Planning Your Surf Trip: CHICABRAVA Prep Guide

Anytime you travel outside your own country, it’s wise to expect the unexpected! Below is a pack list and helpful tips to consider while planning for your Central-American surf adventure.

Recommended Pack List:

  1. At least two tight-fitting bathing suits (Roxy, Billabong, and RipCurl for sale at CHICABRAVA) 
  2. Rash-guard (long sleeve for sale at CHICABRAVA)
  3. Board-shorts (longer length for sale at CHICABRAVA)
  4. Tight-fitting leggings (to protect against jellyfish and wax rashes; not for sale at CHICABRAVA)
  5. Spring wetsuit (late Nov – early April; for sale at CHICABRAVA; see below for specifics)
  6. Beach towel (Turkish-T towels for sale at CHICABRAVA)
  7. High-protein snacks and energy bars (hard to find in San Juan del Sur!!!)
  8. Bathroom/Shower Toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste/toothbursh, aloe)
  9. Sunscreen (waterproof, SPF 50+, zinc-based is recommended, and “kids” or “baby” so it won’t sting eyes. Banana Boat Baby is a good thick cream).
  10. Bug spray
  11. Sundresses, Shorts, Tank tops, flip flops (all for sale at CHICABRAVA)
  12. Tennis shoes for hiking/horseback riding
  13. Jeans for horseback riding
  14. Earplugs and white noise maker to drown-out noise (for Surf House mainly!) 
  15. Eye mask for light sensitivity
  16. First-Aid kit/supplies (Global Odyssi surfer kits available online starting at $26.99)
  17. Epi-pen or Benadryl if you are allergic to bee stings and/or jelly fish.
  18. Extra cash (in small denominations) and ATM card (notify your bank and CC company of international travel plans to avoid blocked-card issues).

Rash-guards (long-sleeve), board-shorts (longer-length) or leggings, and tight-fitting swimsuits are essential! Stronger waves have a tendency to tear off loose tops and bottoms. Rash-guards and board-shorts or leggings will not only keep you covered, but they also help protect skin against sunburn and rashes from the wax, board, and sand. You don’t want to have to worry about losing your swimsuit on a wave while you are trying to paddle out!

Wetsuits (spring suits or full suits). You will need a “spring suit” wetsuit if you are attending the retreat anytime from late November through early April, when a combination of coastal currents and wind chill can make the water wetsuit worthy (as low as 65 degrees F). While there is a chance you might not need your spring suit the whole time, it is always best to be prepared. Visit the Wetsuit Warehouse to see examples of affordable spring suits and to purchase online. We do have a limited selection for sale at the CHICABRAVA Surf Shop. Please check with us for availability. For hygienic reasons, we do not rent wetsuits. 

*Note: wetsuit sizing is NOT like dress sizing so please be sure to carefully review sizing chart information. 

Beach towels Please bring (or be prepared to purchase) at least one beach towel for the beach. Bath towels are provided at the camp, but are ONLY intended to be used in-house. At our Surf Shop, we carry amazing Turkish-T beach towels that are lightweight and sand-friendly like a sarong, but are also absorbent like a towel. In addition to being useful during your stay, they make great gifts and souvenirs! We have a variety of colors as shown online and the price is the same $29!

Earplugs and eye mask and a white noise maker (or iPhone app) are a good thing to bring if you are staying at the Surf House since we are right in the middle of town. If you are extra sensitive to light, sound and/or snoring, it is a good idea to pack these for the Cloud Farm location as well.

Transportation is provided from MGA airport at 12:30 PM on the Saturday of arrival and 7:30 AM on the Saturday of departure (arriving MGA 10:00 AM). Shuttle transportation outside of these days/times can be arranged for an additional cost of:

  • $40/per person for a shared shuttle
  • $80 for a private shuttle for one person

Extra cash is another essential. You can use U.S. currency most everywhere in Nicaragua. It’s good to have smaller bills ($5s, $10s, $20s) as getting change for larger bills has to be done at the bank. Please note that local businesses will not accept U.S. currency with markings or rips; these must be changed at the bank. If you don’t have U.S. dollars and/or want to convert into local currency (the Nicaraguan Córdoba), you can easily do so with your passport at one of the banks in San Juan del Sur. There are ATM’s here as well. As exchange rates fluctuate, the current currency rate can be checked before arrival using a currency converter such as http://www.xe.com/ucc/.  

You should expect to pay a $10 entrance fee in U.S. currency at immigration upon entering Nicaragua (there is also a $30 exit fee, but most airlines include this in the ticket price). There’s plenty of shopping to be done in town! If you are staying at the Surf House, be sure to bring enough money (~$15/day) for lunches, dinners, and to be able to go out at night, as these things are not included in the package. At the end of your stay, you’ll have the opportunity to buy a full length photo CD of your trip including lifestyle shots and surfing so bring extra cash for that if you’re interested (price range from $60-90 depending on package). You can also bring a USB or memory card if you’d prefer them to a CD!

Local Deals in town for you to ENJOY: There are numerous discounts and specials available exclusively for guests of CHICABRAVA. Below is a list of some off our best local deals, so plan accordingly with a bit of extra cash. 

  • Restaurant El Timon: CHICABRAVA Happy Hour menu M-F 4-8 PM and Special Friday Dinner ($15+ tax/tip)
  • Pelican Eyes Resort: Use of pool, 2×1 drinks, and Special Wednesday Dinner ($20+tax/tip)
  • Pelican Eyes Spa: Mani/Pedi Foot Love with a glass of wine ($25+tip)!
  • Howler Bar and Barrio Cafe – 10% off for CHICABRAVA all the time! 
  • Bambu Beach – 15% off and 2×1 Mojitos all the time!
  • Horseback Ride with Rancho Chilamate ($65/5 hr; replaces surfing session) 
  • Catamaran Boat Tour ($75/5hr) or Pelican Eyes Boat ($50)
  • Aracne Repelling Tour ($30)
  • Canopy Zipline Tour ($35) 

Tipping. Please keep in mind that it is optional but customary to tip surf instructors and the cooking/cleaning staff at the end of the week. To give you an idea of how much to tip, a minimum of $30 for the week from each guest is typical for the house staff at the Cloud Farm who take care of the cleaning, laundry and cooking all daily meals; and $15 at the Surf House, as the staff there handles only cleaning and breakfast. Your tip will be combined with the tips from all of the other girls. For your instructors, a minimum of $20 per instructor from each guest is an average tip for the week (you may work with as many as 3-4 instructors in the week). Guests often leave around $10 as well for the Concierge Coordinator who will plan any additional activities or services for you. Of course if you feel that someone’s service was exceptional you can tip more. Tipping is always up to you.  

Study a little Spanish. It’s smart to learn more phrases so you can ease your way into the culture. It’s also respectful to try to speak a country’s native language and can be an enlightening experience to communicate in another language even if you can only say a few broken words.

Surfboards and other equipment that do not belong to you are provided for your use. We expect that you treat these items with care as if they were your own. Surfboards are fragile and can easily be dented, scratched, or the fins broken. If you damage a board or other CHICABRAVA property, please understand that you will be held financially responsible for their repair and or replacement.

Safety in and out of the water is our number one priority. When you come to the retreat we will have an ocean and board safety lesson to protect all of our guests before we enter the sea. To keep you safe both in and out of the water, we implement the buddy system. It is important to not stray from the group. Always make sure the instructors are aware of your whereabouts. For safety, security, and privacy at the retreat, we do not allow any non-retreat guests to enter the facilities or vehicles. Always keep track of your buddy, the instructors, and try to stay with the group!

“Challenging” is one of the words that best defines learning how to surf (“Empowering” is the other)! It is one of the hardest sports to learn, but also one of the most rewarding. It is important to keep in mind that with this sport, what you put in is what you get out. Only time in the water will bring results. Please be prepared to surf the majority of each day as our goal and main focus is to have fun and progress your surfing no matter what your level. If you are determined to get the most out of your week at CHICABRAVA surf retreat there are several ways that you can prepare for surfing. Please visit our Learn to Surf page and start doing your homework!