This 5-day Nicaragua itinerary is designed for you to visit the best beaches of Nicaragua while experiencing a compassionate and energetic culture.
Nicaragua, like Costa Rica, is quickly becoming known as one of Central America’s hidden gems. From the Pacific Coast to the Caribbean Coast, it offers beautiful beaches with crystal-clear waters that are popular among surfers, swimmers and sunbathers. It is the largest country in Central America and borders Costa Rica. Nicaragua was a secretly popular destination with surfers for decades as the country offers over 360 days of offshore winds, which creates the perfect waves.
Now, the secret is out, and people from all over the world are falling in love with this incredible country. Also known as The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes, Nicaragua has a lush and dramatic landscape just waiting to be explored by anyone who loves being active outdoors.
It is a tropical country, and because of this, Nicaragua has a wet season and a dry season. The wet season typically runs May through October, but it can also rain during the dry season. However, even during the rainy season, you can still enjoy sunny weather as it usually doesn't rain all day.
Nicaragua is a beautiful country to visit, both in landscape and in culture. The country has something to offer any adventure seeker.
Managua is Nicaragua’s capital city and is always buzzing with busy energy. While it is a lively and relatively safe city, it can still see some political strife, which means you should always be aware of your surroundings.
Managua can be tricky to drive through, so if you are planning to rent a car, be prepared for a lot of traffic and little road rules. If you are not renting a vehicle, ensure you take marked taxis to and from places and agree on a rate before getting in.
Busses are also a viable option to get around Managua as well as to other places from Managua. These buses are locally and affectionately known as chicken buses and are always crowded with people and animals.
The top things to do in Managua include Huembes Market, an outdoor market, and Galerias, an indoor shopping mall and food court.
Huembes is a local and vibrant outdoor market where you can find all sorts of colourful handmade trinkets, treasures and souvenirs as well as yummy local fruits and vegetables. You can find pretty much anything at this authentic Nicaraguan market as you mingle with the locals while haggling over prices.
If you are looking to jump right into the local culture, Huembes Market is an excellent choice to start with as it is crowded but safe and throws you right into Nicaraguan culture.
Galerias is an indoor, air-conditioned mall filled with shops and restaurants similar to those found in the States. If Huembes was too overwhelming for you, or if you need something specific, Galerias is an excellent option.
There is a massive food court and various restaurants to fit any craving you might have here, and of course, with a mall, comes plenty of shopping too. It is also a great meeting point for travellers.
Galerias has a photography studio if you ever need to get passport or visa photos taken.
Before venturing out of Managua, find any grocery store and stock up on provisions. As with any big city, there are plenty of grocery stores around. Many beach towns in Nicaragua have limited access to things such as toiletries, drinking water and more essential food items and cash!
Most towns DO NOT have ATMs, so be prepared to have small bills in cash.
El Tranisto is the closest beach to Managua and is an ideal place to learn how to surf, score some waves or relax on its beautiful black sandy beaches. Located on the Pacific side of Nicaragua, it is a small fishing village filled with compassionate people, visiting surfers and travelling yogis.
I might be biased, but El Transito is one of Nicaragua's best beach towns.
Solid Surf is my home away from home and strives to make your trip as easy as possible. It is a beachfront surf camp situated within walking distance of numerous surf spots. It is the perfect location for first-timers, those who are more advanced and anyone in between. Solid offers surf lessons, coaching and yoga classes.
On site is a beach bar and private or shared air-conditioned rooms with the option of different packages that can include breakfast and dinner as well as airport pick up and drop off. There are also 3 beautiful dogs to hang out with!
Solid Surf can also arrange for city and volcano adventures as well as volunteer opportunities within El Transito.
ETCA is a small, one-room arts centre run by local women. You can get beautiful handmade items here. These women make incredible, durable and colourful things like makeup bags, wallets, purses, skirts and much, much more. They are the perfect gift for family, friends or yourself.
The arts centre is across the road from the school, and there are always a lot of fun little kids running around wanting to practice their English or teach you some Spanish words.
Caracola is an internet cafe also located across the street from the school. It is run entirely by women and features yummy local food like fish caught by the men that live and fish in town. They also offer refreshing and filling smoothies made from Nicaraguan fruits.
The cafe is colourfully painted by local artists and is a fun place to meet other people who are travelling through. Caracola is all locally sourced.
Also located on the Pacific Coast, Playa Maderas is in San Juan del Sur, the southern part of Nicaragua. It is a lush and vibrant ideal for surfers and swimmers, or anyone really looking to get a good tan on.
This lively and young beach town can sometimes have a party vibe depending on what time of year and day of the week it is.
Nica Sail and Surf offer several packages, such as 2-hour, half-day or full-day tours with meal and bar options. The sailing trip is a great way to see the shorelines of Nicaragua, meet new people and watch playful sea creatures, like dolphins. The sailboat can fit up to 25 people on board and takes out a minimum of 6 people.
Playa Maderas is another spot that is perfect for any level of surfer, including first-timers. You will see many surfers coming here specifically to surf and who usually bring their own gear. But don't fret, there is an abundant amount of surf schools and local instructors around as well as places to rent a board.
Playa Maderas offers some of the best waves for experienced surfers, but is also super user-friendly. It has a sand bottom, so you don't have to worry about rocks. However, it can and does get crowded with swimmers and surfers, so always be careful.
This sanctuary is super small but is a safe space for over 30,000 sea turtles. The beach offers protection to them and provides you with a once in a lifetime experience of watching sea turtles nest and hatch. The refuge also allows you to see other wildlife including monkeys, coyotes, iguanas and various bird species.
The biggest attraction here is definitely the sea turtles though. Unfortunately, the turtles are still seen as a delicacy in Nicaragua, but the sanctuary has been educating the public about the beautiful creatures.
Ometepe Island is situated in Lake Nicaragua and has two stunning volcanoes. In the north is Concepcion, a traditional cone-shaped volcano, and in the south is Maderas, an extinct volcano covered in a lush forest with a glistening lagoon in the centre of the crater.
Lake Nicaragua is the largest lake in the country at 100 miles long and 44 miles wide with a maximum depth of 85 feet. This lake is the reason Nicaragua is ideal for surfers, but the island in the middle offers a whole different experience.
Granada, a city in Nicaragua, also sits on the shores of Lake Nicaragua and is a great place to go for a weekend getaway as there is a lot of fun and exciting things to do in Granada.
This magical, natural swimming pool is only accessible by foot but well worth the walk. The freshwater pools are relaxing and rejuvenating. While on the walk, you'll see a lot of wildlife, such as birds, butterflies and lizards.
Depending on what time you go, you may or may not run into other people. However, even when you do run into people, they re usually looking for a peaceful time as well. Make sure to take out any trash you may bring in with you.
Taking a guided hike on each volcano is recommended. The hikes can be long and tricky, but the view from the summit is indescribable.
The trek up to Maderas takes about 8 hours and can be rugged and muddy, so make sure you wear proper gear, especially boots or sturdy sneakers. Take plenty of water and food too as it can get quite hot and humid.
Concepcion can take up to 11 hours, so be prepared for another long day. It has a barren summit because it is still active but also gives you a great view of the islands.
You can get to this powerful waterfall fairly easy, although sneakers are highly recommended! Pack a lot of water and snacks to bring with you. There are some steep and tricky spots, so watch your step. Oh, and your feet will most definitely get wet!
The waterfall drops 197 feet, and you can swim at the base of it. It is a pretty popular spot, so the earlier you get there, the better.
The Corn Islands are located on the Caribbean side of Nicaragua and offer a totally different cultural experience of the country.
The Islands are only accessible by air via Managua where several daily flights arrive and depart. There is also a ferry that shuttles you between the islands, so give yourself extra time.
The Corn Islands are really low key and cater to a simple, mellow lifestyle. And who doesn't want or need that?
The Corn Islands are the perfect place to go snorkelling or diving. Dos Tiburones provides diving tours for those that already have a SCUBA certificate and snorkelling for those who don't. They even offer courses if you want to get certified. They do it all!
Getting underwater and up close and personal with fish and other sea creatures is a feeling that cannot be described - it is just something you have to do!
This company offers various tours, including fly fishing, kayak fishing and even deep-sea fishing. There are multiple species of fish that you can go fishing for, like Bonefish, Permit Tarpon, Bonita, Sailfish and Kingfish amongst many others.
These trips are super fun, and your guides are really knowledgeable about the area, what type of fishing you are doing and about the fish you're catching.
This article was edited by Loredana Elena and was first published on Nov 2, 2019 09:08 UTC.
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