Thirdeyemom

Highlights of a week in Nicaragua

On my last day in Nicaragua, I saw this Apache blessing inside the worn cardboard menu at a small, mostly gringo cafe. In a nutshell, it seemed to sum up pretty well how taking a week completely off the grid in a developing country, far away from all the insanity of American life, made me feel.

“May the sun bring you energy by day, May the moon softly restore you at night, May the rain wash away your worries, May the breeze blow new strength into your being, May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life”.

San Juan del Sur Nicaragua

Our sunset view overlooking the small fishing town of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.

Traveling to Nicaragua is perhaps not on everyone’s bucket list. However, for me, as long as a destination is reasonably safe I’m always game for seeing someplace new. Over the last five years, I’ve explored most of Central America with my first visit to the most developed and modern country of them all, Costa Rica, followed by travel to Guatemala, Honduras and even a brief trip to Belize. What surprised me the most about Nicaragua is how as the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere (after Haiti which I visited last year), it was incredibly lovely and safe.

The people are warm and friendly, welcoming visitors with open arms. The culture and beauty of Nicaragua pulls you in and never leaves your heart. Perhaps this is why Nicaragua’s tourism industry is booming and only going to expand. Nicaragua is a wonderful place and is still a relatively unexplored travel gem.

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

The expat community is also rapidly increasing as expats rush to buy up inexpensive land and build their dream homes.

I’ll confess that I did not spend much time in Nicaragua’s capital, Managua, which like most other Central American capitals is not very nice or safe. I only spent the night there upon my arrival and departure out of the country. However, the rest of Nicaragua that I saw, albeit only a tiny slice of the country, was spectacular and I would go back to see more in a heartbeat.

Known as “the land of lakes and volcanoes“, Nicaragua has an extraordinary blend of flora and fauna with over 40 volcanoes across the country and two large lakes dominating the geography, Lago Cocibolca (Lake Nicaragua) and Lago Xolotlán (Lake Managua). There are also 12 stunning lagoons that fill the craters of ancient volcanoes.

Volcan Mombacho

View of Volcan Mombacho from Lago Cocibolca in Granada

Most tourists head to the southwest of Nicaragua to explore Granada, Nicaragua’s most preserved colonial city, and the pristine beaches along the Pacific Ocean. A visit to Ometepe Island and the remote, rugged Corn Islands are another favorite for the tourist who wants to get away from it all. Unfortunately, I only had a week to spare so my trip to Nicaragua included an overnight stay at the Best Western directly across the street from the International airport in Managua, followed by a visit to Granada and San Juan del Sur, a beautiful, small fishing village located on the Pacific coast.

Looking back over my week in Nicaragua, there are many highlights from my wonderful adventure. As with all my travels, it will take me some time to process it all and edit my photos. However, I wanted to give you a quick overview of the best experiences on the trip. Here they are:

Traveling solo and making new friends

I have done solo, group, family and couple travel for the past 25 years and each has its own set of pros and cons. As a middle-aged American woman, solo travel to third-world countries can sometimes be challenging and intimidating. But for me, the more I do it the more I love it. I went into this trip not knowing a soul who was invited but by the end of the week I felt like I knew these women for years.

As a mom and wife, I rarely get time alone and traveling alone in a country that speaks a different language and has a different culture can be life-changing. I find that I always learn so much about myself and in a sense really rediscover who I am while I’m traveling alone. I am at times out of my comfort zone and have to rely solely on myself. It is an exhilarating, empowering feeling. I know not everyone can do it but I’m so fortunate that I can. Some of my best trips have been when I’ve traveled alone.

Volcano Mombacho Nicaragua

Finding beauty within the rain and fog during a hike on Volcano Mombacho

Visiting Colonial Granada

Granada is a beautiful, vibrant city filled with colorful buildings, tourists, delightful restaurants and horse-drawn carriages. I loved my stay in Granada at the lovely Plaza Colon Hotel overlooking the main square in town and watching the world go by from the comforts of the front porch. There is so much to explore and see. It is a photographer’s dream, and there are plenty of tourists and expats for you to befriend.

Granada, Nicaragua

Granada, NicaraguaGranada, NicaraguaGranada, Nicaragua

Taking a sunset tour of Las Isletas

With only a night in Granada, I wanted to make sure to get as much in as possible. Through the hotel concierge, I booked a sunset cruise of Las Isletas, a series of hundreds of tiny islands in Lago Cocibolca. The beauty of the water at dusk as well as the thousands of birds, mesmerized me. It is an incredible place.

Las Isletas Nicaragua

Me and the “handsome tuna”, the translated spanish name of the boat.

Learning to surf in San Juan del Sur

The number one highlight of my trip was attending Chicabrava’s learn to surf camp in San Juan del Sur. It was also the primary reason why I went to Nicaragua in the first place. I was invited by Chicabrava on a press trip to experience and review their all women’s learn to surf camp. It was absolutely amazing! I will be dedicating more posts on this experience soon.

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Me and my board, “Snow White”

Meeting fellow WordPress blogger Debbie of Rewind and Retired in Nicaragua

One of the best parts about blogging is the fantastic community of friends you met along the way. I’ve followed Debbie’s blog for years and when I found out I was going to Nicaragua I knew we’d have to meet in person. I met Debbie of the blog Rewind and Retired in Nicaragua, her husband Ron as well as her son and his fiancé for a delightful lunch in San Juan del Sur. We had lots of laughs and many smiles and hugs.

Me and Debbie in San Juan del Sur.

Me and Debbie in San Juan del Sur.

Watching the sun set every night and getting off the grid

Perhaps the best thing of all about going to Nicaragua was to simply get away from it all and enjoy the sunset. The more I travel to developing countries, the more I love it because it simply means you can truly get away. There is no CNN blaring or flashing news updates on some massive shooting or our crazy American political race. There is limited access to email or newspapers. Being in small town San Juan del Sur simply forces you to chill out, something I have a hard time doing. If you want nightlife you can find it or else you can do as I did, watch the sun light up the sky and sip a glass of wine, in awe and wonder.

San Juan del Sur Nicaragua

Me and my perch, taking the world all in.

Overall it was a week to savor and remember. An empowering vacation to add to my ever growing list of travels. I can hardly wait to share more.

44 comments

  1. Hi Nicole, loved reading this post. I can tell you fell in love with Nicaragua, your stunning photos and beautiful words are full of passion that just shine through. What a wonderful experience for you. And doing it alone, kudos to you, beautiful lady. Look forward to reading more of your surfing adventures in this lovely land.

  2. Looking forward to hearing about the surfing! The sunset cruise on Lake Nicaragua looks great; I went during the day (which I also really loved), but your evening shots of the water and Mombacho are so striking.

  3. I’m so happy to hear you loved Nicaragua! I’m going there at the end of April for an indefinite amount of time, and hoping to check out San Juan del Sur. Do you mind sharing where you’re staying in that last gorgeous sunset shot? It looks like heaven!

    • Wonderful! What are you going to be doing there and for how long? Would you ever want to try surfing? The place I stayed at was a home rented by my learn to surf camp called Chicabrava. They have either the surf house in town or the cloud farm homes up above. It was amazing! More coming soon!

      • Wow, a cloud farm home sounds amazing! I’m not sure about surfing, but I’ll try anything once! I love snowboarding, so perhaps I’d like it? I’m going to check in with one of my TEFL agency partners in Leon, but want to spend some time exploring the country as well. I’m traveling with my sister for the first time🙂

        Looking forward to more!

  4. I need to disconnect soon- too much social media! Your trip looks beautiful, sounds like it was just what you needed. I look forward to hearing about all the adventures!

    • Thanks Cathy! Maybe you need to add surfing to your roar loud list? It is seriously nothing I ever imagined doing but it is quite the physical and mental challenge, so different from hiking and so out of my comfort zone. I loved the trip!

  5. Looks like an amazing trip! Nicaragua was not on our list of places to visit, but after seeing these pictures, it most certainly is now. Looking forward to seeing more🙂

  6. Oh, Nicole, your visit was the highlight of my year thus far. You are an amazing person and I was thrilled to finally meet you in person. Now, if I can figure out how to reblog this from my iPad, I will be in good shape. We are in Cartagena now, romancing the stone. Lol

    • Mine too Debbie! I loved meeting you! You are so fun, full of life and energy and your family is so warm too. It was wonderful!🙂 Have a great time in Cartagena! I can’t wait to read all about it.

  7. Pingback: Highlights of a week in Nicaragua | Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua

  8. What a great way to break from life and to also challenge yourself a bit with the surf ~ you disconnect, and connect with life on such a greater level. Cheers to a great weekend.

    • Thanks so much! Now I’m having the after trip blues. I always get them but in a day or two it will be over and back to it! That is why taking breaks is so important.🙂

  9. Your pictures are amazing and your written guided tour was inviting, convincing me to take more adventures out of the States. Like you, I’m a wife and mom. Sometimes I get stuck in everyday life… thank you for reminding me of travel to beautiful places.😊

    • So glad you enjoyed! It always feels so great to just get away from it all. I love my kids and husband too but rarely get time to remember myself. It feels so nice to just be alone something and remember who you are. Sounds strange but it really is empowering!

      • No, it makes sense. Your post is inspiring to me and other busy moms. It’s really okay and essential to take care of ourselves and that way, we can turn and take care of others. I probably won’t travel far but I may start going on little adventures by myself. 😊❤️

      • Yes we do! We work so hard as moms! Thanks for the kind words and yes any time any place solo is so important. Even a walk in your own special place!

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