Guasacate, a huge stretch of gorgeous and mostly remote shoreline, is beautiful by any standard and for the moment, mostly undeveloped. Many of the restaurants and hotels in this area are European-owned, unlike mostly gringo San Juan del Sur , and relative to Playa Gigante , there’s a better range of accomodations from weekly surf camps to midrange hotels to cheap crash-pad hospedajes.
The entrance to Guasacate is 5–8 kilometers down the first left-hand road after crossing a bridge in Las Salinas . The road runs along the ocean until it dead-ends at Playa Popoyo, with a handful of hotels and restaurants sprinkled along the 12-kilometer stretch.
If you’re here, you’re probably here to surf; in case of disaster, have Maximo (across from Rana Roja, tel. 505/8467-1798) fix your board, or take it to Popoyo Ding Repair/La Tiendita (tel. 505/8464 9563), a cute shop that repairs, rents, and sells boards and other handmade items, 200 meters down the road.
Most of the little deserted beaches in the 10-kilometer strip between Las Salinas and El Astillero don’t even have names. El Astillero itself is a fishing village full of small boats and is, in fact, the first safe boat anchorage north of Gigante. North of El Astillero, the road turns inland away from the coast.
Accessing the beach anywhere along this area requires a boat and a lot of dedication. Ask around in El Astillero. There are plenty of underemployed sailors and fishermen that would be glad to strike a deal with you if you’re interested in exploring the coastline.
At the budget end of the spectrum is Popoyo Loco, a funky surf shack right on the beach, offering a bed in a dorm with a thin mattress, fan, and shared bath for $5 per person. You won’t find Internet or phone here, but feel free to use the kitchen. La Tica Dos (end of the road on the east side) is a two-story affair catering to surfers; $10 gets you a room, fan, private bath, and a few grunts from the unhelpful owner. Hotel Popoyo also has a few dorm beds at $14.
El Club del Surf (tel. 505/8456-6068, www.elclubdelsurf.com ) has Wi-Fi and five nice doubles with cable TV, air-conditioning, and private bath for $40; be sure to get a room facing the ocean. The restaurant features affordable Italian specialties and a variety of fresh salads (tuna, chicken, Caprese) and, of course, wine.
On the left side of the road at the end of a short driveway, behind El Toro, sits Hotel Popoyo (tel. 505/8885-3334, www.hotelpopoyo.com ) where a spacious room with a king-size canopy bed, plenty of windows, bamboo roof, air-conditioning, and cable TV goes for $89 including tax and breakfast. Pleasant and clean dorms are $14. There’s a pool out back and a few hammocks slung under the rancho. Hotel Popoyo is closed the month of October.
Popoyo Surf Lodge (tel. 321/735-0322, www.surfnicaragua.com ) pioneered the local surf scene in the 1990s. The owner, JJ, is a ripping, born-again surfer who also preaches at the local church. Reservations and packages are available online; drop-ins (no surf pun intended) accepted in the off-season. About 300 meters from the beach, Surfari Charters (tel. 505/8874-7173, www.surfaricharters.com ) specializes in all-inclusive surf and fishing trips; check their website for more information and captivating photography.
Across the street, Two Brothers Surf Resort (tel. 505/8877-7501, www.twobrotherssurf.com ) offers more luxury, comfort, and security. Villas range $100–200 a night plus tax. The big one fits up to six people; the resort features a pool, lounge, hand-carved Indonesian temple doors and archways, locally crafted Granada floor tiles, fully equipped kitchens, air-conditioning, ceiling fans, and indoor and outdoor showers.
The most popular eatery in Guasacate is El Toro (behind Hotel Popoyo, east side of the road, tel. 505/8885-3334), with an airy dining area and a great selection of meatless treats such as gazpacho, hummus, pasta, and veggie burritos. Rum and cokes are $1 at their 4–6 p.m. happy hour. Just past El Toro, Rana Roja serves wood-fired pizza from 6–10:30 p.m., closed Monday.
Los Amores del Sol, or simply “el rancho” (at the end of the road), is a well-liked beachfront restaurant and full bar where you can watch the waves roll in or just enjoy the meticulously landscaped grounds. Breakfast is $3, lunch and dinner $4–10.
At least one bus a day leaves Roberto Huembes market in Managua  bound for El Astillero via Ochomogo (not Tola). From San Juan del Sur  or Costa Rica, you’ll be driving through Rivas  and Tola , following the signs to Rancho Santana, then continuing past this development’s gates until you reach Las Salinas . Buses depart Rivas about every hour. A taxi to Guasacate from El Astillero costs $7, from Rivas $30. The road to the beach will take you past several austere salt flats, from which the nearby town of Las Salinas gets its name.