Google search “things to do in Nicaragua” and you’ll get a list of essential Nica experiences: volcano boarding in Cerro Negro, colonial architecture in Granada, Isletas in Lake Nicaragua, wildlife in Ometepe Island, tropical paradise in the Corn Islands, and surf/party in San Juan Del Sur. That’s Nicaragua in a nutshell. While this is true, there are other pleasures that can be annexed to this list. So in honour of a country that captured my heart, I’m gonna expand on this list (because don’t get me wrong, you should definitely have the classic Nica experience) and hopefully show you why you should run to beautiful, unspoiled, affordable Nicaragua.
1. Scale a volcano: This first on this list is straight off the multitude of lists I read before going to Nicaragua. Why is it here? Because it’s an absolute MUST. Hiking enthusiasts and novices alike should plan a day hike if possible. Concepcion and Maderas on Ometepe island in the south, Masaya in the center, and Telica in the North are a few of the many peaks you can climb. Want to see the view from the top without the hike? Head to Mombacho where they’ll take you up in an old military truck, and you’ll experience views from Lake Nicaragua to the south, to Apoyo lagoon and Masaya to the north.
Rating: Fun + local + unique
In depth: http://beachesandbackpacks.com/2014/09/11/ranking-the-four-best-volcano-hikes-in-nicaragua/
If volcanoes aren’t your thing: http://backpackerreport.com/2012/12/26/jesus-hike-san-juan-del-sur/
2. Sip on some coffee on the side of a volcano: Speaking of Mombacho, Cafe Las Flores has a plantation, cafe, and store at 700m above sea level on the way up to the volcano’s peak. Grab a cup of their amazing coffee, stroll around the hydrangea garden and check out the views from halfway up Mombacho. If you like their beans, grab a bag to go at the store because they are oh so worth it.
Rating: Local (and really yummy!)
Beyond Casa Las Flores: http://gogirlguides.com/central-america-2/nicaragua/nicaragua%E2%80%99s-best-coffee-haunts/
3. Go pool hopping: Wait, what? I went to a country bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the West, the Caribbean Sea to the East, and boasting one of the largest lakes in the Americas only to bask in a pool? I sure did, and I highly recommend it to anyone! I’m a beach bum myself but I was travelling with my bro who prefers pools. Compromise turned out some real winners. We visited the pools in the Spanish hacienda-style Hotel Granada, the modern Hulakai Hotel in Playa Maderas, and the traditional Pelican Eyes in San Juan Del Sur (don’t worry, we bummed it on the beach as well – Playa Maderas ftw). Aside from the refreshing and often deserted pools, these hotels offered pretty awesome food (try the tostones con queso at Hotel Granada and pretty much anything at Hulakai), cold drinks, and a front row view of the incredible sunsets (minus Hotel Granada which is encapsulated in the lush courtyard). Entrance fees might not be bargain basement (10$ for Hotel Granada and Hulakai – includes entrance only; 15$ for Pelican Eyes – includes drinks and snacks) but they certainly aren’t what we’re used to at home, so consider a day at the pool and enjoy some good eats and views.
Rating: Unexpected + fun
4. Explore the culinary delights of San Juan Del Sur: SJDS is known for its surfing and parties, I know. But between funky burger spot Nacho Libre, artisan bakery Pan de Vida, and gourmet G&G, you’re spoiled for culinary choice in this chill surf town. Want some upscale local food? Head oceanside to El Timon where your food comes with stunning views of the sunset. Prices here run higher than in the rest of the country but, as with poolhopping, they don’t come close to breaking the bank. Prefer to prep some food for yourself? Head to the farmer’s market and fishmonger for fruits & veggies, fresh-caught fish & seafood, and the biggest, creamiest, tastiest avocados I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.
Rating: Fun + local
More good eats in SJDS and beyond:
5. Go roadside shopping in the Pueblos Blancos: There’s a stretch of towns just north of Masaya volcano where the roads are lined with various artisan crafts: wooden rocking chairs, brightly coloured pottery, lush potted plants, and some creative upcycling of old car tires into garden decor are all displayed for the picking.The towns also boast some amazing views, so make sure to catch some sights while you drop some cash.
Rating: Local + unique + fun
Tourism in Nicaragua is on the rise (proof: Sunday funday in SDJS) but the country remains pretty much off the beaten path. I don’t think it will stay this way for long though, so book your ticket and beat the crowds to Nicaragua.
Check out the essentials of Nicaragua here: