Adventure Travel in Nicaragua

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A Guide to Adventure Travel in Nicaragua

Looking for adventure that is hotter than salsa picante? Nicaragua will heat you up! We're not just talking about the temperature: surf down volcanos, swim in the bull shark infested waters of Lake Nicaragua, and slow boat down the Rio San Juan. Trek through steaming jungles with colorful biodiversity, explore crumbling walls in colonial cities, and ocean hop from coast to coast. Not digging the rice and beans? Wrap your tongue around Español instead. Dance your way into the loving arms of Nicaragua and you'll discover an unbelievable adventure that is more than muy bueno!

Locations

Central America's largest country, Nicaragua is situated between the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean and offers no shortage of new adventures to try. Getting around the country takes time, but flights, buses, and boats connect the cities to the rural areas. From narrow alleyways to serene lakes and fiery volcanoes, Nicaragua attracts and amazes any visitor.

Granada is so picturesque, those postcards mailed to your parents won't do the city justice. The colonial-style architecture and strong cultural heritage makes adventurers want to throw a fiesta. Parque Colón is bustling with merchants, horse-drawn carriages, cozy cafes, and restaurants. The city is situated right off Lake Cocibolca, Central America's largest freshwater lake. Whether you’re just using Granada as a base for excursions into nature or hanging around a few days to explore (you should), the city has plenty of entertainment to offer.

Adventurers will find exciting excursions not far from Granada. Fly through the trees faster than a white-faced capuchin monkey on a zip line off the slopes of Volcan Mombacho. Kayak Las Isletas, a sprawling archipelago, or head to the island of Ometepe, a geological wonder formed by two volcanos. Only 15 kilometers from Granada, Masaya is a popular region to hike the active volcano or visit the famous artisan market, Mercado de Artesanías de Masaya.

León is a vibrant city with colonial charm. Home to breathtaking cathedrals, university communities, and sidewalk fritangas (BBQ), it's no wonder the city was declared an UNESCO World Heritage site. Surrounded by volcanic lowland, a popular day excursion is to hike up Volcan Cerro Negro, then volcano board your way down!

Most visitors don't spend much time in Nicaragua's capital of Managua, but those who decide to stay will discover a run-down, chaotic city that is still recovering from a state of war. This low-rise city has sprawling markets, incredible street art, historical monuments and improbable trees. Managua is a stone's throw from the nature reserve of Chocoyero-El Brujo, fun beaches like Pochomil, and the hot springs at El Trapiche.

Beach lovers will find paradise in San Juan del Sur. Nicaragua's easy-going (but lively) coastal town resides off the southern Pacific Ocean. This hilly fishing town doesn't have the most spectacular beach, but Nicaragua's bold and bronzy beaches are not far away. A good overnight trip for adventurers is to La Flor Beach Nature Reserve, where Olive Ridley sea turtles are known to nest.

Adventure Travel in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is erupting with adventures and hair-raising activities. The overflow of adrenaline-pumping fun will heat you up faster than Volcan Masaya. At the same time, Nicaragua is a laid-back, tropical country and there are many opportunities to cool down with the tranquilo way of life as well.

Flip a centavo coin. Heads: surf the wild waves off the Pacific. Tails: scuba dive into the tranquil waters of the Caribbean ocean. Hiking in the jungles is the best way to get up close and personal with the abundance of wildlife; just don't forget to pack the bug spray and leave those artisan sandals at home. The views on top of the sweltering volcanoes or cliffs overlooking the ocean are worth a sweaty climb. For cooler geological action, jump into a kayak and explore one of Nicaragua's many crater lakes. Then, take a nap and start over again.

Adventures in Nicaragua will rock your memories, but there are plenty of meaningful ways to give back too. Nearly 46 percent of Nicaraguans live below the poverty line and community development is an active trend. Most volunteer programs in Nicaragua focus on sustainable projects, such as making clean water accessible, constructing public facilities, planting nurseries, improving public health care, or helping to grow micro-businesses.

Have a soft spot for tectonic plates? Boost your adventure game to the next level by volunteering with scientists in the field and harden your knowledge of Nicaragua's mind-bottling volcanoes. Tree huggers will find many activities to lend a hand in environmental projects. Stand tall for Nicaragua's lush forests and fight deforestation, get closer to your morning brew on a coffee plantation, or count fish and hammerhead sharks off a Caribbean island.

Adventure programs in Nicaragua usually structure activities so that you have a sweet mix of exploring the vibrant culture, chasing adrenaline-filled adventures, and having some downtime to relax. Group activities are popular for adventurers seeking fellow dare-devils and eye-witnesses, but DIY options are also available. See which schedules and activities sound most appealing, then sign up accordingly.

Unless you love recreating your childhood fondness for mud, avoid the rainy season from May to October. Embrace those awkward sandal tan lines in summer months, where sunshine and hot weather will keep you happy and dry, or escape a cold winter by basking in Nicaragua’s post-rainy season flora and mild temperatures.

Costs & Affordability

While no less beautiful or exciting than its neighbor, Costa Rica, Nicaragua offers food and fun with a significantly cheaper price tag. There are also not as many tourists on this side of the border, so competition between companies is higher and deals on adventures in Nicaragua abound.

If you're caught sneezing three times in a row in Nicaragua, locals will say, salud, dinero, y amor (health, wealth, and love). Money isn't everything in Nicaragua, but as a country struggling with poverty, your dollars from home will go much further here. A meal in a traditional restaurant that serves gallo pinto (rice and beans), meat, and plantains will cost between $3 and $5. Rent will cost you under $300 a month, even in bustling cities like Managua and Granada, and public transportation is as cheap as it is bumpy.

Most adventure programs in Nicaragua will have your back and cover the cost of accommodation, food, and transportation; some even include admission to sights, monuments, and tips for your guides. The cost of flights are typically not included and medical insurance coverage varies by the program, so be sure to inquire.

Adventurers have a fearless reputation to life up to, so don't let your fear of affording these activities keep you up at night. Check out FundMyTravel for ideas on how to self-promote any adventure in Nicaragua.

Accommodation & Visas

Mi casa es su casa during any adventure in Nicaragua. Homestays are the way to go if you want to connect with locals, eat home-cooked meals, and practice speaking Spanish. Most adventure programs in Nicaragua will hook you up with a reputable family, and it’s a great idea to snatch this opportunity. If you prefer more privacy, apartments are the way to go. Finding flatmates to share with will reduce your costs and land you new amigos.

For adventures that keep you moving, organizations will usually arrange hostel accommodation or hotel rooms. Real adventurers may even find themselves snuggled up in sleeping bags under Nicaragua's starry night sky. Usually, tents, sleeping bags, and cooking equipment is provided by adventure organizations, but it never hurts to double-check.

Most foreigners can travel to Nicaragua for up to 90 days with a valid passport. Those looking to extend their adventures in Nicaragua must request permission from a Nicaraguan immigration office and pay a small fee. Check out GoAbroad's Embassy directory for all the nitty-gritty details.

Benefits & Challenges

Unlike its southern neighbour Costa Rica, Nicaragua is still considered to be off-the-beaten track in Central America. While development is underway and more tourists are flooding in to discover this wondrous country, you'll find no shortage of authentic adventures traversing around Nicaragua. English is spoken by few locals, making it the perfect place to throw away your mother tongue and become fluent in Español.

Nicaragua is a nature lover’s paradise, but the country faces many environmental challenges. Large-scale commercial and slash-and-burn agriculture have destroyed Nicaragua's forests and left the land vulnerable to landslides and droughts. Many Nicaraguans care about nature, but there's a lack of education on environmental conservation; you can show a little TLC, act as an ambassador for mother nature, and leave only your footprints behind. Conserving the environment for future generations is no walk in the park, but once you experience Nicaragua's natural beauty, you'll want to ensure it’s place you can return to again and again. 

Nicaraguans will tell you that life is more than alegrón de burro (a short-lived happiness). No matter how much time is spent chasing adventure in Nicaragua, your happiness will be extended for years to come. Plus, where else in the world can you roast marshmallows over a volcanic crater or give the slowest high-five in the world to a sloth? Let rivers and roads leave your heart racing, wherever it goes.

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