TORONTO — Over the past few years, Nicaragua has become the ultimate destination for those looking to experience real natural beauty. Known as the ‘land of lakes and volcanoes, it has also become known for its beautiful colonial cities, unpretentious organic food, authentic cultural experiences – some as simple as a meal with a local restaurant owner – and thrilling eco-adventures like sandboarding down an active volcano or feeding monkeys avocados from a boat.
If clients are looking for authentic experiences, incredible landscapes and warm hospitality, Nicaragua delivers on all fronts. Here are some suggestions for every type of traveller:
FOR THE THRILL-SEEKER
When it comes to adventure, Nicaragua is second to none. Rich in both authentic culture and stunning biodiversity, the country is an adventurer’s paradise. With 78 protected areas, four biosphere reserves, 200 private wildlife reserves and a plethora of natural parks, the hiker, the spelunker and kayaker will be spoiled for choice. Take, for instance, Volcano Sandboarding, which is gaining in popularity. Nicaragua’s Cerro Negro is also a must-see for its 2,400 feet of volcanic vistas and undisturbed natural wonder. Visitors can cap off a day of hiking to the caldera with a thrilling joyride down the black sand slope – the faint-hearted need not apply.
FOR THE HISTORY BUFF
With a fascinating and complex history, Nicaragua has a richness in art, architecture, and culture that any other country would be envious of. Nowhere is this more evident than in Granada, Nicaragua’s oldest city and foremost cultural centre.
Resplendent with classic colonial architecture and anachronistic charm, Granada is the sum of Nicaragua’s history crystallised into one urban tapestry. Whether visitors are wandering the streets and museums or just taking in a performances at the square, Granada is where history comes to life. Must-see spots include Catedral De León, built and rebuilt four times since 1610 and home of the tomb of beloved poet Rubén Dario, not to mention priceless works of religious art. Don’t miss the spectacular views from the top of this modern relic.
FOR THE ULTIMATE FOODIE
Having always been an agricultural country, Nicaragua is the perfect place for a farm-to-table dining experience. Any visit to this beautiful Central America destination affords ample opportunities to sample organic and unpretentious food, award-winning rum and a good cup of joe. The green hills of the Nicaraguan countryside serve as the perfect growing environment for some truly delectable organic blends. Mildly acidic with a smooth body and a nutty bouquet, Nicaragua’s sustainably grown coffee beans have been winning fans the world over. Part countryside sightseeing, part caffeinated heaven, a coffee tour in Matagalpa is a must for any coffee lover.
FOR THE NATURE LOVER
Eternally misty and more than a little mysterious, Nicaragua’s famous cloud forests tempts travellers with a hiking experience unlike any other. Charming sky bridges snake between secluded rainforest canopies, while tropical birds and rare howler monkeys create a symphony of sound. Top recommendations include the walkways of Maderas and ziplining in Mombacho.
FOR THOSE SEEKING TIME OUT
In a part of the world with no shortage of all-inclusive resorts, Nicaragua stands out from the crowd. If visitors are seeking inner peace, here is a list of yoga and wellness retreats and luxury resorts to consider:
- Calala Island: A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Calala Island operates as an “ultra-all-inclusive” luxury resort, offering a total of only four beachfront villas, each with an occupancy of two guests. This means that a maximum of eight guests can stay on the island on any given night, which creates an unbelievably exclusive experience. As part of the ultra-all-inclusive rate, all food and beverages (including most alcoholic beverages) are included in the stay, along with all activities while on the island and roundtrip transfers from Managua, the capital of Nicaragua.
- Yemaya Little Corn Island Resort:: Named after the goddess of the sea, Yemaya Little Corn caters to wellness enthusiasts who seek out tranquillity and natural surroundings. A unique island hideaway hotel, it offers 16 oceanfront rooms with stunning sea views and is surrounded by lush jungle, swaying coco palms and a pristine reef teeming with sea life. The organic garden that supplies the resort’s kitchen, round out the hotel’s offerings. Do not expect marble foyers or uniformed bellhops. This is laidback relaxation at its finest.
- Malibu Popoyo Surf Resort: A unique blend of luxury surf retreat and adventure sanctuary, Malibu Popoyo is an all-inclusive, eco-friendly, boutique surf resort and retreat centre that caters to surfers, yogis and adventurous souls. Located beachfront in the heart of Popoyo, Malibu Popoyo is a neighbour to more than 10 world-class surf breaks and is run by an exceptional staff.
- Jicaro Island Lodge: Relaxation and wellness are easily within reach at Jicaro Island Ecolodge, located within Nicaragua’s west coast “Tourism Triangle”. Situated on a private island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua and just a short boat ride from the colonial town of Granada, Jicaro is a serene alternative to the bustle of the nearby historic city. It offers nine private two-storey casitas, many with a glorious view of the lake and nearby Mombacho Volcano, as well as a floating yoga deck accessible by boat. As well as year-round yoga and wellness retreats. The wellness centre at Jicaro overlooks the lake and features two open-air rooms and private showers for spa treatments.
- Aqua Oceanfront Resort: Nestled among the treetops and overlooking a private white-sand beach along Nicaragua’s Pacific Coast is Aqua Oceanfront Resort. This Rainforest Alliance-verified resort sits on a turtle-nesting beach that affords frequent sightings, and offers tree-top villas, daily yoga on an open-air platform and The Aqua Spa featuring treatments that draw inspiration from Nicaragua’s natural resources.
- Coco Loco Resort: This community-focused eco-resort in northern Nicaragua works to improve the quality of life of the local community through education programs, development and volunteer efforts. Over the past 10 years, Coco’s Waves of Hope foundation has invested over $400,000 into projects and initiatives focused on education, infrastructure, health care and the environment. After giving back, guests can nurture themselves with yoga retreats, private classes and a teacher-in-training program, and can also take up surfing at all levels. Accommodations include eight palm-thatch cabanas on the main property and three boutique rooms in the new beach house.
For more information about travel to Nicaragua go to www.visitnicaragua.us.