After slipping under the travel radar due to decades of revolution, Nicaragua is back on the map – unfortunate news for those surfers who have long known about the country’s near constant offshore winds, low-80s water temps, and clean, world-class waves. The surfing epicenter is expat favorite San Juan del Sur in the southwest, which is striking distance by boat from such celebrated breaks as Popoyo and Manzanillo. But to escape the crowds, move up to the hard-to-access north-central coast for empty lineups, offshore winds 250-plus days a year (minus the unpleasant gusts that can batter the south), and an authentic Nicaragüense vibe. Eliminate the challenges of unruly roads and tough-to-find breaks with an outfitter like Surf Tours Nicaragua, which will take you by boat or 4×4 to the best spots (seven-day packages from $890; surftoursnicaragua.com).
More information: Rising from Lake Nicaragua Isla de Ometepe makes for a perfect day of paddling: a picturesque island home to two spectacular volcanoes and rich Náhuatl history. Stay at breezy El Encanto, on a lush hilltop farm at the foot of mist-shrouded Volcán Maderas (from $20; goelencanto.com). March through September is known for the biggest swells (up to 20 feet), but November can be quite good as well (plus it offers excellent offshore fishing for marlin, dorado, and more).