Well not quite, but still an incredible place to visit! Nicaragua has been plagued by its stereotypical reputation as a country stuck in perpetual political unrest. Those problems ended in the late 70’s and 80’s , and the locals have now adopted a mindset where they do anything they can to improve the experience of travelers, as they know that tourism is one of the only ways to make the country recover from its past. You will not meet happier people anywhere.
The main city of Managua is nothing special to talk about, being highly populated and dirty, just like every other city in Central/South America. It is outside of the cities that things get interesting!! Whether you are looking for a tropical 5* vacation, relaxing on a beach, a typical jungle excursion, kayaking and surfing, snorkeling, mountain climbing or visiting artisan villages, Nicaragua has everything!
A trip to Lago De Nicaragua should not be missed! The history of the area is only slightly overshadowed by the magnificent view of the two volcanic, tropical peaks that rise from the lakes centre on Ometepe Island. It is the largest freshwater volcanic island in the word, and used to be salt water at one time, which resulted in a unique variety of fresh water sharks who inhabited the waters until fished to extinction. A stay on the island can be as cheap as $2 CDN if you are willing to stay in a converted coffee plantation surrounded by beautiful tropical gardens, a beach down the road, and a great view of the lake and the volcanoes.
A 5 km hike to the summit of the volcano through tropical rainforest is a workout, but an absolute adventure! At the top, it is possible to descend into the cone to experience ultimate serenity, and even take a cold dip in a shallow pond in the crater itself!
The beautiful town of San Juan Del Sur, with its cobblestone streets and Spanish architecture is not only picturesque, but also a great place to lose track of time. Accommodations range from high end but small hotels, to camping on a beach under the stars.
For the ultimate ‘time loss’ experience, fly from Managua to Bluefields, then onto Big Corn Island, just into the Caribbean! The pace of life is great there, much slower than on the mainland! If you are looking for a place to stay, choices are slim and hard to find, like the White House hotel: modest accommodations, beachfront, but literally just a white house–no sign!!
For the ultimate adventure, continue onto Little Corn Island!!! A large yet rickety old boat will whisk you across the ocean on what could be the rollercoaster ride of your life! Usually the operators try to leave at times when waves are minimal, which is still an exciting ride, but they are more than willing to go at any time, as long as the passengers are willing to go! On my trip out to little corn, the waves were rolling at a RIDICULOUS height of 3 storeys high! The duel engine, high powered boat with only benches seating 20 people would literally take off in the air at the top of each swell, only to come CRASHING down 5 seconds later just as another large swell began to grow in front of us! I was never so happy to have a life jacket! The return trip was calm and quiet however.
The island itself is incredible! Tropical jungle surrounds a small village with only a few stores and no roads. We chose to stay at a ‘hostel’ called Derricks Place, on the opposite side of the island. It was about an hour hike, and without reservations, we were lucky to find them with space for us! We literally slept in grass huts with nothing but a mattress and a mosquito net, just steps to the water. Food was never an issue, as the owners proved gourmet meals for only 5-7 dollars per meal–HIGHLY recommended! The greatest thing about Derricks place was the lack of electricity! Small, high-tech windmills provided enough electricity to cook with and to light a small bulb over the main table at night for a while. We spent 5 days here doing nothing but laying in hammocks, snorkeling, and cracking open coconuts! When it came time to move on, we got into a small argument with the owners, as we were POSITIVE that we had only been there for 3 nights! It turns out that they were correct, as they laughed about the fact that it happens all the time with guest who lose track of time!
The only problem I had with Nicaragua is the sand fleas! Bring Oil of Olay!!! Apparently its the only thing that keeps them away!
Otherwise, an INCREDIBLE experience!