There are two main hostels in Salinas Grande, the cheapest being Los Cocos which boasts an $8 dorm room. They are accessible on Facebook via Loscocosnicaragua. If their internet is down you can just head out there by taking a bus from the bus station next to the Maxi Pali. Ask any of the bicycle rickshaws to take you there for a dollar. There’s not many buses and they actually do leave on time so don’t be late. However, going from Salinas to Leon, the buses are usually between twenty minutes early to twenty minutes late.
The bus drops you off on a small road in what feels like the middle of no where. In the background is a skyline of volcanoes and mountains and everywhere around you is red earth and dust. It looks like the beginning of a post apocalyptic movie.
There is a dirt road which spans about a kilometre ending at a river mouth. The hostel Los Cocos is half a kilometre from that main road. While 500 metres may not sound like too much, in the heat with bags (and for us, extra surfboards) it's pretty gruelling, borderline unbearable. You should ask the hostel to pick you up from the main road. If you’re walking you may see the first hostel and be tempted to give up, pay the extra and just go there, but don’t stop, you’re about half way and it’s worth it. The walk, heck this whole place is littered with relentless tropical mosquitos so bring repellent or really suffer the consequences.
Unfortunately, Salinas Grande, will spoil your Nicaragua surf trip. Having traveled up and down the coast of Nicaragua a few times, I feel a little surf betrayal by writing about Salinas Grande and Los Cocos. The waves are great. Almost always barrelling and right in front of the hostel. There are waves, rights and lefts for miles in both directions. The river mouth also has great waves. Although the waves don’t hold out on huge swells, you will get barrelled from 2 foot to 6 foot easy. When the surf gets too big and closes out in Salinas, head on down to Popoyo or San Juan Del Sur.
I’ll level with you, the hostel is no 5 star resort. But it does it’s job. It is cozy. The owners are nice, but they will not hold your hand for you, this is a place for those that want to have their own space and miles of empty beach to explore and surf. And there is a lot of surf. Never once did I surf with more than three other people. And they were always friends. Most of the times you will have to be out there by your lonely self practicing tube riding for hours and hours.
It’s best to bring food with you from Leon and plan your days as the hostel only serves breakfast free. You will have to pay for other meals (which aren’t overly expensive but are also not so cheap) and the kitchen closes at 5pm. However, if you walk down to the river mouth there are two cheap and delicious restaurants. The best fish in Nicaragua and cooked by wood fire. The river mouth is abundant with wildlife and so are the restaurants. You’ll see free roaming cows, horses, chickens, dogs, pigs, and ducks. Once we even saw fluorescent algae in the river by the restaurants.
Everything shuts down early and you too will be crawling into bed around 9pm. There’s a few small shops on both ends of the kilometre long dirt road but they carry very little. We once made the mistake of trying to shop for a late dinner only to find 2 questionable eggs, razors and a condom for sale. All the stores close by had closed. Breakfast the next day was so delicious.
As well as food and mosquito repellent, I recommend a nice pair of flip flops. The sand can get burning hot! You can walk with your flip flops to the edge of the water and stick them in the sand, no one will take them. Not just because you probably won’t see anyone else on the beach but the people of Salinas Grande are just very nice, polite and very trustworthy.
You’ll miss Salinas Grande more than anywhere else in Nicaragua. It’s tranquility and simplicity are truely unique and special. And for such a low price. It’s a place not yet developed for and ruined by tourists. The locals are genuinely friendly and curious about you, and the waves truely are empty.