Nicaragua, North America



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TRAVEL GENERAL INFORMATION

Period of this trip: November 2015
Country: Nicaragua
Currency used: US $ and NIO (Nicaraguan Cordoba)
Duration: 15 days
Number of travellers: 2
Budget: ca £1200 per 1 person
Best Period: From November to May
Guide used: Lonely Planet
VISA: ESTA for US transit – Nicaragua Airport fee at arrival
General Info: This year travel choice has been quite difficult: I didn’t want to travel alone, I was not looking for only a beach holiday and I was short of ideas. I spent an entire Saturday afternoon to all the book shops in Varese to finally decide: Honduras and Nicaragua. However, having only 15 days holiday I opted for just one: Nicaragua. My best travel mate agreed as well…it was a good start already.

Skyscanner found me the quickest and the cheapest flight to Managua, via Miami with AA. We had to do the ESTA for the stop over in US.

We liked Nicaragua: few tourists, not so many italians, trasports are frequent and easy to find, food is ok, level of igiene…mmhh to improve (but this is the same across all central/south America). Sea Turtle nesting experience…one of the best of our lives!

 

TRAVEL PLAN

Day Area What to Do
1 Milan to Managua via Miaimi Morning flight from Milan Malpensa to Miami (ca 10.40 h) and 4 h stop over at the airport waiting for next flight to Managua (ca 4h).

Once in Managua we paid 10 USD each airport fee each and 20 USD for a taxi to the city centre. We stayed at La Posada del Arcangel, a nice and clean place – 50 USD for a double room with breakfast.

2 From Managua to Leon The usual jet lag woke up us at 4.30 am…(gosh!).
Breakfast was great: ham and cheese omelet, gallo pinto (rice and beans), juice, bread with jam.
With a taxi 70 NIO (1 € = 30 Cordoba circa) we reached the Mercado Israel Lewites (Market) near Boer Station to take a local (very old) bus to Leon (47 NIO each).
The market area around the station is very dirty and chaotic. Bus tickets are sold by the local bus drivers shouting the name of the cities where they are driving to.In less than 2 hours we reached Leon and our new accommodation – Hostal Lazybone 30 USD for a double room.
First thing was to book the afternoon tour to visit the volcano Cerro Negro. Then we spent the morning walking around the city following the walking tour suggested by the LP. We recognized the typical colonial style of the Central and South American cities, with colourful buildings, lots of churches simple, but huge. Leon has the biggest Cathedral in all South and Central America (UNESCO patrimony)!It was so hot at a certain point that we decided to go back to our Hostel swimming pool.The Volcano tour started at 2.30 pm. It takes 1 hour (easy) trek to reach the top of the volcano. The view is stunning: volcanoes, green valleys and ocean view.
The real cool thing there, was to surf from the top of the volcano! Inclusive in the price of the tour (30 USD each) they give you a kind of surf board (that you need to carry with you!) and once you reach the top you just use it to go down. It’s a quite long way down, so really cool thing to do!!
Once back to Leon, we spent the rest of the day relaxing on the amok of the restaurant El Sesteo, just next to the Central Square. We also had dinner there USD 17 USD (both) nothing particular, but the location was great.
3 Granada Alarm at 6.30am and breakfast watching the MotoGP final where Valentino Rossi lost the world cup :(.

Next destination: Granada. We reached the bus station with a kind of tuc tuc for 30 NIO and then mini-van to Granada via Managua (ca 3 hours for 70 NIO each).
We booked Hotel San Martin in Granada (40 USD including breakfast), very very nice.

We had a nice walk to reach the Touristic Centre of the city by Nicaragua lake and took a 1 hour boat tour to visit Las Isleta archipelago (I had to negotiate the price with the boat driver – 15 USD for both). The archipelago is made of more than 300 small tropical islands, some of them owned by local rich people. Once back, we also did the typical horse carriage tour, negotiating the price again to 15 USD.
We had dinner in one of the many restaurant in the city for 15 USD ca (both).
Granada is a really fascinating city, with colourful colonial houses and many churches. Many bars and coffee with very loud Caribbean music. We loved it. It’s full of life and a funny city, a must see place!!!

4 Granada, Mombacho Volcano National Preserve, Masaya. Awake at 6.30 am, our pre-booked taxi was at 7.30am, shame it never showed up and we thought because we negotiated a very low fare. No problem! We found another one and, after agreeing on 15 USD price (incl. return), took us to the entrance of the Mombacho Volcano National Preserve –  20 USD per ticket.
A big 4by4 van took us to 1100 mt through a very narrow and dirt track, sometimes very steep. Once at the top, we did a short 1.5 km hike around the first crater (inactive) in the middle of the cloud forest. And we literally were inside a cloud with zero visibility.
The trek was nice, but I was hoping to see some wild animals while we just saw butterflies.Our taxi driver, Fernando, took us back to the hotel (lucky he was waiting for us). We changed quickly, swim suite, towel and ready to go to Masaya and Laguna de Apoyo.
The bus journey from Granada to Masaya was longer than expected (1.30h instead of 40 min the guide said). The bus station was next to Mercado Central, a local market …and total mess!
The artisan market is 400 m far from there and the best place to buy souvenirs. We loved the fruit smoothies (also typical in Granada) – 50 NIO, fabulous!
After a bit of shopping, we decided to take the bus to Laguna de Apoyo. Taking a local bus is a real experience. Obviously the bus drivers allow double of the people to travel, and this is part of the “experience”.
Sadly we arrived at the Lagoon too late to have a bath. It was dark already. There was no bus to go back to Granada, so we took a taxi 15 USD.Shame we couldn’t try the warm water of the lagoon, where the heat comes from the crater.We had dinner at restaurant “Gordito”, very small, but popular food stall opposite the Cathedral 7 USD for both of us.
 5 Laguna de Apoyo, Omepete Island After missing the day before, we went straight to the Apoyo lagoon. We decided to take a cab this time because there were no local direct buses from Granada. The taxi was 250 NIO (6£). The water of the lagoon was incredibly hot, ca. 30 degree. We enjoyed the time relaxing by the natural pool, drinking fresh pineapple juice for just 30 NIO and reading books. At 11am we decided to go back to Granada. We took a lift from a local guy for just 100 C$.
Rushing to pick up our backpacks from the hotel, we run to station to take our bus to Omepete.Our bus journey was 1.3 h (30 NIO each). I decided to try eating something from the local seller on the bus…not bad!!! At a certain point, 2 guys convinced us and the other backpackers on the bus to accelerate the journey by offering a taxi ride, mentioning that we wouldn’t be able to take the last boat to Omepete Island. Obviously a lie…that cost us 85 NIO. Never mind! The boat to Omepete Island was 45 NIO each.
The view of the 2 volcanoes from the boat was spectacular, I couldn’t wait to visit next day by motorbike!! We stayed at hostal Escuela Teosintal (20USD per night), clean, but without a/c and hot water. We also managed to locked ourselves into the room, because the lock was broken!! Crap!!We had a Pizza at Francitos, Nicaraguan style!
 6 Omepete Island Ready at 7am to pick up our scooter – the first one was broken, the second without document, at the third attempt, we managed to have a decent one for 15 USD.
Starting from Moyopete and heading south, the view and panoramas are beautiful, but sometimes the road is dirt. We made our first stop at Ojo de Agua, a spectacular natural spring pool rich of minerals. The entrance fee was 3 USD. Quite touristic place, so everything clean and tidy, a must see.The whole island is amazing! We drove trough tropical forests, huge black sand beaches; we saw many butterflies of all kind and sizes, children going to school in their typical uniform, horses, caws and more. On the background the view of the 2 majestic volcanoes is spectacular!
Shame we couldn’t find a kayak to hire on the Rio Istiam (the LL says it’s interesting thing to do). We opted to visit the Reserva Charco Verde and its lagoon, where it’s possible to have a bath. It’s an easy short walk to reach the lagoon.
We spent all day driving around the island, which is definitively a worth place to visit and I will go back one day.
Dinner at “El Indio Viejo” for  290 NIO, the restaurant was very nice, colourful and owned by an old lady hippy.
 7 San Juan del Sur, Playa Maderas and La Flor Refuge Early morning woke up to be able to take the boat to San Jorge at 6am (ticket for 50 C$ each). Once in land, a taxi driver told us that the next available bus to San Juan del Sur was going to arrive very late and offered to drive us there for a “good” price. But this time we didn’t believe him and our bus arrived as expected after just 20m wait. My suggestions is to always ask to more than one person to avoid taxi drivers giving you the wrong information!!

Once arrived in San Juan del Sur, we stayed at Casa Oro. This is not only a nice place to stay, but is also the best tour operator in town – 28 USD for a double room without a/c and hot water. It’s a well-known backpackers hostel.
San Juan is a pretty and quite touristic destination, full of surfers. It lays over a half moon bay surrounded by tropical forest and dominated by a huge Christ statue on the top of the hill.

For 4 USD we book a lift to visit Playa Maderas. This is one of the best beach of the area. It took 50 min to drive there in a not so comfortable van and very rough road.

The beach is really nice. A surfers’ paradise. In the afternoon we decide to do the small trek to reach the Christ (quite hard 30 min). The view from the top was stunning. On the way back to the bay, we were lucky to get a free ride from a local pick up!
At 7pm we book another tour from the Hostel for 23USD each to do the night tour to “Refugio De Vita Silvestre La Flor” (La Flor Refuge). It was about 1 hour journey, quite exhausting because of the bumpy road. We were a group of 30 people and the guide gave us a small torch with red light. After a short walk, we reached the beach. Here, the spectacular natural event of sea turtles nesting and small sea turtles coming to life and running towards the beach. I’ve never seen an event at such a big scale. I saw possibly more than 200 giant sea turtles nesting and thousands of small turtles coming out from the nest. Wonderful!!
We helped some of the small turtles to reach the ocean…this was an exceptional and unique experience, worth the whole holiday!!

After midnight we were back to our hostel…we needed to rest a bit before early morning wake up.

 8 Big Corn Island So hard to wake up at 4am…after just few hours sleep. But we needed to take the bus at 5am to go back to Managua – 80 C$ each for 3 hours journey.
In Managua, we changed the last euro in the market to the not recommended “coyotes”, we tried the typical Nicaraguan breakfast and after that we took another bus to the airport 2,5 C$ each – 40 min.
With a small plane, we flew to Big Corn Island with a short stop over in Bluefield. From the sky, the island looks a small green dot with 2 or 3 small villages of colourful houses.After checking in at Morgan hotel in North end – 30 USD per night, we decided to go straight to the city centre and Brig Bay.
Very different atmosphere in this island. People are less friendly and the spoken language is English.
We had a fantastic lobster for dinner at Comederia Mari for just 25 USD.
 9 Big Corn Island At 8am we were ready to walk to the beach. We passed by the fish market and we managed to get inside and see the way local fisherman trade the lobsters – 8 usd per pound, interesting!
The weather was really bad, not a moment with sun. Uffff!!! We spent all day walking around!!! But we also couldn’t resist to have a bath in the warm, crystal clear water of the Caribbean sea.
The most beautiful beaches are: Southwest bay, Long bay and Brig bay.
In Southwest  and Long Bay we saw also some accommodation directly by the beach (for next time maybe?!).
It is really strange how this island has not yet been invaded by mass tourism!! Better in this way!!
Between South End  and Sally Peachie, we stopped by one of the restaurant to try the mixed “ceviche” – very good, but not as much as the one in fish market last year in Panama.
Dinner again at Comederia Mari.Small tip: the restaurants in general close quite early (8 – 9 pm).
 10 Little Corn Island At 10am we took a boat to Little Corn Island – 290 C$ for both of us. Taking the boat was an experience, with local people screaming and laughing like crazy to every waves crashing, like in a fun fair.

The island has only 800 inhabitants and there is no way to go around the island by transports. We found a decent hostel where we decided to stay Vista Sur Mer for 20 USD (it was the only one worth the price).

 11-14 Little Corn Island We decided to spend few days in this island. We did scuba diving almost every day, but the famous hammerhead was hard to see; we did small hikes, read book and relax by the beach. PARADISE!

Everything in this island is still very authentic and simple. There is only one touristic place, the rest is very traditional considering that there are only fisherman villages in the island.
It was necessary to adapt to the local uses. From the time you order food and you can actually eat, it takes about an 1 hour; Wi-Fi is hardly impossible to find as well. However, to taste a fresh coconut directly from the palm is an experience you can get only few times in life!!

We loved the lobster at Rosy : fabulous and for just 7 USD!!!!!

15 From Little Corn Island to Big Cord Island to Managua  

Awake at 5.30am to get a boat back to Big Corn Island, and flight at 12.45 to Managua – only 12 seats – Costena airlines – quite terrifying experience for me…
We stayed at Hotel Airport X, found on booking.com for 36€, 800m far from the airport and at walking distance.

 16  Managua to Milan It was time to go back to Europe. All day travelling via Miami

TRAVEL COST LIST

Managua
– 1 night –
La Posada de Arcangel
Canal 10 de TV 100 metros al Oeste 150 metros al Sur. Bolonia, Managua, Nicaragua
Phone:
+505 22545212 – To book
web:http://www.hotellaposadadelarcangel.com/

Nice and clean.

US$50
Leon
– 1 night –
Hostal Lazybone
Del Parque de los Poetas, 2½ cuadras al Norte
Frente del Restaurante Mediterraneo – León
Phone:
+(505) 2311-3472
Email: lazybonesleon@yahoo.com
web:
http://www.lazyboneshostelnicaragua.com/

30 US$ with breakfast.

US$30
Granada

– 2 nights-

Hotel Casa San Martin
Calle La Calzada, de la Iglesia Catedral 1c. al Lago – Granada
Phone: +(+505) 2552 6185
email: reservacionescasasanmartin@yahoo.com
web:
http://hotelcasasanmartin.com/en/

US$40 per day including breakfast

US$ 80
Isla de Omepete
– 2 nights-
Hotel Escuela Teosintal
Muelle, 2c E, 1½c S Moyogalpa
Phone: +(505) 427-8828

no website, nice and clean – 2o US$ per night

US$ 40
San Juan del Sur
– 1 night –
Casa Oro Surf Hostel & Tour
One Block West of Central Park, San Juan del Sur.
Phone: +(505) 2568-2415
web:http://casaeloro.com/

28 USD for the room without a/c and hot water. It’s a well-known backpackers hostel.

US$ 28
Big Corn Island
– 2 nights –
Hotel Morgan
Breezy Point, , North End,  Big Corn Island.
Phone:
+(505)-2575-5052
web: http://bigcornislandhotelmorgan.com/

Room for US$30

US$ 60
Little Corn Island
– 5 nights –
Hospedaje Vista sur Mer
Phone:
+(505) 8847 7483

Located close to the dock yet in a tranquil setting on a small headland these 6 rooms are owned and run by Mr Winnie who lives next door. Rooms from $20 per night

US$ 100
Managua
– 1 night –
Airport X Managua Hotel
Apartado PA-267, Residencial Montechristi, Carr. Panamericana, Managua 10000, NicaraguaPhone: +505 2225 4030web: www.airportxmanagua.com/

Booked from booking.com – cheaper!

€36
Transports Taxi from Managua airport to city centre US$ 20
Taxi+ Bus from Managua to Leon – 30 + 47 (each) NIO NIO 124
Leon – Cerro Negro tour (incl surfing) – 30 US$ each US$ 60
From Leon to Granada (tuc tuc +  minivan) – 30+ 70 each NIO 170
Granada – Las Isleta archipelago boat tour US$ 15
Granada – City tour with horse carriage US$ 15
Taxi from Granada to Vulcan Mombacho national park and Entrance fee –  (15 US$ taxi + 20 USD pp) US$ 55
Taxi from Laguna de Apoyo to Granada and viceversa US$ 15 and NIO 250
From Granada to Omepete – Bus + Taxi + Boat  – 30NIO + 85NIO+45NIO NIO 160
From Omepete to San Juan del Sur by boat+bus-50NIO pp NIO 100
San Juan Del Sur – Madeiras beach lift (4US$ pp) US$ 8
San Juan Del Sur – to Managua (80 NIO pp) NIO 160
Flight Managua – Big Corn Island (return) – €175pp € 350
Trips & Other ESTA for US transit 14 US$ each US$ 28
Managua airport fee 10 US$ each US$ 20
Omepete – Ojo de Agua natural pool – 3 USD pp US$ 6
Omepete – Scooter hire  US$ 15
San Juan Del Sur – night turtle watching tour (23US$pp)  US$ 46
 From Big Corn to Little Corn Island for 2  NIO 290
 Scuba Diving in Little Corn Island – € 125pp  € 250
Meal Average Meal Price US$ 5-15
Drinks – Beers US$ 2-4
Total Holiday Cost Range per 1 person (15 days) – inclusive of souvenirs, meals and tours – excluding international flights US$ 980
€ 900
£670
International flight Milan to Managua – American Airlines €650
Total Holiday Cost Range per 1 person (15 days) – including flight €1550
£1.350

 

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“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” ― Lao Tzu

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