About the Maderas Neighborhood
A few years ago the Maderas area north of San Juan del Sur was simply a great surf break, backed by beautiful hills – none of which were developed and most of them inaccessible. But the word has now spread beyond the pioneer surfers and tourists have started to arrive in numbers. Newspapers and magazines are not too far behind. The New York Times travel section, which has been covering San Juan del Sur for over a decade, had its first piece dedicated to the Maderas area in 2012.
Despite the growing buzz, the first time you visit Maderas will still feel special. Turning off La Chocolata you’ll climb into tall verdant hills, wind around a little, then plunge sharply down towards the ocean. Walk onto the sand, look right and suddenly, magically a jagged tooth shaped rock will appear, spilling into the blue ocean. It’s an iconic landmark of the area that’s been photographed a thousand times.
The beach is beautiful too. Large sandy expanses to roam around on, interesting rock formations and one of the most consistent surf breaks in the country. It can get busy with surfers on a rising tide, so don’t expect to be surfing solo. A clutch of restaurants serve up fish tacos, cold beer and fruity rum drinks to a multinational crowd. Last time I was here I heard English, French, Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch while sipping my expresso coffee (yes you can get a good coffee here, right on the beach).
If you can, climb into the steep hills behind the ocean and look down over the canopy of trees and out to the ocean. You’ll see the tiny dots of surfers far below. Even with the surf camps, vacation rentals and yoga studios springing up, Maderas is a place of raw, natural beauty. Lets hope it continues to inspire environmentally responsible approaches to development.
Heading out of town take a left hand turn after Pali. This is the La Chocolata road and it is signposted for the beaches. The road is paved at first, turning to dust after La Talanguera. Follow the road for around 15 minutes until you come across a small bridge with yellow railings. Take a left after the bridge and drive over a second, larger bridge and take the left fork to Playa Marsella and Playa Maderas for around 5 minutes, passing Mango Rosa resort. Take the next right and follow the road up a steep hill and down the other side until you reach the beach, where there is parking. It’s a good idea to drive a 4×4 as the roads are unpaved and the hills quite steep. A boat taxi takes around 30 minutes to get to here.