Just saying...there are places to stay in Nicaragua that arent surf camps but are local posadas/hospedajes....These arent run buy gueros and are usually 20% of the price of the "surf camps." ... Get some sac, spend your cash in the local community, and enjoy yourself. I have traveled all over the world and the best option is always just to show up ...also speaking some Spanish helps too......paz y buenas suerte
Second this advice, absolutely. Ask around for a hospedaje...
Up North was a blast. I never made it to Joe's, though that peninsula/river-mouth combo looks sick on Google Maps, as does the landscape around the Volcano at the Northern end of the country. Interestingly enough, if you look at the google map snapshot of the area, the swell around Poneloya/Las Peñitas looks much larger than that around the other towns.
Las Peñitas/Poneloya; the closest breaks to León. Further North might be better, when I was there I didn't really know sh*t about surfing. A string of failed hotel investments, a few remaining hostels, a couple little surf schools, and lots of uncrowded waves. Check out the small surf shack, I believe it's the last little building before the rivermouth. Ask around for Patrizio, he's a young local shredder, him and his friends run the show. They're all good dudes and you could probably find them drinking at the nice cabana restaurant down the road.
If you haven't been to Leon, it's an awesome city ... but you probably won't like it if you're of the Ronald Reagan/Ayn Rand persuasion.
That's all the firsthand knowledge I've got. Checking out Joe's place, you can't really go wrong.
As far as the 'private transportation' goes ... what were you doing last summer, staying at the Ritz f*cking Carlton? It's Nicaragua, take buses until you can't...