A more non-touristy, off the beaten path destination, Nicaragua is a small corner of paradise in the heart of Central America, located on the border with Costa Rica and Honduras. It is termed the "Land of lakes and volcanoes,” as well as being known for their diving, cigars, coffee plantations, turtles and amazing beaches. A truly ideal place for lovers of ecological recreation and sea-based activities.
The country has more than 50 volcanoes, some dormant and others, like the Masaya Volcano, which is still very much active. Venturing up a volcano is one of the most unique hikes one can take, and for the more adventurous, experience the thrill of “volcano boarding” to get you back down- sliding down the black rubble of a volcano on a board, with incredible views of all the surrounding volcanoes around you.
The beaches of Nicaragua allow not only to indulge in some relaxation, but also for some world-class surfing, scuba diving and deep sea fishing. But Nicaragua is most famous for its surf culture, and the beautiful Popoyo Beach is an ideal spot for beginners and the more advanced alike, having plenty of wave breaks for both, and is a great place to take surfing lessons. The country's most famous surf beaches are Remanso (ideal for beginners), Maderas (for the more experienced), Las Peñitas near Leon, and Colorado Beach.
There are many surf camps, cafes, bars and yoga schools in Nicaragua. Marsella Beach is ideal for a family holiday, and for a more secluded scene Playa el Coco and Majagual Beach are ideal. You can fish, surf and go for long walks along the mangroves of Jiquilillo Beach, one of the longest Pacific beaches in Central America.
The Corn Islands are a must-see, with their stunning and pristine beaches, and few tourists around- you will feel like you’ve escaped to a private island in the Caribbean. These islands are popular for diving, with excellent reefs off both islands. Big Corn Island is actually quite small, and you can bike around it in about an hour. And it is just a 40-minute boat ride to Little Corn Island, and you can walk around the island in less than an hour.
Among the cities of Nicaragua, Granada is especially worth noting for its unique charm and colonial style, street food and interesting shopping. The smaller cities of Granada and Leon are very charming and known for their colorful architecture and churches- like the standout, stark white Leon Cathedral, the largest in Central America, with great views of the city below. And in this area is the largest freshwater lake in Central America, Lake Nicaragua, with its hundreds of islands, including some with fantastic eco-lodges. And while in this area you will want to visit the Islets of Granada, where you can rent kayaks, paddle boards or take a boat tour around the little islands. Some are deserted, some have upscale private vacation homes, and some have charming eco-lodges, and there are plenty of native and migratory birds and also monkeys to be on the watch for. The island Isla El Pirata has a restaurant and a bar as well as a play area for children, and the islands of Pico de Garza and El Cifar are also good options, and you can visit the San Pablo Fortress on another island, built between 1670 and 1685, to defend the colonial city from pirate invasion. Or visit Ometepe Island, formed by the two connected volcanoes, the larger of the two still active. This island has been declared a protected UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for its lush wetlands and tropical rainforests.
One of the most beautiful beaches on the Pacific coast and popular for its surfing is Playa Escameca, and easily accessible if you’re staying around the area of San Juan del Sur. This beach has services available such as restaurants serving local delicacies like fish tacos, ceviche, and cocktails. On Playa Escameca surfing is very popular for its alluring beach break and surf school on location. And the south end of the beach has an estuary, home to a vast array of bird species, fish and monkeys. Rent paddle boards from the surf school and paddle up the estuary in search of local wildlife. And if this isn’t enough, during turtle nesting season, a local NGO releases tens of thousands of endangered sea turtles into the sea from their hatchery just before sunset, which is incredibly special to witness.