1. The Food
Personally, I ate more food in Nicaragua than any other country I’ve traveled to before, the reason why? The food is SO CHEAP and GOOD!
My favorite meal was at Gigante Bay Hostel! I remember it like it was yesterday! Romain and I ate banana pancakes, three whole sunny side up eggs, fried plantains with cinnamon on top, fried halloumi cheese, Gallo Pinto, slices of avocado and a mixed bowl of fruit! Our full story of Gigante bay can be found here.
All for under $20 USD for two people! My wallet and tastebuds were in heaven!
2. Volcano Adventures
I had some of the most daring and challenging adventures I’ve ever experienced! And the most exclusive!
It’s the only place on the planet you can volcano board down a volcano! And if you’re like me and like telling your friends “been there, done that” then this is something you have to do in life, period.
Finally, we got to approach the crater of a live volcano, the only place you can do that in the American continent! Read our story of the Masaya Volcano here.
And we didn’t even get the chance to hike the massive Telica volcano and San Cristobal volcano… Undoubtedly, Nicaragua is a country for volcano lovers!
3. Great beginners’ surfing
From Playa Maderas, to Playa Gigante, to Popoyo Beach, there are great beginner waves in Nicaragua if you want to pick up surfing. A surfboard rental will run you around $10 for a half day. The accommodation along those beaches is rudimentary, but the gorgeous sunsets and relaxing atmosphere will more than make up for it!
4. Enjoy the Natural Beauty of Earth
After taking a moment to think, I realize that Nicaragua has some of the best natural scenery and terrain I have ever seen. Downright gorgeous. It can be a much-needed getaway for somebody who is so used to city life and looking to break away and immerse themselves in nature. We only experienced the small Pacific coast of Nicaragua, and it was already a beautiful mix of landscapes. Add to that the heavenly Corn Islands on the Caribbean Coast and you got a lot of bang for your buck in one medium-sized country!
From the beach and pink sunset of San Juan Del Sur:
5. Life perspective
Nicaragua is an extremely poor country. Poverty you can see and feel, poverty that hurts intrinsically. After leaving his country, Romain and I debated the nuances of poverty and privilege. I personally learned the extent of my privilege growing up in the United States, particularly in California located in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was never easy growing up for me in the U.S. I was raised by a single mother with four kids. But after taking everything into account, I realize there’s a “mental spectrum” of privilege and poverty. Depending on the country you grow up in, combined with your cultural and travel experiences. This spectrum can influence the lens through which you see, understand, and internalize property and privilege because everyone grows out differently. I equate this to “cultural relativism”: What is accepted culturally in one country may or may not be culturally accepted in another, for example, systems of Kinship.
But you have no way of internalizing and understanding these new perspectives unless you travel and see them for yourself. I hope that makes sense!
6. Everything is negotiable…
…and people usually let you know they are open for negotiation.
We arrived at the Lady of Grace Cathedral in León after closing hours. After discussing with the staff who were closing the doors, they offered to let us climb to the rooftop for 20 minutes, all for a meager $5 per person. Gracias very much!
Another scenario: I dropped my volcano board down the slope of the steep Cerro Negro volcano. Instantly, the guide told me porters would fetch it for me (braving winds that would knock your socks off) for $5.
Meanwhile, on Ometepe Island, we hadn’t booked our ferry tickets back to the mainland in advance. Despite showing 2 hours early at the dock, they wouldn’t sell us a ticket. I had to keep on the dock master’s radar until the last minute, when he signaled me over to park our car on a small corner of the ferry.
7. Western influence is just starting to make its way into the country
Volcano boarding was progressively invented 15 years ago by some French men and Australians, and is just starting to get some Instagram recognition.
There are still few enough Western tourists that Gringo Street in León (the country’s 2nd biggest city) -so named because that’s where you’ll find Western backpackers- only really has 2 or 3 bars.
The only town where you can really party is San Juan del Sur in the south. And the Western influences there are jarringly incongruous: from all-day frat-style pool parties to loud EDM music.
8. Sometimes, they just don’t give a f***
Then there was the AirBnB we had booked in San Juan del Sur, where we showed up and some men told us it was closed indefinitely, with no warning beforehand or any promise that we’d get our money back.
And I’m not talking about this boat, bogged down in the middle of the public San Juan del Sur beach… which no one seem to care about removing:
9. Things we didn’t like
Not everything was unicorns, rainbows, and vanilla pudding people!
1. Lack of proper infrastructure
Nicaragua is a developing nation. Proper roads from city to city were still in development so getting around is quite a challenge. We had to take a two-hour ride to San Juan Del Sur on a bumpy dirt road going 40 km/h! In a few years, I imagine the roads will be much smoother and much easier for tourists to travel.
2. The “feel” of something could happen
I will admit, I have male privilege globally. When I walk around town at night I don’t have a second thought that something might happen to me. But in this country I did. I wasn’t afraid to walk around at night time or daytime yet I know I had a slight case of concerning anxiety, it wasn’t overbearing to the point that hindered my ability to enjoy myself. I would say this was more personal than anything.
Conclusion: Nicaragua is definitely a country to visit. Exploring it fully would take at least 2 full weeks, although it is also great to combine 1 week in Nicaragua with 1 week in a nearby country (Honduras, Costa Rica, Mexico…), just like we did.