After months of running around in South America and quick 11 days in Costa Rica, it was time to move into a place I thought may be my home, Nicaragua. I know I casually breezed by Costa Rica, but to be honest, it is far too westernized (and expensive) in the central to northern pacific beach towns, so I followed the yellow brick road north. In my college days I would have loved to party in Jaco and Tamarindo aka Tamagringo, but it seems with age comes gnarly hangovers and somewhat clarity of mind that I don’t need all the alcohol anyways. So, thinking about making the journey to Nicca? Here are a few places to visit and what you can expect! The first thing you can expect is super low prices!
San Juan del Sur: Maybe the most popular beach town in Nicaragua, nay, it is the most popular. San Juan provides night life, waves, yoga, good food and best of all, it is cheap! I was staying at a hostel (Casa Oro) for $8 a night which included breakfast, yoga twice a day, free coffee and a quick internet connection for those calls home. SJDS is also popular for “Sunday Funday”, Central America’s #1 pool crawl / party! If you want a little insight to that, check out the video I made at the bottom. For waves, just 30 minutes and a $5 return shuttle, you can find yourself at playa maderas, playa remanso and playa hermosa to surf your little heart out. For the best eats in town head to G & G gourmet. I splurged and spent $20 on dinner here, which provided a glass of cabernet, a large shrimp appetizer, homemade tagatelli pasta main with sea food, and an amazingly delicious chocolate lava cake for desert (review with photos coming soon for you foodies).
Ometepe: This place is magical. Some people visit this island in the middle of lake nicaragua with intention of staying a day and a month later still haven't left. It is a short bus ride away from San Juan (16.50 cordobas/ 60 cents or 30 cordobas with a large backpack) and you follow that up with an hour and a half ferry to the island that boats two amazing volcanoes. Here you can find amazing eco hostel / hotel / permaculture farms with lodging as well as a volcanic waterhole to swim in called Ojo de Agua. Rent some motorbikes for $20-25 and explore both islands at your own pace!
Granada: This colorful Colonial town is located about 5 hours (by chicken bus) north of Rivas/San Juan Del Sur. Although quaint and colorful there is not a whole lot to do here, EXCEPT, visit the summit of Volcan Masaya at night to peer into the fiery belly of an active Volcano. If the photos below aren't enough, then get your butt there, pay the $25 for the transport and park entry and enjoy!
Leon: The international connection for Nicaragua can be found here. Here you can jump on a flight to visit the Corn islands (little and big), take a short ride out to the beach at Playa las Penitas, or venture up Cerro Negro (another active Volcano) and see if you can beat the 95kph record while Volcano boarding! If you do this and you aren't tight on the budget, pay the $5 to have someone carry your board up and buy the bandana or bring a face cover… just trust me on this one.
Esteli: The cloud forest region of Nicaragua! Beautiful forested mountains, waterfalls and like most latin americas cities, a spectacular cathedral. This place is slightly off the gringo trail, but is a sight to be seen. This is also one of the regions that has prominent cigar tobacco farms! So if you're a big cigar aficionado, plug this one into your bucket list!
Travelers tips: If you're going for a surf trip, search craigslist in the US or buy sell trade on Facebook. Otherwise you will be paying $10/day, otherwise you can pick up a boarding in the $150-450 dollar range, and you can always sell it for a similar price on the way out! Also, try and group up with a few people in order to pick up a taxi for long stretches and the price won’t be much different than the chicken buses / shuttles.