Do you really want to pass up the thrill of careening down an active volcano on a wooden board? Many will confirm it’s dangerous, exhilarating, potentially insane, and totally worth the rush. The panoramic views from the summit of Cerro Negro (Central America’s youngest volcano) are undeniably spectacular. Book with Quetzaltrekkers, a non-profit in León who donate all profits to local projects with disadvantaged youth.
SWIM IN LAGUNA DE APOYO
Laguna de Apoyo is the perfect escape from Granada. The volcanic crater late is pristinely clean, refreshing, and tranquil. Day trips from Granada are effortless thanks to Paradiso Hostel and The Monkey Hut. Day access to both get you free tea, coffee, paddle boards, and kayaks!
Walk on the roof of León’s Cathedral
Basilica Cathedral de la Asunción is not only Central America’s largest cathedral, it is a historic landmark, and tomb of famed Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío. If the history doesn’t entice you, the view from the roof should. Access to the roof costs less than a dollar and gives you panoramic views of León including the volcanos in the distance. Don’t forget the sunscreen and shades, you’ll want to linger once you’re here.
Sail the Pacific Coast
The wild beauty of Nicaragua’s Pacific coast is best appreciated by boat, with a bit of rum in your bloodstream. Sailing at sunset, admiring the rugged landscape, and allowing your sobriety to fade as steadily as the sun, is what vacation is all about. For those on a budget, go for Gigante Bay’s sunset Booze cruise. If you’re looking to treat yourself, book with Nica Sail and Surf.
Ometepe is an island formed by two volcanoes, Concepción and Maderas, in the center of Lake Nicaragua. Whether you are ambitious enough to summit a volcano, or prefer sipping a cold Toña at Playa Santo Domingo, Ometepe has something for everyone. Days can be spent hiking to San Ramon waterfall, exploring on motorbike, swimming at Ojo de Agua, or simply admiring the beauty and authenticity of this magical place.
Learn About Coffee
Just outside of Matagalpa lies Selva Negra, an ecolodge and organic coffee farm where you can learn how much labor goes into your morning ritual. The incredible tour guides at Selva Negra explain every step of the process from growing to cupping. Taking the 2pm tour during harvest season (late October-February) will give you a chance to observe the end of the work day, when coffee pickers come together, weighing the fruits of their labor. Incredibly thorough, informative, and eye-opening.
Eat Gallo Pinto
If you leave Nicaragua without indulging in Gallo Pinto you have cheated your poor tastebuds. Gallo Pinto is the national dish of Nicaragua (and Costa Rica) consisting of fried rice and beans mixed together. It’s delicious, cheap, filling, and can be found at any meal. I admit, I became rather addicted to the Nica Breakfast.
Visit Museum of the Revolution
To understand a bit more about the history of Nicaragua under Somoza, visit the Museum of the Revolution in León. All guides are veterans of the revolution, each with painful accounts of their experiences during this tumultuous period. The majority of guides speak only Spanish with most posters offering translations in English. Don’t let the language barrier deter you, this is an unforgettable experience. Tip your guide; they are volunteers and deserve your generosity. *Currently the museum is closed for renovations but should reopen in November*
Surf Playa Maderas
The waves are consistently quality and the beach is lovely. It’s a great place for both beginners and experienced surfers. Avoiding peak season will help avoid the crowds. There are many options for surf lessons and board rentals near the beach. If your budget allows, Buena Vista Surf Club is a wonderful place for the full package with surf lessons, yoga, delicious food, and stylish accommodation.
Go to Little Corn Island
Little Corn Island is your Caribbean dream come true. No cars, just palm trees. With plenty of hammocks, oceanfront cabañas, impossibly fresh seafood, and glistening clear water, you won’t have any problems relaxing. Accommodations range from budget to luxury. Don’t miss the world class Piña Colada at Turned Turtle. My only gripe was leaving this little slice of paradise.