Las Penitas Beach

The 2.2 kilometer sandy beach is the undisputed main attraction of Las Penitas and the focal point of the lives of locals and visitors alike. The Main Street (which also happens to be the only paved street) runs parallel to the beach and a majority of the homes and hostels are situated right on the beach or in the sandy bay that forms the entrance to the San Juan Natural Reserve.

During Sundays and national holidays, the beach is filled with visitors from Leon and other parts of the Nicaragua and you can see people picnicking in the sand, playing in the waves and all-around enjoy themselves in the brisk ocean air. And it is not just the native Nicaraguans that come here; the beach is also an appealing weekend destination for foreign volunteers and other personal stationed in Leon and neighboring provinces.

During weekdays on the other hand, the beach will be pretty much deserted and it is not unusual to walk from one end to the other without encountering more than few souls. Las Penitas is the perfect mix between deserted island and busy beach resort – you can have your cake and eat it too.

As you stroll along the beach from Las Penitas Bay, you will eventually encounter a big rock formation adorned with a gargantuan white cross. If you proceed past this cross, you have left Las Penitas and entered Poneloya. From the cross, the beach of Poneloya goes on for about 1,7 kilometers before reaching Poneloya Bay.

The beaches of Las Penitas and Poneloya consists of off-white to greyish sand and can become really hot during sunny days, so bring a towel to sit on and a pair of beach shoes to protect your soles if you’re brave (or foolish) enough to stay on the beach as the sun approaches near-zenith. The waves bring interesting items to the beach, especially after storms, and a scavenger hunt can bring you anything from sand dollars and drift wood to sea glass and big conch shells


Swimming here is a wonderful and exhilarating experience since the swell is incredibly strong with waves that will toss you around like a mitten if you’re not careful. There is also quite a substantial undertow. For a more tranquil experience, swim through the waves and stay in the waters right outside the swell. Unless it’s a very windy day, the water becomes really calm as soon as you’re out of the swell area.

One of the most popular swimming spots in Las Penitas is next to the big rocks near Hostel Playa Roca. The big rocks forms a natural pier and decreases the impact of the waves and undertow.

If you are not a strong swimmer, we suggest you get into the water at Las Penitas Bay, a shallow and swell-free area protected by sand banks. This is also a great spot for kids to play in the water without having to handle big swells and undertow. From Las Penitas Bay, you’ll have a great view of the Juan Venado Natural Reser

Surfing and body boarding

Las Penitas attracts surfers year around and body boarding is also becoming increasingly popular. Several hostels have boards for rent, and there is also the Coco Surf School that will offer both boards and lessons. Board rental starts around 3 USD/hour and 10USD/day at Coco Surf, and they also offer board repair. The school is located in a palm-leaf cabana on the beach, between Hostel Playa Roca and Hotel Suyapa. For more information, visit

During weekdays, you will normally be pretty much the only surfer at the beach, so there is definitely no crowding. During Sundays, expect to share the 2,2 kilometers of beach with roughly a dozen other surfers.

If you plan to bring your own board to Las Penitas, it’s best to catch the chicken bus from Leon instead of a cab. Your board can be placed at the back of the bus or on the roof. You may have to pay a small additional fee for the board.

Surfing overview for Las Penitas

Experience level:                Suitable for all surfers, but there is an undertow

Frequency:                          Consistent year round

Tide position:                      All tides

Type:                                   Point-break

Direction:                            Right and left

Normal length:                    50-150 meters

Swell size:                           Starts at 1.0-1.5 m, holds up to 3 m+

Bottom:                              Sandy, but ragged rocks are located just a few meters from the waterline at several places along the be

Horseback riding on the beach

What can be greater than watching the sun set as you ride along the sandy beach with the ocean spray in your hair? Several hostels will arrange horse back rides on and off the beach. Horses are a great way of exploring Las Penitas and Poneloya, especially if you want to traverse old dirt roads and areas off the beaten track.