Looking for a few reasons why you should visit Nicaragua? Considering the country’s two incredible coastlines, almost 20 volcanoes, lively colonial cities, abundant wildlife, rich culture, and delicious food, it won’t be hard to convince you to put “visiting Nicaragua” at the top of your travel bucket list!
This charming land of lakes, volcanoes, jungles, and amazing surf is ripe for adventure and jam-packed with unspoiled natural beauty. If you’re intrepid enough to visit, you’ll soon understand why we think Nicaragua is one of the most underrated gems in all of Central America.
Whether you’re a backpacker, remote worker, honeymooner or adventure seeker, there are thousands of reasons to visit Nicaragua: the Central American country that has it all.
Here are our top 10 reasons why you should travel to Nicaragua as soon as possible!
Why Visit Nicaragua?
10 Reasons to Travel to Nicaragua ASAP!
#1 Discover “Nica Charm” & Authentic Culture
Try finding a more charming land than the largest country in Central America. Nicaragua translates to “here united with the water.” Since it’s bordered by two oceans and boasts many lakes and rivers, the name is certainly fitting!
Like many other countries in Latin America, Nicaragua is a melting pot. Of course, the Spaniards colonized the western region in 1524, and then, much later, the British took the east – each bringing their own unique cultures, traditions, and languages. Today, there are seven indigenous groups that make up about 5% of the country’s population, and whose local cuisine, language, and art can be found everywhere from the capital city of Managua, to the Caribbean islands.
What truly sets this gorgeous country apart, though, is its “Nica Charm”: the joyous, wise, and accepting nature of Nicaraguan people – a friendly people who have been through more than enough strife to find the light on the other side of the tunnel.
Simply put, the top reason to visit Nicaragua is to experience its rich and entirely unique culture.
#2 Play on Dual Coastlines & Caribbean Islands
Caribbean & Pacific Oceans
Why choose one ocean when you can have two?
Nicaragua’s Emerald Coast boasts a breathtaking 30 miles of unspoiled Pacific coastline with some of the best beaches, sunsets, and swells ever. Then, the Caribbean coastline (Miskito Coast/Mosquito Coast) on the eastern side offers a completely unique experience from the rest of Nicaragua. Hearing Creole-English, plus a number of Indigenous languages, will make you wonder if you’re still in Nicaragua!
Desire more of an island vibe? Corn Island & Little Corn Island on the Caribbean Sea will deliver. The Corn Islands offer brilliant azure waters for incredible snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, and more!
Costa Rica, Nicaragua’s southern neighbor, can’t offer you the perfect surfing conditions (surfers, scroll to #4) and Caribbean island life that Nicaragua can. Sorry (not sorry)!
#3 Explore the Historic Colonial Cities of León & Granada
Compared to other great colonial cities in the Americas (like Antigua and Oaxaca City), Granada and León are highly underrated!
On the surface, they appear to be quite similar, but the lighthearted rivalry of León versus Granada goes way back to the early 1500s when the two competed for the title of Nicaragua’s “capital city” (now Managua). While both cities are home to picturesque cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, a myriad of grand colonial churches, quaint city parks, chic cafés, and museums, they each have their own distinct vibe. Both cities are endlessly charming, with their own unique and authentic flavors – and not to mention, exquisite local food!
If you want our take, both cities are absolute gems. And you must visit both!
Must-Have Experiences in León
- León City Guided Walking Tour
- Sunset at the active El Telica Volcano
- Somoto Canyon National Monument Private Tour
Must-Have Experiences in Granada
Ready to explore beautiful Granada? Check out our guide to the 10 Best Things to Do in Granada, Nicaragua!
HOT TIP: While in Granada, make sure you stay at Hotel Plaza Colon. And in León, Hotel El Convento Leon Nicaragua is your place. If we’ve already convinced you to visit Nicaragua, then click here to book your trip now!
#4 Surf Some of the Best Waves in the World
If you’re a surfer, then the waves are likely your #1 reason to visit Nicaragua. Maybe you’ve heard of San Juan del Sur, but unless you love to party, we say skip it. Instead, head straight for the surf breaks along the Emerald Coast: Playa Maderas, Playa Colorado, and Popoyo (our favorite).
Boasting all-day offshore winds 300 days per year, surfers are realizing that Nicaragua is one of the best (and most affordable) surf destinations in the world.
If you’re looking for the perfect beachfront boutique surf lodge in Popoyo, we highly recommend 99 Surf Lodge. The chic minimalist design, 4-sides infinity pool, and organic contemporary cuisine are sure to impress!
Bonus: The remote areas and beaches along the Pacific coast are almost deserted (aside from San Juan del Sur). And there’s nothing like having a place all to yourself – in and out of the water!
#5 Experience Isla de Ometepe: A One-of-a-Kind Island
Picture an infinity-shaped island, comprised of two volcanoes, on the largest lake in Central America. Sounds pretty magical, right? It is.
An energy vortex of sorts, drawing people from all over the world to explore its lush nature, observe wildlife, and soul-search within, Ometepe Island is absolutely a reason to visit Nicaragua.
Between famous hostels El Pital Chocolate Paradise and El Zopilote Permaculture Farm, there are enough activities to keep you busy for weeks. Plus, don’t miss trying a sacred Cacao Ceremony or Temazcal sweat lodge!
More recommended activities on Ometepe are hiking the two volcanoes (see #7), kayaking trips, swimming in the famous pools of Ojo de Agua, and trying mouthwatering local foods (see #9).
HOT TIP: To see the entire island, definitely rent a motorcycle or scooter. I recommend this rental company. Just be careful of bumpy roads and animals!
#6 Explore Nicaragua’s Many Lakes
With seemingly endless lakes and lagoons to explore in Nicaragua, there are (at least) a few that you can’t miss.
Lake Nicaragua (Lake Cocibolca)
You already know that Lake Nicaragua is the largest lake in Central America, with Ometepe Island and the Islets of Granada dotted throughout. But did you know that it’s also home to the freshwater bull shark? Terrifying!
Try not to think about the creatures lurking below during your kayaking trip between the two volcanoes in Ometepe, or when you’re in Granada on your Islet Tour to see the 365 mini islands on the lake.
HOT TIP: While you’re there, why not stay a night at this amazing eco-lodge right on the water?! Click here to book your stay at Jicaro Island Lodge now.
Apoyo Lagoon (Laguna de Apoyo)
Another must-see lake is the Laguna de Apoyo! This crater lake was formed by volcanic implosion 23,000 years ago and is a very popular day trip from Granada.
If you want to get active on the lagoon, we highly recommend Nicaragua’s only freediving school, Freediving Nicaragua. This freshwater lake is the perfect environment for freedivers! (Did we mention it’s shark free?)
HOT TIP: If you want to experience the magic of the Laguna de Apoyo in style, then there’s no place better to stay than Casa Marimba. Click here to book your stay now!
Pearl Lagoon (Laguna de Perlas)
Our final lake spotlight is on Pearl Lagoon. Situated on the Caribbean coast, this reserve’s boundless natural beauty, marine life, and protected flora and fauna is perfect for the photography or nature enthusiast!
By booking this trip, you’ll get the opportunity to venture out of the lagoon to swim in the sparkling Caribbean Sea and see the 18 small islands known as the the Pearl Cays. An unforgettable trip!
#7 See (and Hike!) the Magnificent Volcanoes
You’ll find dozens of majestic volcanoes in Nicaragua – some active, some not. Whether you’re into challenging hikes, sandboarding, or simply soaking in beautiful views, seeing these formidable displays of nature is another top reason to travel to Nicaragua ASAP.
If you come to the land of volcanoes, you have to get up close to some active volcanoes. Hands down, the most popular volcano for tourists is the Masaya Volcano.
HOT TIP: Book this Masaya Night Tour so you can see the lava glow as the sun goes down. Your guide will drive you right up to the rim! Or you can rent a car and go yourself!
Fitness enthusiasts, we highly suggest hiking the Concepción Volcano on Ometepe. This hike is not for the faint of heart (or knees), and had me in tears at more than one point. But the view from the top of this 1,610-meter-tall active volcano will change you. Just be prepared for an 8-10 hour hike! You absolutely need a guided tour for this one. Click here to book your hiking tour.
Cerro Negro Volcano
Of course when you’re in León, you’ll want to slide down the face of Cerro Negro. This sandboarding tour is a go-to and offers pick-up and drop-off from the city. Be sure to take advantage of the incredible views and epic photo opportunity at the top before you sandboard down! Click here to book your Cerro Negro sandboarding tour!
Another volcano hike to do while on Ometepe is the Maderas Volcano. Though it’s almost as tall as Concepción, its trail is less steep – a plus in our book! Not to mention, swimming in the crisp waters of Lake Maderas (Laguna Volcán Maderas) at the top is the most refreshing way to celebrate a summit! Book your Maderas Volcano hike here.
#8 Enjoy the Low Travel Costs
Another one of the top reasons to visit Nicaragua is that it’s one of the most affordable countries in Central America. For backpackers, having a budget of $15-$20/day is totally doable. But with a bit more, you can travel and eat like royalty!
In the same city, you can often find $5 hostel beds as well as affordable luxury hotels for about $100 per night.
Local food is delicious (see #9) and around $3 per dish. Restaurant meals are around $15, including a drink.
For transportation, there are taxi bikes, tuk-tuks, buses, and taxis. The bus system in Nicaragua is expansive and costs about $1 for short rides, $3-4 for longer rides. If you opt for private taxi, expect to pay about $20-$25 per hour of driving – not bad! If you want a bit more freedom, rental cars in Nicaragua are also super cheap.
#9 Savor Delicious Nicaraguan Food
Last but absolutely not least, you will find yourself enamored by the delicious food in Nicaragua!
The staple here is gallo pinto, a classic Central American mix of white rice, small red beans and onions, but Nicaraguan food doesn’t stop there.
For breakfast, have a desayuno typico to start your day off the Nica way. It’s gallo pinto, fresh eggs, and Nica cheese, sometimes with crema or pico de gallo, and tortillas or tostones (my favorite).
Lunch or snack? Try nacatamal. Not unlike the Mexican version you know, nacatamal is corn masa, stuffed with pork and potato, wrapped and steamed in a plantain leaf for on-the-go eating. You can easily find a veggie version too!
These last two are my favorite: Baho and Vigorón. Baho is a hearty dish and a hangover cure. Baho is a stew of beef, green and ripe plantains, yuca, peppers, and onions, served on a plantain leaf, and topped with slaw. Vigorón is a simple dish of boiled yuca and crispy pork rinds, but packs much flavor when topped with some mimbro (a native fruit!) and eaten in its city of origin, Granada!
#10 Appreciate Abundant Wildlife
With 78 nature reserves, parks, and wildlife sanctuaries, Nicaragua is home to incredible tropical biodiversity. You can expect to see (and hear) howler monkeys all around the country, but you’ll have to get more remote to see the elusive puma! Other mammals to spot while exploring the jungles include spider monkeys, sloths, ocelots, jaguars, anteaters, armadillos, bears, mountain lions, and coatis.
Birdwatching is also a growing trend for ecotourism in Nicaragua, since over 700 species of birds live there! One of the most intriguing is the Guardabarranco, or turquoise-browed motmot, the Nicaraguan national bird. The white-throated magpie-jay is also another easily spotted bird in Nicaragua. It’s likely you’ll see great green macaws or keel-billed toucans in the nature preserves, as well as many bat, owl, and parrot species!
The oceans and lakes are teeming with marine life too! Some lakes and rivers contain crocodiles, caimans, and even sharks. In total, 640 known fish species and 248 amphibian and reptile species thrive in Nicaragua, including the green sea turtles, eagle rays, and plenty of toads and frogs (some poisonous!).
Is Nicaragua Worth Visiting?
10 Awe-Inspiring Reasons to Visit Nicaragua Now!
Bordering Honduras in the north and Costa Rica in the south, Central America’s largest country will captivate you with its awe-inspiring landscapes, diverse wildlife, warm locals, and rich culture. From the colorful cobblestone streets of Granada to the white-sand beaches of the Corn Islands, this beautiful country has it all.
Not to mention the tantalizing food around every corner and untouched jungles in the northern part of Nicaragua (think Bosawás Biosphere Reserve where 13% of the world’s species can be found!). With so many amazing reasons to visit Nicaragua, you no longer need to ask, “Is Nicaragua worth visiting?” The real question is, when are you planning your Nicaraguan getaway?
Nicaragua grants tourists 90 days in its stunning country. And if you want to stay longer, all it takes is a quick border run to Costa Rica for a new 90-day tourist visa. See you here!
FIND MORE NICARAGUA INSPIRATION HERE!
- Is it Safe to Travel to Nicaragua? A Solo Female Traveler’s Perspective
- The Ultimate Nicaragua Itinerary (For 1, 2, or 3 Weeks)
- Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua Travel Guide: Where to Play, Stay & Eat
- 10 Unforgettable Things to Do in Granada, Nicaragua
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