Go to Nicaragua Before it Becomes Cool

Sunset in San Juan del Sur. By Adam Smith
Central America is a goldmine for tourists with its history, great climate and beaches. While every country in Central America offers something special, the majority of tourists end up in Costa Rica. I've been there and loved it - its definitely on of the world's paradises, but it's just missing something. My problem with Costa Rica is that it is so touristy, at times it feels more like a theme park than a cultural experience. That's why I absolutely loved Nicaragua. They have a much less developed tourism industry, similar to how Costa Rica was some 15 or 20 years ago and that's what makes it awesome.

Nicaragua is dirt cheap with a very favorable exchange rate - 8 dollars will get you more food and drinks than just about anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. When you're in Nicaragua, you feel it. Even all the tourists strolling through places like Granada and San Juan del Sur don't take away from the authentic experience that is Nicaragua.  You can go ahead and mark this down now - Nicaragua will be a huge destination, much like Costa Rica is now, in the next decade or two. If you go now, you'll be part of the blessed few who can say you went there before it was cool. Here are a few reasons to love this country:

Getting Around
It's such an easy country to travel, roughly the size of New York state. The more adventurous type can make it around the country using their bus system for just a few dollars. For those wanting a more comfortable experience, tourist shuttles are easy to find and still relatively inexpensive compared to the rest of the world. If you can speak Spanish, you can even negotiate with taxi drivers and pay a fraction of the cost you would back home.

Even the island destinations are easily reached - the Corn Islands have daily flights from the capital city of Managua and Isla de Ometepe is reached from either Granada or San Jorge by a short ferry ride. The point being, you can see a lot in a short amount of time without spending a lot of money.

A guide from my hostel photographing me
racing down the Cerro Negro
Ash Boarding
They say that the only place on Earth that you can sled down an active volcano is in Nicaragua. This may or may not be true, but that doesn't diminish the fact that this is just an incredible experience that should not be missed. Imagine going close to 50 miles per hour at a 40 degree angle down the side of a volcano spewing out smoke from one of its multiple craters. Simply put - go to the Cerro Negro and do this.


Sun setting at Playa Maderas as a storm blows in.
By Adam Smith

                    San Juan del Sur
This is one of the most charming and chill beach towns I've ever been to. You can go here and just
forget everything, get lost in the relaxed spirit of the place and work on your tan at one of the many gorgeous beaches surrounding the city. Not to forget, some of the best, freshest and most inexpensive seafood you can eat on a beach side restaurant. Speaking of food, San Juan del Sur is home to one of the best restaurants I've ever been to in the world - King Curry. Check it out if you're in the area, you won't be disappointed.

Don't forget to take in a sunset on one of the beaches surrounding the city - Playa Maderas was simply incredible. I had always heard that San Juan was a city people would go to and never leave, after seeing it for myself, I know why.

Touring the isletas of Granada. By Adam Smith
History buffs, or those who want to just enjoy beautifully restored colonial architecture will love Granada's churches and cathedrals. Just sitting in the central park and watching the world go by around you is special. Watching the sunset from the Iglesia da la Merced's bell tower will give you some unforgettable photos. You'll also find Calle Calzada, an almost oddly European style street full of restaurants, cafes and bakeries where hundreds of locals and tourists descend every night.

There's enough activities in the Granada area to keep you around for a week or more. From hiking up to the "gate to hell" at the Masaya Volcano, to kayaking out to the hundreds of isletas and even zip lining through a cloud forest at the Mombacho Natural Reserve - Granada is simply a must stop spot to enjoy some of Nicaragua's best attractions.
Sunset view from Iglesia de la Merced. By Adam Smith

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