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As a shop, we make it a tradition to escape down south in the winter to rejuvenate, test boards and reward ourselves and our crew with tropical surf. This year we were considering a few options when Tony Holiday’s place Casa Kailani was fortuitously available at the same time we had staff willing to stay home to keep the shop open (thank you guys, you know who you are!). Casa Kailani is located in Nicaragua near Salinas Grandes overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
There are many flight options to get to Managua, Nicaragua and we chose to go through Miami on AA, leaving at 6am from Toronto landing about 1:30pm in Nicaragua so we’d have plenty of time to get to the ocean for a sunset surf. All went well and then it was a scenic two hour drive from Managua, past volcanoes to the beach house.
On arrival, Shamus the property manager introduced us to the house and area and showed us all the groceries that we had pre-ordered before the trip. (The house is so remote that the nearest grocery store is a good 45 minutes away so it’s highly advisable to stock up before arriving and Shamus is happy to do this for visitors). For a fun in depth video of the house by Tip Toe Tours check here.
We took our first look at the ocean just steps from the house. A good looking swell with stiff offshore breeze greeted us – so we hit a sunset session to get our feet in the wax. There’s nothing like surfing without a wetsuit for winter surfers accustomed to 6mm of rubber.
It is the Nicaraguan dry season in February, which is characterized by hot, breezy offshore wind and extremely dry conditions. The next morning we hit the surf and all caught a few waves. We went back out after lunch for some fun ones; here's a quick video from that session:
Although the location of Casa Kailani is very remote, there’s an abundance of activities to keep you occupied should you want to leave the peaceful surroundings of the beach house. The following day we organized a boat trip to Puerto Sandino with Ulises who runs various tours (zip lining, kayaking, river boat and city) from his Ranch in Salinas Grandes.
At sunrise, Ulises picked us up in the boat at our beach and we were pretty excited to be heading to one of the best lefts in the country. We paddled out to the boat, through the breakers with our packs on, and from there, it was a quick 20 minute ride south to the river mouth where the lefts peel for 300 to 500 metres on the right day. We were there on a good day but not the best.
The waves were chest high but the offshore wind had kicked in, creating some bumps on the face and making it hard to get into the wave. The wave is suitable for all types of boards as it has a variety of sections.
We definitely weren’t complaining – we had the place to ourselves and got some really good rides. The wind really started to howl and the first rain since December came down, so we cruised back stoked and slightly chilled.
Ulises drove the boat right onto the beach for us to offload – talk about service! Truly skilled with the boat, he shot up the beach in a few feet of water and found a soft section to launch his boat over the impact zone to make his escape.
The following day we took a trip to the Salinas Grandes river mouth which is another world class wave about 5 minutes away via the beach. This time Ulises literally picked us up on the beach in his truck! At low tide you can drive for miles on the beach and the beach was our freeway to the river mouth. We clocked his truck going 100km on the beach as the waves and the odd beach goer whizzed by.
This wave certainly doesn’t lack power and offers up barrels for any takers. Check out some of the photos on Magic Seaweed as we didn’t get any.
We met local surfer Filipe at the river mouth and he paddled out with us on a repaired broken board. It should also be noted that the repair wasn’t perfect and the board actually had a reverse rocker. Nevertheless, Filipe ripped on that board and pulled into a few barrels. It was a humbling experience and a reminder to appreciate what we have. And from a surfboard sales perspective, a reason not to be concerned too much on the minute dimension details! In the end it’s the rider not the craft that makes the board go.
As for the surf session, I was immediately reminded of the need to rub your feet together in the water before catching your first wave to help remove some of the natural oils. I was a bit too excited and on my first wave my front foot slipped – I came down as my board came up and it hit me underneath my chin.
I felt it but kept surfing. There was some blood and I figured if it didn’t stop I’d go in. It pretty much stopped and would only drip with bigger facial movements so I took advantage of the glassy waves.
All surfed out, we paddled in and that was when the guys noticed my cut. Ulises and Filipe had a concerned look on their faces and spoke rapidly in Spanish and made sewing gestures with their hands. Meanwhile Grant took Kristen and Jeff aside down the beach and said “I think Mike might need some stitches".
Ulises took Grant and I into Leon which is the closest hospital and about 45 minutes away...depending on traffic.
I got a first-hand experience of the Nicaraguan health care system. Lucky for me, Ulises knew one of the doctors well and I was in and out in 15 minutes, all sewn up and back on the road. Unfortunately, I had to keep out of the water for at least a few days and the doctor reiterated this to Grant as she could tell I wasn’t listening.
We had some great surf the next couple of days. Here's a video of some of the action.
On the Friday, we checked out the local restaurant Salt Escapes Nicaragua which is open Thursday to Saturday or by appointment if you have a group. The restaurant is right on the beach and has Tapas for $5 USD and Cervezas for $1.50! The restaurant helps bring the small community of travellers together. We booked an appointment for dinner Saturday night. Mark, the chef, asked for our preferences, and from there he was going to create a meal for us the next night at 6:30 - how about that?!
The following morning (Saturday) the surf was glassy and peeling. After two full days out of the water, I put 7 band aids on my chin and took out the 7’ Jimmy Lewis Destroyer in hopes I’d keep a bit drier. The bandaids were a futile attempt that lasted all of 30 minutes but the waves were good so it didn't matter. As the sun came up, Grant joined me and took shots in the water in between waves. Here's a couple:
Kristen got a few videos later in the morning - see below for some highlights.
During the day we chilled, caught up on shop life (work you might say) and got ready for a sunset session. The waves picked up nicely as the wind backed off.
Soon enough it was time for our appointment at the restaurant. We had the whole place to ourselves and devoured a delicious meal of Snapper caught that same day.
Before long, we were scheduled to leave Sunday at 3:30pm so that left time in the am to surf, pack and hit the road to the airport. We landed at midnight in Toronto after two smooth flights and connections. And the surf report for Toronto? Ice clearing and waves in the forecast!
If you’re looking for a safe, remote getaway in Nicaragua, Casa Kailani is a place we confidently recommend. Even though you’re completely isolated, it’s easy to be connected to Ulises who will help with any day trips you’re interested in. The local restaurant will also make you feel at home and they also offer massages after a long day of surf.
Property manager Shamus looks after you with groceries and any problems that may arise at the house. There’s 24 hour security, a friendly beach dog, Wi-Fi, and a cleaning service every 2 to 3 days. There are three bedrooms that can accommodate six people, a slick kitchen, bbq, two bathrooms with incredible showers and an outdoor shower to rinse off in after the beach. There’s even a gazebo with chairs and a hammock facing the beach for all those surf checks.
Feel free to ask us any questions about our trip and be sure to reach out to Tony if you’re keen on Nicaragua.
Here are some more photos: