Nicaragua is the land of lakes and volcanoes, not to mention 6,000 stunning beaches. Its landscape offers prime surfing opportunities, colorful jungles, lovely colonial towns, and many volcanoes that can be seen close up. Visitors can enjoy Nicaragua’s perfect diving and snorkeling as well as its canopy tours above the jungles. Nicaragua equals drama and adventure.
Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America and is bordered by the Caribbean in the east and the Pacific Ocean in the southwest. Managua is Nicaragua’s capital. The country is a blend of indigenous, European, and African cultures.
Christopher Columbus discovered Nicaragua in 1502 and named it after Nicarao, or water, for the country’s abundance of lakes. It is unique in that it is the only South American country occupied by two European forces. Spain controlled the Pacific coast and the British claimed Lake Nicaragua and its rainforest, known as the Mosquito Coast. Both countries quietly withdrew when they realized the hoped-for gold and silver did not exist.
Nicaragua gained autonomy and independence in 1821. Its landscape is a dramatic paradise known as the “land of lakes and volcanoes.” There are 19 volcanoes that keep drawing visitors. There seems to be a volcano everywhere you look, and they offer the best hikes in South America.
Away from the volcanoes, visitors flock to Nicaragua’s many stunning beaches, whether they have white or black sand or whether they are romantic and secluded or lined with restaurants. Nicaraguans love music, and there are frequently mariachis bands entertaining on the beaches.
Nicaragua has an intriguing art scene, such as the potters in San Juan de Oriente and the woodworkers in Masatepe. These indigenous artists are famed for their exquisite work.
The country’s best nightlife can be found in San Juan del Sur with several beachfront bars. The Iguana Bar and the Bar Republika are two all-night discos. The Crazy Crab Beach Club hosts a DJ with occasional live music on weekends.
Language Spoken in Nicaragua
Like in most Central American countries, the official language of Nicaragua is Spanish, and it is spoken by 90 percent of the population. A Creole-type English is used by about 30,000 people, while standard English has approximately 20,000 adherents.
Several indigenous languages are still being spoken. Miskito is used by 154,000 citizens on the Caribbean coast. In eastern Nicaragua, the Sumo people speak their indigenous Misumalpan language.
Currency Used in Nicaragua
The cordoba is Nicaragua’s official currency. It has an exchange rate of 22 cordobas to the U.S. dollar. The dollar itself is accepted almost everywhere and can be used in hotels, restaurants, and while shopping.
Things to Do in Nicaragua
Nicaragua has 365 islands, most of which were formed by the Mombacho volcano, a huge crater 1,222 above sea level, and a must-visit in Nicaragua for its panoramic views. The volcano islands are surrounded by stunning beaches.
Once a refuge for Caribbean pirates, the Corn Islands are a hidden treasure and have become a favorite Caribbean destination. Both islands, Little Corn Island and Big Corn Island, offer white-sand beaches, incredible reefs, and marine life, along with top-rated snorkeling, diving, fishing, and kayaking. Both islands can be reached by ferry or boat. People come here for the charm and relaxation, and they have lovely accommodations along the beachfront. Either island can be explored in about an hour.
Masaya National Park is located just a few miles from the capital and is one of the major tourist attractions with its two volcanoes and five craters. Visitors can get remarkably close to this active volcano – right to the edge, where they can marvel at the lake of molten lava. After dark, the lava takes on a sparkling glow.
The Cerro Negro Volcano is set among stunning scenery that provides wonderful hiking opportunities. The climb is steep and challenging, although a fabulous vista is the reward for reaching the top, including the view of several other volcanoes. Cerro Negro is located 25 kilometers from the town of Leon, and a guide is highly recommended.
Lake Nicaragua is the largest lake in Central America. It is so large that Spanish settlers thought it was the Pacific Ocean, except it is a freshwater lake. The surrounding land is unspoiled, while the lake has several small volcanic islands to explore. The island of Ometepe has two volcanoes and a peaceful natural lake, Charco Verde.
There are trails to explore Lake Nicaragua which include a bird and butterfly apiary with thousands of beautiful butterflies. The trails up the volcanoes, Volcan Concepcion and Volcan Maderas, consist of a scenic jungle that is home to a large group of howler monkeys. There are several accommodations on the shores of Lake Nicaragua.
San Juan del Sur
The beach community of San Juan del Sur has an important wildlife refuge not far from town for the protection of various turtles. It’s the eighth largest turtle preserve in the world. The town of San Juan del Sur itself is a surfer’s heaven and is one of the most popular beach communities in Nicaragua. Visitors also come here to hike up the hill with the huge Christ of the Mercy statue, which offers a spectacular sunset view.
The El Ostional Beach isn’t easy to reach but is the perfect place to enjoy some tranquility and then kayak on the Ostional River.
Granada is undoubtedly the liveliest and best city in Nicaragua, and many visitors spend several days exploring its colonial charms. There are several great hotels.
Backpackers love the Selina Hostel, with its Saturday parties and beer pong tournaments. Perhaps the most fun hotel is the chocolate-themed Mansion De Chocolate, with its chocolate workshop, where guests make their own chocolate drinks and chocolate bars.
Best Beaches to Visit in Nicaragua
Playa Maderas is just a few minutes north of San Juan del Sur and is one of the most popular beaches in Nicaragua and an outstanding surfing destination for beginners and experienced surfers.
It is also filled with natural beauty and significant rock formations. For anyone wanting to up their surfing game, there are surfing schools available, such as the DreamSea Surf. If staying in San Juan del Sur, the beach can be reached by using a daily shuttle.
Redonda Bay is on the Emerald Coast and 85 miles from the capital, Managua. It is not a surfer beach, but it is perfect the fishing, kayaking, swimming, and snorkeling.
A hike up the cliffs by the bay will result in a vital view of the entire area. The best accommodation in the Bay is the Aqua Resort and its luxurious treehouse villas. The trees may or may not be shared with the local howler monkeys.
Playa El Coco
Playa El Coco is a mile-long beach along the Pacific Coast 16 kilometers south of San Juan Del Sur. The landscape is Instagram-perfect with the surrounding mountains and farms. The nearby La Flor Wildlife Refuge is a turtle sanctuary where visitors may catch new baby turtles making their way to the ocean.
Las Penitas Beach by the village of Las Peñitas is half an hour from the city of Leon. This beautiful beach has been attracting more and more visitors to the tiny village. It’s a surfing beach, and Las Penitas has several surfing schools. Away from any major city, Las Penitas is relaxing and secluded. There are restaurants and shops selling arts and crafts along this fabulous beach, as well as several hotels and inexpensive hostels. The Cerro Negro volcano is not far from Las Penitas.
While in Penitas, the Barca De Ora is one of the best places to spend a few days. There are tiki huts, a restaurant, relaxing yoga classes, and soothing massages.
Miskito Cays is nature’s own rendition of timeless beauty. Still, it is secluded and easily overlooked by visitors who flock to better-known regions. Miskito Cays can only be assessed by boat and is fairly isolated from modern life. Visitors who are fortunate to come here can revel in perfect turquoise waters and a picturesque fishing village. The adventurous ones have their choice of hammocks to sleep in.
The Biological Marine Reserve on the cays is home to turtles, monkeys, and Caribbean birds.
Best All-Inclusive Resort or Hotel in Nicaragua
The Barcelo Montelimar by Montelimar Beach is Nicaragua’s only all-inclusive resort, with 293 beachfront rooms and cottages with either an ocean or garden view. All meals, snacks, cocktails, and house wine are included at no additional charge.
Guests can sip a cool drink at one of the resort’s seven bars and enjoy the discotheque music and dancing in the evenings. While adults are having a great time, the resort’s Kids Club will entertain the children.
Best Resort or Hotel for Couples in Nicaragua
The Mukul Resort on the Emerald Coast has beachfront villas with private pool and garden that ensure total privacy. Guests can dine in the resort’s restaurant, on the beach, or in their own villa. The Spa Mukul offers in-room treatments or therapy right on the beach.
There is plenty to do, such as hiking through the forest, fishing, enjoying turtles nesting on the beach, or practicing tree-top yoga overlooking the Emerald Coast. Private yoga lessons are also available. The beach is ideal for surfing, and the resort provides lessons.
Best Resort or Hotel for Families in Nicaragua
The Aqua Nicaragua Oceanfront Resort at Redondo Bay has a private beach and lovely cottages or tree studios with patios and a private pool that are perfect for families. The Coconut and Bar Grill serves meals daily right by the beach. The nightly live music on the beach allows guests to dance the night away on the sand. The resort has outstanding surfing, and there is golf nearby, as well as beach yoga, kayaking, and snorkeling.
The Aqua Spa offers treatments for couples. For families, there are books and toys for children as well as babysitting services.