Popoyo, Nicaragua

Photo: 99 Surf Lodge

Keep it simple. Blue skies. Bright sunshine. A warm breeze. A little beach town. Golden sand. A consistent left-hand break. An eco-friendly hotel. It looks like you’re all set for your next Nicaragua trip.

Nica is one of the best travel values in the world. The Central American country hasn’t been overdeveloped. Pristine forests, quiet lakes, and deserted beaches are still easy to find. International chains haven’t staked their claims. Most hotels are small and privately owned. Plus 78 protected areas—that’s more than 20 percent of the country—ensure its rich biodiversity won’t disappear. Eco-tourism helps guarantee that.

That’s why you keep returning to Rivas. The southwest corner of Nica is stunning. Lake Nicaragua, Central America’s largest lake, lies to the east. Beautiful beaches, impressive waves, and the vast Pacific Ocean line the west coast. Coast Rica is to the south. While volcanoes, rich soil, and fields of sugar cane cover the land.

Photo: 99 Surf Lodge

San Juan del Sur was your usual spot. Too many people agreed with you, though. So you left the beach parties behind. You drove north to find undiscovered spots. Eventually, you reached secluded Playa Popoyo. Surfers, attracted to the waves breaking over a rocky reef, were already there. That means a handful of hostels, cafes, and surf shops were, too. It was lively but not overrun. It felt like a community, not a resort. It was chic without being pretentious. It was exactly what you’d hoped to find.

99 Surf Lodge is the icing on this sun-baked cake. The boutique hotel sits right on the beach. You can see and hear the waves from all around the hotel. The modern, minimal buildings are made entirely of local materials. There are only six rooms. Ocean Bungalows (four people) and Ocean Suites (two people) have hardwood floors, huge windows, and a unique shade system that reduces the need for air conditioning. Ocean views are a given.

In addition to sleek rooms, the lodge has an organic restaurant. Taberna 99 serves ceviche, wood-fired pizzas, and homemade desserts. Strong coffee and even stronger cocktails are always available, too. There’s a gym with a 270-degree view and a four-sided infinity pool. Flyboards, hoverboards, jet boards, and SUPs are among the toys. While those legendary waves—at their peak between April and October—are just a short paddle away. It’s that simple.

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