Nicawaves, Popoyo is a place we’d stumbled upon when reading up on Nicaragua. Private, quiet and secluded, it sounded just like what these two weary travellers needed.
Popoyo is a fishing village on Nicaragua’s Pacific Coast, accessible by chicken bus from Rivas. It’s a little bit of a mission to get there (as most places are in Central America if you’re on a budget) but goddammit, it’s worth it!
We booked Nicawaves in Popoya with zero expectations. We were a little travel-weary and were after some peace, comfort, quiet and quality time together. We’d read about the place on Along Dusty Roads and thought it sounded completely perfect.
Now without further ado – why should you bother heading to Popoyo on the way to San Juan del Sur? What was it exactly we loved so much about Nicawaves? In no particular order…
We loved that Nicawaves is ‘budget’ but doesn’t feel like it
Nicawaves operates like a semi all-inclusive resort, but one you can stay in for $10 a night. Meals and drinks aren’t included in your room rate, but everything you could want to eat is available at very reasonable cost (breakfast around $5 US, lunch and dinner $6 – $15 US). We literally ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at Nicawaves for three days straight, except on our final night when we stepped out to eat at Magnific Rock (which ps was pretty damn fabulous).
Despite the low prices, Nicawaves really doesn’t feel budget. It feels like an exclusive little ranch, just ten minutes walk from the pristine Pacific coast.
We loved you could get a great night’s sleep at Nicawaves
We experienced the best and worst of hostel living on the road for six months. At the top of the list of the crappy side of budget travel is shared sleeping spaces. From waking up at 1.00 am dripping in sweat in overcrowded airless dorms, to dealing with bed bugs, to people puking like the exorcist directly outside the window, we heard, saw and experienced it all. This is of course part and parcel of staying in hostels, but constant sleepless nights can really start to affect how you’re feeling.
Nicawaves in stark contrast was a breath of fresh air. A bed in the large airy dorm is just $10 US a night. The dorm beds aren’t bunks, which for some weird reason makes an epic difference to your comfort levels. Let me tell you, we slept like the dead in the dorm room!
We also spent two nights in a private room (Casa Rosa) and it was a mother. f*cking. dream. Air-con, a private bathroom, a massive comfortable bed… If you do head to Nicawaves, we’d advise you to break the budget. Get a private room and crank the air-con, then mosey on down to the bar for mojitos (which were literally the best we tasted in Central America. You’ll feel like a backpacking baller.
We loved the Nicawaves pool
Now, we’ll be a honest – plus a little bit gross – lots of hostels boast pools as a unique selling point. However, the likelihood of finding a pool in a Latin American hostel that’s clean, properly maintained and isn’t filled with boozed up backpackers depositing urine and other bodily fluids in it is next to nothing. Enter Nicawaves, where Nat and I happily dipped and sunbaked by the pool on a daily basis with other travellers enjoying the sunshine and serenity.
The pool here is glorious and the sun in Popoyo is H. O. T. Therefore, Nicawaves poolside hangs = bae.
We loved the Nicawaves team were all locals
From schooling us in Spanish, to joking with us, to happily taking our breakfast orders, each and every interaction was a pleasure. This wasn’t something we always encountered in Nica, where quite often the service leaves a little to be desired. At other places we stayed we often waited an hour for our meal, hell one time we waited 20 minutes to order a damn drink at a hostel bar with a grand total of three customers.
While bitching about having to unnecessarily wait to order a meal is obviously a first world problem, the high level of service and attention at Nicawaves was much appreciated.
We loved that Nicawaves is for anybody and everybody
Nicawaves caters to a multitude of people/holidays. Whether you’re a long-term traveller who needs a break from the well-worn gringo trail and backpacker rat race, a family looking for a peaceful, authentic place to get away from the crap and clutter of daily life or you’re on a surfing safari with mates, Nicawaves has everything you’re looking for.
We loved the chilled authentic Nica vibe
There’s not a whole lot to do in Popoyo. This isn’t a cosmopolitan European city, where days are filled with endless sightseeing opportunities. This is a fishing village that still feels like Nicaragua, unlike the very popular San Juan del Sur just a couple of hours south. Popoyo has thus far escaped the relentless westernisation seen in too many Central American towns, and we recommend visiting here for a slice of true simple life while its retains its roots and remains affordable. Because TBH this part of the world is too beautiful to stay this way for long.
We loved the Popoyo perspective
Water literally has to be transported in to Nicawaves in trucks and for a day the internet to the nearby town of La Salinas was out, meaning Nicawaves connection was cut as well. While this sort of thing can be annoying for western travellers there is, believe it or not we learned a major lesson.
All these modern conveniences we completely take for granted and overly rely on every single day in developed countries aren’t even considered necessary in day-to-day life in other remote parts of the world. Visiting Popoyo was a great reminder the earth still turns even if when the wi-fi doesn’t work. Thank God for that.
We loved you could do as much or as little as you like
As you’ll quickly realise, Popoyo has one major tourist drawcard – it’s a great place for surfers of all levels to get amongst the waves. Don’t believe us? Check out Nicawaves insta and blog for some serious wave porn here and here. While we were too broke (and TBH, probably too busy being lazy) to take advantage of hiring boards and getting lessons, we’re kicking ourselves now for it. The team at Nicawaves can arrange amazing surf trips for you all over this part of the coast – if you’re a surfer, or want to learn, Nicawaves, Popoyo is the place for you. Check all the cool shiz they can organise for you here.
Otherwise, walks on the beach, sunset drinks at Magnific Rock, chills in a magical secret rock pool and delicious food are on the agenda. All day, erry day. As little, or as much, as you like!
We loved the adventure getting there
Getting to Popoyo was a legitimately fun adventure filled with chicken buses, sneaky Rivas taxi drivers and kind honest locals. You don’t usually hear ‘fun’ and ‘chicken bus’ in the same sentence, but getting to (and then departing) Nicawaves was all part of the fun.
Memories from Popoyo still make us smile during post-travel depression
One morning, during a quick run along the beach at daybreak we saw a crew of three giggling little boys completely naked running from the water. They couldn’t have been more stoked with themselves and their current situation – getting sprung by a couple of gringo girls during their nude morning swim. Their smiles and delight as they darted up the sand, bare bums flashing, was priceless.
We’ve been home for a couple of months now and its fair to say we are suffering some heavy post-travel depression. It can sometimes feel like that joy, spontaneity, simplicity and sense of fun that came so naturally to those three boys is hard to find in our lives in Australia. Of course, this is an utterly first world problem, and we’re fully aware of how lucky we are. It doesn’t change the fact that when all else fails, the memory of their laughing never fails to put smiles on our faces.
So what are you waiting for? If you’re in Central America, don’t miss out on this gem – for more information or to book a trip, head here.