Nicaragua is a very affordable country to visit, with their cheap accommodation, food and transportation. This country has a lot to offer with landscape and activities and in most places, I felt safe. Nicaragua is becoming the new Costa Rica. The tourism industry is becoming more and more popular every year and their country is relatively safe.
I very much enjoyed my time in Nicaragua between being in surfing towns and watching gorgeous sunsets on the Pacific Ocean to hiking up volcanoes and mountains, to volcano boarding, to seeing live lava, and just walking around these country towns surrounded by mountains and locals. I did not see the whole country. I went up the Pacific side of Nicaragua which is what most people do, and I also spend some time in the north by all the small towns and mountains. Its a very mountainous region in the north, by the Honduras border and it is so beautiful!
*These stops are in order from going South to North (Costa Rica Border to the Honduras Border)*
San Juan Del Sur
San Juan Del Sur has a lot of locals but is also very touristy. It lies right on the Pacific Coast and is very beautiful. There is a large statue of Jesus Christ looking over the town and the ocean sunsets are beautiful of coarse. The coast is filled with bars with cheap drinks (that was one of my favorite parts). For happy hour, which is pretty much every day, I was drinking Pina Coladas, mojitos, bahama mamas, etc. for as cheap as $1.50 each. Can you say “I’m getting hammered tonight!”
There was a great seafood restaurant I went to. It was a couple minute walk off the coast, but the seafood was super cheap and amazing! La Lancha it was called. I ended up staying in this town for a week because I ended up taking a Spanish Coarse. There are quite a few Spanish schools in the area. I ended up going through the Spanish Corner School. It is less than a minute walk from the beach, they offer housing, 4 hour class days (8-12), and you stay with the family who only speak Spanish minus the teacher, who speaks both English and Spanish. I very much enjoyed learning Spanish for half the day and then having the other half of the day to either surf, or walk around, eat, shop, and have my pina coladas for only a dollar fifty lol. Here is the link below if you want to look more into the school.
Why most people come here: SUNDAY FUNDAY!!!!! If partying is your thing, come for Sunday Funday. It is quite expensive but if you sleep at one of the participating hostels, you get half off. The Naked Tiger Hostel and Hostel Pachamama are the two main ones. If you stay with them, they charge 15 dollars to participate in Sundayfunday. If you stay somewhere else, it costs 30 dollars. Only the first two drinks are included. It’s pricy! But its also something you don’t see everyday. It’s an insane bar crawl on the beach!
Ometepe Island consists of two large volcanoes that you can hike. Unfortunately, one is mandatory to have a guide and the other one is recommended to have a guide. The volcano that is recommended to have a guide is the tallest volcano and has the best views. My hiking partner and I got a guide for the tallest volcano, Conception, and rather fun to have company with the guide, we both felt it was unnecessary. The path for the volcano is well worn. You can physically see the well-marked path from the beginning to the end. The end is a little more tricky because you are above tree-line, but you can still see little switch-backs going right up the volcano. This hike is steep!
I feel that if you are on a budget and are a strong hiker, preferable with one other person, you can accomplish this hike with out a guide. The hike is pretty difficult though, so make sure you leave early. Plus the volcano tends to get immersed with clouds on top and gets worse as the day moves on. We were the first one’s to the top that day and had a perfect view! As we were heading down, the wind was getting unbearable. We beat the clouds and we beat the wind. If you want to do both volcanoes with a guide, they will generally give you a discount if you do both with the same guide. So two full days of Volcano hiking. You will be sore!
Granada is the second oldest city in all of Central America. It is an old Spanish colonial city with architecture and history. You can encompass some culture here for sure, but this area is also getting pretty touristy. Most people that come to Nicaragua stop here. I enjoyed my time here. I am glad I went. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the locals that get in your face, literally, trying to make you purchase things. It doesn’t matter if your walking (they will step right in front of you). It doesn’t matter if your eating (they come right up to you selling you things while eating.) You get pestered all day and it gets aggravating after a while.
*Note- this happens in other places too, but I feel it was the worst in Grenada.
Night Clubbing it!!!!
Granada has some good bars at night, and there filled with locals. At least the one I went to. And it was ladies night so I pretty much drank all night for free. The bar played Latin music, there’s obviously salsa dancing, and I literally danced the night away having so much fun!!!
Look out for pick-pocketers!!!!!!
When I was at the bar, I had a crinkled up free map I got from my hostel resting in my back pocket. To an asshole, yup I’m calling you an asshole, this looked like a wad of cash. So this person pick pocketed me. But jokes on him because it was literally my crinkled up old map. Luckily, I had my money in my front pocket!
Always keep your money in your front pocket!!!!
Other than this though, the night was great!
What to do:
There are tours from here that go to Masaya, which is an active volcano with lava flowing around it. It is quite expensive but it was something I really wanted to do. I never seen lava before so I was super excited! It is quite expensive and when you arrive there, if you are doing a night tour, you only get to be there for ten minutes looking at the lava. There are so many people that come there every night to look at this lava that they have to keep the line moving. So they allow a group of people up there, let them stay for ten minutes, and then make you move along. You can go during the day, but you don’t get the crazy contrast in colors as much.
Note: I tried to do the volcano on my own, taking the bus to Masaya to save money. Take the tour! Masaya is not a pretty sight and you won’t feel safe there. At least I didn’t! I tried to go on my own, failed and had to go back and do the tour.
There is also Lake Nicaragua, right outside of Granada, the largest lake in all of Central America. There are multiple islands right around there too if you want to take a tour there. It is quite expensive but very beautiful.
VOLCANO BOARDING! VOLCANO BOARDING! VOLCANO BOARDING! Lol, I’ll stop.
This is obviously where you go Volcano boarding. It is thirty dollars. There are many companies around that do this, so if you go to one charging more, go to the next one. Also, if your tour guide is a half hour late. Don’t be alarmed. Ours was lol. They bring you off-roading to this volcano which looks massif and steep from a far. And your body twists and turns with nervousness and excitement. Then you approach the base of the volcano and get handed your very own volcano board which is so thin you question if your ass if going to fit on it. Then you hike up this volcano which really isn’t that bad. It only takes a couple hours. Then you get to drop your things and wander on top of the volcano for a little bit. Enjoy the view. And then it’s time. You head over to the ledge where you will sit on your board and then sayonara! Down you Go! It starts off with a 40 degree slope and then reaching 45 degrees half way through it. It really looks so much worse than it really is.
Also the town of Leon I enjoyed. There is a lot of shops. A lot. You get to see much of the culture sense it has less of a touristy kind of feel. It isn’t the cleanest town but I very much enjoyed it.
This is the area of Nicaragua where you start to see less and less tourists. This town was one of my favorite towns in all of Nicaragua. It is surrounded by mountains. This area is beautiful. And the town is clean, friendly, cheap, and safe. Loved it! The down side is there is not much to do around here. There is hiking near-by in Selva Negra, but this place did not offer much as far as views. It is a nice quit place though with hiking. I would recommend staying in Matagalpa for a day or two. It’s a nice break from the rest of Nicaragua. You feel really really safe, the locals are super friendly, its clean, fresh air from the mountains, and so relaxing. I enjoyed it so much.
Jinotega is very close to Matagalpa and has relatively the same feel. I stayed a night in each town. Jinotega has hiking right from the town. You hike up to this cross over-looking the town. The hike only takes about two hours. It’s steep but worth it when you reach the top. This town is also surrounded by mountains. It’s also clean, cheap and friendly. It’s a nice break from the larger towns of Leon and Granada.
Somoto has relatively the same feel as both Matagalpa and Jinotega, but much more police and soldiers. The main reason people go here is for the Somoto Canyon, which I loved! So beautiful! Highly recommend you checking it out. Just don’t do what I did! Now I know what not to do for you guys!
I read some blogs previously before going and some said to get a guide and this one blog said you don’t need one because its a canyon and how can you get lost in a canyon. All you do is follow a river. Well, that is what this one blog said, so what did I do. I went with out a guide and got a little bit turned around. The canyon splits into two and your left with not knowing where to go. I also went late. That was stupid! So by the time I got to this fork, there was no one in the canyon to ask for directions. If you want to go on your own with out a guide, I think its very doable, just go early so at least there will be people down there where you can ask for directions or at lease see where they are going. Also if you are not a strong swimmer, bring a life jacket. Or if you book with a tour, they will provide one for you. It’s a lot less work if you bring a life jacket. You basically just float down the river.
So these are my favorite places that I went to in Nicaragua. Hope you enjoyed and stay safe. Oh yeah, don’t go to Masaya, the town, and don’t go to Managua.