The Best Beach in Central America for Every Type of Traveler

The couple behind surf-centric website Wavecation reveal their favorites

March 4, 2020 6:40 am
punta mita nayarit mexico
Punta Mita in Nayarit, Mexico
Alonso Reyes / Unsplash

The website Wavecation has existed in one form or another since the early 2000s. Originally a passion project of Matt Thomson, it long functioned as a lo-fi repository of beachfront rental properties near good surf breaks.

In 2018, longtime users Juan Dulanto and Ren Fuller-Wasserman reached out to Thompson to inquire about his future plans for the site. With a bounty of startup experience between them, they spotted the possibility of a company that could grow into something more than what was essentially just a surf-specific Craigslist. So they acquired, revamped and relaunched Wavecation to help make travel a bit easier for those in search of an endless summer.

The platform functions almost identically to Airbnb, except that each location delivers robust surfing intel about the area: everything from whether there’s gear rental nearby to which way the waves break to how far the walk to the beach is.

While Wavecation covers properties around the globe, Mexico and Central America account for the lion’s share, which also happens to be very convenient to get to from the United States. So we figured we’d ask the couple for their recommendations on the best locations for various types of surf vacation.

For People Who Have Never Actually Surfed Before: Stinky’s, Punta Mita Mexico 

“A slow-rolling soft wave that is perfect for beginners to learn the basics of surfing on a laid-back beach. Punta Mita, located on the north end of Bahia de Banderas in Nayarit, not only offers a variety of other surf breaks for all levels, but is a fun town with plenty of restaurants and things to do. One of our properties offers all-inclusive packages that include meals and surf lessons, and as always with Wavecation, a quick walk to the surf break.”

For People Who Want a Challenge But Definitely Aren’t Pros: El Transito, Nicaragua 

“Quiet fishing village in Nicaragua with a great break that is relatively uncrowded where you can improve your skills. It’s a little bit off the beaten path and still a well-kept secret. This crescent-shaped beach is home to four different breaks for every level of performance. Options range from the boho luxury Mandla to a BnB perfect for those on a budget.”

For People Who Are Basically Pros: Playa Colorado, Nicaragua 

“Offshore winds 300 days out of the year, perfect barreling waves and modern amenities in this coastal community of Hacienda Iguana make this place a perfect vacation for those looking to get tubed. The Rivas region of Nicaragua has a ton of other great surf spots that can be accessed by boat from here, too. There are a lot of great homes to rent for big groups and families.”

tamarindo costa rica
Tamarindo, Costa Rica (Zachary Shea/Unsplash)

For People Who Don’t Surf All That Much But Do Want the Option: Tamarindo, Costa Rica

“This is a surf town in the Guanacaste region of Costa RIca with great waves for all skill levels, but no shortage of restaurants and nightlife to keep you entertained as well as plenty of other activities. This is one of our favorite hotels in the area.

For People Who Want to Surf But Also Party: Santa Teresa, Costa Rica 

“A spot that has grown in popularity over the last few years, with plenty of surf breaks for any skill level and a young crowd dancing from sunset to the wee hours on weekend nights. For those that do not partake in the partying, there is an opportunity to beat the crowds in the morning.”

For People Who Want a Surf Vacation for the Whole Family: Punta Burros, Punta Mita, Mexico 

“Small private neighborhood in Punta Mita with a fun surf break right out front for the entire family, also close enough to the touristy part of Punta Mita to keep everyone entertained. Check out Casa Gaviota on Punta Burros or this nearby family friendly Penthouse in Veneros. The surf break is only 1.2 miles away.”

For People Who Need to Work While They Surf

“Nowadays most locations have WiFi, even if not the connections you are used to at home, it is usually good enough for the digital worker to work with. At the same time a lot of operators are starting to see this trend emerge and are adding spaces to cater to it … Some of my favorite places to stay and work are The Inn at Manzanillo Bay in Guerrero, Mexico, Miramar Surf Camp in Nicaragua or Puro Surf Hotel in El Salvador.”

For People Who Want to Be Off the Grid: Magdalena Bay, Baja, Mexico 

“A remote camping experience in the middle of Baja accessible only by boat, with everything taken care of for you. Great waves, fishing, whale watching and food in this piece of remote paradise only a few hours from Loreto Airport. Check it out here.”

For Pure, Unadulterated Luxury: Tamarindo, Costa Rica

“Both of these options can be fully staffed and come with your own personal tour concierge: this 15,000-square-foot Bali-style luxury rental or The Sunset House

punta zicatela mexico
Punta Zicatela, Mexico (Cristina Cerda/Unsplash)

For Surfers Who Are Also Foodies: La Punta Zicatela, Oaxaca, Mexico 

“Oaxacan coastal Mexican food — can it get any better on a surf trip? Unlikely. Stay in Casa Sirena.

For Longboarders: La Saladita, Mexico

“Playa La Saladita is truly a longboarder’s paradise. Saladita surf sessions offer long rides, good vibes and beautiful surroundings. Surf pioneers first started visiting the break in the mid-1970s, with the first official lodging opening in 1998, and electricity only arriving in 2000. (Read our blog about the history of La Saladita.) It’s still a teensy village dedicated almost exclusively to surfing, but we have a great selection of listings for all budgets and groups in La Saladita.”


Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.