Nicaragua

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Special thanks to Flora Lawrence for the recommendations and pictures.

A paradise for surfers, yogis, and explorers alike. Green and lush, Nicaragua is a magical place that boasts fresh seafood and a totally relaxed lifestyle. Far from short on experience, this Central American country is sure to wow you. 

SAN JUAN DEL SUR 

Things to Do

Go Surfing or Visit the Beach: There's many beaches within 30 minutes of San Juan that are great to test your skills on. 

 

Playa Maderas: About 20 minutes outside town with a couple of restaurants, and a killer sunset on the hill to your left (when you're facing the ocean).

 

Playa Remanso: If you're a shoebie wanting to surf this great for beginners, but  definitely not a sunbathing beach -- the shore consists mainly of rocks.

 

Playa Hermosa: A long, sandy, gorgeous beach with multiple beach breaks. It's filled with hammocks, tables, and other shade structures to hang out at.

Gaby's Spa: Visit here to relax and get a massage, facial, mani/pedi, etc.

Pelican Eyes Resort: Tell the gate guard you're going to the restaurant and walk up the stairs (there's a lot) to hang out at one of the three pools. Recommend going all the way to the top pool for sunset. Ideal spot to grab drinks and enjoy the view.

 

Yoga at Zen Yoga: They have a variety of classes for 10 USD.

 

TreeCasa for Yoga: Your best bet to stretch and have a chill hangout day. For 15 USD they'll shuttle you to a resort about 15 minutes outside of town, and your fee-credit goes toward food and drinks! There are multiple pools and multi-level tree decks with ocean and jungle views.

 

Jesus Statue: Iconic. It's located on the top of a hill over looking San Juan. You can hike or drive up to it.

Places to Eat

Simpleton's Fish and Chips: Self explanatory -- but fresh, cheap fish and chips.

 

El Mercado: A market located in the middle of town where you can graze for a light, affordable breakfast or lunch.

 

La Lancha: Arguably the best seafood in town! Well-attended and a popular dinner spot.

 

Asados Juanita: A local hole-in-the-wall joint where they grill meat on the street outside and serve it with gallo pinto and plantains at a good price.

Places to Drink

Many of the beach restaurants have happy hour for 1 USD beers. Wander around and find your favorite.

Sunday Funday: This is a big backpackers party that’s on, you guessed it, Sunday. Tickets are 30 USD and include a t-shirt and shuttle between a few hostels for pool parties. Note: drinks aren't included in that cost, and this might be a better activity during dry season when the hostels are more full.

Places to Stay

There's lots of AirBnBs with great views and beach front property. 

We recommend staying in the Kiss AirBnB which was super cute, had great hosts, and is located behind an ice cream shop right in the center of town!

 

Casa Oro: Has air conditioned rooms and include breakfast. They also have an inexpensive shuttle service to nearby beaches for surfing and relaxing.

 

Hush Maderas: Located in Playa Maderas about 20 minutes away, this amazing hotel has an infinity pool, lounge chairs, good food, friendly staff, and multiple decks to enjoy the sunset.

Transportation

Chicken buses are cheap local buses that will get you around. Just know they're crowded and make lots of stops.

 

Taxis are easy, but make sure to keep small bills and haggle with your driver to get a better deal!

 

It's easy to rent motorbikes for around 20-30 USD a day.

 

Charter buses take you long distances from city to city. They're more direct and more comfortable but more money than chicken buses.

Don't be afraid to visit in the rainy season (May - November). While some days might rain consistently, it normally just rains hard for a few hours then stops. This also helps beat the heat and saves you from crowds of tourists!

It's important to research the state of Nicaragua as far as political protests and unrest when visiting. For safety, we recommend actually flying in and out of Liberia, Costa Rica. From there, getting to San Juan Del Sur is easy -- you take a bus to the Liberia bus station, then to the border, where you'll walk across (keep USD cash on you), and finishing by catching a cab to San Juan. There's also a bus, it just takes longer. 

Don't exchange money at the border! But, if you do, have a currency exchange app pulled up on your phone. The calculators they use are programmed to spit out the wrong numbers and rip you off. 

General Tips

OMETEPE

Things to Do

Ometepe is an island formed from two volcanos in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. To get there, take a bus to Rivas, then taxi to the ferry in San Jorge.

Hike to San Ramon Waterfall: If you rent a motorcycle you can ride most of the way up for a couple of extra dollars at the gate. It's a rough road but a fun ride and cuts the hike in half.

 

Ojo de Agua:  These pools are filled with freshwater from a spring, surrounded by jungle, and is a great place to hang out and cool off. There's also a rope swing! Get a coco loco (fresh coconut with rum -- ask for extra fuerte).

 

Kayaking or Stand-Up Paddle Boarding: Best places to try it are Rio Istian or the lake. Check it out at sunset!

 

Ziplining: Unfortunately, there's not a website to early book, but it's on the road near San Jose Del Sur towards Urbaite. You'll see a gate with a sign outside. The tour takes about one hour, you get around 12 zip lines, and awesome views of the island and lake. Will run about 25 USD a person.

Places to Eat

Café Campestre: Near Balgue, lots of a vegan and vegetarian options.

 

Pizza Mediterranea: Near Balgue, some of the best pizza outside of Italy! Their chef is Italian and it shows.

 

Some hostels and guest houses also offer family-style meals, which we recommend trying. All the food was fresh and home-cooked!

Places to Stay

El Pital: Has a great staff, tons of activities on site, and jaw-dropping lakefront location. Only offer dorm style beds -- no private rooms.

 

Stay near Balgue, Santa Cruz, or Santo Domingo. There's plenty of affordable options with private rooms.

Transportation

Rent a motorcycle in San Jorge (it's cheaper than on the island) for about 20 USD a day to get around.

PLAYA GIGANTE

Things to Do

Surfing: Colorados and Popoyo are popular areas.

 

Playa Amarillo: If you visit, hopefully you can luck into making friends with people staying at the any of the beachfront houses. All have pools and popular drinks like Tonas or Flor de Cana on deck.


Aqua Wellness Spa: A tranquil place for sunset drinks. They have a beautiful little cove, massages, and beachfront bungalows.

 

Take an ATV Tour: Swerve through Pastora tour-routes all around the beach.

Booze Cruise on a Fisherman Boat: Grab a group or join one, and take the party to the water! It's around 25 USD and alcohol is included. You'll get to go cliff jumping and to private beaches. It leaves from Gigante Bay.

Places to Drink

Junto's: Absolutely popping nightlife and a lot of expats hang out there, if you're looking for some familiar company. 

Places to Stay

Dales Cool Places: Has multiple rooms to choose from for groups of various sizes.

 

Hacienda Iguana: Massive resort, and the only one with direct beach access. Sadly, you have to room there to access it, so all the more incentive to stay.

 

Casa Swell: Complete with full kitchen and a personal deck, ocean view, and pool. More expensive, but still not bad (65 USD a night) for two people.

General Tips

These towns are pretty tiny and quiet -- things can definitely shut down before 10, and bars only stay open depending on how many people are there.

If you're there on a Monday, go to burger night at the surf camp!

Playa Gigante

San Juan

Hush Maderas

Pelican Eyes

Hush Maderas

Pelican Eyes

Ojo de Agua

San Ramon Waterfall

El Pital Hostel

Volcan Concepcion

Playa Colorado

Aqua Wellness Center

 
 
 
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