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15 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Nicaragua

Written by Carri Wilbanks Updated Jul 13, 2022 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )

Biodiverse and naturally beautiful, Nicaragua is a still off-the-grid destination, filled with active volcanoes, cloud forests, jungles, lakes, and two coastlines, all boasting plenty of attractions and things to do.

Outdoor adventure enthusiasts can hike to natural attractions like crater lakes in dormant volcanos or sled down mountains of ash on wooden boards. While those in search of wildlife experiences can explore one of the many protected reserves around Nicaragua that are home to everything from jaguars to howler and white-faced monkeys and hundreds of species of birds.

With beaches on both its Caribbean and Pacific Ocean coastlines, there are plenty of options for getting wet as well. Towns like San Juan del Sur on the Pacific Ocean's Emerald Coast near Costa Rica are top places to visit, famous for their colorful architecture and surf scene. While the Corn Islands in the Caribbean Sea are known for their laid-back beach vibe.

Managua is Nicaragua's capital city, but people tend not to linger here unless visiting for business. Many things to do really lie in the smaller cities, like Leon and Granada , which are known for their colorful architecture and churches, and natural attractions such as Lake Nicaragua. It is the largest freshwater lake in Central America and home to hundreds upon hundreds of islands, including some with amazing ecolodges.

And then there are the multitude of volcanoes, some dormant; others, like the Masaya Volcano , still very much active. Here are our picks for the top things to see and do around Nicaragua.

1. Islets of Granada

2. corn islands, 3. masaya volcano, 4. cerro negro, 5. mombacho volcano nature preserve, 6. lake nicaragua, 7. san juan del sur, 8. somoto canyon national monument, 9. isla ometepe, 10. bosawas biosphere reserve, 11. granada, 12. reserva natural miraflor, 14. apoyo lagoon natural reserve, 15. san juan de oriente, map of attractions & things to do in nicaragua.

Islet on Lake Nicaragua

Lake Nicaragua is home to 365 small islands that form an archipelago known as Las Isletas or Islets of Granada, due to their location southeast of the colonial city of Granada. The islets are more than 25,000 years old, initially formed from the ash and stones of the Mombacho volcano .

While some islets are deserted, others have limited development, mostly in the form of ecolodges. Jicaro Island Lodge is one such place. The boutique property is truly special, a place where you can disconnect to reconnect with nature. And you can explore the other islets by SUP board or kayak from the dock at Jicaro if you're staying here.

The accommodation at Jicaro Island Lodge is in two-story wooden treehouses that have an indoor/outdoor vibe and truly feel like sleeping in the midst of the jungle (but are protected from mosquitoes and other biting bugs).

Little Corn Island

In the Caribbean Sea, about 70 kilometers off Nicaragua's east coast, the Corn Islands are where to go for a laid-back holiday. Big Corn is where you will usually arrive (there are flights from Managua), but you can sleep on either isle.

Despite its name, the Big Corn is actually quite small, and you can bike around it in about an hour. The beaches here are beautiful, light-gold-sand affairs fronted by crystal-clear, turquoise water that stays warm year-round.

From Big Corn, it is a 40-minute boat ride to Little Corn . The tiny island has some accommodation and eating options but no banks or vehicles. You can walk around Little Corn in less than an hour.

There is excellent diving in the reefs off both the Corn Islands, which is why many people visit.

Masaya Volcano

Protected in the country's largest national park, the Masaya Volcano is also one of Nicaragua's top places to visit, just 20 kilometers south of Nicaragua's capital city of Managua.

The most amazing part about visiting this active volcano is how close you can get to the lip of the crater in a private vehicle - you simply drive right up to the edge and park, although you have to park facing downhill in case an emergency evacuation is necessary.

Looking down into the crater, you can see a lake of molten lava. Visit after dark to see the glow the bubbling lava creates inside the pit. If you visit during the day, there is a museum on-site, as well as picnic facilities.

The volcano can be visited on a day trip from Managua or Granada .

Volcano surfing on Cerro Negro

If you want to get your adrenaline pumping a bit then head to Cerro Negro. One of the youngest volcanoes in the world, it last erupted in 1999 and features a dramatic black cone.

While it's still considered active, today most people head to Cerro Negro to try their skills at volcano surfing. The sport involves riding down the side of the volcano's black ash on a wooden surfboard. You'll be wearing a boiler suit and goggles for protection, and you can reach speeds of upwards of 60 miles per hour. The boards can either be ridden sled style (sitting down) or standing up like a surf or snowboard.

Note that to ride down the volcano, you have to hike up. The trek takes about 40 minutes. Most people try this on an organized adventure tour.

Mombacho Volcano Nature Preserve

Located atop the dormant Mombacho Volcano, this nature preserve includes a unique cloud forest landscape and covers 2,500 acres. It sits to the southwest of Managua , just 10 kilometers from the colonial town of Granada and magnificent Lake Nicaragua .

Surrounded by rural farms and coffee plantations, the landscape is beautiful. The reserve is known for its prolific, colorful and fragrant flora, with more than 800 species of plants growing here.

There are also hundreds of animal species making their home on Mombacho, including the bright red and green quetzal bird and a number of monkey species such as white-faced monkeys and howler monkeys. The best way to experience the preserve is on one of the many hiking trails running through it.

The reserve is also home to a tourist center, where you can pick up a guide to hike around one of the four volcanic craters, all covered with a rare type of cloud forest that is only found in one other spot in Nicaragua: the Maderas volcano on Ometepe Island .

Lake Nicaragua

When Spanish colonists first saw Lake Nicaragua, it was so vast, they thought it was a sea. In reality, it is Central America's largest lake at 177 kilometers long with an average width of 57 kilometers. It is home to more than 365 small islets and larger islands, like Ometepe, with two volcanos, in the lake's center.

Another interesting fact about Lake Nicaragua is that it is the only freshwater lake to have ocean animals, including sharks. It is believed the lake was once a sea bay, but then a volcano erupted, trapping marine life and turning it into an inland lake. Over the millennia, the marine life has adapted to living in freshwater.

San Juan del Sur

In southwest Nicaragua, on the Emerald Coast, near the border with Costa Rica , San Juan del Sur is a vibrant town with a large expat community and an excellent surf beach just 20 miles to the north. The town itself is filled with colorful buildings and murals. There is also a large Christ of the Mercy statue perched on a hill overlooking the city below that is worth a hike up for sunset, especially to experience the views.

And then there is the long gold-sand meets Pacific Ocean Playa Maderas beach, which is also lined with small hotels and eco-resorts. It picks up most of the swells that hit Nicaragua and is best approached at medium to high tide.

The beach is also known for its long, drawn-out sunsets with an amazing display of bright, shifting colors.

Somoto Canyon National Monument

Discovered accidentally in 2004 by two Czech geologists, Somoto Canyon National Monument is now a protected gorge in northern Nicaragua about 2.5 hours from Leon .

The scenery here is stunningly beautiful, and this is also another perfect destination for adrenaline addicts. You can book four- or six-hour descents of the narrowest section of the gorge. Both trips require rock scrambles, floating down rapids in inner tubes, and jumping from high cliffs into deep pools. The six-hour trip also includes rappelling down cliffs into bat-filled caves. Either way this is an adventurous day trip.

Isla Ometepe

Isla Ometepe is in Lake Nicaragua, the largest freshwater lake in Central America and also home to the Islets of Granada. The island has not one but two volcanos, both of which can be climbed.

Maderas is the volcano in the south of Ometepe, and it is less active than the Concepcion volcano in the north. The hike to the summit of Maderas takes you to a beautiful crater lake. There is also an impressive waterfall at the base that cascades for almost 50 meters down a sheer rock wall.

The island is also popular for horseback riding, mountain biking, or kayaking the Istian River that runs through it. You can also just laze on the white sands of Santo Domingo beach.

Resplendent Quetzal, Bosawas Biosphere Reserve

Second only in size to the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, Nicaragua's Bosawas Biosphere Reserve was established in 1997 to protect the biodiversity found in this northern corner of the country. The reserve also protects the free flow of species between Mexico and Central America.

A birder's paradise, you'll find that 600 of the 790 bird species that call Nicaragua home live in this reserve. You'll also find plenty of mammals, including jaguars, Baird's tapir, and spider monkeys in the trees and on the forest floor.

Granada

Colorful Granada is a wonderful old city to wander for an afternoon. It is home to some of the best-preserved architecture in Nicaragua, including a number of buildings and churches constructed in Spanish colonial style.

Here, you'll find Convento San Francisco , which is one of the oldest churches in Central America. It has an unmissable Tiffany blue facade, and inside, you'll find one of Nicaragua's top museums, dedicated to the country's pre-Columbian people. There are also restaurants, shops, and coffee houses with sidewalk seating around its main square.

Granada is a popular base for exploring the islands in Lake Nicaragua on whose shore it sits.

Reserva Natural Miraflor

From cooling off under icy waterfalls to horseback riding or trekking in search of some 300 species of birds that live here, including the bright queen quetzal, there is plenty to keep you naturally entertained at Reserva Natural Miraflor.

This reserve in Nicaragua's north covers three climate zones, including dry forest and cloud forest. Visitors can also participate in community tourism projects here at coffee cooperatives. These give you a chance to spend a night with a local family and get a glimpse into their culture and way of life.

Iglesia de la Recoleccion, Leon

Home to Nicaragua's National University , Leon is considered the country's intellectual capital. The city is also known for its cathedral, art museums, and growing food scene. Leon's cathedral is Central America's biggest, and merges Baroque and Neoclassical styles.

Just a few blocks north of the cathedral is Iglesia de la Recoleccion , which is a beautiful church dating back to 1786. It is built in Mexican-style Baroque design and features a distinct, deep-yellow facade with cream trim. While strolling the walkable downtown, also keep an eye out for murals and graffiti dating back to the political war of the 1980s.

You can also visit the 16th-century ruins of Leon Viejo (old Leon), a UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of the first Spanish colonial settlements in the Americas. These ruins are just a short drive from Leon.

Apoyo Lagoon Natural Reserve

Less than a 30-minute drive from Granada , Apoyo Lagoon Natural Reserve is a giant volcanic crater lake that was created more than 20,000 years ago when the original volcano's cone imploded.

The lake is about 198 meters deep and is so big that when the wind blows hard enough, there are waves big enough to windsurf. The lake is also fed by volcanic fumaroles that keep the water warm and slightly salty.

Activities include kayaking, swimming, scuba diving to explore thermal vents, or just chilling at one of the restaurants on the beachfront.

Ceramics for sale in San Juan de Oriente

If you are in the market for ceramic handicrafts , whether in the form of ornately decorated vases or functional cookware, pay a visit to the village of San Juan de Oriente. Located about 45 kilometers from Managua, it is known as the "town of potters," and the artisans here have been creating beautiful pieces out of clay since before the Spanish conquistadors invaded the region.

Upon entering the small town, which has a beautiful setting overlooking the Masaya lagoon, you'll see dozens of pottery shops . The majority of people here earn their living creating colorful works of art and are very friendly and happy to share their work and the stories behind it with travelers. Most of the shops are family-run affairs, with one member in charge of the carving and design, another overseeing the kiln, and a third polishing the finished product.

Some names to look for while shopping include Gregorio Bracamonte's recreations of pre-Columbian jaguar vases (the artist passed away in 2019, making his work even more valuable today); and Helio Guitérrez, who is known for his bold geometric designs.

For working kitchenware that includes intricate designs, visit Miguel Angel Calero's shop. His pieces are also known for their highly polished, glass-like shine, and he has been called a local Michelangelo.

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Central America: This part of the world offers many great adventures and intriguing destinations. To the south of Nicaragua, Cost Rica is fill with natural attractions, beaches, and incredible opportunities to see wildlife. Also worth checking out in Central America are the sights of Guatemala . Lakes, volcanoes, culture, and history make this a country worth working into your itinerary.

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Places To Visit In Nicaragua

One of Central America’s most captivating destinations, Nicaragua is home to pristine rainforests, beautiful colonial architecture, towering volcanoes and vast lakes. Unlike its neighbour, Costa Rica, Nicaragua has less of an influx of tourism, due to its dubious reputation, but this is just one of the reasons we love Nicaragua. There is so much to see and do, without the overcrowded tourism, making it the perfect off the beaten track destination!

We have put together a guide of our favourite places to visit in Nicaragua. So let's jump into it:

Cerro Negro Volcano

Visit Cerro Negro Volcano to volcano board

This fierce little volcano (a mere 675m in height) is the newest in the western hemisphere and the most unpredictable of León’s Maribios Volcano range. As its name suggests, Cerro Negro is jet-black, made up of black gravel, solidified black lava flows and massive black sand dunes. NASA used Cerro Negro to understand the rocks they found on Mars, and hiking on the cone is a truly surreal otherworldly experience.

Its hardpack fine black gravel and sand also makes it a favoured playground for visitors. What started with adapted snowboards being shredded and destroyed by gravel gradually morphed into custom-built volcano sledges made in León. Volcano boarding converts a 45-minute hike to the summit into a howling run down the west face as you ride the custom boards and wear special boarding suits, goggles and gloves.

Corn Islands

Cork Islands a must visit place in Nicaragua

This is the Caribbean as it used to be, relaxed islands that live mainly off fishing and a bit of tourism. There are small family-owned hotels on both islands which are modest and comfortable, while the locals are extremely friendly, and the reefs bathed in crystal clear turquoise waters. Both Big Corn Island and Little Corn Island are lined with spectacular white sandy beaches, and although small, offer a beautiful and peaceful spot to relax.

From here you can explore the stunning reefs, and for those interested, there are dive operators on both islands. You will find the reefs to be better off the beaches of Little Corn Island whereas the diving is superior around Big Corn Island. 

El Castillo

El Castillo from the rver

The principal settlement on the San Juan River, El Castillo (despite its name) is built around a fortress, not a castle. When built-in 1675 it was one of the biggest fortresses in the Americas and very effective at repelling both pirates and the British Navy, until a young Lord Nelson, then a captain, attacked it from the rear flank (now called Lomas de Nelson).

The fortress provides a classic view of the San Juan River and there is good lodging near the riverfront rapids, a feature that also helped to protect the town. Today it is a pleasant and friendly base to use for exploring the Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve by boat and on foot, with several traditional river restaurants and a butterfly farm in town. El Castillo is also the last town on the southside of the San Juan in Nicaragua, going downriver to the Caribbean Sea.

Cigar Rolling in Estelí

Estelí is the tobacco capital of Nicaragua, where fertile highland soils are said to be superior even to Cuba for tobacco growing. This has attracted Cuban ex-pats from both Miami and Cuba and created consistently top-rated cigars which are rolled in the many factors of Estelí, stuffed and wrapped with Nicaragua tobacco and other blends from around the world.

Tisey Nature Reserve is nearby on the continental divide behind Estelí, with tropical pine forests and cloud forest, as well as Encino Oak groves and the Estanzuela Cascade which is particularly impressive during the wet period and popular for rappelling in the dry season. Estelí is also known for its revolutionary heroes and there is a museum dedicated to their sacrifice as well as an attractive Cathedral and access to the Miraflor Nature Reserve where community tourism is possible.

Visitng Granada at Night when in Nicaragua

Granada is Nicaragua’s most famous destination, mostly for the beauty of its spacious and brightly painted Andalusian-styled Spanish colonial homes. The historic centre is full of large square homes with lush interior gardens protected by thick adobe walls. Located on the western shores of Lake Nicaragua, the city was sacked numerous times by pirates during Spanish rule, as Granada was effectively the westernmost Caribbean port thanks to boat traffic across the lake and the San Juan River, making it a key commercial centre.

Today, tourism runs the economy and Granada is blessed with numerous good restaurants and boutique hotels and is a great base from which to explore many nearby attractions, including day trips to Isletas Archipelago, Mombacho and Masaya Volcano, Apoyo Crater Lake and Los Pueblos Blancos.

Laguna de Apoyo

a views of Laguna de Apoyo at sunset

A crater lake, Laguna de Apoyo, is so huge that wind can whip up waves good enough for windsurfing. The lake, which is about 20,000 years old, is fed by volcanic fumaroles, which warm the slightly salty waters of the lake. Visitors can rent kayaks, go swimming, or simply enjoy the views of the forested crater. Divers with a craving for a crater-lake submersion can explore the thermal vents, and check out the endemic fish that live here.

Lake Nicaragua

Lake Nicaragua with a view of Ompete Island at sunset

Lake Nicaragua stands as the centrepiece of the country's mini-rift valley and is an integral part of the Nicaraguan psyche, being one of the core reasons Nicaraguans call their country land of lakes and volcanoes. Dubbed the ‘Freshwater Sea’ (Mar Dulce) by the Spanish, Lago de Nicaragua, also known as Cocibolca, covers 8,264 sq-km, making it the largest body of freshwater in Central America and the largest rain-formed lake in the Americas.

The freshwater lake drains into the Caribbean Sea, via the San Juan River and is punctuated by more than 450 volcanic islands, including three archipelagos, a volcanic national park and the dual-volcano Ometepe Island Biosphere Reserve. This unique body of warm water is home to freshwater sawtooth fish, bull sharks, sardines and gar fish.

Las Isletas

Fallen tree in Las Isletas

Just five minutes from Granada, in the warm waters of Lake Nicaragua, is the chain of 354 islands called Las Isletas. The basalt rock piles are covered in lush vegetation and birdlife is rich, with plenty of egrets, cormorants, ospreys, kingfishers and oropendolas.

The islands can be visited by motorboat, electric boat or kayaks, an excellent way to appreciate the birdlife. The age of the islands is unknown, but it is believed they were created by a massive eruption by the Mombacho Volcano that watches over the lake and islands to the west. Some islands have simple lodging, but one, in particular, has a very fine ecolodge that we feature in our tour Lakes and Volcanoes.

Las Peñitas & Juan Venado

Just a 20-minute drive away from colonial León, Las Peñitas and Poneloya are both beaches used mainly by Nicaraguans during the end of the dry season, from February to April. This is a fantastic place to spend an afternoon with a long lunch of red snapper cooked whole, bathed in tomatoes and onions. Riptides are very dangerous here, so swimming is only for the most experienced.

On the south end of Las Peñitas is an inlet full of artisan fishing boats and then the barrier island of Juan Venado. This is an important sea turtle nesting site (Aug-Jan), but also a critical mangrove forest very rich in flora and fauna with healthy populations of water birds, green iguanas and caimans. The reserve can be visited by hired motorboat or kayak, and the beach has a sea turtle nursery project to protect the eggs and hatchlings until their entrance to the sea.

Places to visit in Nicaragua - León

León is the artistic and intellectual heart of Nicaragua, the colonial capital for three centuries and the former home of its three greatest poets, including the undisputed national hero Ruben Darío. Nicaragua’s second-largest city is normally full to the brim with students from around the country that come to study in its fine secondary schools and universities.

A UNESCO World Heritage building, the Cathedral of León is Central America’s largest temple, and despite sweltering year-round heat, the city enjoys an advantageous position set between the ruggedly majestic Maribios Volcanoes to the east and the crashing surf of the warm Pacific Ocean just 21 km to the west. The city is a base for volcano hiking and coastal kayaking and surfing, whereas culture tours highlight the city’s revolutionary history, colonial architecture and artistic traditions.

Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge

Green Parakee in Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge

One of the top wildlife viewing experiences available in Nicaragua, the 43,750-ha Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge occupies the southern shores of Lake Nicaragua. With more than a dozen rivers running through the reserve, the Río Papaturro is the most popular for wildlife viewing, but a visit to Rio Zapote and Isla Zapote offers up a major nesting site for waterbirds which is also not to be missed.

The ecosystems could not be more diverse in this area, with a mixture of tropical dry forest, tropical wet forest, rainforest and extensive wetlands. Best of all are the many narrow rivers lined with gallery forest, the ideal situation for viewing wildlife. 400+ species of birds are joined by three species of monkey, countless reptiles, amphibians and a healthy Jaguar population.

Los Pueblos Blancos

Crafts at Los Pueblos Blancos

The White Villages of Masaya and Granada are spread across a highland mesa that connects to rims of extinct volcanoes and are home to some of Nicaragua’s finest artisans and some of the country’s most unique festivals. Each town is known for specialised crafts, and although not all of them are still painted white, the villages do have Spanish colonial churches and a very industrious and independent populace.

Most famous of the villages are Diriomo, known for its stone church and native sweets, as well as San Juan de Oriente, whose potters have gained world fame. Catarina is also famed for its potted plants, baskets and unique viewpoint of Apoyo Crater lake, whereas Niquinohomo stands as the birthplace of national hero Augusto Sandino.  Masatepe is also not to be missed, as here you will find Nicaragua’s finest handcrafted traditional furniture made in family workshops, as well as several traditional food restaurants worth noting.

A view from Managua from above

A dramatic setting by any measure, Managua sprawls along the southern shores of Lake Managua and being covered mostly by trees, it’s almost invisible from the air. It is a capital without a city, pockmarked by six crater lakes within city limits. Beneath its improbable surface is dozens of fault lines, one of which destroyed the old centre in 1972.

Never rebuilt under seismologists’ orders, Managua grew out and around the lake valley with no centre or high-rise in sight. Visitors can tour the ruins of the old centre, enjoying revolutionary sites, the cultural palace, new and old Cathedral as well as one of the crater lakes that overlooks the entire invisible city.

It is a gritty place, and although it is home to much poverty and a serious waste problem, it also stands as one of the greenest capitals in the world by some measures, with no air pollution and relatively low traffic.

Masaya Volcano National Park

Visiting Masaya Volcano National Park to see the lava flowing

The smoking Santiago crater of the Masaya volcanic complex is one of the most unusual volcanoes in the Americas, maintaining a constant pool of lava (neither receding nor discharging) in its open crater. If smoke and lava levels permit, the inner churnings of an active volcano can be witnessed by peering inside the active crater.

It is a place of eerie beauty with rugged lunar landscapes punctuated by delicate plant life, remarkably resilient animal life and a panoramic view of Nicaragua’s great lake valley. Due to intense volcanic activity in recent years hiking is limited in the park, and most visits are restricted to 15 minutes.

Mombacho Volcano

Mombacho Volcano from aerial

Situated 10km outside of Granada is one of two cloud forests found in Nicaragua’s Pacific slope. The summit has five craters and is home to some of Nicaragua’s most magnificent cloud forest vegetation full of ferns, bromeliads and orchids, where you can find the endemic Mombacho salamander (Bolitoglossa mombachoensis) and nearly 200 species of birds.

The summit trail of Mombacho Volcano offers views of craters, and if clear, Granada, Lake Nicaragua and Las Isletas, whereas the more difficult trails Tigrillo and Puma reveal an even more extensive list of wildlife.

As well as enjoying the forest reserve, where you can even zip-line above the stunning forest canopy, the 1,344-metre-tall volcano is home to an abundance of additional activities, from visiting the local coffee plantations and ranches along the western slopes to learning more about the old indigo and current cacao production found at the eastern base.

Morgan’s Rock

Private beach on the pacific coast at Morgan’s Rock

Just north of San Juan Del Sur, on Nicaragua’s South Pacific Coast is one of the prettiest and most under-developed coastlines on the Pacific, with low mountains covered in the lush forest that meet tan and white sand beaches. Nestled in more than 4,000 acres of private coastal nature reserve on that coast is Morgan’s Rock Ecolodge, a destination in itself.

With a private beach and an extensive system of trails, Morgan’s Rock is one of the finest coastal tropical dry forests in Central America, with a gorgeous sweeping private beach and an estuary shared by less than 20 precious wooden bungalows that are perched on a cliff overlooking the sea. Along with kayaking and paddleboarding, visitors can mountain bike, nature hike and fish or surf on a nearby beach, but most find the thatched huts along the pristine beach attraction enough to pass a day or two. It's one of our favourite places to visit in Nicaragua to unwind and relax.

Ometepe Island

Ometepe Island

Ometepe’s two volcanoes rising out of Lake Nicaragua seem improbable, prehistoric and almost otherworldly. The two cones are nature reserves and they are connected by a 5-km wide lava-flow isthmus. Travel on the island is always in the shadow of one of its two Olympian volcanic cones.

The dominant mountain is the active Volcán Concepción (1,610 m), whilst Volcán Maderas (1,394m), which last erupted around 800 years ago, is now believed to be extinct. Isla de Ometepe is also home to many freshwater beaches, the most accessible of which is Playa Santo Domingo, a long stretch of grey sand on the Isthmus of Istián, a fertile lowland finger that connects the two volcanoes’ round bases.

Ometepe also has much to offer culture lovers, with unique traditions and pre-Columbian remains found on the island, and stands as a paradise for hikers, climbers, bikers and nature lovers; a must-see for anyone with a strong interest in culture and archaeology.

San Juan River

San Juan River flowing around a bend

A historic waterway that is now best known for ecotourism, the 190km-long Río San Juan is the only river that drains Lake Nicaragua into the Caribbean Sea. For the visitor, it is an opportunity to experience rainforest flora and fauna and journey from Central America’s biggest lake, all the way to the thundering surf of Nicaragua’s eastern seaboard, while following in the wake of Spanish explorers, Dutch and French pirates and the British Navy.

The river was seen for centuries as the natural canal between the two great oceans, and today it provides access to Nicaragua’s finest lowland rainforest - the Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve, which runs from El Castillo all the way to the scenic coastal estuaries of the Caribbean Sea. 

Selva Negra

Beautiful views of tree reflecting off the water in Selva Negra

A landmark organic coffee hacienda and private cloud forest reserve, Selva Negra, or the Black Forest, is a pioneer in the burgeoning practice of setting aside economically productive land for private nature reserves.

Its critical watershed of 30 creeks has been rescued by the reforestation of its higher elevations that were once used for coffee production, while simultaneously restoring flora and fauna and making it a key site for ecotourism. Birding is excellent around the property, with more than 200 species documented thus far, howler monkeys are present while other mammal populations are on the rise.

What makes Selva Negra notable worldwide is the way the hacienda's organic coffee, vegetable, flower and animal farming is organised and operated. The hacienda is a model for sustainability, recycling everything from coffee husks to chicken blood. Coffee processing wastewater (a serious pollutant in coffee-growing regions) is run into two-step pressurising tanks that create methane biogas, which is then used on the farm and lodge for cooking and other chores.

Solentiname Archipelago

A national monument, the 36-island archipelago is located in a remote and beautiful corner of massive Lake Nicaragua. A key part of Nicaragua’s revolutionary history and home to some of its finest painters, it was an idealistic poet-priest who founded the artist colony and local church before becoming Minister of Culture in the 1980s.

The islands also provide shelter to an impressive array of wildlife, and touring is usually a mixture of nature and culture while travelling between islands by motorboat. Without roads or electricity, Solentiname is the epitome of peace. The art produced by some of its 800 or so residents reflects natural themes and local legends, and the islands act as the best jumping-off point to visit the precious Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge.

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Nicaragua Travel Guide

Looking for an in-depth Nicaragua travel guide ?

Then you’re in the right place!

Bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south, Nicaragua is the biggest country in Central America and has much to offer travelers.

It’s quickly becoming a top travel destination and for good reason. From its beautiful biodiversity to its bustling cities, this country is home to roughly 47 million people and has a lot to explore.

Nicaragua is known as the land of lakes and volcanos making it a big draw for nature enthusiasts.

Lake Nicaragua, the biggest in the country, has been amazing outsiders since the 1500s. I mean, where else can you find oceanic marine life in a freshwater lake?

There are also several active volcanoes to explore throughout the country, each offering something different.

For a truly unique experience, head to Cerro Negro, where you can try your hand at volcano boarding; you’ll really have to see this one to believe it!

Moreover, beach lovers should check out Nicaragua’s Pacific coast, home to some of the most gorgeous shoreline in Central America.

Nicaragua’s cities are also full of life and new things to explore.

The country’s capital of Managua is home to incredible colonial architecture and museums like the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura, where you can learn all about Nicaragua’s pre-Columbian heritage.

While you’re there, sample some of the local flavors like gallo pinto , a rice and beans dish that’s a favorite among travelers and locals alike.

Keep reading to dive into resources that will help you with planning a trip to Nicaragua. If you’re traveling in Central America , you won’t want to miss this incredible destination!

Note: This ultimate guide to Nicaragua travel contains affiliate links to trusted partners!

Nicaragua travel guide

Nicaragua Map

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Nicaragua map

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Top Nicaragua Tours

Explore the local culture with the help of a Nicaragua tour guide !

  • Food Tour – Nicaragua Gastronomy in San Juan del Sur
  • Masaya Volcano Night Tour in Managua, Nicaragua
  • Hike Maderas Volcano in Ometepe Island from Managua
  • Day Trip to Cascada Blanca Waterfall in Matagalpa from Granada
  • Tour Chinandega & City of El Viejo from Corinto

Renting A Car In Nicaragua

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Nicaragua Hotels

Click here to browse hotels in Nicaragua!

Prefer self-contained stays? 

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Nicaragua Travel Insurance

It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling solo or with a group on a Nicaragua tour. When visiting Nicaragua — or any other country in the world — make sure to get travel insurance to protect your health and safety.

In my opinion, the best travel medical insurance for travelers is SafetyWing as they’ve got a large network and offer both short-term and long-term coverage — including coverage if you’re traveling for months as well as limited coverage in your home country).

Additionally, SafetyWing is budget-friendly and offers $250,000 worth of coverage with just one low overall deductible of $250.

With coverage, you’ll have peace of mind as you embark on your Nicaragua itinerary.

Click my referral link here to price out travel insurance for your trip in just a few clicks .

Nicaragua Travel Guide FAQ

Below, find answers to frequently asked questions about traveling Nicaragua .

Q: Is Nicaragua safe for tourists?

There are several things to watch out for and keep in mind to stay safe while in Nicaragua. Nicaragua has an authoritarian government that limits freedom of expression, dissent against the government, and demonstrations. Demonstrations throughout the country have turned violent and if you are detained by the government, you may be stuck in that situation for a while.

While you likely won’t run into any issues like this during your stay, it’s best to watch what you say about the government and avoid any situations of unrest.

Also, keep the number of your home country’s local embassy handy just in case.

Street crime and theft are also common throughout Nicaragua, particularly on crowded busses and in popular markets like the Oriental. Stay aware of your surroundings, keep any valuables out of view, and only carry a small amount of cash.

Make sure any valuables are locked away before you leave your hotel, home, or hostel for the day to avoid pickpockets and keep any possessions out of sight before leaving your car.

“Express kidnappings” by unlicensed taxi drivers are also an issue in Nicaragua. If you plan to take a taxi during your trip, try to order it from a radio dispatcher at the airport or your hotel.

When the cab arrives, make sure that there is a red border around the car’s license plate and that it has some kind of company name or logo displayed.

These tips will help you weed out the legitimate cabs from those operated by criminals.

And of course, check your country’s travel alerts for Nicaragua before you leave to stay informed on any possible safety issues.

Q: Is Nicaragua expensive to visit?

Like many Central American countries, Nicaragua is very budget-friendly. The average traveler spends about $32 USD per day on accommodations, food, transportation, and other expenses.

Of course, this depends on your travel style — you’ll pay a bit more for higher-end accommodations and excursions.

Your biggest expense will likely be round-trip flights. Non-stop flights from the United States are rare, but you can find some good deals depending on your travel dates and your departure city.

Q: How long do you need in Nicaragua?

Most experts suggest spending 10 days to two weeks in Nicaragua to get the full experience of the country. If you’re doing a full tour of the country, you’ll want to spend a few days in each place.

You’ll also want to budget in a half to a full day for travel between certain locations as travel within the country is pretty slow and domestic flights are limited.

Q: What do I need to know about traveling to Nicaragua?

There are a few things to know before traveling to Nicaragua. It’s good to learn a few Spanish words and phrases before your trip, particularly if you’ll be traveling to more rural parts of the country. Not everyone speaks English, so knowing a bit of Spanish will take you far and shows respect when meeting locals .

Bluefields (the capital of the South Caribbean Autonomous Region in Nicaragua) and the Corn Islands are known as unspoiled coastal paradises, but their remote location comes with little access to medical care and law enforcement. The Corn Islands in particular are only accessible by plane. though flights are relatively inexpensive. Keep this in mind as you plan your trip.

Nicaragua also has a long history of occupations and revolutions, particularly in the twentieth century. Reading up on the country’s history before your trip can give you a better understanding of what you’ll see and the issues the country currently faces.

It’s important to be an informed traveler, particularly in places like Nicaragua.

Q: What are the top attractions to see in Nicaragua?

Nicaragua is known as a land of lakes and volcanoes, so naturally, these are some of the country’s top attractions. Masaya Volcano and Cerro Negro are great for those wanting to explore beautiful hikes and active volcanoes. You can even surf down the volcanic ash at Cerro Negro (with proper protection, of course) for a truly unique experience!

Apoyo Crater Lake and the vast Lake Nicaragua are absolutely gorgeous spots and perfect for water sports. Take out a stand-up paddleboard, go for a swim, or try your hand at windsurfing on particularly blustery days. Alternatively, you can just enjoy the view and tranquility of an unspoiled paradise.

Nicaragua’s cities are also not to be missed! The lakeside city of Granada is home to some incredible Spanish colonial architecture as well as great restaurants and bustling markets.

In Leon, you can explore the ruins of Leon Viejo, one of the country’s earliest colonial settlements and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, the city is home to the country’s National University, fantastic museums, and delicious food.

Q: Do I need a visa to visit Nicaragua?

Citizens of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, the European Union, and many other countries do not need a visa to travel to Nicaragua for less than 90 days. You will need to purchase a tourist card upon arrival for about $10 USD. Citizens of other countries may need to acquire a visa to enter Nicaragua.

It’s recommended to view your country’s Nicaragua International Travel Information page for the most up-to-date information on entry and exit requirements. You can also contact the Consulate General of Nicaragua.

Q: Are credit cards accepted in Nicaragua?

While many tourist attractions, as well as big hotels and restaurants, accept credit cards, it’s wise to carry cash when traveling to Nicaragua.

Moreover, it’s smart to bring a backup ATM card in case you run into any issues.

Q: What is the best time to visit Nicaragua?

While Nicaragua is a year-round destination, the dry season is between November and April.

Q: What months are summer in Nicaragua?

Summer in Nicaragua runs from November to April.

Q: Can you drink tap water in Nicaragua?

It is best to avoid drinking the tap water in Nicaragua.

Q: What is the hottest month in Nicaragua?

The warmest month in Nicaragua is typically April.

Q: What is the local currency in Nicaragua?

The local currency in Nicaragua is the Nicaraguan córdoba.

What would you add to this Nicaragua travel guide?

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Epic Places You Should Visit in Nicaragua

Granada is a beguiling urban enclave and one of the most beautiful places to visit in Nicaragua

A friendly, welcoming all-rounder and the most diverse of all Central American countries, Nicaragua has it all: gorgeous Spanish-colonial architecture, a wealth of indigenous culture, idyllic white-sand beaches beneath swaying palms on Caribbean islands, climbable volcanoes, world-class surf beaches and huge swathes of protected jungle, home to numerous bird and animal species. Whether you’re looking to dally in handsome towns, hit the waves along the Pacific coast or get off the beaten track by staying at a coffee cooperative or venturing into virgin rainforest, the many epic places to visit in Nicaragua are bound to beguile you.

Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips , compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips .

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There’s a palpable buzz to León, hotbed of the Sandinista revolution in the 1980s and one of the most alluring towns in Nicaragua. Maybe there’s something in the water, or perhaps it’s the somewhat dilapidated Spanish Colonial architecture, cosmopolitan dining scene, some of the finest contemporary art in Central America or the happening nightlife catering to a large student population. A standout sight is the Museo Histórico de la Revolución, devoted to those who challenged the Somoza dictatorship; you’ll be shown around by a former revolutionary who participated in the conflict.

nicaragua places to travel

You’ll see the twin peaks of the Concepción and Madera volcanoes come into view as your rickety ferry chugs its way from the port of San Jorge across the massive Lake Nicaragua – home to freshwater sharks – long before you reach the shores of the island. Both volcanoes can be climbed, but if that’s not your bag, the island has plenty of other options to offer travelers: a standard beach holiday in Santa Cruz, a hike to the namesake waterfall from the village of San Ramón, tours to ancient petroglyphs, kayaking in the mangroves of the Istiam River, kicking back at the organic fincas (farms) and ecolodges around Balgüe or exploring the remote communities on the south shore of the island via mountain bike or on horseback.

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A private boat tour from Pearl Lagoon on the remote east coast will carry you across the choppy waters of the open sea to this cluster of tiny Caribbean islands, all palm-shaded white sand and cerulean waters. The names – Crawl Cay, Grape Cay, Wild Cane Cay – may remind you of the islands’ past as buccaneer hideouts, and unless you choose to overnight at one of the best hotels in Nicaragua on Lime Cay, you’re destined to spend the night camping on the beach, living out your shipwreck fantasy. Conservation-minded travelers may wish to visit Crawl Cay between June and September to observe the efforts of the community-run hawksbill turtle conservation program.

nicaragua places to travel

Little Corn Island

nicaragua places to travel

From the air, Little Corn is shaped like a lamb chop, the vivid green of jungle vegetation standing out against the deep blue of the Caribbean Sea and the aquamarine shallows that fringe its white-sand beaches. Expect that you won’t be coming by air: the only way to get here is by flying to Great Corn Island from Managua, then hopping aboard a narrow panga boat for an exhilarating – and wet – journey to this tiny speck of land. It’s one of the most beautiful places to visit in Nicaragua, and the attractions consist of diving with hammerhead sharks, lazing on beaches and scrambling up to the lighthouse for epic sunset-gazing.

Masaya Volcano

nicaragua places to travel

Peering at bubbling lava is one of the undisputed highlights of a visit to Nicaragua. Hike the trails along the slopes of Masaya – one of the most active volcanoes in the country – during the day, then drive down to the nearby Laguna de Apoyo for a refreshing dip. For an extra special experience, visit at night, when tour buses are allowed to drive almost right up to the lip of the crater, the lake of molten magma glows a golden red and your fellow visitors appear like other-worldly apparitions between the sulfurous columns of gas rising from the crater. If you’re driving yourself, don’t forget to point your vehicle downhill in case of an emergency evacuation.

San Juan de Oriente

nicaragua places to travel

This village overlooking the Masaya lagoon has been producing ceramics since before the Spanish conquest, and its artisans are internationally renowned for their craft. Whether you’re looking for decorative vases or functional crockery, you’ll find it here, exquisitely decorated and very reasonably priced. Treasures to look out for include the geometric designs of Helio Gutiérrez, the recreated pre-Columbian jaguar vessels of Gregorio Bracamonte, the cubist creations of José Ortiz and the utilitarian kitchenware of Miguel Ángel.

nicaragua places to travel

One of the oldest towns in the New World, Granada is a beguiling urban enclave. There’s a languid timelessness to the narrow, centuries-old cobbled streets, the graceful Spanish Colonial mansions and churches and the clip-clopping of horse hooves around the tree-shaded central plaza that lies in the shadow of the cathedral. Base yourself in one of the best hotels in Granada , or push the boat out with a stay in a luxury hotel . Then, after you’ve learned about the pre-Columbian people of Nicaragua at the Convento y Museo San Francisco and taken part in the beans-to-bar workshop at the Museo de Chocolate, head for the Marina Cocibolca, where the land dissolves into a mass of islets dotting Lake Nicaragua, and take a boat trip into the big blue.

Cerro Negro and El Hoyo

nicaragua places to travel

A visit to one of the youngest active volcanoes in the world is a must for adrenaline-seekers wanting to try their hand at a unique sport and a popular day trip from León. Located in Reserva Natural Pilas, Cerro Negro came into being in 1850 and has had 23 eruptions to date. Most tour agencies in León offer three-hour guided hikes to the summit of neighboring El Hoyo, or shorter 40-minute treks up Cerro Negro, which requires stamina, a sun hat and plenty of water. One of the best things to do in Nicaragua, volcano surfing, involves donning a cool jumpsuit and shimmying down the slope of black volcanic ash using a waxed board, leaving plumes of black dust in your wake.

Bosawás Biosphere Reserve

Second only in size to the protected rainforest in Brazil, this Unesco Biosphere Reserve comprises dense jungle bisected by rivers and acts as a vital wildlife corridor for migrating species. It is home to jaguars, Baird’s tapirs, spider monkeys and over 600 of the 790 Nicaraguan bird species, including harpy eagles and resplendent quetzals. One of the best places to visit in Nicaragua, it’s a remote and difficult place to reach, but rewards you with jungle adventure and wildlife spotting opportunities. Ranger stations at Siuna and El Hormiguero can help organize guides for multi-day treks; start by making enquiries at the Bosawás office in Managua.

San Juan del Sur

nicaragua places to travel

The original surfer party town, San Juan was once frequented by Matthew McConaughey before word got out and the place got too big for its breeches. Whether you’re looking for crush-a-beer-can-against-your-forehead action with like-minded young travelers around the pool at your hostel of choice, or you’ve come with your surfboard waxed and ready to hit the breaks off nearby Playa Maderas, Playa Remanso and Playa Hermosa, you’re likely to find yourself lingering in San Juan longer than intended, enjoying the laid-back vibe, brown sugar half-moon beach and clutch of excellent restaurants and bars.

Río San Juan

nicaragua places to travel

Shadowing half of the border with Costa Rica to the south, this ribbon of water meanders through dense jungle and connects with the southern end of Lake Nicaragua. Accessed from the southern town of San Carlos – either by bus or plane from Managua – it was a popular waterway for Spanish conquistadors, indigenous traders and adventurers in search of mythical gold hoards. Today, it’s one of two access routes into the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve, where you can stay in jungle lodges along the river and go in search of jaguars, macaws and alligators.

Solentiname Archipelago

nicaragua places to travel

Reachable by boat from the port town of San Carlos, this scattering of 36 jungle-shrouded islands and islets in the southern half of Lake Nicaragua is a wonderfully low-key destination where you can immerse yourself in the lives of local fishers, paddling out at sunrise with binoculars to observe waterfowl or going fishing. You can also hike to see the ancient petroglyphs on Isla Mancarrón, the largest of the islands. Base yourself on Mancarrón to check out the colorful balsa-wood carvings produced by local craftspeople, view the mural by painter Róger Pérez de la Rocha in the chapel of Nuestra Señora de Solentiname and visit the artists’ cooperative on San Fernando island to take your pick of the best balsa-wood sculptures.

Jinotega & Ruta de Café

Jinotega – City of the Mists – is surrounded by mountains covered in cloud forest, and is arguably one of the most beautiful places to visit Nicaragua. A good base for hiking in primary woodlands, Jinotega is best known as the heart of the thriving coffee industry, and is a jumping-off point for visiting the coffee fincas (farms) in nearby villages that make up the Ruta de Café. This loose alliance of growers, ranging from collectives and individual subsistence farmers to coffee plantations going back several generations, has been enticing intrepid coffee drinkers to this little-visited part of north Nicaragua. The best places to sample coffee, spend the night and join in the coffee harvest include Selva Negra in Matagalpa, El Jaguar in San Rafael del Norte and La Bastilla Ecolodge in Jinotega.

Playa Popoyo

nicaragua places to travel

Stuck for things to do in Nicaragua? Catch a shuttle from surfer haunt San Juan del Sur or a public bus from the bustling market town of Rivas to Playa Popoyo, a seemingly endless stretch of sand dotted with a few surfer hostels and quirky guesthouses, low-key eateries and a couple of shops catering to wave riders. Surfers come here from all over the world to hit those famous waves: a peaky reef and surf break with carvable walls that breaks over Playa Sardinas, and an off-shore beast of a wave that breaks over the outer reef – for experts only!

This is an updated rewrite of an article originally by Russell Maddicks.

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Places to Stay

The best boutique resorts in nicaragua.

nicaragua places to travel

The Best Hotels in Nicaragua for Every Traveler

nicaragua places to travel

The Best Hotels in Granada, Nicaragua

nicaragua places to travel

Where to Stay in Granada, Nicaragua

nicaragua places to travel

The Best Bed and Breakfasts in Nicaragua

nicaragua places to travel

See & Do

How to go volcano boarding in nicaragua.

nicaragua places to travel

Bars & Cafes

The best wine bars in nicaragua.

nicaragua places to travel

The Best Markets to Visit in Nicaragua

nicaragua places to travel

Managua: Why This Hidden Gem Deserves to be Explored

nicaragua places to travel

Guides & Tips

11 nicaraguan words and phrases you need to know, the most beautiful historical towns and cities in nicaragua.

nicaragua places to travel

The Story Behind How Nicaragua Got its Name

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This Central American Country Is Home to Beautiful Beaches, Epic Surf, and a Rich Cultural History

How to plan the perfect Nicaragua vacation — boutique hotels, stellar surfing spots, and delicious food included.

Jade Moyano is a Brazilian-born travel writer and editorial director who speaks four languages. Her work has appeared in Monocle, Uproxx, GQ, Travel + Leisure , and other publications.

Nicaragua is a postcard-worthy destination that harkens back to simpler travel times.

Lined with emerald-green coasts dotted with old-school fishing villages, it's a place where you can surf nearly empty lineups as if you were still in the '70s.

I've sailed around its Pacific coast in a catamaran, stopping at deserted islands to watch dolphins frolic by. I've danced salsa in a corner bar in Granada, one of the oldest colonial cities in Latin America. I've ridden motorcycles through dense jungle trails in Popoyo, had gallo pinto on the side of the Pan-American Highway, and made friends that will last a lifetime. But these experiences barely scratch the surface of why Nicaragua is one of my favorite destinations.

For starters, Nicaragua is not for everyone. It's rugged and traditional, with a bit of edge and a bloody past . But it's also home to a rich cultural heritage and friendly locals who go out of their way to get you the most delicious seafood, help you catch a wave, or show you the way around the backroads.

I first went to Nicaragua in 2015, when the country was experiencing somewhat of a golden age. A combination of affordability, an under-the-radar reputation, and the rise of surf tourism made towns such as San Juan del Sur popular. This lasted for about three short years. It was a time when things were fairly peaceful, the economy was growing, and tourism was booming. Since then, due to civil unrest and the pandemic, it has become less common to see positive headlines about the nation, but what keeps people coming back to Nicaragua — stunning nature, pristine beaches, and lively culture — is still intact.

Nicaragua is set between the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Upon landing in the capital city of Managua, most people flock to the Pacific, where the surf is some of the most consistent in all of Central America and the cities of Leon and Granada offer deep cultural insight into this beach destination . Yet, it's on the Caribbean coast where you'll find the most untouched lands. In this area, expect to find Indigenous, Creole, and British influences in the fishing communities that live among the mangrove-filled jungle.

Best Time to Go to Nicaragua

While many tropical countries around the world count on an extremely dry and rainy season, Nicaragua has a milder version of both. The dry season here runs from November through May, though it's not as barren as its neighbor Costa Rica . Meanwhile, the rainy season, which spans April through October, brings torrential downpours (especially in October), but note that it's rare for it to rain all day every day.

The one thing that's rather consistent in Nicaragua is the temperature. According to Weather Spark , "The temperature in Managua varies so little throughout the year that it is not entirely meaningful to discuss hot and cold seasons."

One more forecast you may be interested in is the surf. According to Giant's Foot Surf , for waist- to head-high swells, visit Nicaragua between March and September. But if you're looking for larger waves, you may need to come in the middle of the rainy season — between May to August — which Giant's Foot Surf calls the nation's "prime time."

Best Things to Do in Nicaragua

No trip to Nicaragua is complete without a deep dive into the world of surf, sun, and sandboarding.

The Pacific coast of Nicaragua is lined with beaches for all surf levels. Some must-see spots include Playa Maderas, Popoyo, El Tránsito, Playa Colorado, and Playa Hermosa, and it's possible to experience all of these during a weeklong trip.

El Tránsito is a short, 90-minute drive from the Managua airport. In El Tránsito, you'll find yourself immersed in a tight-knit community of locals and about some expat families. Stay at Mandla , a boutique hotel designed by a couple from England and South Africa. Make sure to eat every item on their menu, especially the fresh oysters.

Further south, you can stop at Popoyo, where consistent offshore winds and epic waves make it one of the best places to surf in all of Central America. Malibu Popoyo , a 12-room resort tailor-made for surfing families, is perfectly perched across from the beach, and stays here come with a great surf coach and tour guide.

Next, head down to Playa Maderas for a more mellow, family-friendly beach experience ideal for beginners. If surfing is not your thing, don't worry, as these beaches also flourish with local life, seafood restaurants, and occasional live music.

Want to see more land, but don't want to forgo surfing? Volcano boarding is your best bet. Yes, we are talking about sliding down Cerro Negro after hiking to the summit at 2,300 feet. The trek is challenging, but the ride back is unforgettable. All you have to do is hold a string attached to a wooden plank and slide down to the bottom at an average speed of 50 mph.

Lastly, visit Ometepe , an island formed by two volcanoes rising out of Lake Nicaragua. To arrive, hop aboard one of the wooden transport boats that may also be carrying anything from chickens to motorcycles. On Ometepe, you can choose to trek up the volcanic peaks, swim in natural pools, get lost on nature trails, or taste coffee right next to the field in which the beans are grown.

Best Hotels in Nicaragua

Anyone who lands in Managua also has the option to drive north or south, to choose between more populated areas or seclusion. But regardless of the direction, Nicaragua is full of small boutique hotels from renowned designers and hoteliers who flocked to the country in search of a more laid-back lifestyle.

For a design-forward property, check into the Tribal Hotel in Granada. Aside from its location on a colorful street, the New Yorkers who own the hotel traveled the world seeking unique pieces that complement the artisanship of local craftsmen. From Copacabana pool tiles to Indonesian batik fabrics, Tribal feels like a slice of the world on an unassuming corner in the bustling colonial city.

For those wanting to surf exclusive Playa Colorado, located within a gated community near Popoyo, Aurea is your best bet for guaranteed access to the world-class waves. The brutalist-inspired guest house, which was dreamed up by a group of Venezuelans, feels less like a hotel and more like a home within a community of expats and well-to-do Nicaraguans.

For something more accessible, book a stay at the aforementioned Malibu Popoyo , a 12-room boutique hotel owned by a female surfer and entrepreneur who fell in love with the area during a surf trip. Perfect for families in search of adventure and comfort, as well as surfers and creative types, the property is located a few steps from the beach and boasts an on-site organic restaurant.

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Travel Better, Cheaper, Longer

My 15 Favorite Things to Do in Nicaragua

the green palm trees on ometepe island

Nicaragua used to be a secret. It was the land of backpackers and intrepid travelers ignored by tourists and expats due to the country’s violent past.

But over the years, travelers seeking a fun, cheap, and adventurous destination came here as an alternative to “touristy” Costa Rica and Panama once they realized the country was much safer than it used to be and that Contras weren’t still roaming the jungles.

Known as the “Land of Lakes and Volcanoes,” Nicaragua is a popular destination spot for families, retirees, and backpackers, offering cheap beer, incredible hiking (there are 19 volcanoes here), plentiful surfing, and an affordable cost of living. After visiting years ago, I completely understood the appeal. Nicaragua is filled with amazing natural beauty and extremely warm people. I went in with high expectations and was not disappointed. In fact, I even extended my visit!

To help you make the most of your visit, here’s my list of the best things to do in Nicaragua:  

1. Admire Granada

Brightly painted houses lining the street in Granada, Nicaragua

While you’re in town, be sure to eat at one of the kiosks in the town square serving vigorón , a delicious local pork and cabbage dish.

Where to Stay in Granada : De Boca en Boca – A laid-back hostel with a cool atmosphere. There’s a full kitchen, a bar on-site, and they offer free Wi-Fi and free breakfast too.  

2. Surf in San Juan del Sur

An epic golden sunset on the coast of San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua with a surfer in the distance

Where to Stay in San Juan del Sur : Hola Ola Hostel – This lively social hostel is known for its fun parties and chill days by the on-site pool. The staff organize all kinds of events, like surf trips and lessons, and there’s a tasty breakfast available for just $2 USD.  

3. Visit Ometepe Island

A howler monkey on Ometepe island

Where to Stay on Ometepe Island : Hostel Life is Good – The staff and owner of this hostel go above and beyond to ensure you have a great stay. There’s a bar and restaurant on site and they can help you book whatever tours and activities you need!  

4. Visit “New” León

Architecture in the new town center of León, Nicaragua

The city makes a great base for nearby trips to volcanoes and was one of the highlights of my trip. 

Where to Stay in León : Poco a Poco Hostel – A super chill but super social hostel where the staff go above and beyond to ensure you have a great time.

5. Visit “Old” León

the ruins of leon viejo in nicaragua

6. Go Volcano Boarding

A backpacker volcano boarding down the slope of Cerro Negro in Nicaragua

The most popular slope is on Cerro Negro, a 728-meter-high volcano that is still active (it hasn’t erupted since 1999). Prices start at $35 USD per person.& nbsp;

7. Escape to the Corn Islands

relaxing on the corn islands in Nicaragua

There are two islands: Little Corn and Big Corn. Little Corn is the quieter, more backpacker-oriented island with cheaper guesthouses and fewer resorts. Big Corn is more developed with larger resorts and more restaurants, and it’s more expensive. 

Round-trip flights from Managua to Big Corn Island cost around $300 USD. You can then catch a boat to Little Corn Island for around $10 USD each way.  

8. Hike Miraflores

Located in Esteli in northern Nicaragua, Reserva Natural Miraflor was yet another highlight of my trip. This is a stunning cloud forest with rivers and waterfalls, offering the chances for day-hikes and multi-day treks (the multiday trips enable you to stay with local host families in small communities). The one-day trek that I did ran from 7am-4pm and cost around $20 USD which included two meals and a mandatory guide. An extra bonus that I loved is that all the money goes back into supporting the community and farmers.

9. Visit the Stone Man

Alberto Gutiérrez, an old man stone mason in Nicaragua

10. Skip Managua

I found there really wasn’t a lot to see or do here so I’d skip a visit. There are many more enjoyable places to spend your trip!  

11. Hike the Volcanoes

Sunset on top of Telica, a towering volcano in Nicaragua

If you’re in León, Cerro Negro is well-known for “volcano surfing” and is an easy hike. Masaya Volcano, located just south of Managua, is the most active volcano in Nicaragua (you can actually see the lava bubbling).

If you want a challenge, try San Cristobal, Nicaragua’s highest volcano at 1,745 meters (5,725 feet). If you’re hunting for scenic Insta-worthy views, hike to Telica (also within easy reach from León) for a spectacular sunset (you can actually camp at the top too).  

12. Binge on Gallo Pinto

Nicaragua Gallo pinto dish of eggs, rice and beans

13. Do a Homestay/Learn Spanish

Want to stay longer? Take part in a homestay. This is where you stay with a local family for a fee and immerse yourself in the language and daily life. There are a lot of opportunities to stay longer, volunteer, learn Spanish, and farm. If this interests you, hostels and tourist offices in any big city can help organize this for you. Esteli, Ometepe, and León are popular destinations for this.  

14. Visit Apoyo Lagoon

The stunning Apoyo Lagoon in Nicaragua

15. Chill Out

Nicaragua is a great country to just hang out in. Sit on a beach with a good book, relax in the jungle, stay on the farm, surf, or swing in a hammock. The pace of life here is slow and relaxed, so slow yourself down and enjoy some lazy, wonderful days.

Nicaragua is a nature lover’s dream: volcanoes, rainforests, mangrove forests, and beaches abound. Add in some adventurous activities, friendly locals, and cheap prices, and you’ll see why everyone raves about this country.

There is so much to see and do in the country that you’re going to have an action-packed trip no matter where you go or how long you stay there. It’s one of the best countries in the world and should not be missed! I can’t speak highly of it enough!

Book Your Trip to Nicaragua: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned!

Book Your Accommodation You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. My favorite places to stay in the country:

  • Hola Ola Hostel (San Juan del Sur)
  • Viavia Leon (León)
  • De Boca en Boca (Granada)

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

  • Safety Wing (best for everyone)
  • Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
  • Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)

Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.

Want More Information on Nicaragua? Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Nicaragua for even more tips on how to plan your visit!

Got a comment on this article? Join the conversation on Facebook , Instagram , or Twitter and share your thoughts!

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above may be affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. I recommend only products and companies I use and the income goes to keeping the site community supported and ad free.

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Travel Guide Nicaragua

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Wedge-shaped Nicaragua may be the largest nation in Central America but, despite recent growth, it remains one of the least visited. Still, many travellers who spend any time here find that Nicaragua’s extraordinary landscape of volcanoes, lakes, mountains and vast swathes of rainforest helps make it their favourite country on the isthmus. Compared to the Maya ruins of Guatemala or Belize, Nicaragua offers few heavyweight tourist attractions – almost no ancient structures remain, and years of revolution, civil war and natural disasters have laid waste to museums, galleries and theatres. However the country's colonial architecture is gradually being restored, while its natural riches rival those of better-known Costa Rica. And with travel still feasible on $20 a day, Nicaragua is one of the world's finest budget destinations.

Where to go in Nicaragua

Virtually every visitor passes through the capital, Managua, if only to catch a bus straight out. While the city has an intriguing atmosphere and a few sights, it’s hard work, and many quickly head for Granada, with its lakeside setting and wonderful colonial architecture. A smattering of beaches along the Pacific coast, notably cheery San Juan del Sur, continues to attract the surfing and backpacking crowds, while the beautiful Corn Islands, just off the coast of Bluefields, offer idyllic white-sand beaches framed by windswept palm trees and the azure Caribbean Sea. Culture and the arts are very much alive in Nicaragua, too; visit Masaya’s Mercado Nacional de Artesanía to find some fantastic-value high-quality crafts, or stay on the Solentiname archipelago and learn about the primitive painting traditions that have flourished there.

The southwest

Buzzing León is often considered the country’s cultural capital – look for the famous murals depicting Nicaragua’s turbulent political history. Ecotourism, volcano-viewing and hiking are the attractions of the Isla de Ometepe, with its thrilling twin peaks rising out of the freshwater lake, while further east, up the lush Río San Juan, sits El Castillo, a small town with a great fortress. In the central region, where much of the country’s export-grade coffee is grown, the climate is refreshingly cool; hiking and birdwatching are the main activities near the mountain town of Matagalpa.

Stepping off Nicaragua’s beaten track is appealingly easy – the peaceful waters of the Pearl Lagoon and lush highlands of Miraflor reserve are fine spots for exploration, but really are just the tip of the iceberg. More than anything, the pleasures and rewards of travelling in Nicaragua come from interacting with its inhabitants – who tend to be engagingly witty and very hospitable. This is a country where a bus journey can turn into a conversational epic and a light meal into a rum-soaked carnival, a stroll round the street can be interrupted by a costumed giant and a marching band, and a short boat ride can seem like a trip into another world.

Top image: Concepcion volcano on Ometepe Island © Milosz Maslanka/Shutterstock

Discover more places in Nicaragua

Beautiful caribbean Corn island in Nicaragua © Travel With Passion/Shutterstock

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Population 6 million

Languages Spanish, Creole and indigenous

Currency Nicaraguan córdoba (C$)

Capital Managua (population: 1.8 million)

International phone code 505

Time zone GMT –6hr

Travel advice for Nicaragua

From travel safety to visa requirements, discover the best tips for traveling to Nicaragua

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Andy Turner

written by Andy Turner

updated 26.04.2021

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nicaragua places to travel

18 Incredible Places to Visit in Nicaragua

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nicaragua incredible places to visit

When most people think of Nicaragua, they associate this Central American country with political unrest, usually centering around the U.S. involvement in fighting Communists in the 80s. Because of that, Nicaragua isn’t on most people’s must-travel list. But it should be because there are truly some incredible places to visit in Nicaragua .

Yes, the country might not be quite as stable as some of the others in the region, but as long as you go in with the right expectations, it’s a place filled with some amazing hidden gems. Best of all, because it’s not littered with tourists, you don’t have to fight to see some of the most awe-inspiring spectacles that the country has to offer.

18 Incredible Places to Visit in Nicaragua travel, central-america

Also, it’s one of the cheapest options when visiting the region, so don’t expect to drop a fortune, even if you take in all of the sights and plan to do all the activities.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the top 18 places to visit while in Nicaragua.

nicaragua incredible places to visit

Town and Cities in Nicaragua

As with basically every country in Central America, Nicaragua has one major city (the capital) with a variety of other cool little towns and villages sprinkled throughout the countryside. However, unlike other countries like Guatemala or Belize , the capital of Nicaragua (Managua) doesn’t have the same historical or cultural value.

Tiscapa Lagoon

Thus, even though you’ll likely fly into Managua to start your adventure, there’s no reason to stay there for long. Indeed, most travelers spend maybe a night there (or not even) before they book it out to some of the more appealing destinations in Nicaragua. And fortunately, there are a handful of other cities in the area have a lot more to offer for the intrepid traveler.

Up until 1857, Leon served as Nicaragua’s capital. Thus, if you want to get some insight into the heritage of the country and its people, here is where you should start your journey. Leon itself is home to many of the area’s top intellectual sites, including museums, universities, and historical buildings.

18 Incredible Places to Visit in Nicaragua travel, central-america

To dive deeper into Nicaragua’s past, you should also take a look at Leon Viejo, which was the original site of the city. Although the Viejo side doesn’t have a lot of extravagant ruins (since they only date back to the 16th century), it’s a perfect encapsulation of how imperialism and colonialism created the country we know today.

One of the best sites to learn about more recent history is the Museum of the Revolution, which documents the civil war between the Sandinistas and the Somozas (the conflict which sparked Reagan’s actions).

18 Incredible Places to Visit in Nicaragua travel, central-america

Leon itself is a wonderful mix of colonial architecture, vibrant street life, endless charm, and also decay. Yes, this city is a bit grittier than some other destinations, when you see deteriorating colonial architecture, but I absolutely loved it here. There’s just something about Leon which feels more “real” than places like Granada (which I also loved).

Don’t miss out on heading to the roof of the cathedral on the town square for excellent views of the city and surrounding volcanoes (on a clear day)… It’s only a couple bucks!

San Juan Del Sur

If you’re familiar with Spanish, you’ll know that the name of this town translates to “San Juan of the South.” As the name implies, this city on the Pacific Ocean is located on the southern edge of the country, near the border with Costa Rica.

18 Incredible Places to Visit in Nicaragua travel, central-america

What makes the little town of San Juan del Sur so appealing is the sand and surf. You can take an airport shuttle from Managua, which will get you there in about two hours. Whether you’re a surfing pro or a novice, you can take lessons here, which cost about $25 per hour (not including the board, which is another $9).

18 Incredible Places to Visit in Nicaragua travel, central-america

Also, if you want to get to know the locals, there are plenty of cheap bars in and around the city to cater to all of the laid-back surfers. If you’re looking for a chill spot to call your home base during your stay in Nicaragua, San Juan del Sur is an ideal choice. Although the town itself is located on a pretty chill little bay, so the real surfing is in the surrounding areas, not right on the town’s waterfront.

18 Incredible Places to Visit in Nicaragua travel, central-america

That being said, it’s also just a great place to walk the beach, head up to the lighthouse, grab a beer to watch the sunset, or whatever. You’ll find tons of affordable hostels here in this little hippie beach town. Be sure to check out Casa Oro which is owned by a buddy of mine, Muffadal.

Situated on the Western side of Lake Nicaragua, Grenada has its own sketchy past. However, if you go further back beyond the 1980s, you’ll see that the city used to be integral to the Spanish colony. Today, the city is undoubtedly the country’s most popular tourist destination, as countless budget backpackers settle in along the shores of Lake Nicaragua… And can you blame them? The city is truly something quite special.

18 Incredible Places to Visit in Nicaragua travel, central-america

Most of the towns in Nicaragua have more modern architecture, but if you want to see something a bit more historical, Grenada is easily the most beautiful colonial city in all of Nicaragua. Not only do the buildings harken back to colonial times, but they are all brilliantly painted to help provide a more welcoming and enthusiastic vibe.

18 Incredible Places to Visit in Nicaragua travel, central-america

Grenada is also one of the best places to experience Nicaraguan cuisine. Most people subsist on rice and beans (as with other Central American countries and most budget travelers here, for that matter), but one dish you have to try is vigoron , which is made of pork and cabbage. Best of all, it usually costs about $2 for a whole plate.

18 Incredible Places to Visit in Nicaragua travel, central-america

A little further West of Grenada is Masaya. The town is about the same size, but what makes it unique is that it sits at the base of a volcano (of the same name).

Malecón de Masaya, Nicaragua. Año 2012 - panoramio

Masaya is another excellent choice for experiencing much of Nicaraguan culture, and you are sure to find a unique and cool souvenir to take home.

Masaya - bus station - P1300522

While you’re here, you will want to check out the volcano, particularly because it is still active. The climb isn’t as bad as some of the other volcanoes in the area (more on those later), so most people can get there without any problems. Be sure to go at night so that you can get a better view of the glowing lava.

Unusual Places to Visit in Nicaragua

Beyond the more conventional destinations in Nicaragua such as cool colonial cities and beautiful natural wonders, there are a few more unusual places to visit in Nicaragua that should call your attention…

El Castillo

The San Juan River flows out of Lake Nicaragua and forms a natural border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Along the river are several small towns, but one of the most notable is El Castillo.

What makes this village stand out is the massive fort built there to protect the lake (and the city of Granada) from pirates. The Spanish created El Castillo in 1675, although it has been sacked many times since then.

El Castillo places to visit in Nicaragua

Even though the fort didn’t always succeed in doing its job, the ruins are impressive to look at, and the lush jungle surrounding the town helps transport you back to the times in which the ramparts were still active.

Prior to the construction of the Panama Canal, it was actually the San Juan River (accessible from the Caribbean Sea) which provided the main transit point from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Thousands of people during the California Gold Rush made their way to Lake Nicaragua before crossing overland to San Juan del Sur where they could hop on another boat to California. Learning things like this is what fascinates me about travel and history.

The Stone Man of El Tisey

Technically speaking, Alberto Gutierrez Jiron isn’t what you would typically consider a “natural wonder.” However, the stone carvings that he has created over the decades is more than sufficient to warrant a visit.

Jalacate Esculturas en piedra 2

Alberto lives on his family’s coffee plantation, and for the last 30-plus years, he has painstakingly carved a variety of images into the cliff overlooking the property. Jaguars, elephants, snakes, and biblical characters are just a few of the reliefs you can expect to see. Many of the images were allegedly inspired by God, according to the man.

While gazing on these carvings is free, Alberto does take donations. He receives a lot of visitors throughout the year, so he is more than accommodating, offering fruit and water to anyone who stops by. It can take a little while to get there, but it’s a one-of-a-kind experience that you can only find here, in the Tisey Estanzuela reserve. Watch here to learn more about Alberto and his work. 

Natural Wonders of Nicaragua

No matter which Central American country you visit, each one has some incredible natural beauty to it. From the Cays of Belize to the Mayan ruins of Mexico and Guatemala, each place has a unique blend of flora and fauna to create a mesmerizing experience.

Lake Nicaragua place to visit in Nicaragua

Although Nicaragua is short on ruins, it has a lot of exquisite jungles and wild habitats for you to explore. The massive Lake Nicaragua on the Southern end is worth traveling to by itself, but there are plenty of other hidden jewels waiting to be found. Here are a few top picks.

The stone man lives relatively close to Esteli, which is in the Northern half of the country. Since you’ll likely be going there anyway, you may as well head East and visit Miraflores Natural Reserve.

Nejapa-Miraflores

You can take a single or multi-day hike through the lush jungle and cloud forest, and you’ll be glad you did. We highly recommend spending more than a day exploring the area if possible, since there are so many different elements to see on your hike.

As with many of the spots on this list, tourists are in short supply. In most cases, you will be all alone during your trek, making you feel as if you’re an intrepid explorer back in colonial times. Experiencing the jungle this way makes it far more impactful.

Isla Ometepe

Compared to most Lakes, Lake Nicaragua is one of the largest in the world. The biggest island in the lake is Isla Ometepe, and it’s definitely worth a day or two of exploration. To get here, you’ll have to take a ferry from San Jorge to Moyogalpa and from there you can set out to explore. The island has two volcanoes on it – one active and one mostly dormant.

18 Incredible Places to Visit in Nicaragua travel, central-america

During your travels here, you’ll come across a variety of wildlife, as well as waterfalls, kayaking, horseback riding, and the best beach on the island – Playa Santo Domingo. I’d highly recommend staying on the island for sunset, as it’s one of the best places to watch it.

18 Incredible Places to Visit in Nicaragua travel, central-america

I was particularly blown away by the sunset on Punta Jesus Maria, which is a narrow spit that juts out into the lake and provides a pretty epic spot to catch the sun’s last rays.

18 Incredible Places to Visit in Nicaragua travel, central-america

Cerro Negro

When most people think of volcanoes, they imagine that they have existed for thousands of years. Cerro Negro, on the other hand, first emerged in 1850, and has erupted 22 times since. As one of the youngest volcanoes in the world, it’s something you can scratch off your bucket list if you’re into that sort of thing.

Cerro Negro volcano in Nicaragua places to visit in Nicaragua

Another thing to scratch off is volcano boarding, which is what really brings people here. The gradual slope allows daring adventurers the ability to slide down on a wooden board, reaching some surprisingly high speeds. It’s basically snowboarding on a dry, dirty volcano.

Nicaragua places to visit in Nicaragua volcano boarding

Be sure to dress appropriately though (not the time to wear your nice clothes), as the ground is still volcanic gravel, and a wipeout can be disastrous if you’re not careful. We highly recommend goggles, although some guides may not have them on-hand. Any reputable tour operator should provide you with overalls or a jumpsuit (which will help protect your clothes but still wear your most beater stuff), leather gloves, and goggles.

Bosawas Biosphere

As a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Bosawas is a gorgeous and exciting place for anyone who wants to experience the real jungle. While Miraflores is stunning for its cloud forest, Bosawas is the best place to see some exotic animals in their natural habitat. This reserve is one of the world’s largest, second in size in the Western Hemisphere only to the Amazon in Brazil, with a reserve that comprises about 5% of Nicaragua’s landmass.

18 Incredible Places to Visit in Nicaragua travel, central-america

Jaguars, tapirs, spider monkeys, and over 600 different birds are what you can expect to see, assuming that you don’t mind relatively treacherous hikes and you have a lot of patience. Jaguars are the most elusive species, as are the gorgeous quetzal birds. This reserve sits along the border of Honduras and is far away from any of Nicaragua’s major cities.

Cerro Mogoton

If you love to hike, then you’ll appreciate most of the spots on this list. However, if you want a challenge, then Cerro Mogoton is the place to visit. The other volcanoes in the area are relatively easy and don’t require you to be an experienced climber, but Mogoton is both the tallest and wettest mountain in Nicaragua, so casual hikers need not apply.

Cipriano

Back in the old days, the peak was covered in mines to prevent smugglers from coming into the country illegally from Honduras, but these days all of the mines are gone (for sure).

Divisando el este

Once you reach the 6,913-foot summit, you will appreciate the view above the clouds. Be sure to watch your step, though, as those clouds can create muddy and hazardous conditions. Usually, coming back down is the hardest part, so keep that in mind. This is one adventure where you’ll probably most definitely want to take a guide.

Somoto Canyon

Although the canyon itself has been around for centuries (presumably), it was only discovered in 2004, meaning that it hasn’t had time to build much of a reputation internationally or among nature lovers. However, considering that Nicaragua isn’t crawling with tourists anyway, you can almost doubly expect this to be relatively untrodden where you won’t have to fight any crowds to get there.

Somoto Canyon places to visit in Switzerland

The canyon is about 90 minutes away from Esteli, and you can get a guided tour from there. It’s recommended to follow the locals, as navigating the canyon by yourself can be tricky, and you’ll probably miss out on the best parts.

SomotoCanyon places to visig in Nicaragua

If you choose the longer tour, you can see all of the different elements of Somoto, including rapids, crystal blue water, and bat-infested caves.

There are quite a few lakes in Nicaragua, but one of the best ones is Lago Apoyo. This spot was formed by a volcano about 20,000 years ago, and it has some of the cleanest and deepest waters in the country.

18 Incredible Places to Visit in Nicaragua travel, central-america

You may assume that water like that would be icy cold, but the fact is that volcanic fumaroles beneath the surface help keep it warm, making it much more suitable for activities like swimming and kayaking.

If you’re feeling intrepid, get a permit to dive to the bottom of the lake and see these fumaroles (and other volcanic vents) up close. Otherwise, you can simply relax on the beach with a drink in your hand, which is also totally recommended.

18 Incredible Places to Visit in Nicaragua travel, central-america

One of the easiest ways to experience the lake (which is an easy day trip from Masaya or Granada) is to head to a place like the Laguna Beach Club where you can pay for day access, letting you hang out all day with access to the boats and standup paddleboards, or you can just chill on a beach chair or play ping pong. That’s what we did, and it made for a great time. Plus they allow access to a kitchen so you can save good money too.

Las Isletas (Lago Cocibolca)

We already mentioned that Lake Nicaragua (aka Lago Cocibola) is the largest in the country, and one of the biggest in the world (top 20 worldwide and top 10 in the Western Hemisphere). To help illustrate that fact, it may surprise you to know that there are as many islands in the lake as there are days in the year.

Nicaragua - Isletas de Granada - panoramio (9)

Yes, with 365 islands to explore, you could spend most of your travels on the lake and never get to them all. Most of the islands were created by a volcanic explosion (as was most everything else in Nicaragua) when massive pieces of rock crashed into the water. Since then, life found a way, and each one is lush and verdant with various plants and animals.

Las isletas

Among the lakes are various notable sights, including luxurious vacation homes for the rich, an old Spanish fort, villages inhabited by the local Fisher people, and plenty of monkeys. You can either take a tour or explore them by kayak, with points of departure from Granada.

Solentiname

Just in case Ometepe and Las Isletas weren’t enough, Lake Nicaragua has another island chain for you to explore. Solentiname is an archipelago, with 36 different spots to visit (although most of them are too small to venture on by foot).

Nicaraguasee09

Although bird and animal watching is a favorite pastime in Solentiname, the archipelago is mostly renown for the local artwork. Check out some of the rustic and primitive paintings and carvings while you’re here.

This chain of islands is located on the far southeast corner of Lake Nicaragua, which makes it difficult to reach.

Telica Volcano

With over 20 volcanoes in the country, you’re going to have to visit a few of them at least. However, while Mogoton is the highest and Cerro Negro is the most fun, Telica has another unique appeal. It’s part of a “ring of fire” of five volcanoes, all of which you can see from the top of Telica.

Nicaragua 2017-03-14 places to visit in nicaragua

You can also experience the unique experience of camping atop an active volcano here, where you’ll (hopefully) be able to see the iridescent glow of the lava churning just below the edge of the crater. This volcano isn’t actually that big, standing at only 1,000 meters, which makes it quite accessible to most hikers. This volcano isn’t far from the fun town of Leon, where you can arrange to go with a small group and guide.

Tropical Paradise & Beaches in Nicaragua

Most people don’t realize that Nicaragua has tons of gorgeous beaches and islands for you to spend your days (and nights) relaxing. Remember, the country has two coastlines – the surfing of the Pacific and the crystal-blue waters of the Caribbean, and that’s to say nothing of the massive lake in the middle of the country that’s like a sea…

Vista along Maderas Beach - North of San Juan del Sur - Nicaragua - 01 (31080936373

For those looking for a tropical getaway that won’t cost an arm and a leg, Nicaragua has a lot more than you may realize. Let’s take a look at what you can expect during your visit, and discover some of the best beaches in Nicaragua.

The Pearl Cays

So far, we haven’t spent much time on the Caribbean side of Nicaragua, but that’s because it is somewhat difficult to get to, and because once you visit, you probably won’t want to leave to explore the rest of the country. There are two primary groups of islands on this side, one of which is the Pearl Cays.

Pink-Pearl-island-Resort-01 places to visit in Nicaragua

Twelve atolls offer white sandy beaches and the perfect tropical getaway for anyone who wants to relax and save some money in the process. Although most of the islands are privately owned, you can visit some of them and marvel at the natural beauty. Also, if you want to see sea turtles, here’s one of the best places to do it.

The Corn Islands

Unlike the Cays or Las Isletas, there are only two islands in this chain: Big Corn and Little Corn (imaginative, I know). The best way to visit them is by plane to Big Corn Island (served by a number of different airlines). The beaches of Big Corn come straight out of your dreams, and you can explore the whole place in about an hour by bike.

If you’re heading to Little Corn Island, then you’ll have to go by boat on a so-called Panga. The ride is cheap and only takes about half an hour, but it’s definitely an adventure to get there and as a result, there are far fewer buildings (and people) there.

Otto Beach, Little Corn Island places to visit in Nicaragua

Both islands are a big draw for divers, as the surrounding water is perfect for spotting local sea life and coral reefs. Either way, you’ll find some of the best beaches in Nicaragua on the Corn Islands.

Strange Fact: The (relatively) nearby islands of San Andres and Providencia are actually part of Colombia – the place where I now live – and is the source of simmering diplomatic tensions between the two countries. When Andrea (who is Colombian) and I arrived in Nicaragua, they actually pulled her aside for special questioning. Politics!

More Places to Visit in Nicaragua

Honestly, Nicaragua packs a lot of punch in a relatively small country. It’s a place in Central America that truly wowed us, exceeded all our expectations, and left us wanting more.

18 Incredible Places to Visit in Nicaragua travel, central-america

While its neighbor to the south ( Costa Rica ) might get more travel love, I found myself enjoying Nicaragua much more. Personally, I’d put this country right behind Guatemala as my favorite country in the region.

18 Incredible Places to Visit in Nicaragua travel, central-america

We only scratched the surface of what Nicaragua has to offer, both in reality and in this article, so I’d highly encourage you to give it a chance because there are so many amazing places to visit in Nicaragua, and I’m sure you’ll find yourself blown away like we were.

Enjoy your trip to Nicaragua, I know we did!

Traveling to Nicaragua soon? Book your lodging on Booking.com now to save. There are also some great Airbnb units in Nicaragua that you can book for longer stays. Don’t forget to purchase your backpackers travel insurance for Nicaragua as well, in order to protect yourself against illness, injury, and theft. I use and recommend World Nomads for its combination of coverage and affordability.

Read Next: The Best Countries in Central America

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I LOVED San Juan del Sur. It was the most relaxed vibe, cheap beer, beautiful beaches, delicious food… I’d love to go back again. I’m not even a surfer and I had an incredible time.

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Travel to Nicaragua: what you need to know

Jul 3, 2019 • 6 min read

nicaragua places to travel

From lava-spewing volcanoes to idyllic, far-away beaches, Nicaragua's natural landscape measures up to some of the world’s best. But a series of clashes between anti-government protestors and the supporters of president Daniel Ortega have caused the death of 325 Nicaraguans in the spring of 2018 and placed a cloud of uncertainty over the entire country.

The ethical dilemma of traveling to Nicaragua

The Nicaraguan government has been accused of using tourism as a PR tool to promote a stable image of the country. While everything may seem ‘normal’ on the surface, the reality for Nicaraguans is quite different. Visiting tourists can provide a false image of normalcy, but tourists not visiting has a direct impact on an already bad economy and the livelihoods of thousands of families who rely on it.

Even the most intrepid travelers have concerns. The embers of violence have cooled and life is slowly returning to a sense of normalcy. It’s important to exercise caution, but here are areas in Nicaragua ready to welcome travelers.

A white plume of smoke escapes from the top a mountain. In front of the mountain is a collection of low-lying shrubs with larger trees framing the sides of the image. Nicaragua travel is still an area of concern for potential visitors.

Nicaragua’s misunderstood ugly duckling. As the capital, Managua is more prone to political demonstrations. The constant police presence is an occasionally alarming reminder that big brother is watching.

Even before the protests, many travelers used Managua as a hub to get other spots around the country. But, if you elect to stay in the city for a few days, exercise caution and avoid protests.

The chaotic city without street names is not easy to navigate, but you'll eventually find yourself exploring third-wave coffee shops, food-truck parks, authentic local food, specialty stores and local markets. And when the sun sets, the party begins with Nicaraguan music concerts, Latin dance parties, underground electronic fetes, craft beer bars and fine cuisine.

A baroque-style bright yellow church on a corner in the city of León. In front there are a pair of gothic-styled light posts; Nicaragua travel.

León and las Peñitas

León is a vibrant city full of inspiring architecture and artsy vintage murals.

The student town, considered the heart of Nicaragua, is located an hour-and-half from the capital city of Managua and was once home to Nicaragua’s greatest poet – Rubén Darío .

The city was a hot spot during the protests and demonstrations can happen anywhere around the city. If a protest begins, do not get involved and leave the area.

While in León, access the rooftop of the Cathedral Basílica de la Asunción (the largest in Central America) for a unique view of the city and the surrounding volcanic chain of Maribios. Pay a visit to Fundación Ortiz Gurdián to see one of the finest contemporary art museums in Central America. For an adrenaline fix, try volcano surfing down the black sands of the Cerro Negro.

Just 25 minutes west of León you’ll find Las Peñitas beach an easy-going surf spot with access to mangroves and Isla Juan Venado – a nature reserve popular for its bird-watching and turtle nestings.

Orange lava spews and white steam rises from the top of Masaya Volcano at night. Nicaragua travel offers chances to explore the country's rich landscape.

Volcán Masaya

In a country filled with volcanoes, Volcán Masaya stands out from the crowd. The very active natural wonder was known as the ‘mouth of hell’ by Spanish conquistadors, is located on Parque Nacional Volcán Masaya, the country’s largest national park. For truly mesmerizing views, visit Volcán Masaya at night.

The town of Masaya, located 30 minutes from the national park, was a stronghold of anti-government protesters. As a result there was a strong police presence in the area causing many businesses to close. Though the situation has cooled down, it would be best to skip this small town.

A weathered old yellow-painted church towers over the town of Granada. Houses with terra-cotta roofs line the streets.

History lives on every corner in Nicaragua’s oldest town. Founded in 1524, Granada has been invaded by pirates led by Henry Morgan and burned down twice by the self-proclaimed ‘President of Nicaragua’ William Walker, an American expansionist from Nashville.

To get a true sense of Nicaraguan history, however, visit Convento y Museo San Francisco, one of the best museums in the region.

Granada is located at the foot of the green and dormant Volcano Mombacho . The area boasts a nature and wildlife reserve with clear designated hiking trails, ziplines and coffee haciendas. Mombacho also offers panoramic views of Granada and Lake Cocibolca.

If the mainland isn’t for you, stay on one of the 365 islets that make up the archipelago – Isletas de Granada, which was formed by a massive volcanic landslide 20,000 years ago.

A darling among tourists, Granada has felt the brunt of the civil unrest. The peaceful and picturesque town painted in bright colors is now mainly shuttered as nearly half of the city’s businesses have closed in the past year. You can still find a decent variety of restaurants and cheap 'crisis' deals at a wide range of hotels as the remaining businesses try to stay afloat.

Corn Islands

The white-sand Caribbean paradise found on the Corn Islands remains remote and untouched. Distance kept the secluded getaway free of the violence and protests, leaving the beaches pristine and environment serene. Of course, all this serenity comes at a price – no cars, wifi or electricity (at times), particularly on Little Corn . But once you set eyes on the area, you won't mind at all.

Laguna de Apoyo

Located about 9 miles (15 km) north of Granada, this peaceful crater lake is believed to be the cleanest and deepest in the country. Whether you decide to just view from the crater's edge in Catarina or Diriá or head to the bottom of the crater for swim, you won't be disappointed.

Gentle waves lap the sandy light brown shores. In the background there's a large mountain dotted with homes and hotels. In the distance, a few boats are moored in the ocean; Nicaragua travel.

Pacific Coast Beaches

All the beach towns in Southwestern Nicaragua have remained relatively calm and isolated from the civil unrest. The cluster of mountains, bays and uncrowded waves have something for everyone; from world-renowned surf breaks in Popoyo, which hosted the world surfing games in 2015, to affordable luxury beach developments in Tola.

International hub – San Juan del Sur – attracts the young and beautiful, but also offers top-notch lodgings (try El Coco Azul ) and fantastic dining (try Asados Juanita ). Not completely immune to all the troubles, tourism numbers have also dipped in the area in comparison to prior years.

Reaching Ometepe and seeing its famed twin volcanic peaks –  Concepción and Maderas – was the kind of arduous journey that never attracted very large numbers of travelers.

The area was under heavy police presence during the height of the unrest, and though things have cooled down, the local economy is suffering. Tourism has almost completely disappeared and many people have gone back to basic agricultural practices to survive.

A man places a finished rolled cigar on the top row of a cigar holder. There's a collection of cigar holders on a cart; Nicaragua travel.

Northern Highlands

The land of coffee and cigars isn’t usually high on travelers’ list, but anyone seeking a mountain experience won’t find a better place.

The civil unrest reached the main towns of Matagalpa and Estelí , but things have settled down. Estelí is the major producer of premium cigars in the world. Spend an afternoon learning the art of cigar manufacturing.

Matagalpa is about an hour-and-half southeast of Estelí and is filled with endless lush green mountains and waterfalls. Enjoy the coffee farms , the farmstays and unspoiled country life.

Essential travel tips

The United States has issued a level 3 ‘Reconsider travel’ advisory on Nicaragua due to the ‘civil unrest, limited healthcare availability and arbitrary enforcement of laws'. Both the UK and Canada have issued ‘exercise a high degree of caution’ travel advisories.

Commercial airlines still fly to the country.

When in Nicaragua

  • Avoid all demonstrations
  • Don’t take photographs of the heavily armed police.
  • Sign up for online alerts from your local embassy to stay on top of any political unrest.

Nicaragua is under the international scope for sanctions, the economy is in a recession expecting a decrease in GDP of 7-11%  for 2019.

Armed robberies have been reported by travelers; however, no tourists have been killed, including during the height of the civil unrest.

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Absolutely incredible places to visit in Central America

Posted: January 29, 2024 | Last updated: January 29, 2024

<p>Central America is generally regarded as being composed of seven countries—Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, and Nicaragua. That's seven wonderfully compelling vacation destination options famed for stunningly varied <a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/travel/305621/be-amazed-by-these-stunning-jungle-and-rainforest-destinations" rel="noopener">ecosystems</a>, culturally significant historic ruins, and some of the best beaches around. But where do you start?</p> <p>If this part of the world is on your must-see bucket list, click through this gallery for ideas on where to go and what to see!</p><p>You may also like:<a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/n/114291?utm_source=msn.com&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=referral_description&utm_content=627756en-en"> The hottest and coldest places on the planet</a></p>

Central America is generally regarded as being composed of seven countries—Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, and Nicaragua. That's seven wonderfully compelling vacation destination options famed for stunningly varied ecosystems , culturally significant historic ruins, and some of the best beaches around. But where do you start?

If this part of the world is on your must-see bucket list, click through this gallery for ideas on where to go and what to see!

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<p>If history and culture is your thing, head out to Tikal National Park. This ancient Mayan citadel surrounded by the rainforests of northern Guatemala is deserving of its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For the record, Tika contains the tallest pre-Columbian structure in the Americas.</p>

Tikal National Park, Guatemala

If history and culture is your thing, head out to Tikal National Park. This ancient Mayan citadel surrounded by the rainforests of northern Guatemala is deserving of its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For the record, Tika contains the tallest pre-Columbian structure in the Americas.

<p>A small town nestling on the Caribbean coast, Puerto Viejo oozes an appealing local ambiance. Some of the country's best beaches are clustered in and around Puerto Viejo: surfers head here for the biggest and most powerful wave in the land, known as <em>Salsa Brava</em>. Make sure you leave time to visit the renowned Jaguar Rescue Center, which, besides the famed big cats, houses other incredible animals.</p><p>You may also like:<a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/n/160117?utm_source=msn.com&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=referral_description&utm_content=627756en-en"> Discover the mysteries surrounding Uranus</a></p>

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

A small town nestling on the Caribbean coast, Puerto Viejo oozes an appealing local ambiance. Some of the country's best beaches are clustered in and around Puerto Viejo: surfers head here for the biggest and most powerful wave in the land, known as Salsa Brava . Make sure you leave time to visit the renowned Jaguar Rescue Center, which, besides the famed big cats, houses other incredible animals.

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<p>Cerro Verde National Park is also known as Los Volcanes National Park for its three highlight attractions: the Cerro Verde, Izalco, and Santa Ana volcanoes. Santa Ana (pictured) is, in fact, the highest volcano in the country.</p>

Cerro Verde National Park, El Salvador

Cerro Verde National Park is also known as Los Volcanes National Park for its three highlight attractions: the Cerro Verde, Izalco, and Santa Ana volcanoes. Santa Ana (pictured) is, in fact, the highest volcano in the country.

<p>A Central America bucket list favorite, Panama's tranquil San Blas Islands rank among the most picturesque in the Caribbean. This tropical paradise getaway greets the visitor with pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and an enviable seafood restaurant scene.</p><p>You may also like:<a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/n/231457?utm_source=msn.com&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=referral_description&utm_content=627756en-en"> Celebrities you didn't know have LGBTQ parents</a></p>

San Blas Islands, Panama

A Central America bucket list favorite, Panama's tranquil San Blas Islands rank among the most picturesque in the Caribbean. This tropical paradise getaway greets the visitor with pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and an enviable seafood restaurant scene.

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<p>Seasoned travelers to Nicaragua rate Ometepe Island as among the most impressive destinations in the country. And for newcomers, this extraordinary island with its towering twin volcanoes set within a vast lake serves as an ideal introduction to this Central American nation.</p>

Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

Seasoned travelers to Nicaragua rate Ometepe Island as among the most impressive destinations in the country. And for newcomers, this extraordinary island with its towering twin volcanoes set within a vast lake serves as an ideal introduction to this Central American nation.

<p>The largest island of Belize, Ambergris Caye is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. A hub of the area's maritime trade for centuries, Ambergris Caye today serves as the embarkation point for some of the most rewarding dive and scuba destinations in the Caribbean—the island's eastern coast runs parallel to the northernmost stretch of the Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.</p><p>You may also like:<a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/n/250123?utm_source=msn.com&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=referral_description&utm_content=627756en-en"> Brainy beauty: meet the world's hottest politicians</a></p>

Ambergris Caye, Belize

The largest island of Belize, Ambergris Caye is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. A hub of the area's maritime trade for centuries, Ambergris Caye today serves as the embarkation point for some of the most rewarding dive and scuba destinations in the Caribbean—the island's eastern coast runs parallel to the northernmost stretch of the Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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<p>The Copán archaeological ruins are also protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and for good reason! Copán is one of the most important sites of the Mayan civilization.</p>

Copán, Honduras

The Copán archaeological ruins are also protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and for good reason! Copán is one of the most important sites of the Mayan civilization.

<p>Atitlán in the Solalá highlands is regularly voted as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Created approximately 84,000 years ago as a result of a volcanic eruption, this outstanding body of water is framed by the volcanoes Atitlán, Tolimán, and San Pedro—"The Three Giants"—to form an impressive landscape.</p><p>You may also like:<a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/n/268155?utm_source=msn.com&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=referral_description&utm_content=627756en-en"> Shocking celebrity arrests </a></p>

Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Atitlán in the Solalá highlands is regularly voted as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Created approximately 84,000 years ago as a result of a volcanic eruption, this outstanding body of water is framed by the volcanoes Atitlán, Tolimán, and San Pedro—"The Three Giants"—to form an impressive landscape.

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<p>Panama City is a cosmopolitan wonder. The country's capital boasts some of the tallest skyscrapers in Latin America. But here's the surprise: this modern conurbation, known for its gourmet restaurant scene and glitzy nightlife, also embraces two other cities, Panama Viejo and Casco Antiguo, both declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.</p>

Panama City, Panama

Panama City is a cosmopolitan wonder. The country's capital boasts some of the tallest skyscrapers in Latin America. But here's the surprise: this modern conurbation, known for its gourmet restaurant scene and glitzy nightlife, also embraces two other cities, Panama Viejo and Casco Antiguo, both declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

<p>This fabulous ecosystem protects Costa Rica's best coral reef formations and the massive trees of the lowland Atlantic tropical rainforest and their inhabitants, the residents of which include the long-limbed two-toed sloth (pictured).</p><p>You may also like:<a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/n/281580?utm_source=msn.com&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=referral_description&utm_content=627756en-en"> The most dangerous online celebrities</a></p>

Cahuita National Park, Costa Rica

This fabulous ecosystem protects Costa Rica's best coral reef formations and the massive trees of the lowland Atlantic tropical rainforest and their inhabitants, the residents of which include the long-limbed two-toed sloth (pictured).

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<p>This picturesque beach town is a Nicaraguan gem of a destination. Besides an alluring band of sand, San Juan del Sur captivates the visitor with a charming laid-back vibe and welcoming character. Definitely a place to relax in and recharge the batteries.</p>

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

This picturesque beach town is a Nicaraguan gem of a destination. Besides an alluring band of sand, San Juan del Sur captivates the visitor with a charming laid-back vibe and welcoming character. Definitely a place to relax in and recharge the batteries.

<p>Roatán is an island and the largest in the Bay Islands archipelago. It's anchored in azure waters about 40 mi (65 km) off the Honduran coast and easily reached by ferry. Roatán lies on the southern edge of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second-largest barrier reef in the world, so its reputation as a first-class diving destination comes as no surprise.</p><p>You may also like:<a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/n/355856?utm_source=msn.com&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=referral_description&utm_content=627756en-en"> Are these the most dangerous jobs in the world? </a></p>

Roatán, Honduras

Roatán is an island and the largest in the Bay Islands archipelago. It's anchored in azure waters about 40 mi (65 km) off the Honduran coast and easily reached by ferry. Roatán lies on the southern edge of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second-largest barrier reef in the world, so its reputation as a first-class diving destination comes as no surprise.

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<p>Tucked away in the dense jungle of northern Guatemala is a natural wonder comprising a series of amazing blue rock pools and waterfalls known as Semuc Champey.</p>

Semuc Champey, Guatemala

Tucked away in the dense jungle of northern Guatemala is a natural wonder comprising a series of amazing blue rock pools and waterfalls known as Semuc Champey.

<p>Established in 1972, this park embraces one of the most beautiful and biodiverse regions in the world. Wildlife here numbers capuchin, howler, and squirrel monkeys, sloths, iguanas, agoutis, and hundreds of species of birds.</p><p>You may also like:<a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/n/359216?utm_source=msn.com&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=referral_description&utm_content=627756en-en"> Musicians' most scandalous songs about exes</a></p>

Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Established in 1972, this park embraces one of the most beautiful and biodiverse regions in the world. Wildlife here numbers capuchin, howler, and squirrel monkeys, sloths, iguanas, agoutis, and hundreds of species of birds.

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<p>San José was founded in 1739 and became the country's capital in 1823. Among its cultural draws is the splendid National Theater. Opened in 1897, this is the finest historic building in San José, appreciated for its lavish and decorative interior.</p>

San José, Costa Rica

San José was founded in 1739 and became the country's capital in 1823. Among its cultural draws is the splendid National Theater. Opened in 1897, this is the finest historic building in San José, appreciated for its lavish and decorative interior.

<p>A popular vacation destination for Panamanians, Bocas del Toro is divided in two; it has a continental side and its archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. This magical paradise is equally proud of its ecotourism credentials and family-friendly resort  options.</p><p>You may also like:<a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/n/445622?utm_source=msn.com&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=referral_description&utm_content=627756en-en"> 15 things women can stop feeling guilty about </a></p>

Bocas del Toro, Panama

A popular vacation destination for Panamanians, Bocas del Toro is divided in two; it has a continental side and its archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. This magical paradise is equally proud of its ecotourism credentials and family-friendly resort  options.

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<p>A must-do for anyone visiting Costa Rica is to take a canopy tour following the suspension bridges set within the incredible Monteverde Cloud Forest. You'll wander through fog and low-hanging cloud cover and get thoroughly damp in the process, but come away with a truly memorable travel experience.</p>

Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica

A must-do for anyone visiting Costa Rica is to take a canopy tour following the suspension bridges set within the incredible Monteverde Cloud Forest. You'll wander through fog and low-hanging cloud cover and get thoroughly damp in the process, but come away with a truly memorable travel experience.

<p>A famous Costa Rica landmark, Arenal Volcano is located 2.5 hours from San José in the northwestern part of the country. A 3-mi (4.5-km) hike through forest and over lava beds will bring you to an observation tower for the best photographs of this now-dormant natural wonder.</p><p>You may also like:<a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/n/452732?utm_source=msn.com&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=referral_description&utm_content=627756en-en"> Biggest actor mistakes that were kept in the movie</a></p>

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

A famous Costa Rica landmark, Arenal Volcano is located 2.5 hours from San José in the northwestern part of the country. A 3-mi (4.5-km) hike through forest and over lava beds will bring you to an observation tower for the best photographs of this now-dormant natural wonder.

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<p>The easiest way to visit the Panama Canal is to head to the Miraflores Visitors Center, just outside Panama City. Here you can marvel at one of the most incredible feats of civil engineering undertaken in modern human history.</p>

Panama Canal, Panama

The easiest way to visit the Panama Canal is to head to the Miraflores Visitors Center, just outside Panama City. Here you can marvel at one of the most incredible feats of civil engineering undertaken in modern human history.

<p>Near the banks of the Panama Canal some 15 mi (25 km) from Panama City is the delightful Soberania National Park. This is one of the most accessible nature reserves in the country and teems with a wealth of <a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/travel/276650/earths-best-destinations-to-see-wildlife" rel="noopener">wildlife</a>, including the handsome red-legged honeycreeper (pictured).</p><p>You may also like:<a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/n/485198?utm_source=msn.com&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=referral_description&utm_content=627756en-en"> The tragic love story of a posthumous queen</a></p>

Soberania National Park, Panama

Near the banks of the Panama Canal some 15 mi (25 km) from Panama City is the delightful Soberania National Park. This is one of the most accessible nature reserves in the country and teems with a wealth of wildlife , including the handsome red-legged honeycreeper (pictured).

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<p>Set on the shores of Lake Nicaragua is Granada. This charming town is the country's oldest and most beguiling, a real eye-opener for its colorful colonial architecture, perfectly exemplified by the 18th-century Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral.</p>

Granada, Nicaragua

Set on the shores of Lake Nicaragua is Granada. This charming town is the country's oldest and most beguiling, a real eye-opener for its colorful colonial architecture, perfectly exemplified by the 18th-century Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral.

<p>Cerro Negro is an active volcano situated near the village of Malpaisillo. While attracting its fair share of volcanologists, Cerro Negro is better known for its adventure tourism, especially the crazy and exhilarating sport of sandboarding, or more appropriately, volcano boarding. Have a go, and feel the adrenaline erupt!</p><p>You may also like:<a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/n/487981?utm_source=msn.com&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=referral_description&utm_content=627756en-en"> The biggest unanswered questions in the Bible</a></p>

Cerro Negro Volcano, Nicaragua

Cerro Negro is an active volcano situated near the village of Malpaisillo. While attracting its fair share of volcanologists, Cerro Negro is better known for its adventure tourism, especially the crazy and exhilarating sport of sandboarding, or more appropriately, volcano boarding. Have a go, and feel the adrenaline erupt!

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<p>Central America does have amazing surf hot spots. Perhaps the most famous is El Tunco. This is one of the most visited destinations in El Salvador, where the coast facing the Pacific Ocean allows surfers to ride some of the most adventurous and challenging waves in the region.</p>

El Tunco, El Salvador

Central America does have amazing surf hot spots. Perhaps the most famous is El Tunco. This is one of the most visited destinations in El Salvador, where the coast facing the Pacific Ocean allows surfers to ride some of the most adventurous and challenging waves in the region.

<p>Want to see an active volcano up close and personal? An epic hike takes you to the summit of Acatenango, at 13,044 ft (3,976 m) the third highest volcano in Central America. From here you can admire jaw-dropping views of the active Fuego volcano opposite.</p><p>You may also like:<a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/n/492409?utm_source=msn.com&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=referral_description&utm_content=627756en-en"> Stars who regret famous movie roles</a></p>

Acatenango Volcano, Guatemala

Want to see an active volcano up close and personal? An epic hike takes you to the summit of Acatenango, at 13,044 ft (3,976 m) the third highest volcano in Central America. From here you can admire jaw-dropping views of the active Fuego volcano opposite.

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<p>Caye Caulker is Ambergris Caye's smaller, less-visited sister island and a prime stop for travelers looking to "go slow" and enjoy some relaxing downtime. The Caye Caulker Marine Reserve has dive sites on the Belize Barrier Reef.</p>

Caye Caulker, Belize

Caye Caulker is Ambergris Caye's smaller, less-visited sister island and a prime stop for travelers looking to "go slow" and enjoy some relaxing downtime. The Caye Caulker Marine Reserve has dive sites on the Belize Barrier Reef.

<p>One of the most rewarding adventure experiences in Nicaragua is to trek out to Somoto Canyon National Monument. A rugged and often difficult terrain will test the stamina of the most seasoned of hikers but, hey, the Coco River provides an opportunity to cool down after arriving.</p><p>You may also like:<a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/n/492745?utm_source=msn.com&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=referral_description&utm_content=627756en-en"> Historical facts you won't believe are true</a></p>

Somoto Canyon National Monument, Nicaragua

One of the most rewarding adventure experiences in Nicaragua is to trek out to Somoto Canyon National Monument. A rugged and often difficult terrain will test the stamina of the most seasoned of hikers but, hey, the Coco River provides an opportunity to cool down after arriving.

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<p>The three volcanoes that constitute the Volcán Masaya National Park were once described by conquistadors as the "gates of hell." Centuries later, this angry trio still burp, hiss, and spew red-hot lava high into the air. For adventure tourists, this is one of the hottest tickets in town!</p>

Volcán Masaya National Park, Nicaragua

The three volcanoes that constitute the Volcán Masaya National Park were once described by conquistadors as the "gates of hell." Centuries later, this angry trio still burp, hiss, and spew red-hot lava high into the air. For adventure tourists, this is one of the hottest tickets in town!

<p>Guatemala's wealth of historic ruins extend to the classic Maya sites of Yaxhá, Nakum, and El Naranjo. This venerable trio of ancient structures stand on a hill in a national park between two sizable lakes, Lago Yaxhá and Lago Sacnab.</p><p>You may also like:<a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/n/496700?utm_source=msn.com&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=referral_description&utm_content=627756en-en"> Silly and spooky mythological creatures of North America</a></p>

Yaxhá, Guatemala

Guatemala's wealth of historic ruins extend to the classic Maya sites of Yaxhá, Nakum, and El Naranjo. This venerable trio of ancient structures stand on a hill in a national park between two sizable lakes, Lago Yaxhá and Lago Sacnab.

You may also like: Silly and spooky mythological creatures of North America

<p>Atitlán Natural Reserve is just a half hour drive from Panajachel town center, which makes it a wonderfully convenient choice for anyone hoping to spot the playful white-nosed coati (pictured), a relative of the raccoon. The reserve also serves as an extraordinary gateway to the magnificent Lake Atitlán and its spectacular volcanoes.</p>

Atitlán Natural Reserve, Guatemala

Atitlán Natural Reserve is just a half hour drive from Panajachel town center, which makes it a wonderfully convenient choice for anyone hoping to spot the playful white-nosed coati (pictured), a relative of the raccoon. The reserve also serves as an extraordinary gateway to the magnificent Lake Atitlán and its spectacular volcanoes.

<p>Located in the city of Trujillo, this evocative 17th-century fortress is the oldest European building built for military purposes by Spanish settlers in the Americas. Furthermore, Santa Bárbara played an important role in shaping North American history.</p>

Fortress of Santa Bárbara, Honduras

Located in the city of Trujillo, this evocative 17th-century fortress is the oldest European building built for military purposes by Spanish settlers in the Americas. Furthermore, Santa Bárbara played an important role in shaping North American history.

<p>El Salvador's capital city, San Salvador, has plenty to distract the visitor, with the Church of the Rosary surely one of the most compelling sights. Designed by sculptor Ruben Martinez and completed in 1971, this is arguably the finest church in Central America.</p> <p>Sources: (UNESCO) (Britannica) (Global Vision International) </p> <p>See also: <a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/travel/413555/amazing-unesco-world-heritage-sites-in-south-america">Amazing UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South America</a></p>

Church of the Rosary, San Salvador

El Salvador's capital city, San Salvador, has plenty to distract the visitor, with the Church of the Rosary surely one of the most compelling sights. Designed by sculptor Ruben Martinez and completed in 1971, this is arguably the finest church in Central America.

Sources: (UNESCO) (Britannica) (Global Vision International) 

See also: Amazing UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South America

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  1. Our 20+ Favorite Things To Do In Nicaragua In 2020 Plus Best Attractions

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  2. The 20 Best Places To Visit In Nicaragua

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  3. The 20 Best Places To Visit In Nicaragua

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  4. 12 Top Things To Do In Nicaragua: Unique Places To Visits + Huge Travel

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  5. 18 Incredible Places to Visit in Nicaragua on Your Next Trip

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COMMENTS

  1. 8 Best Places to visit in Nicaragua (and 24 Fun Things to do!)

    Check out this list of the best places to visit in Costa Rica. 3. Apoyo Lake. Hanging out at Apoyo Lake, Nicaragua. If you've ever wanted to spend a few nights in the crater of a volcano then Apoyo Lake is likely going to be high on your list of places to check out in Nicaragua.

  2. 15 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Nicaragua

    There is excellent diving in the reefs off both the Corn Islands, which is why many people visit. 3. Masaya Volcano. Masaya Volcano. Protected in the country's largest national park, the Masaya Volcano is also one of Nicaragua's top places to visit, just 20 kilometers south of Nicaragua's capital city of Managua.

  3. First-timer's guide to Nicaragua

    2. Ride the Pacific rollers. Stellar waves and wild beaches line Nicaragua's Pacific coast, and it's long been a haunt of surfers in the know. To the south, laid-back San Juan del Sur is surf-and-party central - the Sunday Funday Pool Crawl is a backpacker legend. But the surfing is better out of town - Playa Maderas, 20 minutes north ...

  4. Nicaragua Travel Guide (Updated 2024)

    3. Admire colonial Granada. Nicaragua's oldest city is revered as the colonial jewel of Central America. Many of the pastel-painted buildings have been meticulously restored. Bask in Granada's historic grandeur as you weave through the cobblestone streets, visit local art galleries, and sip on a coffee in a plaza. 4.

  5. THE 15 BEST Things to Do in Nicaragua

    11. ChocoMuseo Granada. 1,282. Speciality Museums. ChocoMuseo is the new Cacao and Chocolate Museum in Granada Nicaragua.It offers a great overview of the history, the nature and the manufacturing of the cacao and the chocolate. There is a chocolate factory located inside the museum and Cacao farm tours are offered..

  6. The 20 Best Places To Visit In Nicaragua

    Laguna de Apoyo. A crater lake, Laguna de Apoyo, is so huge that wind can whip up waves good enough for windsurfing. The lake, which is about 20,000 years old, is fed by volcanic fumaroles, which warm the slightly salty waters of the lake. Visitors can rent kayaks, go swimming, or simply enjoy the views of the forested crater.

  7. The Nicaragua Bucket List: 25 Epic Things to Do in Nicaragua

    Nicaragua was just made for bucket list adventures - with nearly 20 active volcanoes and two equally epic coastlines, it's heaven on earth for the adventurous spirit. The icing on the cake? Nicaragua is one of the most affordable places to travel in all of North America, with budget-friendly hostels and lots of affordable things to do.

  8. 10 BEST Places to Visit in Nicaragua

    12. ChocoMuseo Granada. 1,282. Speciality Museums. ChocoMuseo is the new Cacao and Chocolate Museum in Granada Nicaragua.It offers a great overview of the history, the nature and the manufacturing of the cacao and the chocolate. There is a chocolate factory located inside the museum and Cacao farm tours are offered..

  9. Nicaragua travel

    Check out this year's Best in Travel winners. An affable all-rounder, Nicaragua embraces travelers with diverse offerings of volcanic landscapes, historic towns, sensational beaches, remote, idyllic islands, wave-battered Pacific beaches and pristine forests.

  10. Nicaragua Travel Guide

    Food Tour - Nicaragua Gastronomy in San Juan del Sur. Masaya Volcano Night Tour in Managua, Nicaragua. Hike Maderas Volcano in Ometepe Island from Managua. Day Trip to Cascada Blanca Waterfall in Matagalpa from Granada. Tour Chinandega & City of El Viejo from Corinto.

  11. Epic Places You Should Visit In Nicaragua

    Jinotega & Ruta de Café. Jinotega - City of the Mists - is surrounded by mountains covered in cloud forest, and is arguably one of the most beautiful places to visit Nicaragua. A good base for hiking in primary woodlands, Jinotega is best known as the heart of the thriving coffee industry, and is a jumping-off point for visiting the coffee ...

  12. 12 Best Places to Visit in Nicaragua

    Masaya Volcano National Park. Best Places to Stay. Masaya Volcano National Park includes two volcanoes and five craters, bringing the chance to witness bubbling lava, a highlight of any trip to Nicaragua. Santiago Crater is the park's main crater and is accessible by car via an asphalt road, making it easy to observe the lake of incandescent ...

  13. An Ultimate Guide to Nicaragua: Everything You Need to Know

    Nicaragua does not belong among countries travelers have on the top of their list of places they must visit, and we completely get it. The competition is just too immense. If we hadn't been traveling around South America and Central America, it would have taken a long time until we would have decided to visit the largest country in Central America.

  14. Nicaragua Is Home to Beautiful Beaches, Epic Surf, and a Rich ...

    Your guide to Nicaragua travel, including beautiful beaches, boutique hotels, and epic surfing spots. ... 20 Best Places to Visit in Colombia, According to Locals and Experts.

  15. My 15 Favorite Things to Do in Nicaragua

    14. Visit Apoyo Lagoon. Though lots of people visit Lake Nicaragua (the biggest and where Ometepe is), this lagoon near Managua is a nice spot to spend a day relaxing. This 200-meter-deep lake is the perfect spot for swimming, kayaking, fishing, and sailing.

  16. 12 Top Things To Do In Nicaragua: Unique Places To Visits + Huge Travel

    1. Leon Volcano Boarding. One of the top Nicaragua tourist attractions is the extreme sport of volcano boarding in Leon which feels like the perfect introduction to this list. Though you can go volcano boarding in several different regions, Leon is the epicenter of volcanic tourism and activities in Nicaragua.

  17. Nicaragua Travel Guide

    Rough Guides® is a trademark owned by Apa Group with its headquarters at 7 Bell Yard London WC2A 2JR, United Kingdom. Plan your visit to Nicaragua: find out where to go and what to do in Nicaragua with Rough Guides. Read about itineraries, activities, places to stay and travel essentials and get inspiration from the blog in the best guide to ...

  18. 18 Incredible Places to Visit in Nicaragua

    When most people think of Nicaragua, they associate this Central American country with political unrest, usually centering around the U.S. involvement in fighting Communists in the 80s. Because of that, Nicaragua isn't on most people's must-travel list. But it should be because there are truly some incredible places to visit in Nicaragua.

  19. 12 Most Beautiful Places in Nicaragua to Visit

    Masaya Volcano earth's raw power on display in Nicaragua's volcanic beauty. 9. Miraflores. Amidst the rugged terrains and bustling cities of Nicaragua lies a serene haven called Miraflores. This nature reserve, tucked away in the northern highlands, is one of the most beautiful places of Nicaragua.

  20. Backpacking Nicaragua Travel Guide: Hostels, Routes & Tips

    Places to visit in Nicaragua Explore the old cities of Grenada and Léon. While the capital of Managua was mostly flattened in an earthquake years ago (and is now an unappealing sprawl), the cities of Granada and León are very well preserved and full of Spanish colonial architecture.

  21. Best Places to Visit in Nicaragua

    Immerse yourself in the vibrant spirit of Nicaragua, a land where the grandeur of volcanic landscapes, the beauty of colonial cities, and the rhythm of marimba music unite. Sail through the islands of Lake Nicaragua, explore the charming city of Granada, or surf on the beaches of San Juan del Sur. Savor the unique flavors of Nicaraguan cuisine ...

  22. Travel to Nicaragua: what you need to know

    The United States has issued a level 3 'Reconsider travel' advisory on Nicaragua due to the 'civil unrest, limited healthcare availability and arbitrary enforcement of laws'. Both the UK and Canada have issued 'exercise a high degree of caution' travel advisories. Commercial airlines still fly to the country.

  23. Absolutely incredible places to visit in Central America

    Central America is generally regarded as being composed of seven countries—Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, and Nicaragua. That's seven wonderfully compelling ...