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A Central America Gem: Nicaragua Travel Guide

Before you delve into this travel guide, I suggest that you take a moment to peruse my earlier blog post on Nicaragua, over here:Nicaragua: What You Need to Know Before You Go. It contains general information and tips that will come in handy for your trip. With that foundational information fresh in our minds, let's dive into this comprehensive guide to help you get the most out of your travels. 

Immigration and Arrival: Upon arrival  in Nicaragua, you will be required to pay a tourist fee of $10, so it's essential to have cash on hand. After completing the customs clearance process, taxis will be available outside the airport, ready to take you to your accommodation. However, I would suggest that you consider pre-booking transportation through MyDayTrip if you prefer convenience or are traveling solo. I paid $75 for a ride from the airport to my hostel. If this cost  is not within your budget, the next best options are shuttles or affordable public transportation. Please note that public transportation may not be the most comfortable or punctual option, especially if you are in a hurry, exhausted from a long flight, or traveling late in the day.

Key distances: When it comes to exploring Nicaragua, there are several key destinations you won't want to miss.  To give you an idea of the distances, Granada is just an hour's drive from Managua, the capital city and the location of Augusto C. Sandino International Airport. Meanwhile, Leon is approximately a two-hour drive away, and San Juan Del Sur or Las Penitas can take anywhere from two to three hours, depending on traffic. Although I didn't get the chance to visit Ometepe island on this trip, it's worth noting that it's only about two hours away from Granada.

No matter where you choose to go in Nicaragua, you're sure to fall in love with the country's vibrant culture and stunning natural beauty. Don't wait any longer - pack your bags, and get ready for an adventure!

Highly Rated Things to Do:

  • Granada Exploration: Start your journey by strolling through the charming city of Granada on foot or opt for a horse and carriage tour.  Its colonial architecture and vibrant streets will enchant you. The tour guides are located in front of Selina hostel in the main square.

  • Apoyo Lagoon Day Trip: Don't miss a day trip to the serene Apoyo Lagoon, a natural marvel formed by a volcanic eruption. For a relaxed experience, stay at Paradiso hostel, or opt for a day pass that includes kayaking and delightful on-site dining.

  • Volcano Boarding in Leon: Thrill-seekers, this is your moment! Try Volcano Boarding at Cerro Negro in Leon, one of the world's most exhilarating excursions. Believe it or not, flying down the side of a volcano on a plywood board is one of the most popular and thrilling things to do in Nicaragua.  For just $35 you can book with BigFoot hostel this amazing experience. Consider supporting the local community by paying one of the guides to carry your  board to the top of the volcano. 


  1. Wear closed toe shoes -  You will need them to climb up the volcano and for the board ride on your way down. 

  2. Bring a bottle of water and Gatorade - The climb is not the easiest plus it is super hot in Leon, and the black gravel of cerro negro just intensifies the heat. 

  3. Bring a bandana - You can either bring your own or purchase one from the reception area at Barefoot hostel. The dust gets everywhere including on your face and in your mouth so you will need one. 

  4. Wear long socks - Wear long and thick socks to cover your ankles and keep the dust and gravel from irritating your feet. 

  5. Bring sunscreen - It’s hot in Leon, so bring sunscreen to protect yourself. 

  6. Our tour guide captured photos and videos of us boarding down the volcano, but if you want you can bring a strap to attach to your camera to capture footage. Personally, I would just rely on the footage the tour guide captures so you can focus on enjoying the moment. 

  • Masaya Volcano: Witness the awe-inspiring Masaya Volcano, where you can see molten lava with your naked eye. My favorite part was as the sun sets, luminous orange molten lava bubbles below you. It was truly a sight to see. 

  • Surfing: If you're into surfing, head to Las Penitas or San Juan Del Sur, where the waves are perfect for riders of all levels. In Las Penitas you can book surfing lessons at Mano o Mano Eco Lodge. 

  • Iglesia la Merced Tower: Capture stunning panoramic views of Granada from the Iglesia la Merced tower. The entrance fee is only $1! 

  • Cathedral de Leon at Sunset: Conclude your tour with the enchanting sight of sunset at the Cathedral de Leon, a moment of tranquility. PS: you will be asked to remove your shoes before you climb to the top, so you don’t get the white and pristine building dirty. 

  • Treehouse House Rave: During your stay in Granada, do not miss the jungle Treehouse rave every Friday. Just 20 minutes outside of Granada, this spot is perfect to get away from the city and let your hair down.Ticket cost is $30 (1100 cordobas) and can be bought online via this link: Book Ticket Here. Ticket prices include transport from the Townhouse hostel, to the Treehouse and back. Tickets have a 48 hour cancellation policy, after that, the ticket is non-refundable.  If you are going to the rave here are your options, 1) Stay at the treehouse hostel, so you don’t have to worry about getting to and from the rave; or 2) Get a shuttle or taxi from Granada. I opted not to stay at the hostel, and took a taxi because it was more convenient. 

If you take the free shuttle the times are 4pm, 5pm, 6pm, and 8pm with returns running at 12am, 1am, 2am and 3am. It is recommended that you arrive 15 minutes before your chosen shuttle time. 

Tip: book the 4pm or 5pm shuttle to the rave if you want to get there in time to see the most amazing sunset. Lastly, if you happen to miss your shuttle on the way back, you can always take Tuktuks available at the Treehouse that are available throughout the night. For your safety, if you are traveling alone, like I was,ask others if you can join them. I would not recommend taking a tuktuk late at night, if you are on your own. 

For tips on what to know before going to the rave,  see this Tiktok video I created  of the Treehouse Rave.  

Hostel and Hotel Recommendations:


  • Oasis Hostel: Located in the heart of Granada you can stay in a private room at this budget-friendly, and humble, accommodation for just $22 a night.  They offer transportation coordination for your convenience. This is perfect especially when you are traveling solo, and you don’t want to worry about how you will get from point A to point B. Alternatively, if you are looking for something more comfortable, then check out Selina Granada. 

Laguna de Apoyo:

  • Paradiso Hostel: Whether you are going here on a day pass, or spending a few days at the property, you can have one of the most unique experiences and go off-the-beaten-pass to swim in a volcanic lake that is, in the middle of a crater from an eruption 23,000 years ago. Rest assured, there are no lake monsters to be found here! The property is great for nature lovers, and someone who wants to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the busy city of Granada. For $35 a night, you get a basic room with a shared bathroom, with free breakfast included. At the hostel you have access to the lake where you can - enjoy free kayaking, floating tubes,  and paddle boarding. There is an onsite and bar that serves up some amazing lunch, and dinner options, as well as cocktails for an additional cost. Additionally, don’t miss out on their yoga classes every Tuesday, as well their pottery works onsite for a lesson. Click here to book your stay at Paradiso Hostel

How to get here? Just 30 minutes from Granada, you can take a shared shuttle from Oasis hostel (Oasis Granada) to Paradiso hostel for just $14 per person. 


  • BigFoot Hostel: This hostel is known for its social atmosphere, pub crawls, and parties. It is also known for being the go-to hostel for booking your volcano boarding tour. Both dormitories and private rooms are available. The rooms and bathrooms were nothing luxurious but they kept the property very clean, and the staff were very helpful and kind.  

For me, volcano boarding while in Nicaragua is a must-do because it’s an experience that you will never forget - including the part where you get to party on a  chicken bus. This hostel sets the tone for the rest of your time in Nicaragua, as it attracts travelers from all over the world, and it is a great way to meet friends, especially if you are traveling solo. 

Like other hostels in Nicaragua, BigFoot hostel offers shuttle services to other cities in Nicaragua, or from Leon to Antigua, Guatemala. Check with them for more details. 

Las Penitas:

  • Mano o Mano Eco Lodge: Experience beachfront tranquility with excellent food. My private suite cost $74 a night. My favorite part about spending time at this property was waking up to the sound of the ocean, taking a shower in the indoor bathroom that has an outdoor feel, playing volleyball with other guests, and sipping cocktails while watching the sky turn orange while laying in a hammock. It was truly one of the most peaceful places to be. 

Boutique Hotel:

Eat like a Nicaraguan: 

Now that we've covered the practical details, let's shift our focus to something equally important - food!

Nicaraguan breakfastIf you're in Nicaragua, you simply can't leave without trying the classic Desayuno Nicaraguense. This breakfast dish is a staple in almost every hotel, guesthouse, or hostel, and consists of two eggs, scrambled or fried, along with a serving of gallo pinto (rice and beans) prepared in the traditional Nicaraguan style with onion, sweet pepper and garlic. Additionally, the meal is accompanied by a serving of soft Nicaraguan cheese, which may take some getting used to, but the rest of the dish is so delicious that you'll likely enjoy it regardless. As someone who grew up in a Caribbean household, I can appreciate any dish that involves rice, and this one is no exception.

Another must-try dish is the nacatamales, which are similar to tamales and filled with a delicious combination of pork, cornmeal, vegetables, and rice. To enjoy this treat, it's best to head out on a Sunday morning and avoid sleeping in. These are just a couple of the many mouthwatering dishes that Nicaragua has to offer, so be sure to bring your appetite!

During lunchtime, visit a small and authentic eatery for a delicious meal. But how can one find such a place? Simply search for the ladies who are seated next to large buckets or plastic containers. After satisfying your hunger, quench your thirst with fresco, which is the term used for juice in Nicaragua. My personal favorites are jamaica (hibiscus) and Tamarindo (Tamarind). The vendors usually serve the juice in a small plastic bag with ice and a straw if you plan to take it to go. Don't be confused if your fresco is packed this way as it is completely normal. The food here is affordable, so it's a great opportunity to try new things without hesitation.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this piece. If you enjoyed reading about my adventures in Nicaragua, I kindly request that you give it a thumbs up and share it with someone who would also appreciate discovering this hidden gem in Central America. Thank you! 


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