Get off the beaten track – Nicaragua Travel
One pleasant surprise I had during my recent trip to Central America, was how much Nicaragua felt like a real adventure. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I haven’t been on this sort of trip before, and I am sure there are other countries in Central America that feel even more off the beaten track. But what I really loved about Nicaragua, is that getting around isn’t always that straight forward, so loads more thought and effort goes into your trip. I much prefer it being this way rather than following a travel companies itinerary, because you get to experience and know the place in such a different way. Nicaragua travel isn’t always that easy and what looks like a few miles on a map, could literally take you all day to get to.
I have listed below some of the reasons Nicaragua felt like a real adventure, and some of the things I wasn’t aware of before:
1. Lack of shops and cashpoints
One thing I didn’t expect before going to Nicaragua was the lack of superstores and cashpoint machines. The main trouble with this was the roads, so a quick trip to the nearest town to stock up isn’t always possible.
Once you get away from the main towns, there are plenty of local convenience stores, however they only really stock the basics such as refried beans, plantains and rice.
One plus point are the fruit and veg vans that travel through towns and villages. If you are in the right place at the right time you can buy fresh fruit and veg for a good price. Although it is better to buy in the morning because not all the fruit and veg stays that fresh.
2. Dirt track roads and transport
Before heading over to Central America you will be told different things regarding the state of the roads. In Nicaragua, the main roads are in a pretty reasonable condition. However, as soon as you start heading away from the larger towns, the roads really start to deteriorate. Even by some of the more popular beaches like Playa Maderas near San Juan Del Sur, the roads are really terrible. They are so dusty and you spend the majority of the time trying to avoid the massive pot holes.
So you can see why travel takes a long time in Nicaragua. If you plan on going and hiring a vehicle, I would highly recommend to not even consider anything less than a 4×4. You really need this for the dirt tracks and you feel so much safer.
If hiring a 4×4 isn’t in your budget range, there are plenty of taxis that are reasonably priced that will take you to all the main destinations, or failing that there are the public chicken buses. Word of warning though, public transport can take hours and the buses are often rammed. So brilliant if you have all the time in the world and it’s the sort of adventure you are after, not so great if you have limited time or would like to get straight to your destination.
3. Weather and wildlife
The weather in Nicaragua of course is beautiful. During our stay (Dec/Jan) most days it was really warm and we only experienced couple of rain showers. One thing I was surprised at, was how windy it was. Before heading over there I read that there can be strong offshore winds, which is caused by Lake Nigaragua. This can sometimes be beneficial for surfing, however this year it was particularly strong. The picture of me above makes me smile because just as it was being taken a big gust of wind came almost taking my hat away…a typical windy moment. The wind did get a little frustrating at times, especially when you were near the roads, you would end up being covered in the dirt.
Nicaragua’s wildlife was incredible. The things that stood out the most to me were being woken up at 5am by the howler monkeys (ideal for dawnies), the pelicans diving into the sea right next to me in the line-up and the odd scorpion you would face at dusk. I always appreciate these things when travelling in different parts of the world.
4. Local villages and beaches
Once of my favourite highlights of the trip, was exploring the local villages and beaches. These photos were taken around the El Limon Dos area in between Playa Samara and Popoyo. The village had loads of little shops…more like shacks…and one was even specifically set up to sell rum…what more could one need in Central America? Nicaragua has the best rum called Flora de Cana..which was far too easy to drink! In the area we went to the best Nicaraguan restaurant called Yolanda’s, which sold the nations signature dishes such as Gallo Pinto (beans and rice), Arroz con pescado or pollo (rice with fish or chicken) and platanos fritos (plantain chips). As much as I loved the local cuisine, it’s not great for vegetarians and the service is pretty slow. Take it from me, do not visit a restaurant on an empty stomach, it’s torture.
My favourite beach has to be Rancho Santana. The surf wasn’t great there, however it felt like a real locals beach. There is also a really decent restaurant there, and on New Years Day it was rammed with Nicaraguan families enjoying a day out together. It felt like a really special place to have discovered.
5. Boarder crossings
Luckily we only needed to cross the Costa Rica / Nicaraguan boarder twice. The first time into Nicaragua took a couple of hours on Christmas day. However on the way back to Nicaragua it took six hours! We were staying in Playa Maderas so got a taxi from there to San Jan Del Sur because the shuttle bus was jam packed. When we got to San Juan Del Sur it was the same situation with the chicken bus, everyone was packed in tight and all the luggage was on the roof, so we decided to take a taxi the whole way to the boarder. I think it ended up costing about $90 for two of us.
When we got to the boarder the line was relentless and we spent six hours queuing. Literately we spent the whole time picking up our bags, moving a few steps before placing them down again. It was baking hot and I was so hungry and thirsty the whole time. As far as boarder crossings go, other than the wait it wasn’t too confrontational. When we got to Costa Rica we then spent another three hours on buses. It was probably one of the longest days of my life, but In a strange way I kind of enjoyed it. You certainly appreciate your destination when you arrive.
All in all I absolutely loved Nicaragua. We didn’t see as much of the country as I would have liked and we didn’t manage to score great waves the whole time. However, I definitely feel the need to now go back to see more. Stay tuned for more information I will be uploading shortly on some of the specific areas we stayed such as Playa Colorado and Popoyo…for now I hope this has got you wanting to plan your next adventure.