48 Hours in Playa Maderas, Nicaragua
Surf with a local and do yoga in the jungle treetops.
Hordes of people travel each year to San Juan Del Sur, a rowdy seaside town on the southwest coast of Nicaragua. It’s full of crowded beaches and endless parties. But just 40 minutes north is a more tranquil find, called Playa Maderas. Home to great surf and delicious seafood, it’s removed enough from the touristic bubble of San Juan to be considered a real adventure.
WHERE TO STAY
Maderas Village is an idyllic oasis, perched high on a hill and surrounded by jungle. Its rustic thatched-roof cabanas overlook Playa Maderas.
Simon Says Smoothie Bar is a good enough reason to stay in San Juan for an early breakfast before catching the shuttle to Playa Madera. Look out for a peanut butter, cacao, and banana smoothie called ‘The Jesus.’
Check into the resort, then enjoy lunch at its in-house restaurant which features communal-style dining on long wooden tables. The health-conscious menu changes with the seasons; you may find gallo pinto (rice with black beans) and salsa or homemade granola with tropical fruit.
After fueling up, check out the on-site open-air yoga shala. Sitting high off the ground, the semi-outdoor studio features 360-degree views of the jungle. It’s frequented by well-known guest teachers from all over the world.
Spend the late afternoon riding horseback down the beach or book a round of jungle disc golf. The concierge can help you get set up for either activity.
For dinner, head to HulaKai hotel at 7:30 p.m. (there's just one seating three nights a week) for their ‘family dinner,’ featuring a fresh buffet of local food. You’ll find beetroot and coconut marlin steaks, red chicken curry and lentils, and more exotic fare based on what’s seasonal.
Playa Madera is said to be one of the best and most consistent beach breaks along the Pacific Coast and its sterling conditions have attracted national surf competitions for over 15 years. Get up early and head to Juan Carlos’ surfboard rental, located at the bottom of the Maderas Village hill. Carlos can recommend the perfect board for your level and size. For those in need of some guidance, he offers surf lessons.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, Marsella Beach is a short walk away where you’ll find a whole host of plywood ‘tiendas’ for brunch. Run by locals with access to a simple gas stove and a few appliances, they’ll provide impressive feasts of Nicaraguan-style seafood garnished with addictive homemade pickles.
The late morning is best spent digesting on the sand and taking intermittent dips in the ocean. If the sun becomes overwhelming, there’s plenty of natural shelter under nearby caves. With so many ways to spend the afternoon, whether it’s a massage organized by the resort, another stretch at the yoga shala, or some nap time in the hammock, the day is best navigated by whatever mood you’re in at the time.
No trip to Maderas is complete without a meal at family-owned restaurant Cherranga’s, located near the Marsella Valley Nature Center. Order the lobster or chicken with plantains, rice, beans, and all your standard Nicaraguan cuisine.