Nicaragua Travel: Before You Go

Nicaragua Travel: Ometepe
Roger Wesson at

When it comes to tourism, Nicaragua is still in an early stage of discovery — even by the most well-trod travelers. Many still remember the country’s turbulent revolution and civil war in the late 1970s and 80s.

Yet Nicaragua is a country with as much to offer as any country in Latin America. When it comes to cuisine and culture, Nicaragua’s got personality to spare, all at rock-bottom prices. And even a perfunctory jaunt across the country will reward travelers with sweeping rainforests busy with wildlife, top surfing beaches, active volcanoes, and misty, jaw-dropping vistas over one of the strangest and most beautiful lakes in the world, Lake Nicaragua.

Where Should I Go?

While Nicaragua’s capital city of Managua is close to many of the country’s attractions, the nearby colonial city of Granada is a more favorable destination. Nicaragua travelers will love to explore Granada’s classic Spanish architecture and pulsing nightlife.

While the surfer-friendly Pacific beaches of San Juan del Sur attract more tourists, the Caribbean village of Bluefields is Nicaragua’s most unique coastal destination, boasting a distinct Miskito culture that’s more reggae than Latin. Fifty-two miles offshore are the Corn Islands, Big Corn and Little Corn, the manifestation of that timeless tropical daydream.

At the Volcan Masaya National Park, travelers can hike through an eerie landscape of blackened lava fields and crimson rivers, all the way to the smoldering crater of the active Masaya Volcano. They can also climb the twin peaks of Volcanoes Concepcion and Maderas on the bustling island of Ometepe, anchored in Central America's largest lake, Lago de Nicaragua. Adventurers can also explore the hundreds of tiny islets that scatter the lake.

What Can I See?

Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America. Hidden in its more verdant areas are a plethora of exotic creatures, like three-toed sloths, jaguars, armadillos, and anteaters. Sea turtles lay their eggs on coastal reserves, and iguanas lumber down dusty paths to find respite in the sunshine.

The scuba diving and snorkeling off both Nicaragua’s coasts is enjoyable, especially around the Corn Islands. Inland, the Lago de Nicaragua is home to a unique variety of freshwater bull shark that swims up the San Juan River from the Caribbean.

How Do I Get There and Around?

Travel to and around Nicaragua’s more populated Pacific coastal and central areas is straightforward, through basic, while the long overland journey to the Atlantic coast is for seasoned travelers only. Luckily, planes are now available from Managua to the airstrip on Big Corn Island.

How Much Will I Pay?

Travel in Nicaragua is cheap—often surprisingly so, although prices have risen slightly over the years. The country’s currency is the córdoba, divided into 100 centavos.

What Will I Eat?

There is a wide variety of delicious things to try while in Nicaragua, such as chicharrones, vigoron, and nacatamal

When Should I Go?

Nicaragua’s dry season is typically between December and April, while July and August are often the wettest months. During Catholic holidays like Christmas and Easter, the majority of businesses are shut down, and popular destinations swarm with local travelers. Book far in advance if you plan to pass through during the holidays.

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