Top Things To Do In Nicaragua

Downtown Granada, Nicaragua

Downtown Granada, Nicaragua

Why Nicaragua?

Nicaragua is an increasingly popular place for people to visit. The country is becoming popular with tourists seeking a cheaper, less touristy and more real and rustic experience than it’s southern neighbor, Costa Rica. And it is sound logic, Nicaragua is cheap and has a host of  outdoorsy activities to do (climbing volcanoes, surfing, SCUBA diving, volcano boarding etc). At the same time you can explore colonial Spanish towns, savor good cigars and tasty rum. Tourists seem to have discovered Nicaragua and are enjoying it.

Tops Things To Do:

Volcano Boarding, Leon

Volcano Boarding, Leon

  • Go Volcano Boarding (via León): In 2004 the owner of Leon’s Big Foot hostel rode a picnic table down the slopes of nearby Cerry Negro volcano and a new tourist activity was born. Almost ten years later, and with an improved sit-down toboggan, Leon’s Volcano Boarding is the must-do activity of Nicaragua. Featured in the #2 spot on CNN’s “Thrill Seekers Bucket List” and the #4 spot on Reader’s Digest “10 Death Defying Travel Destinations”, Leon’s Volcano Boarding is an increasingly popular activity, attracting dare-devils from all over trying to break the current speed record of 90 km/h. Read More Here.
  • Cheap SCUBA Diving In The Corn Islands: Some say that diving around these islands is like what diving in the Caribbean used to be like, with unbroken coral, few other dive boats and plenty of marine life. Little Corn Island is the smaller and less developed of the islands, with a smaller diving community on the island. Big Corn Island has a larger choice of places to eat, sleep and dive. You can either catch a short flight or a long ferry ride to reach these islands.
  • Party In Chilled Out Surfing Town (San Juan del Sur): San Juan del Sur is a beach party town just north of the Costa Rica border. It is all on offer here (fishing, yoga, horseback riding and canopy tours) and a great place for those looking to surf. You won’t find the best beach, but you will find the best night-life in Nicaragua here.
  • Visit Colombia, on a Tropical Island off the Coast of Nicaragua (San Andres Island, Colombia): San Andrés Island is a left over remnant from the days Panama was a part of Colombia. Today this island, located off the coast of Nicaragua, remains Colombian land. So if you want to visit a South American country without all the effort of heading all the way south, here is a good chance.
  • Motorbike Around A Volcano Island (via Ometepe Island): Omotepe is an island within a massive lake in Nicaragua, made up of two cone shaped volcanoes. It also makes for a convenient place to go motorcycling. Grab a bike from the main town and the island is yours to explore.
Leon, Nicaragua

Leon, Nicaragua (Photo Credit: Eric Molina)

  • Visit The Town Of Leon: Leon is a smallish town dominated by old colonial Spanish architecture. The most popular activity in Leon is the volcano boarding (see above). However Leon has had a prominent part to play in Nicaragua’s history, so there are museums and tours to see this part of the town as well. Leon is also home to some excellent street art. In our view, Leon is one of the best places to visit in Nicaragua.
Granada, Nicaragua

Granada, Nicaragua (Photo Credit: José Porras)

  • Explore Grananda: Grananda is another town dominated by old colonial Spanish architecture. Compared to Leon, Grananda is slightly more touristy and picturesque town.
  • Get Out Of Managua: Managua is the capital of Nicaragua, it is mentioned here not because you should stop here but because you might have to. Many travellers pass through Managua because it is a convenient transit stop, but unfortunately there isn’t a lot to entertain tourists. As an added bonus, Managua has a dangerous reputation. If you need pass through Managua don’t stick around for long, head off to Nicaragua’s better destinations as soon as you can.
  • Esteli: Esteli is the third largest city in Nicaragua and is famous for its tobacco/cigar production, conservation reserves, mountain ranges and wildlife (especially birds).
  • Bluefields: Bluefields is a small port town on the eastern coast of Nicaragua. It is perhaps most famous for its Palo de Mayo carnival. A month long festival full of dance and music. Bluefields is also an interesting destination because many of Nicaragua’s indigenous population live in this region. You can catch a ferry from Bluefields out to the corn islands.

This is a list of suggestions for the top things to do in Nicaragua, but travel is all about finding something new and unexpected, so go out and do that too!

Map of Nicaragua Travel Destinations:

Here is a map to show where some of the more common travel destinations in Nicaragua are located.

The backpacker route highlighted on the map can undertaken by bus, with a ferry to get over to Ometepe Island. You can catch a ferry over to the island from either Rivas/San Jorge or Granada (the Granada option being significantly longer). To get to the Corn Islands you can  either catch a short flight or a long ferry ride.

 Map Of Nicaragua Travel Destinations

Map Of Nicaragua Travel Destinations


Travel Tips For Nicaragua

  • The coasts on either side of Nicaragua are quite different. The Caribbean has nicer beaches, the sand is whiter, this is the side where most of the SCUBA diving takes places and some of the remotest parts of Nicaragua are located on this side.  The opposite side has less attractive beaches but far better surfing opportunities and is closer to most of the tourist destinations.
  • Do not drink the tap water in Nicaragua. It is reasonably common for Hotels and Hostels to provide purified water. Bottled water is readily available and cheap.
  • The official language of Nicaragua is Spanish, although English and several indigenous languages are spoken along the Caribbean Coast. English and English creole are spoken on the Corn Islands. It is not too difficult to get around Nicaragua with only limited Spanish (in our experience).
  • The official currency of Nicaragua is the Córdoba, which converts at about 1 U.S Dollar to 25 Córdoba. U.S Dollars are commonly accepted in Nicaragua.
  • The dry season runs from November to May. The rainy season lasts from June to October. With January and July considered transition months.
  • Don’t flush your toilet paper after use, put it in the bin provided. Otherwise some poor person may have to unblock the toilet after you have left.
  • It is always handy to have small change and notes on you, as many shops and transport options may not have change for large denominations.

Money Saving Tips

  • Nicargua makes for an excellent (and significantly cheaper) alternative to Costa Rica.
  • Buy your fruit and vegetables at markets instead of supermercados (supermarkets).
  • Chicken buses are a cheap way to get around, at about $1 for each hour of travel.
  • Eat at fritangas – Buffet style restaurants with typical Nicaragua food for excellent value (expect rice, meat, cheese and salad).
  • All that adventure gear they sell at stores like REI and Kathmandu, chances are you don’t need it in Nicaragua. In fact, you will really stand out if you take gear like this. A better bet is to just take comfortable laid-back gear you already own.

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7 Responses

  1. March 18, 2014

    […] Nicaragua – Often  visited by people seeking a cheaper or less touristy equivalent to  Costa Rica. Cheap and a host of outdoorsy activities to do (climbing  volcanoes, surfing, SCUBA etc). Through in some nice old colonial Spanish towns. Read More Here. […]

  2. March 19, 2014

    […] Costa Rica is not cheap and not the place to visit if you are looking for a cheap holiday. Prices for activities, tours, food and accommodation can be particularly pricey. If you are looking for a cheap destination, head somewhere like Nicaragua. […]

  3. March 25, 2014

    […] Costa Rica is not cheap and not the place to visit if you are looking for a cheap holiday. Prices for activities, tours, food and accommodation can be particularly pricey. If you are looking for a cheap destination, head somewhere like Nicaragua. […]

  4. March 26, 2014

    […] Top Things To Do In Nicaragua […]

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    […] Prices for activities and tours can be pricey  in Belize. If you are looking for a cheaper destination, head somewhere like Guatemala or Nicaragua. […]

  6. December 9, 2014

    […] cigars. Tourists seem to have discovered Nicaragua and enjoying it. Read more about travel tips or things to do in […]

  7. June 22, 2016

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