Looking for a new tropical location to visit on your next vacation?
How about Nicaragua? The country is considered the wild little sister to its popular neighbor Costa Rica.
If you like to explore, the Central American country’s jungle landscape, peaceful waterways and scenic shores along the Pacific and Atlantic coupled with its slow pace, and jaw-dropping landscapes and welcoming locals, Nicaragua is your place.
The nation has a population of 6.5 million, with its cultural lures, like festivals tinged with native and Spanish traditions. The country has plenty to do and is ideal for some R&R.
Most visitors pick Granada as their home base because it is less than an hour from the capital of Managua, where the major airport is located There are a variety of lakes and volcanoes to see. The cobblestone streets are lined with pastel-colored facades with hidden lush interior courtyards and intricate tile work. The trendy Tribal Hotel (from $145), owned by New Yorkers Yvan Cussigh and Jean-Marc Houmard has only seven rooms that book up fast. They have an inviting pool with a patterned bottom and photogenically funky decor from Nicaragua and surrounding countries, as well as Turkey, Morocco, and Thailand.
The Laguna de Apoyo, a 650-foot-deep crater lake is only a half an hour car ride from Granada. You can rent one of Pacaya’s 26 rustic-yet-modern rooms with balconies, and have a cliffside perch (from $150). From there you can take a free shuttle to the water’s edge, where it is only $6 for a day pass to a laid-back beach club. While relaxing in your deck chairs you can enjoy smoothies and tacos, the club’s kayaks, boogie boards, and floating docks. Nearby Masaya is home to Nicaragua’s most famous volcano, whose innards of bubbling red lava are best viewed in the evening.
Jump in the lake
Granada is also the center of a chain of 350 small islands in the northwest corner of massive Lake Nicaragua. Las Isletas, as they’re called, are home to hotel hideaways that are only accessible by boat. The poshest is Jicaro, an eco-lodge with nine treehouse-style casitas made out of wood salvaged from Hurricane Felix,(from $440). Jicaro’s all-natural philosophy extends from its stellar menu to its seawater-filled pool, making for an idyllic retreat. You can also enjoy stand-up paddleboarding around the islets and meet the wildlife, like cheeky monkeys and elegant birds.
The Pacific Ocean crashes along Nicaragua’s western coast, home to two impressive resorts for deep-pocketed beach bums. In 2013 Mukul started a collection of mansions for the country’s richest, envisioned by billionaire rum baron Carlos Pellas Chamorro. Auberge Resorts now manages the hotel and its 1,600 acres, with villas of varying sizes, a central clubhouse with a pool and restaurant, a golf course and a surf school where instructors coach beginners ($550). Rancho Santana, only a half-hour north, is a resort and residential community that spans five stunning beaches (from $285). It is home to a colorful art gallery and a delightful taqueria, complete with cold beers and playful kittens everywhere.
Island in the sun
It’s only a puddle-jump flight (about $80 each way on local carrier La Costeña) to Nicaragua’s Atlantic side, where, 40 miles into the Caribbean Sea, you’ll find the Corn Islands. Big Corn has a small airport and more shops. Little Corn has become an endearingly sleepy backpacker enclave. While it’s remote, it has a very friendly atmosphere; everyone on the island ends up at the same bar, Cafe Tranquilo, each night. Yemaya, the poshest hotel on the island, is tucked away on Little Corn’s north shore (from $180). It has 16 cabanas and porches with views of palm trees arching over crystalline water. Their restaurant is top-tier and is only a scenic 20-minute walk to the village’s main strip.
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