While we came here during the Ortega protests in 2018, this is a surprisingly fun and easy country to visit. Not too expensive, plenty of things to do, very pretty, and friendly. Part of this was because all of the other tourists had left due to the protests, but you could tell it was like this before. Hopefully, the problems here end soon and it will again be a safer place to visit. For now, though, you’ll have to get lucky, as we did, and get there during a lull in violence.
Managua (Outside of the airport, skip it)
Just a dirty city for the most part. There may be more to it, and maybe if it were safer we would have tried to see it, but there is a lot this country has to offer that is unique. A dirty concrete jungle is not that unique.
Granada (Spend a day here, that is what we did)
Apparently, there was a palace of some sorts here as recently as 2017. Well, it is gone now if so, burned down in protests. Maybe they will rebuild, but if not, there is a cathedral that is neat, and you can go out into the lake. It was slightly dangerous when we were here (only go out during the day type thing).
If you’re in a rush I’d feel free to skip, but it is not a bad little city if you have the time.
San Juan Del Sur (Spend 3 days here or so, like we did)
SJDS is a great vacation down. Three hours away from Managua it can be a bit far, but you could this as a stop between Managua and San Jose Costa Rica. It is a pretty town with a decent black sand beach. The real benefit is all of the things you can do around town. There used to be a ton of shops and restaurants, and still were when we went, but not as many as there were pre-2018.
I highly recommend going to see the turtles lay their eggs. When we went the army was not protecting the turtles like they are supposed to be doing, and so there were dozens of poachers stealing the turtle eggs. Pictures are below. We were in zero position to stop them, and so we kind of felt like reporters.
Ometepe (spend a night here, we only came for a day and we were rushed)
This is a pretty cool volcanic island in the middle of a large lake. There are waterfalls here, natural springs, beaches, and some rainforest. Definitely worth the ferry ride over. Rent a motorbike when you are on the island, not before, and save some money.
We didn’t have enough time to get to the waterfalls on the east island. So, make sure you budget 4-6 hours for that, and that is why I recommend at least two days. Ojo de Agua is halfway between the two. So, maybe do that the first day, and drive as far east as you can to find a hostel, and then do the waterfall hike in the morning, and take the ferry back in the afternoon.
Turtle egg laying (a must do, takes a night)
As I mentioned before, this was something we were able to do from San Juan Del Sur, but you are able to do it at various places along the coast. This place is just across from Costa Rica and is a national park just for them to lay their eggs. It is a pretty amazing experience watching them come in with the water.
In our case, what should have been a pretty amazing experience, was somewhat mired by poachers stealing eggs. It was sad more than anything, as these turtles lay their eggs, oblivious to the fact that those eggs are being harvested literally under their noses. Thankfully, they don’t eat turtles here like in other places, but they do eat the eggs. They consider it an aphrodisiac apparently.
Regardless, it is a great experience and one of the top 5 animal experiences I’ve had. Which, considering my time in Africa and all of the animals I got to see there, should say a lot.
Country level of difficulty – 6/10 (if the government instability goes away I’d make this a 4/10)