You don’t have to be the world’s best traveler to have an amazing vacation in Nicaragua. But if you’ve never visited before it’s easy to make mistakes that could derail your vacation.
Thankfully, you can avoid common mistakes by getting travel advice from experts and insiders who know the place well.
So we started with Nomadic Samuel’s list of 100 top travel blogs. It’s effectively the Who’s Who of travel blogging. When we checked we found that around 1 in 4 of the blogs had articles about Nicaragua. (Yes, it’s a small number, but we think that’s a good thing.)
From the shortlist we compiled 16 travel tips and personal reflections to help you when you arrive in Nicaragua so that you can get started immediately on having a great time.
In no particular order, here they are:
1. Nomadic Samuel
“Nicaragua is another country that’s often overshadowed by its neighbors – in this case, Costa Rica. But the ‘land of lakes and volcanoes’ in Central America has plenty to offer tourists if they’re willing to explore a country that’s off the beaten tourist track. One thing I’d love to do in Nicaragua? Go volcano boarding down the Cerro Negro. Think snowboarding or sledging, but down the side of a volcano.” – From Nomadic Samuel.
2. Globetrotter Girls
“The national drink of Nicaragua, Macuá is a sweet cocktail with Flor de Caña rum and several fruit juices. Fabulous!” – One of “33 things we love about Nicaragua” from Globetrotter Girls
3. Life as Vagabonds
“The real winner in San Juan del Sur’s repertoire is the sunset. The sun sets out at sea with golden orange rays finally cascading down below the horizon, but not before illuminating the boats, water, sand and a statue of Jesus presiding high above the town on a mountain top.” – Michael from Life as Vagabonds
4. Pause the Moment
“If you’re in Leon, Granada, or any other Nicaraguan city that has a professional baseball team, do yourself a favor and go catch a game! I highly recommend it and it is quite possibly one of the most authentic Nicaraguan experiences I’ve had as of yet. My total cost for the game (ticket, water, slice of pizza) came to $3.06 USD. Pretty incredible, right?” – Ryan at Pause the Moment
5. 2 Backpackers
“There are several beaches you can visit near San Juan del Sur for surfing. If you are looking for something else, try renting a quad or bike on the beach, charter a fishing boat or go searching for turtles. We booked a canopy tour on zip-lines with Da’ Flying Frog Tours the next day. We had amazing views of the forest canopy and the coastline all for $30 a person, a fraction of what you will pay in Costa Rica.” – From 2 Backpackers
6. Bacon is Magic
“I love tamales and ate them often in Mexico. So when I learned that Nicaragua has their own version, aptly called the nacatamale, it went straight to the top of my to-eat list.” – From Bacon is Magic
7. Go Backpacking
“Granada is to Nicaragua as Antigua is to Guatemala. It’s here on the shores of Lake Nicaragua that most tourists choose to base themselves, and it’s not hard to see why. Colorful buildings, a large central park, horse-drawn carriages and old cobblestone streets evoke life in Spanish Colonial times.” – Dave from Go Backpacking (You’ll find lots more travel tips in this article)
8. Wandering Earl
“If you want an adrenaline rush that involves moving at 50 mph, eating rocks and slashing open several parts of your body, the perfect sport has finally arrived. It’s called volcano boarding and there is also only one place in the world where you can do it – Cerro Negro, an active volcano near the town of Leon, Nicaragua.” – From Wandering Earl
9. Nomadic Matt
“Visit Ometepe Island – This extraordinary island is located on the Lago de Nicaragua and is formed by two joined volcanoes, Concepcion and Maderas. Hiking, kayaking, cycling, and healthy food are the island’s main draws. Hiking the volcanoes is as hard as it appears; you’ll need to start really early or the mid-day heat will slow you down significantly (I learned this lesson the hard way).” – From Nomadic Matt (Matt lists 14 other of his favorite things to do in Nicaragua)
10. Unconcerned Market
“This visit to Nicaragua happened to coincide with Purisima, a Nicaraguan celebration for the Virgin Mary. Festivities include local families fashioning altars in their living rooms. On the final day (December 8), many families open their homes at 6 PM to allow people to view the altar, sing songs and in return for their participation, receive candy, food and gifts. When we showed a little curiosity outside of a local home in San Juan del Sur, we were whisked in and invited to share in the celebration. When we left, the family literally ran after us insisting we take our Purisima gifts — maracas, noisemakers and lots of food. Generosity of spirit at its finest.” – One of 14 Nicaragua memories from Uncornered Market
11. Wild Junket
“It seemed like only a moment ago when we were peering at the beach from above. Now we were trotting by the sea, with the hooves of the horses softly sinking into the sand beneath. The hoof prints were prominent in the light sand, like the imprint the waves had left before retreating into the sea. The horses took their time strolling on the beach, giving us time to enjoy what we had left of our horseback riding experience.” – Elica from Wild Junket
12. Johnny Vagabond
“We’d just called for the check when the Moment happened. I’m not sure if I’ve ever spoken of the Moment, but it’s the time when everything comes together and you really understand why you’re here at this place and at this time. It’s magic. It may last a half-second or a half-hour. After three years on the road, I’ve finally learned that it is what I truly seek — not enlightenment, not understanding. I crave the Moment, when everything makes sense. Maybe that is enlightenment of a sort, but it’s just a taste.” – From Johnny Vagabond
13. Dave’s Travel Corner
“Suddenly a loud gulp sounded high above us in a macone tree. I stretched my neck and attempted to see through my steamed up glasses. Then I saw it. A howler monkey with spindly brown arms outstretched between two branches, watched us from the top of the world, its head cocked to one side. Her vocalization sounded like she swallowed a ping pong ball on a microphone. Gulp. Gulp.” – From Dave’s Travel Corner
14. Raising Miro
“I love Nicaragua, much more than Costa Rica. There is a real passion in the people, the streets, the culture that contrasts with Costa Rica’s gringo influence. Nicaragua is country with is fatigued with much internal fighting and the corruption of politics and in general, the people here are very poor. On the other hand, they are so rich with passion, culture and history. There is almost a silent knowing among one another that they’ve gone through the worst, and things ARE getting better.” – Lainie from Raising Miro
15. Stop Having a Boring Life
“Yesterday I spent one of the coolest days I’ve had on the island in the last 7 months and it involved a day trip to Otto’s Beach on the north western point of the island. Otto Beach Little Corn Island is a solid 20+ minute walk from town and it involves climbing the hill that sits in the center of the island and a march through jungle until you reach what I can only describe as paradise.” Rob from Stop Having a Boring Life
16. The Expert Vagabond
“Do you want to travel back in time? It’s possible in Nicaragua. Venture into any of the many small towns to experience rural farming communities where water is collected with buckets, horses are the only way to get around, and even basic electricity can be hard to find. Living in Nicaragua for a while was a refreshing pause in my journey, and I became captivated by it’s magic.” – Matthew Karston from The Expert Vagabond
Want more advice from insiders?
If you’re planning a trip to San Juan del Sur then you’re probably going to want to look at our Insider Guide to San Juan del Sur. The Insider Guide will be really helpful to you because it not only provides you with the knowledge and inspiration for a remarkable travel experience but helps you avoid the mistakes that otherwise smart travelers make when they travel here. If you’d like to have a look, go ahead and click on this link to get the details.