Ask people who have been to Nicaragua what their favorite place was to visit and I bet you’ll get differing responses. Each place is so unique from the next; it caters to just about anyone. I visited Nicaragua for over 2 weeks and explored most of the hot spots. If you’re looking to visit Nica, this guide breaks down the vibes of each area.
San Juan Del Sur: for the Partier & The Surfer
If you’re looking for huge parties and cheap drinks, SJDS is your spot. Located on the southwest side of Nica there is a party every single night. With countless deals on drinks, you are likely to wind up drunk at loud pool parties with massive amounts of tourists (think European, Australian, and American backpackers in their early twenties). SJDS became popular due to its location near amazing surf beaches including Playa Hermosa, Playa Maderas and El Remanzo. The surf is perfect for both beginners that want to learn as well as advanced surfers that can show off their flipping and jumping skills. These beaches aren’t quite set up for beach bums, it’s more for the active surfer type. If you visit, I highly recommend a surfing lesson! I paid $30 USD total from SJDS and had a great time at Playa Hermosa. Something else I would recommend to all visiting SJDS is the hike up to the Jesus statue which offers a nice workout and amazing views of the town.
The Corn Islands: for The Beach Bum & The Scuba Diver
Situated off the eastern coast of Nica, Big Corn and Little Corn Islands are for beach bums and scuba divers. The beach bum can find an amazing beach on Big Corn called Arenas Beach, otherwise there are pockets of sand here and there scattered around the island. Little Corn’s best beach is called North Beach but there are also a few others worth a visit. Both islands are made up of huge swamps with creatures galore (giant crabs). If you’re not into beaching it up, there are snorkeling and scuba diving adventures to get into the water and explore the sea world. The snorkeling trips take you to three different reefs where we saw nurse sharks, jellyfish and numerous colorful fishies for only $15 USD. Overall, I would say spend one night on Big Corn and most of your time on Little Corn as there are more options of things to do on and off the island and it’s also ideal for relaxation. Most people fly La Costena airlines via Managua for roughly $165 USD, but costs can rise depending on the tourist season.
Ometepe: for The Hiker & The Adventurer
Ometepe is an island in Lake Nicaragua that is easily accessible by ferry from San Jorge. Most of the activities offered here are geared around exploration and hiking. You can rent a motorbike to explore the whole of the island and both volcanoes. You can also hike up the volcanoes, the little one called Maderas is a half day hike and the big one named Concepcion can take a full day. I went on the San Ramon waterfall hike that was roughly 2 hours and quite steep. Beyond hiking, you can kayak out to another island called Monkey Island and yes, see monkeys 🙂 With activities and hiking options galore, it is certainly fitting for the ultimate adventurer. Overall, gorgeous island with tons of greenery, butterflies galore, and adventures.
Granada: for The Artist & The culture seeker
Granada, just about an hour drive south of Managua, is a must stop colonial town that is super colorful and rich in history. My favorite parts were climbing to the top of Iglesia La Merced and wandering the streets that are filled with bright colored homes and diverse architecture (check our video here for a preview!). I recommend the chocolate museum as well where you can make your own chocolate AND see an amazing (free) view from the rooftop terrace. Nearby the city, there are numerous day trips you can take including Laguna de Apoyo and Las Isletas for a relaxing day on the lake.
Leon: for The Adrenaline Junkie and volcano Hiker
While I did not go to Leon, word on the street is that it is perfect for the adrenaline junkies and hikers. With numerous volcanoes nearby, hiking options are endless. Tourists also enjoy volcano boarding, though I had seen many injuries of people who have gone, so be careful if you do it! In this colonial town, you can also climb up the top of the oldest cathedral in Central America (the Cathedral of Leon), take a day trip to one of the nearby beaches, or explore the museums in town.