Nicaragua — Things to Do
With a landscape of rugged mountains, deep blue lakes, smoldering volcanoes, blissful cloud forests, dense jungle, and a choice of two diverse tropical coastlines, any visitor is spoilt for choice for activities in Nicaragua. Many visitors enjoy taking up the exhilarating pursuit of sand-boarding on the black sands of the Cerro Negro volcano. For something more restful, hiking around many of Nicaragua’s cloud forests is popular to view the nature there, or visitors can take in the splendor of inland waters with a kayak or other boating activity.
To take advantage of Nicaragua’s impressive coast, many people head to the Pacific shores for surfing, particularly around the town of San Juan del Sur. The Pacific coast of Nicaragua contains many stunning beaches, such as Marsella or Montimar. Head to the opposite side of the land to reach the Caribbean shores, where you will be met with amazing pristine white sand beaches. Here water sports in the warm waters are popular, with diving and snorkeling available in tranquil spots such as the Pearl Cays and Lagoon, also a popular turtle nesting area. A trip to the Corn Islands, where you are surrounded by the sea, offers more opportunity to partake in water-based activities.
Sand boarding at Cerro Negro has grown in popularity over the years as a fun and engaging activity to take in the crystalline black sands of the volcano. Tierra Tours can take you there from the city of Leon for a full day trip of hiking up the volcano, showing you active craters along the way, and then assisting you to sand board down to the bottom.
A great day out is to climb a volcano in Nicaragua, and you can choose from several, as many are accessible from the main cities. One of the most scenic to climb is Masaya Volcano, which is in a national park also containing a significantly large turquoise lake to be marveled at. If you go with Oro Travel they will give you a full-day combined tour of the area, with an experienced guide pointing out the native flora and fauna along the way.
To see a volcano is a different light take a tour out on Lake Nicaragua or join a birding tour of Ometepe Island. The island contains two active volcanoes, and is home to many bird species such as the white-throated magpie jay, Montezuma oropendola, flycatcher, yellow-napped parrot, and various hummingbirds. Careli Tours will take you on a tour of the island with an experienced nature guide, and will also attempt to show you other wildlife such as the white-faced and howler monkeys.
A good way to see the twin volcanoes of Ometepe Island is to go kayaking on the lake. If you go with Caballito’s Mar they will take you on a kayak tour around the island, and down the central river (Rio Istian) that divides the island, with amazing views of a volcano either side of you as you paddle through. They will also visit some of the smaller islands on Lake Nicaragua within reach, such as the heralded Monkey Island, which as the name may suggest, is home to a group of the primates.
With spectacular scenery and stunning wildlife, it is certainly worth hiking a cloud forest in Nicaragua. Due to its elevation, the cloud forest at Mombacho is home to much endemic plant life such as colorful orchids, begonias, and ferns; the animal life there includes abundant butterflies, inquisitive hummingbirds, and noisy howler monkeys. Mombotour provides a full day tour to the protected area, which includes a walk on the forest canopy walkway, a steel structure that allows you to get close to the treetops.
Surfing is popular along Nicaragua’s Pacific Coast, given its ideal southwest facing beaches that catch the waves. Surf Tours Nicaragua arranges complete packages lasting up to eight days for a fully inclusive stay at their surf lodge at ‘La Flor’ Beach, on the Pacific Coast. They provide instruction and full use of equipment, as well as offering comfortable lodgings that will cater to your needs, and they also provide the opportunity for other water sports such as sea fishing.
To take advantage of both the coasts, go diving in Nicaragua. Dolphin Dive on Little Corn Island in the Caribbean Sea rents out equipment, and also provides PADI training. There is another dive shop on Big Corn Island, called Nautilius, who also provides snorkeling equipment, and offers interesting reef tours on their glass-bottomed boat, although this is the only other dive shop in the Nicaragua. Other dive spots on the Pacific Coast, such the reefs and sunken shipwreck near San Juan del Sur offer a good opportunity for experienced divers, although renting equipment there will be difficult. There are popular freshwater diving sites at the crater lakes of Apoyo (near Masaya) and Xiloa (near Managua), which are deep and make a good excursion, although you are not able to rent equipment from an established provider here.