I've been in Nicaragua for a while and I try to explore and photograph as much as possible. The list below is completely subjective. There are of course many other great places in the country, or some that I haven't discovered (yet ;)) .
Best places in Nicaragua
1. San Juan del Sur
For its variety: You can surf at one of the nearby beaches, check out local food in many good restaurants, or enjoy its rich nightlife, all without straining the budget. San Juan is a little colorful "pueblo" located just 30 minutes away (by car) from the Costa Rican border, set on the beautiful bay and surrounded by dramatic coastline. Mostly visited by surfers, the town features a lot of energy and colors. What I personally appreciate is that it's still not spoiled by massive tourism and you can feel the local vibe and observe the life of a tropical village. On the other hand it's dynamically changing and new restaurants, little shops, hotels, or even local breweries are opening. One of the largest Christ statues is blessing the town from above the hill.
5 Things to do in San Juan del Sur:
- Surf at Maderas beach - Surfing rentals start 10$/day, and classes 25/hour
- Swim with a view of the paradise or a romantic dinner at Pelican Eyes Resort (best view of the bay)
- Try local products - La Porteña Beer, Pan De Vida Bread, jewelry and clothes from Turquesa boutique.
- Party! - town is pretty big on partying, most recently a wild Sunday pool party called "Sunday Funday" has become famous
- Boat ride along the coast / fishing.
2. Corn Islands.
For being a charming quiet paradise.
Corn Islands are two islands off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua called Big Corn and Little Corn. You can take a plane from Managua (1 hour flight) or a little fishing boat from Bluefields (5 bumpy hours on the ocean - more adventurous) to get to Big Corn. To get to Little Corn, you must spend 45 minutes extra in a panga (small motorboat).
White Sand, turquoise water, blue sky, little white clouds, palm trees and really friendly Islanders - that's probably how most of us imagine paradise. You can snorkel, fish, soak up the sun, eat fresh sea food and relax with a book. Big Fish Cafe is my favorite place to stay at Big Corn (best ratio - standards/vibe/price). Ah, Islanders do speak Creole English among themselves (result of British colonization of Caribbean coast).
3. Tola region and Magnific Rock
If you want to surf and you are looking for really relaxed environment, the Tola region is perfect for you. Probably the best place to enjoy the sunset and the most breathtaking views can found at Magnific Rock. This hotel, restaurant and surf spot is based in the highlands, equipped with a 180 degree view of the ocean and surrounding beaches. If you have a bigger budget you can stay at Aqua Resort, Rancho Santana, or the most expensive and recently opened - Mukul Resort.
For the opportunity to really get back to nature and be active outdoors.
Ometepe is an Island composed of two volcanoes, Concepción and Maderas, rising from Lake Nicaragua, the biggest lake in Central America, where fresh water sharks used to live.
Travelers come here often to hike both volcanoes, horseback ride, or swim in the freshwater springs - Ojo del Agua. There is also a 40 meter waterfall located near the southern slope of Volcano Maderas. Renting a motorbike or bicycle will help you travel around the island and be able to see as much as possible. Ometepe's river, Río Istiam, home to turtles, caimans, and countless species of birds, is really worth exploring (by kayak).
For a good breakfast, try the Cornerhouse (Moyogalpa town). They have also a couple of nice rooms to rent.
Below I've attached short, really simple video, of my trip to Ometepe with a friend who was visiting from the US. It's a bit shaky but gives an idea of the Island.
For being off the beaten path.
My last one is not widely recognized, located close to Honduran border, San Jose de Cusmapa is the most elevated town in Nicaragua (1200 meters above sea level / nice when you are tired of the persistent heat). It's really an undiscovered area, surrounded by beautiful forests, highlands scenery, and offering some of most spectacular panoramic views.
All images by Kuba Okon. All rights reserved.