Spending a few weeks abroad every year is an exciting journey for most people.
Travelling can help you find yourself and make memories your home town just can’t offer. Let’s take a look at the things to do in Nicaragua, because it's a beautiful, natural scenic setting. There are so many activities and ventures waiting for you to discover.
A Bit About Nicaragua
Before booking your ticket to Nicaragua, there are a few important things you should know about this country. We've broken it all down below to give you an overview of essential knowledge.
Where Is Nicaragua?
Nicaragua covers 119,990 square kilometres of land and 10,380 square kilometres of water in Central America. It’s the 98th largest nation in the world and the largest country in South America. It’s home to 5,727,707 residents and still considered as undiscovered to the majority of tourists. South of Mexico, Nicaragua borders the Caribbean Sea and west wide of the Pacific Ocean.
What’s The Climate Like?
Nicaragua has a tropical climate, but there are two seasons – one being dry and the other, a raining season. From January-June, the plants and trees begin to dry out so there’s little rain. Though, from June-July, the plants turn green and begin blossoming. As August and September hit, it rains at least once a day and can even experience tropical downpours.
Nicaragua’s History and Culture
Spanish explorer Gil Gonzalez de Avila discovered Nicaragua in 1522 and named the country after a local Indian chief. The country became an independent state in 1838 from previous being associated with Spain. In 1972, the country suffered a traumatic earthquake which killed 5,000-10,000 people. Just 16 years later, it suffered a deadly hurricane which left 180,000 people homeless. Here are some interesting facts about Nicaragua’s culture:
- The main language is Spanish, although many speak English too.
- The city of Granada is the most popular location for tourists and is the oldest city in in Latin America.
- Most people visit Nicaragua in November when the weather is slightly cooler.
- Residents love baseball more than football, and they’re very dedicated to the sport.
Nicaragua is home to some of the most delicious dishes in the world. Gallo pinto is the country’s national dish and is often served in cafes. You can eat this for breakfast, dinner and lunch. It’s made up of white rice, red beans, and diced onions fried together. Often these are fried in coconut oil or with coconut milk to make a creamy consistency.
Another popular food choice amongst residents is nacatamales. These consists of dough mixed with pork, potato slices and a minty herb wrapped in a leaf and then boiled. Locals eat these for breakfast with a coffee, or as a late-night, light snack. They are mixed with chicken or vegetables for a delicious, healthy meal idea.
If there’s one thing you try, make it the indio Viejo – a thick soup. Traditionally served with curd cheese as opposed to bread, it’s in huge demand amongst villages so a popular choice for locals to cook.
Things To Do in Nicaragua
Sun worshippers flock to Nicaragua’s beaches. But there are also amazing colonial cities filled with bright colours, historic churches and unbelievable museums. You can relax and escape or venture in blood-pumping activities, while making amazing memories. We’ve provided a list of the best ways to spend your time in Nicaragua.
1. Explore Somoto Canyon
In Northern Nicaragua lies Somoto Canyon – a natural Canyon which was only discovered in 2004. Consequently, not everyone knows about its existence so it’s the perfect relaxing, adventurous day out. Spend a few hours swimming through Coco River. This leads to magnificent views of the unique rock formations. Jump off the cliffs into a refreshing pool – a great thing to do on a warm day.
Take advantage of the numerous tour guides which enable you to beat the crowds and avoid waiting for people to leave. We recommend taking a life jacket. Although you’re fairly hidden, apply sunscreen liberally to ensure you don’t burn. The Somoto Canyon is one of the best outdoor adventures in Nicaragua and the beautiful water is usually around 20 degrees. This’ll leave a lasting impression for the remainder of your time in Nicaragua and is an excellent way to unwind.
2. Relax or Surf at Playa Maderas Beach
Many tourists visit San Juan de Sur – a beach which neighbours hillsides and is home to keen surfers. Playa Maderas Beach is a popular location for experienced surfers thanks to its strong-breaking waves. Spending time at Playa Maderas Beach is one of the best things to do in Nicaragua. The friendly sand-rock bottom and even swell of waves create the perfect vacation atmosphere.
There are plenty of other options aside from surfing. Take a sailing trip to venture into San Juan de Sur. Hop aboard a boat filled with great company and an inclusive open bar, delicious snacks and a stunning sunset as you sail back to the shore. Nearby hotels such as Buena Vista Surf Club is an excellent option to enjoy the enchanting close-by Maderas Village. Just a short walk from Maderas Beach, you can enjoy glorious ocean views, family dinners and have a chance to connect with budding travellers.
3. Explore Granada
One of the most scenic things to do in Nicaragua is visit Granada. Many travellers even mistake this city for Spain due to the hot and humid air. Above all, it's surrounded by gorgeous greenery and natural beauty. The relaxing atmosphere of Granada makes it one of the happiest places to be in the world. Spend a few days in Granada to make the most of the electric energy here.
We recommend taking a relaxing boat ride through the islet of Granada. This offers beautiful views of the sunset and a tranquil outing surrounded by crystal waters. To update your wardrobe, head to the second-hand clothing retailers to purchase high-quality fashion pieces at an excellent price.
For those who prefer the hustle and bustle of a city, explore more fun on Calle La Calzada – a strip of diners featuring cheap cocktails, delicious snacks and a fun environment. Or, if you’re more interested in adventure, you can dive in a real volcano and help local Volcano Divers to gather research. What an unforgettable experience that would be!
4. Climb and Relax In Ometepe Island
Ometepe Island makes it difficult to leave Nicaragua and feels like a completely place altogether. Consequently, this is one of the best things to do in Nicaragua. This gem is a stunning tropical island. It features towering volcanoes, lakes and lush waterfalls and forests, therefore is a popular destination.
It’s the epitome of a tranquil setting and one of our favourite things to do in Nicaragua. It's packed with friendly people, overwhelming beauty and natural adventures. There’s so much to do here, but we recommend practicing your Spanish before heading over.
The Island is blessed with natural spring water. Hence ensure you make the most of the fresh water here, which is potentially the tastiest in the world. Ometepe Island is renowned for its array of volcanoes. These are visible from every angle on the Island. You can climb these volcanoes with a professional guide company, which we highly recommend. Make the most of a clear day with stunning views of the natural beauty on this unforgettable Island. To the top of Maderas volcano, it takes approximately six-eight hours travelling time. As a result, it’s definitely worth it when you reach the top.
5. Explore The Unbelievable Ruins In ‘Old’ Leon
When looking for things to do in Nicaragua, we recommend visiting the ruins of Leon Viejo, which dates back to the 16th century. You don’t need to spare too much time to visit here, as one day will suffice. This heritage site is one of the oldest Spanish colonial settlements in the Americas. Whilst it might appear like a ruin site, there’s so much to see and do once you step inside its glory.
For just $3, walk to the top of The Cathedral of Leon for the best views of the city. Furthermore, you'll see its surrounding volcanoes. Built in 1747, the Cathedral took over 100 years to build and embodies the honest culture of the country. To get some shade, head to the Museo De Leyendas y Tradiciones museum for interesting history on life in the past. Here, you’ll hear all kinds of stories about the culture in Nicaragua. Another way to escape the heat is by checking out Las Penitas. This fishing village and tourist beach community offers sandy stretches of paradise and natural views.
6. Meet Paradise In Corn Islands
When looking for things to do in Nicaragua, most people head to the Corn Islands. Most noteworthy, this is their equivalent of a vacation retreat. Nestled off the Caribbean cost of Nicaragua, most people visit here to snorkel, fish, scuba drive or enjoy the sun and catch a tan.
If you fancy a spot of water action, visit the Corn Island Dive Center for a range of snorkel trips and equipment from professionals. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or advanced snorkeler. The team of expert staff will make it an unforgettable experience.
Alternatively, the Nautilus Dive Centre on the island offers trips underwater. Whilst in the water, ensure you visit a 400-year-old wreck of a Spanish Galleon which lays 15’ of water off Waula Point, Big Corn Island. No-one’s ever uncovered surveys or attempted to salvage anything on the wreck, so it’s a great opportunity to do some research and observing yourself.
7. Witness Natural Beauty In Apoyo Lagoon
In the middle of the Nicaraguan Pacific coast lies a chain of volcanoes which borders the country from the north to south. The Apoyo Lagoon is a beautiful lagoon in the heart of a volcano.
Existing in a green forest, it’s a huge attraction to people from all around the world and one of the most popular things to do in Nicaragua. The conserved natural shape is an important aspect of the Nicaraguan lifestyle. This blissful destination supports eco-tourism and offers plenty of activities and things to do.
Hike through the Apoyo forest for an interesting experience and amazing viewpoints down the lagoon. You can’t explore the shore without a guided tour as it’s on private property. Alternatively, take a dip in the lagoon’s crystal waters by diving or snorkelling. Here, you can expect to find groups of fish species which aren’t found anywhere else in the world. As the winds in this area can be strong, it’s a suitable location to practice sailing activities.
8. Observe Turtles
In most water areas in Nicaragua, you’ll spot sea turtles laying eggs and relaxing on the sand near the waters. The two beaches we’d recommend are La Flor and Chacocente which are dedicated zones to observe turtles. You can reach these beaches via guided tours or public transportation and seeking these turtles out is easy because they’re there all year round.
These are among the few sites in the world to spot sea turtles, and often appear in large numbers, making it an amazing sighting. There are a few things to consider when you see the turtles, such as: keep your distance during nesting or hatching season and follow the guidelines displayed in the areas. Don’t form a circle around the turtle, as this can be stressing for them.
Taking pictures is controlled on the beaches and restricted. You’re only permitted to take pictures when the turtle starts laying eggs and the guide allows you to take pictures. Even still, this is one of many things to do in Nicaragua that you won't want to miss!
Have You Ever Visited Nicaragua?
Nicaragua isn’t an incredibly popular hotspot amongst travellers around the world, but don’t miss out in this private country. It’s tropical and rich in Latin culture and history to awake your senses and make the most amazing memories ever. Founded by the Spanish conquerors in the 1500s, it’s a busy location packed with amazing ventures.
Have you ever visited here? Let us know the best things to do in Nicaragua, or your experience, in the comments.
Related Article: Best Luxury Hotels in Nicaragua For the Sophisticated Traveler