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Managua’s too dodgy, San Juan Del Sur’s too party, Granada’s too expensive, León’s too hot! Common gripes we’ve heard from fellow travel lovers in Nicaragua. Do not stress! We have your private paradise covered. It’s nestled away in a short but sweaty bus ride from León – welcome to Las Peñitas, Nicaragua!
Craig and I spent five weeks living in this paradise for free! By free I mean we offered our skills in exchange for our keep and one meal so I can say with confidence that here is a local’s guide to Nicaragua’s best-kept secret! Whether you are here for a day trip from León or taking a break from the backpacking trail, Las Peñitas has lots to offer.
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Las Peñitas Beach
Las Peñitas is a playa, approximately 5 km of sand with lots of beachfront cafes and bars for you to enjoy the views of the lapping waves and incredible sunsets. The Marina is the best spot to catch the sunrise and the rocks, where the surfers in Nicaragua hangout, is the hotspot for the sunset.
Locals take over one side of the beach during the weekends and then leave for the city on Sundays. They tend to stay in the sheltered hammocks, away from tourist accommodation options. It is a real shame but you can expect a lot of trash left on the beach post weekends. Why not do a bit of a beach clean?
There is a small shop (pulperia) which sells candy, laundry powder and fruit until it sells out on the main road just before the beach.
Las Peñitas Surf
Many surfers in Nicaragua head to Las Peñitas for a tranquilo surfing trip. The quality of the waves varies from day to day. Think you’re a good surfer? Watch out, the local kids will put your skills to shame! They are extremely talented.
The waves of Las Peñitas are wild. They make for a fun afternoon jumping in them, over them, and through them. Hold on to your bikini bottoms ladies, one swipe and the sea has claimed them!
- Surfboard rental: $6 half day / $10 full day / Lesson: $20
Horse Riding in Paradise
There are many four legged friends in Las Peñitas, the street dogs are plentiful and like most Nicaraguan towns, pretty well looked after. The larger of the four-legged animal kingdom, horses, are available for rent. With a guide, horse riders will trot along the sandy shores with the wind in the hair.
- Horse Riding: $14 approx.
Fancy seeing cute turtles? This is often possible through a trip to the mangroves of Reserva Natural Isla Juan Venado!
- Mangrove Trip: $12.50 (short) $25 (long) approx.
Marina and Fishing
Las Peñitas has a beautiful marina where you can watch the fishermen set up their boats at sunset and return with the catch of the day late morning. Travellers are also invited to take a fishing trip with the local fishermen!
- Fishing: $40 per hour / three hours (1 – 4 people)
Volcano Boarding in Nicaragua
The number one thing to do in Nicaragua is volcano boarding. This is when you hike up an active volcano and sledge down it. It’s thrilling and it happens close to Las Peñitas. Most visitors stay in the city of León and take a day trip to Cerro Negro volcano from there but if you would prefer to set up the seaside you can still take the bus into the city and catch a day tour like this one here.
Restaurants in Las Peñitas
So much choice to meet every budget!
Budget: Carmen’s Restaurant, which is actually Carmen’s house with tables and chair set up next to her sleeping husband in the hammock and the friendly parrot! Fish selected from the fridge or meat, rice, and salad for 80 ($2.82) – 100 cordobas.
Healthy: Simple Beach Lodge have kick-ass chefs who rustle up healthy wraps, baguettes (90 / $3.18 – 120 cordobas), a popular and pretty cheese board, as well as fruit smoothies. Breakfast (90 cordobas) of pancakes, eggs, fruit, or chocobanana (dessert for desayuno) is available from 07:30.
Nice environment: Bomalu is the perfect escape from the midday sun. Salad, sandwiches, and some specials including paella are available but the main attraction are the hammocks!
Burgers: Canadian run, The Lazy Turtle, offers a variety of burgers including a Canadian special (approx. 200 / $7.06 -300 cordobas)
Pizza: Keeping it Canadian, a very nice Canadian couple run Dulce Mareas which offers pizzas (approx. 100 / $3.53 – 200 cordobas) and specials throughout the week. They have a fancy coffee machine too. The brownie and ice cream is not to be missed.
Marina View: Barca de Oro aka ‘the French restaurant’ has strong WiFi as well as an incredible BBQ every Saturday. Nice view of the marina too.
Ambience: Sua Grill & Chill serves food, cocktails and live music on a Saturday night. Bliss!
Plus many more waiting for you discover them! Be wary of ‘Nicatime’ some restaurants have a ‘relaxed’ concept of time!
Stop! Hammock time, Bomalu, Las Peñitas
Partying in Las Peñitas
Las Peñitas is more paradise than party but you won’t go without choice in regards to bars at the playa Las Peñitas.
- Simple Beach Lodge, grab a Toñya (30/60 cordobas) and watch the sun lower then smash into lots of shades, smothering the sky.
- Coco Surf, this simple beach hut bar is in stills so you can enjoy the sunset from up high and daiquiris are only 60 cordobas / $2.12, half the price of the popular Playa Roca!
- Big Foot Hostel buses in city guests during the day to chill out by their seafront hostel and bar. Good tunes, nice backpackers.
Cocktails at Coco Surf, Las Peñitas
How to Get to Las Peñitas
In Leon, head to the mercadito (just outside of central Leon) and queue for the chicken bus at the side of the market. The journey takes around thirty minutes and costs 14 cordobas / 49 cents. The bus will take you through Poneloya first of all and then down Las Peñitas. In order of hotels, cafes, and bars mentioned above from the start of Las Peñitas
- Bomalu Las Peñitas
- Playa Roca
- Simple Beach Lodge (two surf shops next door)
- Coco Surf (surf shop)
- Carmen’s Restaurant
- Dulce Mareas
- The Lazy Turtle
- Barca de Oro
A taxi from Leon to Las Peñitas should cost USD $10. Agree on this beforehand and make sure that it is for two people (or how many is in your group) and not just one. Find out the process in full here.
Las Peñitas Accommodation
There are hotels in Las Peñitas as well as hostels and private rentals. Many of the hotels also serve food so holidaymakers can pop in for meals without being paid guest or swing by for a swift drink (and use of WiFi!) I would highly recommend staying or dining at a hotel with hammocks. You really can’t beat swinging an afternoon away reading a book before the sun sets.
Las Peñitas hotels
- Barca de Oro is located by the bus turning circle on the marina. It has private rooms and dorm beds, serves food – the weekly BBQ is popular.
»»» Private rooms for under $30, click here for rates and availability
- Simple Beach Lodge is Playa Roca’s quieter neighbour. This clean and neat boutique hotel is one of the best-rated hotels in Las Peñitas on Booking.com.
»»» Private rooms for under $35, click here for rates and availability
Las Peñitas hostels
Mano a Mano is an eco-hostel made from recycled materials which is very in keeping with the Las Peñitas vibe. The hostel offers four dorms, two for eight people or one for five, which is great for group travel. Rooms have fans and beds have much-needed mosquito nets. You can charge your devices in the lockers.
There is a communal kitchen with a fridge (do your shopping before you leave León). Cocktails are also served onsite.
»»» Dorms for under $15. Check availability and book here
Las Peñitas to Leon
Day-trippers should begin to leave around 4pm – 5pm, the chicken buses run every 30 – 40 minutes but at no set time, listen out for the horn tooting it’s way along the road. The bus turns and stops outside Barca de Oro at the marina so if you hear it toot as it heads towards the turning point you know you have a couple of minutes to run out to the bus stop on the opposite side of the road.
It’s not uncommon for passing locals to ask if you want a lift, they’ll tell you how much a taxi costs and then barter. We were ripped off and left stranded on the road to Leon when we refused the new amount, a passing taxi soon picked us up for 20 cordobas each!
Best Time to Visit Las Peñitas
Like most of Nicaragua, the dry season is a more appealing time to visit Las Peñitas. Weekends, especially Sundays, are busier as locals from Leon leave the hot city in search of nature’s air con at the beach. There are still stretches of untouched sand on Sundays, so don’t be put off if that is the only day you can visit.
40 thoughts on “Things to do in Las Peñitas: León’s Beach Getaway”
Wonderful post. Completely enjoyed it.
Ah, we missed it! After our house sit in Granada we hustled off to Buena Vista, Costa Rica for another sit. Before we left I ran into gringos who owned a hotel on the beach. May have been Las Penitas but I can’t recall. Shoot. Will add it to my travel list when we head back toward Granada. I’ve heard about that rough surf. Heads up!
Thanks for sharing 😉
Yay! I took your advice and stayed at Bomalu! Also we had a very lovely breakfast at Simple and said hi to everyone for you! Unfortunately, it’s still no luck with the camera 🙁 I really appreciate you and Craig taking the time to help me!
Aw man, I hope you get a resolution soon! So happy to hear that you made it to Las P and managed to get your way with accommodation! Keep in contact and let us know about Edinburgh in August!
Enjoy your articles and are jealous at times as we are sitting in cold and snow country.
To get a grasp of costs maybe you could mention it in the beginning the conversion rate. If it was in there maybe I missed it.
Greg & Carole
I do usually do local currency and UK rate but things have been a bit manic travelling and blogging whilst in Austin at SXSW! I will go back in add once the festival is over, thanks for the reminder!
hey guys, have been to Las Penitas and loved it. Can I ask what you were doing there to earn your keep? Do they need more workers?! Currently reading your Somoto tips as sat in Esteli! Blogs great 🙂
Hi Sarah! We worked at Simple Beach Lodge through the Workaway website. We used this site four times while travelling and it isn’t that expensive. Somoto was a lot of fun, very beautiful, don’t take your phone like us!
Great post!! Very helpful to me and the family as we get ready to move to Nicaragua for 5 months!! Maybe a stint by the beach would be better than life in Granada 🙂
Life in Granada will also be lovely! It’s a tad more expensive than León but definitely more set up for travellers – feels quite European actually. Wishing you all the best on a very impressive move – #lifegoals!
I am heading to las peñitas tomorrow. Is it easy to just turn up and find accomodation?
Depends on your budget Alexa. My friend, Libby, swung by to see us when we were living there and she got the last bed in a dorm as just by chance one guy left early. Swings and roundabouts though, it might be quiet! Pop in to Simple Beach Lodge and say hi for me (Gemma) | 🙂
Thanks! I just wondered if there were places that were a bit cheaper that arent listed on Booking.com etc? Ill say hello for you for sure 🙂
Nicaragua seems to go for Airbnb over Booking.com. I’ve just checked Big Foot (which wouldn’t be my first choice as it’s a party hostel + not sure what your scene is, it is far more relaxed than the León Big Foot though) and there are beds available. There are three rooms on Airbnb for other places (I can’t work out who owns them from the site). I’ve messaged CeCe at Simple Beach Lodge to see how busy the area is. I’ll keep you posted if I get a reply.
Thanks so much, i really appreciate your help! I’m not really into the party Hostel vive either…I’ll check out Air b n b. Gracias!
Have fun chica, I’m jealous!
Thanks for the handy tips! Just arrived at simple beach lodge and had another read for some tips on where to chill tonight!
Excellent! What did you get up to? Say hello to Ceci + Matt for me 🙂
So far had a surf lesson and then attempted to surf (badly!). Here a few nights, so plenty time to learn!
Such a relaxed place, I’m really jealous! Hope you get to meet the parrot at Carmen’s too.
Nice article. Love Jen’s brownies too!! Sad to say El Pirate is gone but we already have some new restaurants and places to stay in town. There are also homes for rent (including mine).
Thank you for that update, Craig will be gutted! That was his sunset escape. Have been thinking about Las Peñitas a lot of late. Miss it and Nicaragua.
Hey guys sweet blogs. Have you heard of Bigfoot beach hostel?
Cheers Eddie! We went for a cocktail a few times. It’s in the post under hostels.
Planning a trip to Las Penitas in late March this year and I can’t find any info on what types of bugs/pests are in the area. So far all I’ve found is a terrifying site that lists all the most dangerous creatures in the country which has not been helpful.
I’m assuming I can count on mosquitos being around, just wondering if there is anything else on land or sea I should be prepared for?
Just the annoying mosquitos! You’ll have a great time, it is a beautiful place.
Hola, heading to las penitas tomorrow, does anyone know of a room in a house to rent, a place with a stove and fridge to use?, my finance and I are travelling on a budget and would also like to cook rather than eating in restaurants, we have one week left in the country,, great reads, thank you
Gracias Donna! Looks like there are options on Airbnb (you can get money off signing up with our referral link here). Sounds like a perfect way to end a trip.
Sounds Great! I am in Las Peñitas at the moment and I am wondering where I can find Carmens restaurant?
Lucky you! Carmen’s is on the corner – you walk out of Simple Beach, turn right towards where the fishermen come in (end of the beach) but don’t go that far. Carmen’s is the house with the open front. Old guy swinging in a hammock usually. Ask Matt at Simple Beach Lodge if still struggling 🙂 Are you travelling around Nicaragua? You might find out travel guide useful if so.
Amazingly useful info – were you there in August? How was the weather if so?
Hey! I was actually there around Feb/March. It really is a wee paradise. Come back and let me know how you get on?
A lot has changed since the political problems and covid. Many places are closed and the prices for food a bit higher. A Toña is 40 cords, $1.15 throughout the whole country but food prices that I have seen since arriving are higher than Grenada. $6 for a vegetarian dish at Barca de oro and Sua
Very tranquil now that Semana Santa has passed
Thank you for that update, Jack. I do appreciate it. I’m saddened to hear that some places have closed down. I endeavor to update content once things stabilise a bit with travel but I can’t keep at with all the changes at the moment. Appreciate your feedback.
Do you know of a way to rent a long term house in the area … a lot of googling has led me no where 🤷🏻♂️
I would send an email to one of hotels. Most are run by ex-pats so they’ll be able to help you out.
Prices have gone up so much here. Breakfast is now 175 cordoba at Simple. It’s super easy to find a room when you show up. Tons of availability in all the hotels here. And it’s high season. So sad to see. Hopefully things pick up soon for them here. Weekends of course are still crazy.
I hope so too, Kiara! Thank you for your update and I hope you have a lovely time in Nicaragua.