After our month in Playa Santana, I sort of figured we wouldn’t settle into another beach town for more than a few days. I was wrong. We discovered Playa Gigante thanks to an interesting line of events and stayed for 3 weeks.
Play Gigante is a beach in a pretty quiet bay nestled in between great surf breaks and a few bigger resort beaches. Personally, I love the bay front life. It’s nice to walk into the ocean without feeling like it’s a workout every time.
Camino del Gigante Hostel was our home during that time on the south side of the bay. Bryce and I stumbled into a lovely volunteer situation there and probably would have stayed longer if we hadn’t already had a flight back to the states at the end of January. Super bonus, I found myself spending a good amount of time on a sailboat cruising the beautiful Nicaraguan coast.
Where to stay?
Camino del Gigante is obviously my first choice. The vibe is great, it’s right on the beach, there’s good WiFi, a restaurant on site, daily yoga, and a strong presence of local expats visiting the restaurant and bar at night. The dorms were around $11 and privates were over $20, ranging from a simple single to a full apartment. It’s definitely a little bit of a party hostel but I don’t feel like it was ever overkill except for New Year’s and when the Free and Easy Traveler group rented out the place.
Cheaper, more rustic alternatives could be found on the north side of the bay. They were mostly scattered up the hillside and on the cliff. One was called Monkey House but there were a few in fairly close proximity. I don’t know that any of them had much of an online presence though.
If I would have found this spot early during our trip though, I might have scoped out the AirBnb options too. This would have been a great spot to settle into with a kitchen for awhile even if we hadn’t found our volunteer opportunity.
Where to eat and drink?
Juntos was a great find for consistently good food and good service. If you’re there on a Friday, go there for pizza night. The food is priced a little higher but sometimes to confidently walk into a place, have great service, and know that your food isn’t going to take a ridiculously long time, that makes it totally worth it.
Party Wave was a cute little cafe and lunch spot with a beach front property in the middle of Playa Gigante. They had good coffee, good service, healthy lunches, and even house made kombucha sometimes. Oh, and they had some of the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had. Considering it’s hard to find an oven sometimes in Nicaragua, that was clutch.
Buena Vista is a great spot for large fish entrees for about 180 cordobas overlooking Playa Amarillo. The woman at the Congo Hostel serves a similar platter for a bit cheaper in a slightly more rustic setting but with a great view of Playa Gigante. The latter is also based on if she has supplies or not.
El Pozo had good pizza and a spacious courtyard. It’s off the beach about an 8 minute walk from the center of town and definitely worth the walk for dinner one night. After awhile, you’ll be seeing familiar faces all over the place and this is a nice little getaway if you’re into that.
Camino del Gigante’s restaurant is awesome because it’s right on the beach. You can go for a swim and get a sun tan while waiting for your giant plate of delicious nachos to come out, which is nice because sometimes it definitely took a while for food to make it to your table. No need to be in a hurry while in Playa Gigante anyway though. This is definitely the nightlife spot though. We spent our New Year’s drinking and fire dancing in front of the restaurant and it couldn’t have been more perfect.
What to do?
Hike the Giant’s Foot. It’s on the south end of the bay right next to Camino del Gigante. It’s about a 20 minute hike to the viewpoint, and is rather mild except one spot where you have to be able to climb a bit.
Go surf. There’s a guy who rents board right near Camino del Gigante and there’s great surf breaks on the beach to the North of Playa Gigante. It’s about a 10 minute walk from Camino del Gigante (on the South in end of Playa Gigante.)
Go sailing with John, the owner of Camino del Gigante. Every Tuesday, they do a booze cruise sailing trip. $25 per person for a 3-4 hour trip ending at sunset, and it’s all you can drink. Do the math, it’s stupid not to go. They also do private trips for a little more depending on what exactly you’re wanting. Some of my favorite times in Gigante where spent on the water. Don’t miss it. And be warned, the pirate punch is real strong!
Clean up the beach. Every Monday, more or less, the volunteers at Camino del Gigante do a beach clean up. During the weekend, the beach gets packed which means plenty of waste. Some is carelessly left on the beach, but often times we’d catch pigs or dogs knocking over the trash cans and the wind would do the rest of the damage. It was always great when guests would help out with the clean up as well, it’s not a huge beach, so a couple extra hands go a long way.
When to go?
More like when not to go, I suppose. Two words, pica pica. There are these seedpods covered in tiny hairs that grow in parts of the countryside. After enough dry season and with enough wind, those little hairs take flight. These little hairs cause you to itch, everywhere. They get in your clothes, cushions, hammocks, wherever and when you come in contact, get ready for unpleasantries.
Most of the time it wasn’t too bad, a quick dip in the ocean would solve your problems. But on one particularly windy day, I thought we were all going to go insane. Since there’s no enclosed spaces really anywhere, you’re just taking cover the best you can with periodic dashes for the ocean.
Apparently, this goes on from around January to March. On a normal day, it won’t be a trip ruiner, but if you happen to arrive on one of the really windy days, you’ll be real confused why I suggested Playa Gigante.
Oh, and don’t go on a Sunday. It gets packed with families.