Famous for its excellent surfing and peaceful fishing village, Las Peñitas is a great place to escape the heat of Leon. Being less than an hour away from Leon by chicken bus or shuttle, Las Peñitas makes a good day trip. For those with more time, an abundance of relaxed and cheap (relative to Leon) accommodation options make it a good place to stay for a while and surf. Las Peñitas is also the gateway for the nature reserve of Isla Juan Vanado, which is popular with visitors who enjoy observing wildlife and turtle migrations.
The road from Leon to Las Peñitas is an easy 30-minute drive thanks to a 2009 upgrade to the road funded by U.S. foreign aid agency Millennium Challenge Corporation.
There are regular buses leaving for Las Peñitas; however, the bus stop in Leon is not in the center of town, but rather near the market in Sutiaba, at the western end of town. To get to Sutiaba, you can either walk from the Central Park along Ruben Dario Street for about 4 km, take a taxi (C$20-30 per person), or pedal taxi (C$40), or ride on a public pickup truck (C$3) from the main market of Leon. The bus to Las Peñitas costs C$12 (each way) and leaves when the bus is full (which works out at about once an hour). The first bus leaves very early in the morning (~4am) and the last bus leaving the beach is ~6pm.
The bus will make a big loop when it arrives to the beach, and will visit all places along the beach twice.
The local surf shop operates a bus from Big Foot Hostel Leon to Big Foot Hostel Las Peñitas leaving twice daily (does not operate in 2019). Tickets are sold at the reception of Big Foot Hostel. Leaving from Leon, the shuttle leaves at 9am and 3pm every day and costs C$50 each way.
It is certainly possible to hitch this short ride, however be prepared to chip in a bit of cash to the driver.
Distances between the beach, bars and hotels are small and therefore the best way to get around is to walk. Take the road that runs behind the hotels if you are in a hurry or walk along the sand if you want to enjoy the scenery.
Las Peñitas is surrounded by beautiful nature. Here are some of the best things to do see:
- Juan Venado Island Nature Reserve. A natural reserve with more than 100 square kilometers of mangrove forest and tidal estuary. You can choose to walk along the beach or take a tour to learn about turtle breeding and see many birds and alligators.
- The sunset. A trip would not be complete without watching the sunset over the ocean. The best place to view the sunset is from the rocky point at the north end of the beach.
- The harbor. The fishing harbor at the south end of town is very picturesque (especially around dusk) and can a great place to watch the fisherman in their element.
The main (only) thing to do in Las Peñitas is to surf. Generally unknown to the surfing population, there are hardly any crowds here and it is possible you will be the only one out there. Waves along the beach vary from beginner to advanced so there is something for everyone here pending on good conditions. There are a few surf schools along the beach and is worth asking around for the best price. Here is a list of schools:
- Coco Surf School, ☏ . Rafael, a young local surfer, started the surf school in 2005 with his brother. They offer classes, board rental and board repair.
- Pelikan Surf School & Rental, NIC-14, Las Peñitas, Nicaragua. A tiny beach shack on the sand providing surf lessons and board rental
There are a scattering of general stores along the main road which sell the very basics. Most locals tend to travel into Leon to get their groceries so you will have to do the same if you want to cook.
There are a few local and touristy restaurants in Las Peñitas. Here are some options:
There are a number of bars along the beach that offer their own different vibes. Here are a few worthy of mentioning:
- Playa Roca Beach Hotel, ☏ . Offering a chilled out vibe and overlooking one of the nicest parts of the beach, Playa Roca is a good choice to have a drink. They also serve food and have a accommodation options.
In 2019, there are an abundance of cheap accommodation options to choose from when you arrive to the beach. Many places on the beach are now dormant. The activity seems to be concentrated in the southern part of the beach near Playa Roca hotel & restaurant.
Playa Roca hotel: dorm is $8, rooms around $20 US.
Caracolito nearby: dorm $6, rooms $15. Kitchen is available for guests.
Mano a Mano (https://www.manoamanoecohostel.com/): [dead link] popular place nearby with similar prices as above.
If you are planning on staying a while, walk along the road and find the one that's right for you and your budget.
The following places may or may not be open (2019):
- Rigo’s Guest House, 5 casa al sur desde Ola Azul, ☏ . A relaxed place with a small number of private rooms (starting at US$12) and a dorm room ($6pp). There is also a kitchen, living room, gardens and a balcony with hammocks overlooking the beach.
- Hotel Suyapa Beach, ☏ . Rooms are a bit more expensive but well worth it if you have the money. They have a pool and a popular beachside restaurant.
The beach is not patrolled by lifeguards and there are no signs or flags to indicate where it is (and isn't) safe to swim. The main hazards at this beach are powerful waves crashing on the shore and strong currents and rips. If you are unfamiliar with swimming at surf beaches, ask a local surfing instructor where a safe place to swim is and never swim alone.
Most hotels and restaurants offer Wi-Fi, and there is one internet cafe at the south end of town overlooking the harbor.
With their being only one road in and out to Las Peñitas, all visitors must generally go back to Leon to continue their travels. Before leaving for Leon however, you may want to check out the neighboring beach town, Poneloya, just to the north.