Last Updated: 10.11.2023
The largest country in Central America, Nicaragua, is home to a diverse range of attractions. From colonial cities like Granada and León to spell bounding natural wonders that includes volcanoes, beaches and more, Nicaragua tourism has something to offer everyone.
Nicaragua’s architectural landmarks are a beauty to behold. Majestic cathedrals and colorful buildings its top cities like Granada take you on a historical ride into how the current country has been moulded. With the choice of adventurous activities it has to offer, the country does not disappoint its adventure-seeking visitors.
For nature lovers, Nicaragua’s lush landscapes and pristine Pacific coastline will make the trip worth it. The crystal-clear waters of Laguna de Apoyo, a volcanic crater lake, provide a tranquil oasis to swim, kayak, or relax.
Let us take you through everything you need to know before travelling to Nicaragua.
How to get to Nicaragua?
Explore the various ways to get to Nicaragua below.
Getting to Nicaragua by Air
The main international airport in Nicaragua is Augusto C. Sandino located in the capital city of Managua. The main airlines servicing Nicaragua are as follows:
Getting to Nicaragua by Land from Neighbouring Countries
If you are not flying into Nicaragua, you can get into Nicaragua by road from Costa Rica. Visitors to Nicaragua fly into the Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia and cross into Nicaragua via the Peñas Blancas border crossing. Also known as the Liberia Guanacaste Airport, the airport is serviced by the following airlines:
- Edelweiss Airlines
- KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
- Canada Jetlines
- SANSA Regional
- Alaska Airlines
- Air Transat
- American Airlines
- Air Canada
- Sun Country Airlines
- Copa Airlines
- Miami Air International
- JetBlue Airways
- United Airlines
- TUI Airways
- Sunwing Airlines
- Frontier Airlines
In some cases, travellers may need to take connecting flights to reach Nicaragua. This is especially true for those coming from cities without direct flights. Connecting flights usually have layovers in major hubs such as Miami, Houston, or Panama City. It’s advisable to check the layover duration and plan for any necessary accommodations or transit visas.
How to Get Around in Nicaragua?
Once you are in the country, you can get around Nicaragua by road(buses/care rentals), boat or by air. The Managua airport serves the majority of domestic flights that help you reach tourist spots all the way across, to the other end of the country. It’s recommended to pre-arrange transportation or use authorized services to ensure safety and convenience.
Getting around Nicaragua using shuttles
Shuttle travel in Nicaragua is a popular and convenient way to explore the country’s various tourist destinations. With its many advantages, taking a shuttle can offer a hassle-free and seamless journey for travelers.
One of the main benefits of opting for a shuttle is the convenience it offers. The shuttle driver will pick you up directly from your hotel, saving you the trouble of navigating unfamiliar public transportation or hailing a taxi. Similarly, upon reaching your destination, the shuttle will drop you off at your desired location, eliminating the need for additional transportation arrangements.
Moreover, shuttle travel is straightforward and efficient. Unlike public buses, shuttles operate on fixed schedules, ensuring timely departures and arrivals. This means that you won’t have to worry about unexpected stops or delays along the way. Instead, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the journey without any interruptions.
Whether you are looking to explore the colonial city of Granada, relax on the Pacific coast in San Juan del Sur, or venture to the natural wonders of Ometepe Island, taking a shuttle can be a convenient and stress-free option. So, sit back, relax, and let the shuttle transport you seamlessly between Nicaragua’s beautiful tourist destinations.
Getting around Nicaragua on public transport
Public transport in Nicaragua offers several options for travellers to explore the country affordably. One of the most popular modes is the iconic chicken buses, which are former American school buses. These brightly coloured vehicles are often crowded but provide an authentic and lively experience. Chicken buses stop frequently along the routes, allowing passengers to easily hop on and off at various destinations. While they may lack comfort levels, they are extremely affordable, making them a favourite among budget travellers.
Another mode of public transport in Nicaragua is shuttles. These are shared vans or minibuses that provide a more comfortable and convenient option compared to chicken buses. Shuttles have fixed schedules and fewer stops, allowing for a smoother and quicker journey. Although slightly more expensive than chicken buses, shuttles offer a more relaxed and comfortable travel experience.
The average cost for using public transport in Nicaragua varies depending on the distance and mode of transportation. Chicken bus fares are generally very affordable, ranging from $0.50 to $2 per trip. Shuttles, on the other hand, can cost between $5 and $20 per journey, depending on the distance and route.
When traveling in Nicaragua, public transport options like chicken buses and shuttles provide affordable and convenient ways to explore the country. Despite the trade-offs in comfort levels, these modes of transport offer unique experiences and opportunities to interact with locals.
Getting around Nicaragua by plane
If you’re planning to travel by plane in Nicaragua, there are a few important considerations and tips to keep in mind. While it may not always be necessary to travel by plane within the country, there are certain situations where it can be the most convenient option.
When it comes to safety precautions, it’s important to choose reputable airlines and ensure that they adhere to international safety standards. Check the reviews and ratings of the airlines before making a booking. Additionally, follow all instructions and guidelines provided by the airline staff, especially during take-off and landing.
The best time to schedule flights in Nicaragua is typically during the dry season, which runs from November to April. This is when you can expect clear skies and minimal chances of weather-related delays or cancellations. Avoid scheduling flights during the rainy season, as heavy rainfall and storms can disrupt flight schedules.
It’s also worth noting that Nicaragua has several domestic airports, including in major cities like Managua, Granada, and Leon. If you’re planning to visit different regions of the country, flying can save you a significant amount of time compared to traveling by land. However, keep in mind that smaller planes may have weight and size restrictions for luggage.
Before traveling, make sure to check flight availability and book your tickets in advance, especially during peak travel seasons. This will help ensure that you secure your preferred dates and avoid any last-minute issues. Overall, by considering these factors and following necessary safety precautions, traveling by plane in Nicaragua can be a convenient and efficient option.
Getting around Nicaragua using car rentals
When it comes to exploring Nicaragua, rental cars may not be as popular as in neighbouring countries like Costa Rica. However, for those seeking a comfortable and well-planned option for getting around, renting a car can be a viable choice.
Renting a car allows you the freedom to explore Nicaragua at your own pace and venture off the beaten path. Whether you want to visit the colonial city of Granada, hike up volcanoes like Cerro Negro, or relax on the stunning beaches of San Juan del Sur, having a rental car gives you the flexibility to create your travel itinerary.
It’s important to note that driving conditions in Nicaragua can sometimes be challenging, especially in rural areas where roads may be unpaved or poorly maintained. Additionally, it is advisable to have a thorough understanding of local traffic laws and regulations before hitting the road.
Overall, while rental cars may not be as prevalent in Nicaragua as in other countries, they can still be a comfortable and well-planned option for travellers looking to explore this beautiful Central American nation. If you are planning to drive, make sure you have your International Driver’s Permit(IDP) and carry it along with your original license.
What is the best time to visit Nicaragua?
The best time to visit Nicaragua would depend on your preferences. The peak tourist crowd visits Nicaragua between the months of November and May. This is the dry season in the country and is flocked by visitors from all over. It is also when the rates for accommodation and other activities are pricier.
If you are looking to save on this trip and want to avoid the crowds, the ideal time to visit Nicaragua would be from May to October. However, we must warn you that this is also the wet season in the country. This would mean encountering rain and thunderstorms. The weather would also limit your trekking opportunities in some of the areas. But there is a lot you can still do if you decide to visit Nicaragua during the wet season. The accommodation is the cheapest during this period.
Food in Nicaragua
Nicaraguan cuisine is known for its vibrant flavours and unique combinations. One of the most traditional dishes in Nicaragua is Gallo Pinto, a hearty and flavourful mix of beans and rice that is served at almost every meal. This dish is usually accompanied by plantains, eggs, and sometimes cheese.
Another popular snack in Nicaragua is the quesillo, which consists of a homemade tortilla filled with melted cheese, pickled onions, and sauce. It’s a delicious and quick bite that can be found in street stalls all over the country.
For a more substantial meal, don’t miss out on trying the nacatamales, a traditional dish made with masa (corn dough) filled with pork, rice, vegetables, and spices. These large parcels are wrapped in banana leaves and steamed until tender.
To complement these delicious dishes, make sure to sample the local beers and rum. Tona beer and Victoria beer are popular choices amongst locals and visitors alike. For a stronger drink, try Flor de Cana rum, a Nicaraguan classic known for its smooth flavours. With its diverse flavours and unique combinations, Nicaraguan cuisine is a must-try for any food lover. From the staple beans and rice to the mouth-watering Gallo Pinto, quesillos, and nacatamales, there’s something to satisfy every palate in this vibrant country. Don’t forget to wash it all down with a refreshing Tona or Victoria beer, or indulge in the rich flavours of Flor de Cana rum.
Accommodation in Nicaragua
When it comes to accommodation options in Nicaragua, there is something to suit every traveller’s preferences and budget. From vibrant hostels to luxurious hotels and unique local rentals, the country offers a wide range of choices.
For budget-conscious travellers looking to meet fellow explorers, hostels are a popular choice. Hola Ola Hostel in San Juan del Sur is known for its friendly atmosphere and beachside location, while Viavia Leon in León is a great option for socializing and discovering the city’s vibrant culture. In Granada, De Boca en Boca offers a charming and authentic Nicaraguan experience.
For those seeking a bit more comfort and privacy, hotels are readily available throughout the country. Private rooms with breakfast can start at around $20 per night, but prices may vary depending on the location and included amenities. Many hotels also offer additional amenities such as swimming pools and restaurants.
Alternatively, for a more unique and immersive experience, consider renting a local property. Nicaragua has a range of rentals available, from cosy guesthouses to spacious villas. This option allows travellers to stay in local neighbourhoods and enjoy a more authentic atmosphere. Regardless of your accommodation choice, Nicaragua’s diverse options cater to different preferences and budgets, ensuring an enjoyable stay in this beautiful country.
When traveling to Nicaragua, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the local currency, the Nicaraguan Cordoba (NIO). The exchange rate is approximately 1 USD to 35 NIO(this rate may vary). While US dollars are widely accepted in popular tourist areas, it’s advisable to carry some Cordobas for small, off-the-beaten-path establishments.
Exchanging money is relatively easy in Nicaragua. Banks and official exchange offices can be found in larger cities like Managua, Granada, and Leon. These establishments offer competitive exchange rates and are considered the safest options. Airports also have money exchange facilities. However, the rates may be competitive and so we advise exchanging only a small amount.
Additionally, ATM machines are prevalent and allow you to withdraw Cordobas directly from your bank account. However, it’s important to inform your bank of your travel plans beforehand to avoid any issues with card transactions. At the same time, be advised that your bank may incur additional charges and fees on withdrawals.
Carrying small denomination US dollar bills is also advisable, as they will be accepted in most places, especially tourist areas. However, it’s always a good idea to have Cordobas on hand for smaller purchases or when visiting more rural areas, where acceptance of US dollars may be less common.
By being prepared and aware of the currency exchange options and practices in Nicaragua, you can ensure smooth and hassle-free transactions during your travels.
Top 5 Cities to Visit Nicaragua
Nicaragua will spoil you places to visit while you are in the country. If you are in Nicaragua on a short trip, we recommend visiting these top 5 cities in Nicaragua:
Granada is a vibrant and colourful city located by the Lake Nicaragua. It houses some of astound Spanish colonial architecture that has been well-preserved. Laden with rich history and vibrant markets, Granada is a culturally rich city you must visit when you are in Nicaragua.
Explore the iconic yellow Cathedral of Granada, go down the picturesque cobblestone streets or just spend a few relaxing moments by Lake Nicaragua. A very popular tourist attraction in Granada is the boat tour to the Islets of Granada. These are small islands that were formed as a result of volcanic activity in the region. Granada offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, making it a must-visit city in Nicaragua.
Another city in Nicaragua known for its colonial architecture, León houses one of Central America’s largest cathedrals – the UNESCO World Heritage León Cathedral. Explore the city’s rich history by visiting the Museo de la Revolucion, dedicated to the Sandinista Revolution, or take a tour of the Ruben Dario Museum, honouring Nicaragua’s national poet. For adventure enthusiasts, nearby volcanoes like Cerro Negro offer the opportunity to hike or even try volcano boarding, a thrilling activity unique to the region.
3. Ometepe Island
Ometepe Island is situated in Lake Nicaragua. A natural paradise, the island is known for the twin volcanic peaks – Concepcio and Maderas. The island offers stunning landscapes, lush forests, and pristine beaches. Visitors can hike to the summit of either volcano for breath-taking views, explore archaeological sites, or simply relax on the black sand beaches. Ometepe Island is a haven for nature lovers and a perfect destination for those seeking tranquillity and outdoor adventure.
4. San Juan del Sur
This is one of the popular beach towns in Nicaragua. Its golden sandy beaches attracts surfers, sun-seekers, and party enthusiasts. There is a myriad of choices for water activities you can enjoy here. For a panoramic view of the town and the coastline, hike up to the Cristo de la Misericordia statue. San Juan del Sur offers a perfect blend of relaxation, adventure, and vibrant nightlife.
Nestled in the northern highlands of Nicaragua, Matagalpa is a charming city known for its coffee plantations, cloud forests, and cooler climate. It is an ideal destination for nature lovers and eco-tourism enthusiasts. Explore the lush Selva Negra Cloud Forest Reserve, home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, or visit coffee farms to learn about the process of coffee production. Matagalpa offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in nature’s beauty while savouring some of the country’s finest coffee.
Nature and Wildlife in Nicaragua
Nicaragua, a country blessed with stunning landscapes, is a haven for nature and wildlife enthusiasts. From volcano boarding in Cerro Negro to exploring the beauty of Laguna de Apoyo, there are endless opportunities for adventure and encounters with unique species.
One must-try activity is volcano boarding, where thrill-seekers slide down the active Cerro Negro volcano on a board. It’s an adrenaline-pumping experience like no other.
Laguna de Apoyo, a peaceful crater lake, offers a serene escape with its crystal-clear waters and lush surroundings. Take a dip, kayak, or just unwind by the shore.
For a glimpse into Nicaragua’s volcanic wonders, Masaya Volcano National Park is a must-visit. Witness the spectacular lava flow and explore the otherworldly landscapes created by the active volcanoes.
Ometepe Island is a natural haven boasting vibrant biodiversity. Birdwatchers will be thrilled by the abundance of colourful birds, including parrots and toucans. The island is also home to fascinating creatures like howler monkeys and capuchin monkeys.
Whether you’re seeking adventure or tranquility, Nicaragua’s nature and wildlife will leave you awe-inspired. Get ready to immerse yourself in unforgettable experiences and encounters with the diverse flora and fauna that make this country truly exceptional.
Things to Do in Nicaragua
1. Surf the Pacific Coast: Nicaragua boasts an impressive coastline that stretches for over 300 kilometres, offering surfers a wide variety of breaks suitable for all levels. Whether you’re a beginner eager to catch your first wave or an experienced surfer seeking the thrill of big barrels, Nicaragua has it all. From the gentle swells of beginner-friendly beaches like San Juan del Sur to the powerful breaks of world-renowned spots like Popoyo and Maderas, there’s a wave for everyone. You will find a host of surf camps in Nicaragua over multiple locations.
Looking for a surf camp in Nicaragua? Rapture Surfcamp‘s beachfront villas provide comfortable accommodation along with an array of amenities including breakfast buffet, theory surf lessons, wifi and so much more.
2. Hike and Volcano Board: For thrill-seekers, Nicaragua offers the unique opportunity to hike up an active volcano and then sled down on a board. Cerro Negro near León is the most popular destination for volcano boarding, providing an adrenaline-pumping experience like no other.
3. Explore Miraflores National Park: Located in Estelí, Miraflores National Park is a haven for nature enthusiasts. The park is known for its stunning cloud forest, picturesque waterfalls, and diverse wildlife. Immerse yourself in treks through lush landscapes and immerse yourself in Nicaragua’s natural beauty.
4. Fish in the Freshwater Lakes: Nicaragua is home to numerous freshwater lakes, providing excellent fishing opportunities. Cast your line in Lake Nicaragua or Lake Managua and try your luck at catching tarpon, snook, and rainbow bass. Fishing charters are available for both beginners and experienced anglers.
5. Experience San Juan del Sur: As the most popular tourist town in Nicaragua, San Juan del Sur offers a vibrant blend of surf, sun, beaches, and nightlife. Relax on the sandy shores, take surf lessons, indulge in fresh seafood, and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of this coastal gem.
Nicaragua offers a diverse range of experiences for travellers seeking adventure, relaxation, and natural beauty. Whether you’re into surfing, hiking, volcano boarding, fishing, or simply exploring stunning national parks, this Central American gem has something for everyone. Don’t miss the chance to visit Miraflores National Park in Estelí or soak up the sun in San Juan del Sur, making your trip to Nicaragua truly unforgettable.
Day Trips from Nicaragua to Costa Rica
Are you planning a trip to Nicaragua and looking for exciting day trips to nearby Costa Rica? Look no further! Here are some amazing day trip options that will allow you to explore the beauty and diversity of Costa Rica while based in Nicaragua.
1. Arenal Volcano National Park: Just a short drive from the Nicaraguan border, Arenal Volcano National Park is a must-visit destination. Witness the majestic Arenal Volcano, hike through lush rainforests, and relax in natural hot springs. This day trip will leave you in awe of Costa Rica’s stunning landscapes.
2. Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve: Embark on an adventure to the famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. This unique ecosystem is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including rare orchids and the elusive quetzal bird. Explore the treetop walkways, take a thrilling zipline tour, or go on a guided nature hike.
3. Manuel Antonio National Park: Experience the best of Costa Rica’s wildlife at Manuel Antonio National Park. This coastal gem boasts pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and abundant wildlife. Take a hike through the park’s trails, spot monkeys swinging from trees, and relax on the picturesque beaches. Don’t forget your camera!
4. Tortuguero National Park: If you’re a nature lover, a day trip to Tortuguero National Park is a must. Known as Costa Rica’s “Amazon of the Caribbean,” this park is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Take a boat tour through the park’s intricate canal system and spot monkeys, sloths, toucans, and even sea turtles during nesting season.
5. Rincon de la Vieja National Park: For those seeking adventure, a day trip to Rincon de la Vieja National Park is perfect. Hike to the summit of the active volcano, explore bubbling mud pots and hot springs, and cool off under beautiful waterfalls. This park offers a unique combination of volcanic activity and natural beauty.
6. Palo Verde National Park: Discover the wonders of Palo Verde National Park, a wetland sanctuary teeming with wildlife. Join a boat tour along the Tempisque River and spot crocodiles, monkeys, iguanas, and a wide variety of bird species. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of this biodiverse paradise.
7. La Fortuna Waterfall: If you’re looking for a refreshing escape, visit the La Fortuna Waterfall. Located near the town of La Fortuna, this breathtaking waterfall cascades into a picturesque pool. Take a dip in the cool water, hike through the surrounding rainforest, and enjoy the natural beauty of this hidden gem.
8. Tamarindo Beach: Spend a day relaxing on the golden sands of Tamarindo Beach. This popular beach destination offers excellent surfing opportunities, vibrant nightlife, and a wide range of restaurants and shops. Whether you’re a beach lover or a thrill-seeker, Tamarindo has something for everyone.
Embark on these incredible day trips from Nicaragua to Costa Rica and create unforgettable memories. From volcanoes and rainforests to beaches and wildlife, Costa Rica has it all. Don’t miss out on the chance to explore this neighboring paradise during your trip to Nicaragua.
10 Things to Know About Nicaragua Before You Plan a Trip There – Summarised
1. Safety: Nicaragua is generally considered safe for tourists, but it’s always important to take precautions like avoiding isolated areas at night and keeping an eye on your belongings. Stay informed about the current situation and follow the advice of local authorities.
2. Language: The official language in Nicaragua is Spanish. While English might be spoken in tourist areas, it’s helpful to learn a few basic Spanish phrases to navigate the country more easily and communicate with locals.
3. Currency: The currency in Nicaragua is the Nicaraguan Cordoba (NIO). It’s recommended to exchange some currency upon arrival or withdraw cash from ATMs. Credit cards are widely accepted in major establishments, but it’s always good to have some cash on hand for smaller businesses and street vendors.
4. Climate: Nicaragua has a tropical climate with two main seasons: dry season (November to April) and rainy season (May to October). Be prepared for high humidity and occasional rain showers, especially during the rainy season. Pack accordingly and plan outdoor activities accordingly.
5. Natural Beauty: Nicaragua is renowned for its stunning landscapes, including volcanoes, lakes, rainforests, and beautiful beaches. From hiking up volcanoes to exploring colonial towns, there is no shortage of natural beauty and activities to enjoy.
6. Cultural Heritage: Nicaragua has a rich cultural heritage influenced by indigenous traditions, Spanish colonialism, and Afro-Caribbean influences. Explore the colourful markets, indulge in traditional cuisine, and immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture.
7. Health and Safety: It is advisable to consult a healthcare professional before traveling to Nicaragua to ensure you are up to date on necessary vaccinations. Travel insurance is also recommended to cover any unexpected medical expenses.
8. Transportation: Nicaragua has a variety of transportation options, including buses, taxis, and rental cars. Public buses are the most affordable, but can be crowded and less comfortable. Taxis are readily available in cities, while rental cars offer more flexibility for exploring the country.
9. Volcano Boarding: Nicaragua is the only place in the world where you can go volcano boarding. Cerro Negro, an active volcano, offers the unique adventure of sliding down its ash-covered slopes on a board.
10. Ecotourism Opportunities: Nicaragua is known for its commitment to eco-friendly and sustainable tourism. From wildlife reserves to protected areas, there are plenty of opportunities to experience the country’s diverse flora and fauna while supporting conservation efforts.
Remember to research and plan your trip well in advance to make the most of your time in Nicaragua. Embrace the beauty, culture, and adventure that this Central American gem has to offer.
In conclusion, Nicaragua is a country filled with rich history, diverse landscapes, and a vibrant culture that is waiting to be explored. From its stunning beaches to its breath-taking volcanoes, this Central American gem offers a little something for everyone.
We have delved into the country’s fascinating history, highlighting its tumultuous past and its journey towards peace and stability. We have also explored Nicaragua’s natural wonders, from the lush rainforests and unique wildlife of its national parks to the pristine beaches that adorn its coastline.
But Nicaragua is more than just its natural beauty. Its warm and welcoming people, delicious cuisine, and vibrant traditions make it a truly unforgettable destination. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a deeper understanding of a country’s cultural heritage, Nicaragua has it all.
As you plan your trip to Nicaragua, remember to immerse yourself in the local customs and traditions, try the mouth-watering traditional dishes, and take the time to connect with the friendly locals. And don’t forget to explore the hidden gems that lie off the beaten path – you never know what hidden treasures you might discover.
So, whether you’re an adrenaline junkie looking for an unforgettable surf session, a nature lover yearning to explore untouched landscapes, or a culture enthusiast eager to delve into Nicaragua’s rich heritage, this country has something to offer you.
Nicaragua is a destination that will captivate your heart and leave you with lasting memories. So, pack your bags, embrace the unknown, and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime in this Central American paradise. Nicaragua is waiting for you, ready to share its beauty and stories with you.