It’s morning in Nicaragua and I am staying at the Mango Rosa Hotel with my Under30Experiences group trip. Our hotel is a collection of modern cabanas surrounded by jungle and apparent nothingness as far as the eye can see. The open space, the silence interrupted only by birds or monkeys, the heat that hugs you like a warm embrace; it’s a far cry from New York City.
To be honest, I hadn’t thought much about visiting Nicaragua. On my long list of countries to one day see, Nicaragua was somewhere in the bottom–namely because I knew little about the country and hadn’t given it much thought. When my plane touched down on the tarmac in Managua, I had zero expectations for my upcoming trip beyond sun, sand and beach. Over the next few days, I would realize how rich and vibrant Nicaragua is; how friendly the locals are, how stunning the scenery can be, how remarkably beautiful yet underrated it all was. I’d quickly see how Nicaragua is like the overlooked cousin to Costa Rica; how it’s a country that is just as lush and magical sans the fanny pack toting tourist crowd. In short, I’d realize that Nicaragua’s days of flying under the radar are surely numbered. Here’s why.
Nicaragua is still a budget-friendly destination..for now.
When I arrived in Nicaragua, it was after 15 days of traveling through Europe that had left my bank accounts cringing. While I can’t say I regret a single moment (or cent) spent in Europe; admittedly traveling to not one, but three of the most expensive cities on earth (Venice, Paris and Rome) had left a hell of a dent in my wallet. When I arrived in Nicaragua, it was like a breath of fresh air for my finances. Not only could I travel to a new country, but I could do so on a budget! Since Nicaragua is a destination that is still considered “off-the-beaten-path,” its prices have yet to rise due to any influx of tourism. In short, book your trip now.
It’s a hot spot for surfers (or aspiring surfers).
I’ve surfed exactly three times in my life: twice in New York City (yes, we have surfing) and once in Mexico. Each time, I’ve successfully managed to stand up on my surf board and have enjoyed the sense of pure freedom and joy of connecting with the ocean and letting it carry you to shore. Nicaragua is a surf spot and while traveling with Under30Experiences, we made our way to Playa Maderas for surf lessons. Playa Maderas is a stretch of beach with ocean front restaurants and a hotel that caters to the surfing community. Whether an advanced surfer or a newbie (like yours truly) all levels of surfers are welcome to try their hand at riding the waves.
Ever seen a volcano? In Nicaragua you will.
Nicaragua is known for having many volcanoes (more than 18 active and extinct currently listed). Most of the volcanoes flank Nicaragua’s western coast by the North Pacific Ocean, with each one seemingly beautiful in its own right. While seeing an active volcano is a surreal experience in itself, Nicaragua kicks that up a notch with volcano boarding. The most popular slope to board down is Cerro Negro near Leon in Western Nicaragua, where adventure junkies wear helmets, pads and will grab a thin metal or wooden board and slide down the volcanic ash slopes.
It’s as beautiful as Costa Rica with half the tourists.
One of the people on my Under30Experiences trip had spent some time living in Costa Rica and could not help falling in love with Nicaragua. This surprised me at first because Costa Rica seemed to embody the idea of paradise with its pura vida lifestyle; but then I realized that one big thing differentiated Nicaragua and Costa Rica: the tourists. Nicaragua feels relatively untouched and undiscovered when compared to the popular, destination of Costa Rica. Local experiences seem more authentic, beaches seem less crowded, towns seem less catered towards the Western traveler; Nicaragua seems to still hold that allure of authenticity often lost to countries that become popular with tourists.
Nicaragua has something for every type of traveler.
Whether your travel style is being a self-proclaimed beach bum and reading novels on the sand or about hiking and seeking adventure, Nicaragua seems to offer something for everyone. While traveling with Under30Experiences, our group seemed to run the gamut of people who wanted to relax, those who wanted to party and others who hoped to connect with the local culture. By the end of the trip, each of us seemed to find what we were looking for. From rum-fueled dancing on the beach to meeting with local artisans to volunteering with children to hiking to scenic views; it seems impossible to categorize the country as one type of destination. Nicaragua seems to have it all and it’s for that reason it won’t stay secret much longer.
Have you traveled to Nicaragua before? Share your experience and thoughts on the country below! For more about visiting Nicaragua with Under30Experiences, you can check out the trip I took here.