stuff” This authentic bay is definitely worth a visit. With only 1 surf shop, 1 pizza house and a bar it will be a destination to visit within the next years.
For the border cross I would recommend a bus company that does the visa service for you, this saves you waiting in queues. Definitely get a local sim card in Nicaragua. I know my phone feels like a slut now as it has seen more than 20 different sim cards since I bought it, but I couldn’t live without. Liberia, the closest international airport to Guanacaste, home to the Four Seasons and Tamarindo in the north part of Golfo de Nicoya was next up the list. Try Single Fin Surf Charters if you want to surf the famous ollies point and witches rock without travelling back and forth all the time. If you want a luxury surf trip the Four Seasons does the trick as your spouse or non-surfing family member will be enjoying all the activities.
If you want to go to Noosara, make sure to do it outside of the rain season or get a submarine proof jeep. Easiest is to take the pre-bookable airport transfer.
Best surf of the trip
The endless beach breaks are heaven, especially if you like Argentinian food – Empanadas are the best food ever – Make sure to visit Manzanillo bay and ask Simon from Zopilote about the secret spots. The best surf I had in 3 weeks was there accompanied with water jumping sting rays.
Santa Teresa to Jaco is easiest by boat and you have the chance to spot some Dolphins, Whales and flying fish. Make sure to bring extra sunscreen as my boat captain got lost and we were on the water for 6 hours……. Yes, 6 hours, while it normally takes 1 hour. That is why radar is invented, I was just very happy that I did not plan this trip on the same day as my plane left from San Jose.
After 24 Hours I was back in Europe with a sunburn, a sleep deficit and a smile from ear to ear