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Why you need to go to Nicaragua (right now!)

I recently got back from a girls’ trip to Nicaragua and have never felt more refreshed.

3 Amigas

Travel is my passion. I try to get abroad at least once a year and am actively working towards my goal of number of countries visited = current age. (I’m only 2 shy!)

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If you’re looking for an affordable place to visit that isn’t too far away from the states, I highly recommend looking into “the land of lakes and volcanoes.” Nicaragua is north of Costa Rica and just as full of natural beauty, but truly, it’s in a league of its own. The secret is out, and it’s becoming more and more popular, so get ahead while you still can!

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Volcan Concepcion Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua

Here are 10 reasons to visit Nicaragua in 2016 (or ASAP).

1. It’s affordable. I generally try to seek out countries that are less expensive than the US when I travel so I can maximize my time there. Maybe one day I’ll choose to spend 6 nights in Bora Bora instead of 16 in Nicaragua, but for now, I’ll take the extended trip with a bit more adventure. I bought a round trip ticket from LAX to Managua for $500. That’s cheaper than a trip to the east coast! The currency is the córdoba and the exchange rate is favorable at approx $1US = 30C. You can easily pay for things like tours and tips in American dollars. Nice hotels cost ~$100/night & there is always the hostel option around for $20 if you’re traveling solo.

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It’s $1 to climb to the top of this tower in Granada, but the views are priceless.

 

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Play time is always free.

2. It’s easily accessible. All you need is a flight, passport and a few vacation days. My flight home was direct & only took 5.5 hours. You can definitely see the highlights of Nicaragua in 1 week if that’s all the time you have. My trip lasted 2+ weeks and I was nearly in tears when it was time to leave. I went over Thanksgiving which is the end of rainy season and just before the pricier high season. My friends and I spent time in Granada, Ometepe, San Juan del Sur, and Little Corn Island. Leon and the north are also worth looking into, and I plan to visit those areas on my next trip. We had to prioritize.

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Horse drawn carriage rides are a fun and easy way to tour Granada.

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The most difficult place to get to was Little Corn Island, but it was my FAVORITE.

3. It isn’t TOO touristy…yet. People like to refer it to as “how Costa Rica was 10 years ago.” I went to Costa Rica 14 years ago, so I guess I’m a trendsetter. (Actually, that was my dad’s doing. I get my jetsetter vibes from him.) There were definitely more tourists there than I originally thought when I heard this, so there’s still the option of doing “touristy” things or going off the beaten path. The locals are quite respectful of tourists as well, and if you tell them you don’t want to buy something, they walk away with a smile and never hassle you. That was a serious breath of fresh air! Have you ever tried to say no to a vendor in India?

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My tour guide and I were the only two on this “trail” at Volcan Concepcion.

 

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4. You will experience good vibes. The people. The culture. That Nica lifestyle. All full of good vibes. Nicaraguans are some of the most relaxed and happy people I’ve ever met. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably start to wonder why you live the way you do, especially if you’re in a stereotypical corporate job, commute during rush hour, and spend $200 on jeans (ah hem.) I actually started to develop a list of reasons why I should stay in Nicaragua while I was there. It’s that good. (I decided not to stay so I can continue to support my traveling habit with my corporate job and see other countries before I settle down somewhere. It’s too hard to pick just one place!)

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Yoga and meditation at Yemaya on Little Corn Island

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Omega hanging on our porch at Xalli hotel (Ometepe)

5. You can get caught up in nature. Nicaragua is quite picturesque. Las Isletas in Granada. The volcanoes and hiking on Ometepe. The beaches, surfing, and neighboring beach towns of San Juan del Sur. The white sand and blue Caribbean sea at Little Corn Island. The cool air and coffee plantations in the north. The views of Costa Rica to the south. All of it BEAUTIFUL. Oh, and if you like monkeys, you will see a lot of those too!

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San Ramon waterfall on Ometepe

 

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Peering over the rim of an active volcano is indescribable.

6. You’ll never run out of things to do. I did A LOT while also leaving ample time for relaxation. Some things worth looking into: climbing volcanoes with varying degrees of difficulty, hiking to waterfalls and natural springs, coffee plantations with petroglyphs, horseback riding (check out Rancho Chilamate!), surfing, hammock snoozing, sailing, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, yoga, meditation, dancing, listening to live music at bars & cafes, eating local dishes & drinking coffee, watching sunrises and sunsets…or whatever your heart desires. The chances are, Nicaragua has what you are looking for in a vacation, particularly if you have a sense of wanderlust and adventure.

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Ojo de Agua is a natural spring in Ometepe

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Mombacho volcano just outside Granada

7. You’ll learn the meaning of “diakachimba.” This one is hard to explain, but it’s kind of like the Nicaraguans’ equivalent of “pura vida” in Costa Rica – only this one is way more slang & something you would never say to your parents (or so I’ve been told.) I bought a tank top from a local surf shop with the saying on it as a reminder to live in the moment. It basically means “f* yeah!” and both the locals and tourists embody this lively spirit.

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Surfing at Playa Hermosa in San Juan del Sur

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Welcome to the jungle

8. It’s safe. I traveled with 2 of my girlfriends and it was a breeze. We felt very comfortable walking alone and got around from city to city by hiring drivers through the hotel. Transportation costs can get high this way at around $50-$100 for a 1-3 hour trip, but you can also take public transportation (ex. 20 cents for the chicken bus) if you aren’t in a hurry or going too far. The only caveat is Managua because it’s like any big city with bad areas. It’s the only place we didn’t walk around on our own since it doesn’t have conventional street signs (image taking a right at the cafe, crossing a bridge, and then hanging a left at the yellow sign, etc.) and we only stayed there overnight in between flights. Everywhere else was very female traveler friendly and easy to navigate!

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My travel buddies! That’s Ometepe Island behind us.

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Granada

9. You will sample delicious local cuisine. I ate plantains every single day in one form or another and tostones were my favorite dish. Picture fried plantains topped with fried cheese! What’s not to like? The national dish is gallo pinto (a mixture of rice & beans) so I had a lot of that as well, usually for breakfast or dinner. It was pretty easy to eat vegetarian, and there was no shortage of fresh, juicy fruit and coconut drinks.

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YUM

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Yemaya’s juice & smoothie menu. This upscale resort also hosts yoga retreats.

10. You will make incredible memories. You will undoubtedly encounter new people and experiences that will leave a lasting impression. I was so grateful for each day spent in Nicaragua & I would go back in a heartbeat. It’s impossible to describe the feeling, but definitely worth experiencing for yourself. I promise you won’t regret it.

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Have you been to Nicaragua? Is it on your list?

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