Nicaragua is on the brink of becoming a hot spot but for now remains a little rough around the edges, especially compared to some of its heavily-touristed Central American neighbors. That makes it ideal for travelers looking for an authentic — and affordable — vacation destination. Intrepid traveler (and talented freelance photographer) Corey Torpie recently returned from a 10-day trip around the country with her boyfriend, Shawn Abraham. They spent one night in Managua, three nights in Leon, three nights by the beach in San Juan del Sur (pictured above) and two nights in Granada. Below Corey shares her travel tips for this beautiful country where you won't find too many tourists… yet.
Favorite Hotel: We generally stay in cheap places to keep costs down but decided to splurge while we were in San Juan Del Sur. We stayed in a gorgeous boutique hotel called La Posada Azul. It was around the corner from the beach, had a pool and served an amazingly delicious complimentary breakfast — all for $80 a night.
Most Memorable Activity: We did a hike out of Leon to the Cerro Negro Volcano (pictured right at sunrise), the youngest in Nicaragua. It took us three hours to hike up the black sand but only five minutes to return to the base because we ran straight down the side.
Eat Like a Local: The best (and cheapest) food we found were at the fritangas, which are open grills in steetmarkets. The market in San Juan Del Sur had an especially delicious dish: pollo jalapeno, grilled chicken served with a creamy jalapeno sauce. All dishes comes with rice and beans, fried plantains and cabbage, which translates into a feast for about $3.
Be a Good Sport: Baseball is the country’s most popular sport, so be sure to take in a game in any of the major cities. It's a fun and inexpensive way to spend an afternoon or evening.
Any Disappointments? Granada. It has pretty buildings but it's the country's tourist epicenter with tour companies on every corner with majorly inflated prices and a restaurant row that felt devoid of any Nicaraguan culture. However, it's a convenient jumping off point for other sites.
Biggest Surprise: Managua, the capital city, was a lot more sketchy than we anticipated. Give it a miss because there isn't much to do there anyhow and it's easy to arrange transportation between Managua's airport and other major destinations.
Overall Impressions: Nicaragua was a gorgeous country with lovely people. Most of the cities, with the exception of Granada, seemed to have hit a sweet spot as far as tourism is concerned — they haven't been overrun with tourists so you'll find smaller scale tour companies who work hard to maintain the integrity of their tours.
Don't Forget to Pack… Your Spanish-English dictionary. Not everyone there speaks English, and even if they do, a little Spanish can go a long way.