Nicaragua’s unspoiled beauty offers travelers of all ages and interests a variety of experiences to check off of their bucket lists. This is Central America’s second-largest country and it has an abundance of natural beauty from majestic mountains to pristine beaches, such as the view of the Miskito coast - the same one Christopher Columbus observed more than five centuries ago.
Imagine exploring the rich colonial architecture of the perfectly preserved city of Granada or strolling the streets of Leon with its crumbling 300-year-old houses and revolutionary murals. The adventure seeker will have an abundance of unique challenges, from surfing down the slopes of a black-ash covered volcano, diving through underwater caves or paddling a kayak up a jungle creek.
If you are looking to get off the beaten track, Nicaragua is the place to do just that, discover untouched rain-forests, overgrown pre-Columbian ruins, and interesting wildlife which include sea turtles, Jaguars, Sloths, Howler monkeys, and the Fresh Water Sharks…just to name a few. Or perhaps you would like to visit the remote indigenous villages whose residents are welcoming and eager to share their culture.
The Pacific coast of Nicaragua was settled as a Spanish colony from Panama in the early 16th century. Independence from Spain was declared in 1821 and the country became an independent republic in 1838. Britain occupied the Caribbean Coast in the first half of the 19th century, but gradually ceded control of the region in subsequent decades.
Nicaragua is a large country located in Central America between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Its terrain is mostly coastal plains that eventually rise up to interior mountains. On the Pacific side of the country, there is a narrow coastal plain that is dotted with volcanoes. The climate of Nicaragua is considered tropical in its lowlands with cool temperatures at its higher elevations. Nicaragua's capital, Managua, has warm temperatures year-round that hover around 88˚F (31˚C). Nicaragua is known for its biodiversity because rainforest covers 7,722 square miles (20,000 sq. km) of the country's Caribbean lowlands. As such, Nicaragua is home to large cats like the jaguar and cougar, as well as primates, insects and a plethora of different plants.
Size (land area): 130,370 sq. km (50 sq. mi). Slightly larger than Pennsylvania; slightly smaller than New York state.
Population: 5,848,641 mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 69%, white 17%, black 9%, Amerindian 5%.
Border Countries: Bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Costa Rica and Honduras.
Elevation Extremes: Lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m, Highest point: Mogoton 2,438 m (7,998 ft)
Religion: Roman Catholic 58.5%, Protestant 23.2% (Evangelical 21.6%, Moravian 1.6%), Jehovah's Witnesses 0.9%, other 1.6%, none 15.7%.
Languages: Spanish (official), English, on the Caribbean Coast indigenous languages are spoken.
Entry Requirements: A valid passport is required for U.S. citizens to enter Nicaragua. U.S. citizens do not need a visa for visits of up to 90 days for tourism or business. Tourists are required to purchase a tourist card for USD$10 upon arrival into the country.
Currency: Nicaraguan Cordoba. Visitors can exchange money at hotels, banks, and ATM’s, which are widespread in midsize towns, consider stocking up on cash for rural areas. Visa is the most widely accepted followed by MasterCard.
Shopping: Nicaragua’s rich tradition of quality handicraft products can be purchased in the boutiques of Granada, in the workshops of the artisans themselves in the towns known as the Pueblos Blancos or the markets of Masaya. There are family-owned potteries in San Juan del Oriente where you will find delicate vases, bowls, and other ceramics. One of the largest markets in the Americas is the Mercado Oriental in Managua. Nicaragua is also well known for its world-class rum, coffee, and cigars.
Food and Drink: The majority of Nicaraguan food is a mixture of Spanish and indigenous cuisine, using traditional Latin American ingredients and those from the Caribbean Coast and islands, such as corn, fruits, beef, fish, lobster, shrimp, and coconuts, with corn being the main staple. Nicaragua produces some of the best rum in the world, and the most famous brand is Flor de Cana. Popular nonalcoholic drinks include pinol, which is toasted, ground corn with water, and tiste, a variation made with cocoa beans and corn. Of course, coffee lovers will have no trouble finding their favorite beverage, even though, the country's best coffee is usually exported.
What to Wear: Personal appearance is important in the Nicaraguan culture and it is advised to dress modestly, revealing clothes might offend Nicaraguans and limit your sightseeing plans if you wish to enter churches. Shorts are rarely worn by adults except for beach excursions. Select clothing with breathable fabrics, of course, good walking shoes are a must and lightweight hiking boots are great for exploring the countryside. You should also bring rain gear and water-resistant clothing for the rainy season of September through November. If you plan to visit the coffee plantations in the highlands, pack a fleece and long pants.
When to Travel?
Like most of Central America, Nicaragua’s climate is tropical, with the temperature staying consistent throughout the year and will range from 54 degrees to 82 degrees Fahrenheit (12 – 28 degrees Celsius). The summer months are December through April and winter is May through November, with rainfall being the main seasonal difference.
This means visiting Nicaragua is best from December through February when you can enjoy days that are dry and the land is lush and green. You will find cooler temperatures during June, July, and August.
March through May are hot and dry, September through November is hurricane season and are the wettest months.
The rainy winter season usually lasts from May to October, the dry summer season runs from November through April (rain during these months can range between a short afternoon shower or a storm lasting for several days).
If you are planning a trip on the Atlantic coast or to the area of Rio San Juan, you can expect a longer rainy season where the dry season may only last a month or two, with April being the best bet for optimal conditions.
In general, the Caribbean side of the country will receive more rainfall than the Pacific side, with altitude affecting weather conditions as well. You will find the highlands will have a more pronounced spring-like climate compared to the hot and humid lowlands or coastal areas.
There are several wonderful festivals you may want to consider when planning your visit to Nicaragua and one of the most unique is “the feast day of Saint Sebastian” in Diriamba, celebrated on January 20th with the “El Tope” taking place on January 19th. This celebration is Nicaragua’s most authentic connection to its indigenous and Spanish roots. You will find the dances, songs and costumes are true to traditions that predate the arrival of the Spanish by hundreds of years.
You may also want to plan your trip during the “Palo de Mayo”, a tribute to Mayyaya the African goddess of fertility, welcoming the rainy season and celebrating new life throughout May on the Atlantic coast. August 27th through August 28th is the “Crab Soup Festival”, one of the biggest events on the Caribbean coast; on the last Sunday in October is the “Fiesta del Toro Venado" in Masaya, and the first week of December is when the Nicaraguans celebrate the “Immaculate Conception” with parades throughout the country with the biggest celebrations in the towns of Granada and Leon.
Away from it all... Jicaro Island is one of the Isletas (small islands), just a few minutes boat ride from the colonial town of Granada, Nicaragua. This private island getaway has spectacular views of the Mombacho Volcano and other Isletas in Lake Granada. The 9 Eco-cabanas are beautifully decorated and are designed for complete relaxation amidst the tropical forest.
This luxurious lodge is located on a 4,000 acre expanse of Nicaraguan jungle, with nearly half of the property being a government-designated reserve, Morgan’s Rock is immersed in nature. There are fifteen exquisite thatched-roof bungalows nestled in the lush jungle, with stunning ocean views and a private mile long sandy beach to sink your toes into.
Jicaro Island Ecolodge
Kayaking at Morgan's Rock
Leon, from the cathedral roof view of Calvario Church
Your local friends at the Jicaro island Ecolodge
Romantic sunset dinner in lake Nicaragua - Jicaro Island Ecolodge