Explore this tropical gem on the Pacific coast of Central America.
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Beach life in Nicaragua
You won’t have problems finding a sun-soaked beach in Nicaragua – the Pacific coast stretches for 305 kilometres and the Caribbean side 450 kilometres.
You won’t have problems finding a sun-soaked beach in Nicaragua – the Pacific coast stretches for 305 kilometres and the Caribbean side 450 kilometres. As a beach holiday destination, it’s inexpensive and provides plenty of variety.
You’ll find family resorts, secret surfing spots, tranquil snorkelling areas and wild, rocky coastlines where nature rules.
Well known beaches on the Pacific side include San Juan del Sur, Pochomil, La Boquita, La Flor and Montelimar, but in this country it’s still possible to find your own little piece of sandy paradise that the tourist crowds haven’t found yet.
Look hard enough and you’ll find a romantic honeymoon location, turtle sanctuary, windsurfing hotspot, well-equipped resort or secluded, palm-fringed pocket beach where you can sunbake, swim and let your cares slowly drift away with the outgoing tide.
Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast is less developed, less equipped for tourism but ideal for nature lovers. Fishing, snorkelling, hiking and interacting with the locals are highlights of a visit to this part of the country. If your tastes run more toward kayaking through mangroves or wildlife-spotting in lush rainforest than partying at a resort, you’ll love this untouched part of Central America.
On Nicaragua’s Pacific coast, beach resorts, smaller hotels and backpacker accommodations compete for tourist dollars alongside chic restaurants, humble local eateries and bars.
On Nicaragua’s Pacific coast, beach resorts, smaller hotels and backpacker accommodations compete for tourist dollars alongside chic restaurants, humble local eateries and bars. Visitors can go horseback riding, trekking, body boarding, golfing, game fishing or just chill out on the beach. Here are some popular Pacific beaches to check out during your stay:
San Juan del Sur
This is probably the most visited beach in Central America and a water sports hub. Here you can surf, hire a jet-ski, hop on a charter fishing boat, snorkel, go diving or have a go at paddle boarding. The crowds get bigger on weekends and national holidays but the atmosphere here is still pretty relaxed. If you’d rather watch turtles than surfers, head 20 kilometres down the coast to the wildlife refuge at La Flor beach, where sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs between July and January.
For the residents of Managua, Nicaragua’s capital city, Pochomil beach is a popular holiday spot, only 60 kilometres away. Ride a horse along the beach, work on your tan or sit in a beachside cafe and eat fresh seafood.
La Boquita beach, 70 kilometres from Managua, offers the biggest tourist complex in the country, boasting world-class restaurants, trendy clubs, chic hotels and all the amenities you’ll ever need to enjoy a comfortable beach holiday. The beach is clean and the water inviting.
Surfers from all over the world flock to El Velero for its impressive swells, clear sparkling waters and idyllic white-sand beach. It’s a short bus ride from Leon, Nicaragua’s second largest city. There are quieter beaches in this part of the country for non-surfers too, such as tranquil Las Penitas about 20 kilometres up the coast.
Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast is a largely undiscovered gem. Fewer tourists make it to this region, which means your experiences are likely to be more nature-based and less full-on than you’ll get on the more popular Pacific side
Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast is a largely undiscovered gem. Fewer tourists make it to this region, which means your experiences are likely to be more nature-based and less full-on than you’ll get on the more popular Pacific side – the pace is considerably slower here. The east coast is low-lying and largely undeveloped and sports an ultra-Caribbean vibe, complete with reggae music, relaxed locals and, according to many experts, the best food in the country.
The Corn Islands are a great place to start your Caribbean explorations. This enchanting pair of islands lies offshore from the town of Bluefields. Great Corn Island is the larger of the two and its Creole residents rely mainly on lobster fishing and tourism for their livelihoods. The houses are wooden, the bays are idyllic, the diving and snorkelling is superb (especially around the underwater caves) and the whole place has managed to resist the ravages of major tourist development.
Little Corn Island has no cars, lots of jungle and even better diving than Great Corn. It’s famous for its relaxing beachside cabanas, friendly people and excellent local seafood.
Little Corn Island has no cars, lots of jungle and even better diving than Great Corn. It’s famous for its relaxing beachside cabanas, friendly people and excellent local seafood. Because it’s so tiny, you’ll want to be sure you have a reservation if travelling in the high season between December and April.
The Pearl Cays make a perfect day trip where you can snorkel, drink fresh coconut milk and imagine you’re a distant cousin of Robinson Crusoe.
If you want to feel like a true castaway, you can go even further afield to the Pearl Cays. These are more difficult (and expensive) to get to, but if you have a group, just ask around at the hotels or find a reliable fisherman in Pearl Lagoon to take you out – you may even see dolphins on the way over.
The Pearl Cays make a perfect day trip where you can snorkel, drink fresh coconut milk and imagine you’re a distant cousin of Robinson Crusoe. Expect to pay at least $250 USD for the boat hire and a few extra dollars for lunch and use of snorkelling gear if you haven’t brought your own.
Lakes, volcanoes and bustling markets
You’ll find plenty to keep you busy all over Nicaragua. Tourists are still discovering how much fun this place can be for a traveller with the time to truly explore the less well known areas.
Make sure you visit Ometepe Island on Lake Nicaragua, where you can hike a volcano or two, spot wild monkeys, kayak along the lake or hop on a bicycle to explore the surrounds.
When it comes to nice beaches, you don’t even need to be on the coast to enjoy one – Nicaragua’s lakes and rivers have their fair share too. Make sure you visit Ometepe Island on Lake Nicaragua, where you can hike a volcano or two, spot wild monkeys, kayak along the lake or hop on a bicycle to explore the surrounds. The volcano hikes are best completed with a guide – they’ll normally charge you around $20 USD. Get going early to avoid the afternoon heat.
If you’ve ever wanted to ride a wooden board down the slope of a volcano, you can do that on a tour to Cerro Negro from Leon. It’s quite exhilarating, but you have to hike for an hour or so to get to the top before you can enjoy the ride back down along the volcanic gravel.
And of course, no visit to Nicaragua would be complete without visiting local village markets where you’ll find cheap and healthy food, handicrafts, jewellery, woven hammocks and much more.
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