One of our team members recently when on a ten day trip to Nicaragua and absolutely loved it. If you are looking for a relatively inexpensive trip with striking exposure to a new and different culture, this is a wonderful option. Here are some highlights:
The island of Ometepe is in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, a huge lake in the south west of the country. The island boasts two huge semi-dormant volcanoes. We say semi-dormant becasue very occasionally the larger comes to life and yawns out a few pieces of ash. Nobody evacuates or is hurt. These volcanoes are seriously awesome, and the island is an incredible oasis. It is super easy to find inexpensive places to stay, as the various villages dotting the perimeter of the island each have several hostels and inexpensive, quirky hotels.
Here are some things to do on the island of Ometepe:
Hike the volcanoes
There are two day hikes up the two volcanoes, approximately 8-10 miles. You can also hike half of volcano Maderas, where you will find a beautiful flowing waterfall. This hike is about 4 km each way (a little over 2 miles). It is totally worth the trek.
Ojo de Agua
A mineral hot springs turned into huge bathing pools occupied by both locals and foreigners alike. The waters are filled with natural minerals that can supposedly heal any ailment. It is a fun place to bathe, heal, and meet fellow travelers.
A small island populated by monkeys is a short kayak ride or swim off of the main shore. It is truly incredible to see, and the monkeys will flock to the island’s perimeter when they sense your arrival. It is fun to kayak the circumference of the island, or, for an extra challenge, swim across the short span of lake.
This hidden gem has great food made by awesome locals. It is hard to find and you might wonder if there is even a restaurant down this poorly marked street, but it is worth the search. Try their delicious freshly made passion fruit juice and fresh fish of the day.
Surf in the South
The south of Nicaragua boasts some world class surf spots. Popoyo, which is west of Rivas, has huge surfing competitions held there, but in between competitions you will only share the incredible swell with a few other ex-pats and some seriously skilled local surfers. There are tons of good surf spots in this area, so no matter whether it is low tide, high tide, or somewhere in between, there are spots with good waves. Playa Santana is best during mid-high tide. Mag Rock is a good beginner spot. Playa Rosada is a great low tide spot. Other fun things to occupy your time in between surf sessions:
There is a great sulfuric hot spring in Limon, off of the main road. Any local will be able to tell you where it is. There are several bathing pools, some for kids, and some for adults.
Not only is this a sweet place to stay with incredible views, but they have a great restaurant with an even greater happy hour. This is a favorite among local ex-pats and travelers, though it will never be overly crowded due to the unsaturated nature of the area. The restaurant and bar have more than 180degree views of the ocean and beaches and their food is amazing. Great place to replenish after surfing with a flavorful ceasar salad, fish tacos, or any of their ever-changing specials.
As if Ometepe’s volcanoes weren’t enough, this active volcano must be seen to be believed. There are five craters at the top, one of which is perpetually emitting an immense plume of thick smoke. It is impossible to see through the smoke and discern what lies beneath it, leaving a creepy insurity. You can either hike up the entire volcano, or drive up to the craters and walk around the perimeter of the craters and up to gorgeous viewing peaks.
Traveler’s Tip: Check Trip Advisor for great restaurant and accomodation suggestions. It abounds with great ideas and reviews. Most local restaurants and hotels/hostels have wifi.
Careful of the pigs, dogs, and herds of cows meandering down Nicaragua's main roads.