WanderingTrader

Best ​Things To Do In Nicaragua: Tourist Attractions

The best things to do in Nicaragua-tourist attractions. This is a guest post from friend and fellow travel blogger Maria Alexandra from LatinAbroad.com.

Nicaragua vs. Costa Rica — this was my dilemma when planning a Central American adventure trip. Naturally, Costa Rica popped up everywhere as the adventure and ecotourism hotspot of the region. Upon further research though, I discovered that Nicaragua is too often overshadowed by its more developed neighbor — and unjustifiably so. In fact, I found that the many things to do in Nicaragua are comparable to those in the CR: and can be done for significantly less money. So our expert tip for you? Discover the hidden Nica gems and the country’s significant biodiversity before they are overrun by ‘the Gringo Trail.’

Things to Do in Nicaragua, Little Corn Island

Stunning beach off of Nicaragua’s East Coast by danebrian, Flickr

Isla de Ometepe: Hiking, Wildlife, Culture, Relaxation

Looking for the best things to do in Nicaragua and only have a week or less? Looking for a good mix of adventure and relaxation? I highly recommend Ometepe. It is my favorite Nicaraguan destination due to its uniqueness and variety of activities available to travelers. The volcanoes that formed it, Concepcion and Maderas, offer challenging trails to experienced hikers — and stunning views from above. Another option is to rent a bike and go ‘finca hopping,’ exploring ancient petroglyphs, and bountiful coffee plantations.

In order to maximize your time though, I highly recommend you book through hyper-local agency Ometepe Secret Adventures. Not only is it co-owned by the only female tour guide in the island, but they will also help you save a lot of time by packing several adventures in one day (without feeling overwhelmed, mind you!). Not the active kind? Simply book your transportation and have Lucie and Arcelia escort you around the island. Maybe even ask for a customized FOODIE TOUR, having them stop at what they believe to be the best restaurants around.

When it comes to culture, another unique Ometepe experience is a Nicaraguan homestay at Puesta Del Sol. This fascinating initiative, known as “rural community tourism,” involves several families of a neighborhood working together to host tourists and have all proceeds go back to those same families. Sustainable tourism at its best.

Volcano Concepción, things to do in Nicaragua

views from top of Concepcion Volcano by BORIS G, Flickr

Granada and Leon: Adrenaline, History, Architecture

This Nicaraguan tourist attractions have mixed reviews (about both cities): whoever prefers Leon says that Granada is now a tourist trap; while those who prefer Granada say Leon is dilapidated. If you have time to visit both do so, as they will offer great contrast to your trip.

For example, Granada is extremely colorful and well preserved, with excellent infrastructure for travelers and expats. Its nickname, La Gran Sultana, reflects its Moorish background. Additionally, you may mix history and nature during your visit there by arranging a day trip to Masaya Volcano: probably the easiest ‘caldera hike’ in the world. In fact, many people take their cars up its rim and, if it’s not that humid, you may even be able to witness lava at night. It is hit or miss though, so I recommend you talk to the good people at Va Pues to find out whether the tour will be worth it during your visit.

In contrast, ‘historical rival’ Leon gives out an aged, nostalgic aura — and a more Castilian appearance. It is also a bit more difficult to navigate if you don’t speak Spanish, so arranging a tour here might be the best option for you in that case. Like Granada, you can also visit a nearby volcano: Cerro Negro. From there, adventure junkies can have the thrill of a lifetime by volcano boarding down its gravelly basaltic cinder cone.

colonial architecture, things to do in Nicaragua

Colorful Granada by BORIS G, Flickr

Jiquilillo: Surfing, Hiking, Voluntourism

On the next things to see in Nicaragua is another well-rounded destination, Jiquilillo, a sleepy beach town on the Pacific Northwest. I love it because it perfectly embodies most of the things to do in Nicaragua: its shore breaks are great for surfing at all skill levels; the volunteering opportunities seem to be endless; plus there’s the stunning crater lake and extinct Volcano Cosigüina, which can be a challenging 4 x 4 ride, but a relatively-easy hike once on its skirts.

There are 2 accommodation options recommended in the area: Rancho Esperanza, the only hostel there, and Monty’s Beach Lodge, a more comfortable, mid-range option. They are a short 5-minute walk from each other, so you may volunteer and take part of community initiatives at both properties.

Craving more adventure? In addition to surfing, hiking, and volunteering, you may also go kayaking in the vicinity. Just inquire within.

things to do in Nicaragua, Jiquilillo

the magic of Monty’s Beach Lodge in Jiquilillo, Nicaragua

Corn Islands: Diving and Snorkeling

The Corn Islands, located on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast, are picture-perfect. They offer incredible seafood, diving, snorkeling, and yoga for a great value. However, don’t expect great shops and nightlife: this is no San Juan Del Sur.

Particularly interesting is Little Corn, as it has no cars and no crowds. Moreover, electricity is only available in 12-hour cycles: between 6:30 AM and 6:30 PM, to be exact. For this reason, this island is only suitable for adventurous souls who really wish to unplug and are up for some rugged, off-the-beaten-path R&R.

Travelers seeking more luxury (and 24-hour electricity) should stay at Big Corn instead. Be aware though, a wider food selection here comes at a higher price. While there are some taxis and golf carts available to get around the island, it is still significantly undeveloped in comparison to other Caribbean destinations. As such, you should only come here if you’re looking for a quiet place to work from; enjoy water activities; and/or simply want to relax by a gorgeous beach.

things to do in Nicaragua, diving

what diving in Nicaragua can look like by netogonzalez, Flickr

San Juan Del Sur: Nightlife and Adventure Sports

I personally skipped San Juan Del Sur because it is infamous for nonstop partying. In fact, local Nicas told me that the beach is too crowded, plus its waves aren’t even that good in comparison to other breaks in the area. However, if you have a crazy night or 2 to spare during your trip to Nicaragua, a stop here is an option.

Dancing, surfing, and drinking are pretty much the activities of choice for most SJDS visitors. Yet, if you delve deep enough, there are other things to do in Nicaragua ‘s party coast. Some examples include a walk to the stunning lookout Mirador del Cristo de la Misericordia or Plaza Del Arte (‘art plaza’); play paintball, go wall climbing, flip out of the AirPad Drop and/or even pull some tricks at the largest skateboard plaza within the country by paying a visit to the Surf Ranch Action Sports Resort.

things to do in Nicaragua, surfing

17 Comments

  1. Great post.

    I never really thought of Nicaragua as a alternative to Costa Rica but it make total sense.

    I think you just convinced me to skip Costa Rica all together (for now) and focus on Nica.

    Trade on brother…trade on!

  2. Wow! I love your post! I have been thinking about travelling to Central America and South America for a while, as I have never been in any country there.
    Your picture are amazing, Nicaragua sounds like a little paradise!
    Great to know all of that about Nicaragua, compared to Costa Rica! Will definitely think twice now 🙂

    Regards,
    Julie.

  3. Highly recommend Ometepe island too, such an interesting and unique place! Well worth the trip over! We didn’t manage one of the volcano hikes unfortunately (as it was just a little too hot when we visited) but did enjoy some waterfall hikes with the added benefit of a cool down upon arrival!

  4. I think most people will prefer Costa Rica over Nicaragua. But you are right that Nicaragua is too often overshadowed by its more developed neighbor…. But Nicaragua has some really good attractions to visit and have some quality time and unforgettable experience…it offers so many things to do for travelers and you mentioned just a few of those… Thanks

  5. That’s for a great read! It’s so refreshing to see people promoting the lesser appreciated countries. Costa Rica is beautiful and has lots to offer, but so do places like Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, etc. Guatemala was my home base for years and allowed me to travel around Central America and I am so fortunate to have done so. I didn’t make it to Nica but it’s high on my bucket list and hope to check it off in the next year!

  6. I agree with everything in this article. I called Nicaragua home a few years back. I spent many a weekend in San Juan Del Sur, and I gotta say — do NOT skip that coast. I never found the party scene obnoxious, or even that crowded. But if you do, here’s what you do: from the village, hop in a taxi (or the back of some guy’s truck) and go to Maderas beach for a few dollars. Then walk up the coastline from there for about 5 minutes. You will find pristine, unspoiled beaches that are the most beautiful on the mainland. They give any Costa Rican beach a run for their money (you can actually see Costa Rica from the area). Depending on who you ask, the beaches have different names: Mahajual or Maderitas. But many days, me and my friends would have the beaches to ourselves.

  7. No vengan. Por favor. No vengan. Las autoridades nicaragüenses son abusivas y prepotentes. Uno viene a querer pasarla bien supuestamente pero los policías me trataron a mí y a mí familia como que sismos delincuentes.

  8. No impressed with San Juan del sur, I’m here currently with my three daughters from the US, pelican eyes resort is over priced and over rated. Not much happening in town

  9. Thank you! Very helpful. Any recommendations for places to stay on Ometepe? And or Granada?

    Appreciate it! Going in November and very excited.
    Leslie

    1. She stayed at Puesta Del Sol Leslie, a local cooperative where community members themselves give a room for travelers to stay in and rate includes 3 meals, for a low price. It is a local homestay, with all proceeds going back to that very community. Great initiative, again the details and I thought a link as well could be found on that Nicaragua article.

      I spoke to Maria she said that she didn’t remember where I stayed in Granada but she recommend to check either TripAdvisor or the higher rating hotels on the hotel sites.

    2. Hi Leslie, My pic of hotels in Ometepe is Xalli and Pelican Eyes Resort. Be mindful of the bugs and creepy crawlies when you’re staying on the Island… I saw a few, and my friend woke up with spiders INSIDE his mosquito net! Not to scare you or anything.

      As for Grenada I was only passing through so didn’t actually spend much time there but I have heard great things about Los Patios Hotel.

      Have a great trip!
      ~ Marcello

  10. Was in CR for two months I the 90’s and coast to coast perfection. Very few places to stay and often stayed in a tent in Manuel Antonio by a Swedish owned contingency. Outdoor showers, hammock, monkeys…shared a room I Puerto Limon with Canadian consulate. That’s when the train ran across the country before their earthquake.
    Could live #8/day and up. The tent was $3.
    Nicaragua was a stop on the way which looked very Soviet. Older and not able to get around as well, looking seriously at this and Colombia. Eco tourism.
    Don’t overlook Peru.

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