Nicaragua is the place to go for an adventure-filled, outdoor vacation. It offers a variety of activities—surfing, hiking, zip lining and kayaking. The rivers and lakes provide an unbroken connection from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean while the southern Pacific coast is home to excellent surfing. For adventurers who want to stay dry, there are 24 volcanoes in Nicaragua, including Cerro Negro, a volcano with black, sandy slopes that you can sled or sandboard. But if you don’t really want to spend your entire vacation outdoors, there are plenty of other activities for you to enjoy. For example, Leon and Managua feature universities, historical ruins and celebrations of the country’s cherished art, poetry. Whether chasing an adrenaline rush or listening to poets’ prose, dive into Nicaragua’s distinct mix of natural splendor and man-made art.
Other Destinations in Nicaragua
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Mapping Out Nicaragua
Nicaragua has three regions which vary in weather and population—the Pacific Region, the Central Region, and the Caribbean Region. In the Pacific Region, there are great surfing options at places like San Juan del Sur and the city of Leon, both fairly close to the coast. On the other side of the coast, the Caribbean Region, you’ve got several nature reserves. Many resorts establish themselves on the beaches of both coasts. On the other hand, many also set up along the Central Region further inland near the volcanoes and other natural formations like Lake Nicaragua. There are great eco-tourism activities here among the volcanoes and rain forests. The huge Lake Nicaragua offers several tours among the breathtaking volcanic scenery. There are several national parks here as well. Wherever you go in Nicaragua, you are guaranteed a great vacation in nature.
Catarina's Culture and Flora
For a unique cultural and shopping experience, head to the quaint town of Catarina. This town near Apoyo Crater Lake offers beautiful carved, wooden furniture, baskets and more. Explore the merchants for a great gift or keepsake.
And even though visiting this community will give you a deeper insight into Nicaraguan culture, don't think you'll have to go way out of your way to get here. Catarina is centrally located south of the capital city of Managua, west of Granada, east of Pan American Highway and north of Lake Nicaragua which is home to the volcanic island of Ometepe.
From there, visit the tropical nurseries around Catarina. Lush and bursting with colorful flora, these sites are little slices of Eden. Finally, make your way to the viewing point on the rim of the Apoyo Crater Lake to see Lake Nicaragua and the volcanic peaks on Ometepe Island in the distance.
A Better Way to Play in the Sand
Really love snowboarding, but ready for a temperature change? We've got a solution for you: sandboarding. Cerro Negro is one of the many volcanoes in Nicaragua, but it offers the unique activity of sandboarding.
That’s exactly what it sounds like. Take a snowboard and put it on this tropical climate on the side of a volcano. Sandboarding and sledding down Cerro Negro is possible thanks to the fine, black sand that covers the volcano’s gentle slopes.
So trade in white powder for black, and strap in for a ride that's simultaneously new and recognizable. You’ll have a blast enjoying these familiar activities in an exotic landscape.
Everybody's Gone Surfin'
We don’t know if there’s a way to say "cowabunga" in Spanish, but Nicaragua is a great place to find out. The southern Pacific coast offers some beautiful beaches to hang ten.
San Juan del Sur is Nicaragua's surf town. Though increasingly recognized as a great surf spot, the crowds here are still smaller than Mexico or Costa Rica. As this destination becomes more well known, the town and the surrounding beaches are connected by increasingly sturdy infrastructure. Still, you're likely to be slowed by some livestock crossing the road. Playa Madera is about 30 minutes to the north, and it is the most popular of the breaks around San Juan. Hop further north to Playa Colorado, where a river completes its journey to the sea and the waves are killer. So killer, in fact, that the International Surfing Association hosted its 2012 World Masters Surfing Championship at Playa Colorado.
Nature Reservations Required
From three different kinds of tropical forests to volcanic islands in freshwater, this country bursts with beautiful nature. Head to the one of many nature preserves and eco-tourist attractions around the country to play in, learn about and admire Nicaragua’s natural splendor.
Check out Ometepe, the volcanic island in Lake Nicaragua, by taking a ferry from San Jorge, Granada or San Carlos. Once you're on Ometepe, you can tour Concepcion, the island's active volcano, or Maderas, the jungle-covered volcano with a crater lake. At Punta Jesus Maria, you can walk out far into the lake on a sand bank to get panoramic views of Ometepe.
If you like your volcanoes attached to the mainland, head to Mombacho Volcano for canopy tours in the surrounding cloud forests, and keep your eyes peeled for exotic animals. Whatever you prefer, there’s more than enough nature here to keep you happy.
Unexpected Poet's Mecca
Poetry is a big deal in Nicaragua. Poets contributed a lot to the Nicaraguan identity, and people here know it. Especially loved is the Nicaraguan native Rubén Darío, for whom a national holiday was created. For 2 weeks in early January, Matagalpa celebrates the poetic culture with presentations, competitions and even floats. Also during that time, the city of Leon conducts its own symposium on Dario’s work.
In the second week of February, the city of Granada hosts the International Poetry Festival. Hundreds of poets from all around the world flock to this city on the coast of Lake Nicaragua to recite and discuss their craft. These poets from places as diverse as New Zealand, India, Japan, Senegal, the US and more conduct readings and discussions. The festival also hosts a carnival which includes a parade and poetry readings by the participating poets at street corners.
Nicaragua Quick Facts
110 V, same as US
All U.S. citizens must have a valid passport when traveling to and from Nicaragua. The passport must be valid for a minimum of 6 months beyond the scheduled return date.
The rainy season provides lots of fresh water, but the water shortages are possible during the dry season. The tap water is drinkable but heavily chlorinated. Bottled water is recommended.
Mountain Standard Time (UTC/GMT -6 hours)
Peak travel times are during holidays, such as Christmas/New Years and Easter.