Why Nicaragua Should Be on Your Travel List
Anyone wanting a weeklong trip that features wildlife, culture, beaches, charming colonial cities, and easy logistics, needs to add Nicaragua to their list now. You’ve been warned! The secret will not be safe for long. Imagine visiting Costa Rica decades ago, and imagine having cleaner, safer roads to travel on, and top-notch eco-friendly hotels that aren’t overpriced. My trip to Nicaragua this summer hit all of my favorite activities and interests: surfing, wildlife viewing, farm-to-table experiences, hiking in and around volcanoes, and engaging with friendly locals.
With direct flights from Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Miami, and Atlanta, you can be in paradise in less than a full day’s travel. Even with connections from other major cities, you land in Nicaragua in eight hours. It’s incredibly close, and once you arrive, you realize how easy it is to get around. Nicaragua has been investing in their roads for years now, and the high quality of the highways certainly cuts down on the travel time between destinations.
Granada is a beautiful colonial town, and locals still gather in the main square to have lunch and catch up on local gossip.
Granada is located on the shores of a huge freshwater lake (the largest in Central America). Just outside of town you can access the lake and more than 300 small islands, some of which have their own hotels that are accessible only by boat. En route to your hotel you might spot howler monkeys and a number of species of birds and butterflies.
Near Granada and Masaya volcano there are small communities known as the Pueblos Blancos or White Towns. The traditional whitewash on the buildings gives the towns their name, but they are all famous for different reasons. There are strong pre-Columbian roots and traditions here, and each town is known for its own specialty, including making hammocks, furniture, ceramics, stone carvings, and leather work. One is even known for witchcraft. Below are examples of balsa wood birds and stone mortars and pestles made by hand (and foot!).
Pacific Coast & Morgan’s Rock
A highlight of our trip was spending time on the Pacific Coast, specifically Morgan’s Rock Hotel and Hacienda, the eco-friendly lodge set on its own horseshoe bay and 4,000 acres of private jungle. Getting there can feel like an adventure, as the modern highway turns into a dirt road, taking you into the private reserve, and eventually to the coast. Activities at Morgan’s include surfing lessons, horseback riding, yoga, hiking, sport fishing, sunset cruises (on their own small, charming fishing boat), safari-style four-by-four drives to search for sloths and monkeys, and visits to the hacienda for breakfast to pick your own eggs and to milk the cows. The property is rustic in style, and they keep an eye on consumption—each cabana has state-of-the-art air-conditioning units positioned above the beds, so you can cool down while sleeping, yet add nearly nothing to the electricity bill.
Top Three Favorite Moments
Our first day in Granada we went for a walk through a local neighborhood. A woman saw us as she was walking into her home, noticed we were tourists, and immediately invited us inside for a chat. She was a sweet and charming grandmother, someone you could certainly not refuse. After she gave us a tour of her home, she wanted to take a photo together in her best hammock. The house had an interior courtyard, so the living room and kitchen were open air, with no doors separating the spaces. She explained that she has many relatives in the US, and visits from time to time. “Nicaraguans live outside,” she told us. “It’s where our heart is. Every time I visit the US, I feel like everyone is always inside, cooped up. I like to be outside and free.”
The hacienda at Morgan’s Rock was a place I got to live out my agrarian dreams. Waking up early in the morning to say hello to the chickens and gather fresh eggs for breakfast, and seeing all of the other farm animals (including this baby duck) were a huge highlight for me.
One of the other early-morning activities at Morgan’s is a sport-fishing excursion. Heading out at sunrise in a speedboat, you can join a few local fisherman to try to catch your dinner. If you are successful, you can bring your prize (this one below is a young mahi-mahi) to the chef, and he will cook it up however you like.
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Natalie Crow, GeoEx Director for the Americas, loves everything about travel, from researching destinations to exploring them in person. She has traveled extensively throughout Central and South America and her passion, regional expertise, and ability to negotiate complicated logistics enable her to plan complicated, customized itineraries.