For an Adrenalin-Packed Vacation With Views, Visit Nicaragua's Emerald Coast

Skip the Costa Rica crowds in favor of this coastal hotspot.

Rancho Santana
(Image credit: Rancho Santana)

Known for its exceptional surfing, the Emerald Coast of Nicaragua is a hidden gem along the Pacific coastline. Though still rugged, the area is quickly becoming a hotspot thanks to the resorts and charming restaurants popping up along the coast, bringing with them thoughtful architecture that pops against the landscape.

If your favorite vacations lean adventurous, the Emerald Coast deserves a spot on your bucket list. From sandboarding and surfing to volcanic climbs and hikes through the unspoiled wilderness, the Emerald Coast offers once-in-a-lifetime views and experiences.

Where to Stay

Rancho Santana

(Image credit: Rancho Santana)

Encompassing 2,700 acres of the Emerald Coast, Rancho Santana is a perfect jumping-off point for explorers. Even without leaving the property, there are trails for hiking and mountain biking, a sea turtle sanctuary, and five distinct beaches.

For seclusion, visit Playa Escondida, the hidden beach, which boasts a pristine stretch of white sand that you’ll likely only share with sea turtles. At Playa Los Perros, relax between catching waves at La Taquería or lying in the hammock strung up next to the Surf Shop. And at Playa Santana, you’ll find the 17-room Inn at Rancho Santana. The Spanish-style destination embraces rustic luxury, featuring intricate metalwork created at their onsite ironworks and furniture crafted by local artisans. (For more space, check out their three-bedroom, three-bath Residences.)

What to Do

Climb a Volcano at Sunset

Masaya Volcano National Park is one of the best reasons to venture away from the coast. The easily accessible crater holds a persistent lava lake, smoldering with large amounts of sulfur dioxide and, at night, visible lava, giving it the name “The Mouth of Hell.” Just before sunset, hike up the cross (La Cruz de Bobadilla) for a stunning sunset surrounded by dramatic volcanic rocks. 

Sandboard Down Beach Dunes

While surfing is the sport that defines the Emerald Coast, there's also a more unique, adrenaline-filled option: sandboarding. After climbing up a 100-foot sand dune at Playa Duna, coast down on an adapted body board for a once-in-a-lifetime thrill.

Relax at the Spa in El Bosque

Rancho Santana

(Image credit: Rancho Santana)

With so much to do in Nicaragua, take a day between activities to help your muscles recover at the Spa in El Bosque. Before your massage, enjoy some hydrotherapy at the spa’s hot and cold plunge pools to stimulate circulation and recovery. 

Where to Eat

La Finca y El Mar

La Finca y El Mar is nestled between the Emerald Coast and the restaurant’s 80-acre organic farm. Tour the farm and its garden before dinner to see the sustainable fare being lovingly grown and cultivated: the farm produces fruits, vegetables, and meats, as well as dairy from the herd of Reina cows for mozzarella and salty Nicaraguan cheese.

La Boquita 

Poolside eatery La Boquita is known for its sushi and pizza, along with the sensational pink-hued sunsets you can take in over Playa Rosada. Live music often accompanies the sound of the ocean as the chefs in the open-air kitchen dance along. 

Michelle Stansbury

Michelle Stansbury is a San Diego-based freelance writer who writes about travel, food, and relationships. Misuse of the word "literally" drives her figuratively insane.