Our 7 Best Destinations in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is no longer the location Under Wraps
the secret's out
No longer visited only by in-the-know backpackers, surfers and adventure travelers, Nicaragua is now a top destination for families and retirees too. It’s shed the image of a rough and troubled past, to become the second safest country in Central America (stated by the United Nations), and arguably one of the better bets amongst other inexpensive tropical havens. We’ll go through our 7 best destinations in Nicaragua of the moment below.
The World Economic Forum recently rated the safest countries in the world, where rankings take into account “the costliness of common crime and violence as well as terrorism”, reliable police services, and threat of a natural disaster.
Nicaragua received an overall rating of 5.44 (the safest country in the world, Finland, received a 6.65 for comparison). In all likelihood, Nicaragua would have received much higher marks if the threat of natural disaster here in Central America wasn’t quite as high. Nicaragua ranked higher than the United Kingdom (rating of 5.34) and the United States (rating of 5.23)
Nicaragua is a country of natural beauty and exceptionally warm people to match it’s warm climate. Despite getting more and more international attention, Nica is still managing to avoid hordes of tourists, instead attracting a different type of traveler. One that enjoys wandering off the beaten path, and connecting with nature and locals alike. And opportunities and deals abound in both real estate and business. It’s tough to pick the best destinations in Nicaragua, as they are plentiful.
Large lakes dotted with islands and connecting tropical rivers, lush cloud forests and mystical volcanoes, and a seemingly endless number of beaches. Nica is a sanctuary for those who desire connection with a nature that is still relatively untouched.
Below are our 7 best destinations in Nicaragua for those visiting our beautiful country for the first time.
A brilliant island retreat can be found off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. Snorkel, dive, work on your tan, or catch yourself some dinner. Of the two islands, Big Corn Island is more developed boasting larger resorts, more restaurants and activities. For those on a tighter budget or wanting a quieter escape, Little Corn has a few resorts and many guesthouses. Dine on fresh lobster, take an afternoon nap in a hammock, and chill out to some Caribbean tunes. Great for the beginning or end of your Nicaraguan exploration when you need some serious R&R, the Corn Islands are definitely one of the best destinations in Nicaragua for any visit.
The two magical volcanoes of Ometepe provide a dramatic backdrop to the rest of the island. Nature reserves and rainforests are filled with diverse wildlife, sandy beaches frame clear freshwater pools and lagoons, and trails abound for both relaxing walks and invigorating hikes.
The island, measuring 106 square miles, is the largest in Lake Nicaragua, a body of water referred to as “freshwater sea” simply because of it’s sheer size. Be sure to explore more of this expansive lake and it’s lakeside towns, for enchanting accommodations, energizing activities and delicious Nica food.
Home to some of the country’s most well-preserved colonial era architecture, Granada is a colorful Spanish settlement filled with neoclassic yet tropical town vibes. Once you get tired of meandering the cobblestone streets admiring the vibrant buildings and homes, just outside of Granada you can enjoy a hiking trip to Mombacho volcano and explore the treasures at the nearby markets in Masaya.
Perhaps the heart of Nicaraguan city culture lies here in León. The history of the city can be seen and felt through remnants of the political war and revolution including graffiti and murals throughout the city. Abundant churches, art museums and an expanding foodie movement, make Leon an excellent choice for those wanting to explore a true Nicaraguan city. Don’t forget to check out Nicaragua’s only UNESCO World Heritage site (and one of the oldest Spanish colonial settlements in the Americas), the ruins of León Viego (Old León) before you head out of town.
A trip to Nica wouldn’t be complete without a hike into the clouds. Visit Northern Nicaragua (specifically Esteli) to visit the Miraflor Natural Reserve. Explore the expansive and green cloud forests, wandering through small farms, rivers and waterfalls. With very few tourists around, you’ll feel at peace in your own jungle. With daylong hikes accompanied by a guide and including two meals, or multiday hikes available where you can stay with local host families, your small cost (from $15 USD for a day hike) goes directly back into supporting the local community and farmers.
Not far from bustling capital city Managua, this Natural Reserve and lagoon is a stunning reverie and place to relax away from it all. Hike around and then fish, sail or kayak in the water. There’s limited and sometimes no phone service in the interior of the reserve, so you’ll have ample time to unplug and really take in all this magical place has to offer.
Any destination list to Nicaragua, or even Central America, wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the surf town of San Juan del Sur and it’s many impeccable surrounding beaches. The greater SJDS area is renowned for it’s surfing. You can either rent a board yourself (about $10 USD per day) or grab a lesson (about $25 USD per hour). Hike up to see the eighth largest statue of Jesus in the world (first up is Christ the Redeemer in Brazil) and then relieve your thirst with a drink and a plate of delicious ceviche and crispy fried plantains at one of the many wildly cheap happy hours in town.