Like other countries in the region, Nicaragua has a popular, carved-out tourist route based on its principal, most-developed attractions. Nicaragua’s beaten path is made up of the Granada–Ometepe–San Juan del Sur circuit, which can be done in about one week; save another week for tackling the northwestern lowlands and a third week for the Atlantic coast or Río San Juan.
Wherever you head, Granada is a good place to ease into things, with colorful surroundings, wonderful cuisine, and more creature comforts than elsewhere in the country.
Arrive in the afternoon at Managua’s International Airport. Transfer to a hotel in Granada, less than an hour’s drive from the airport. Check into your hotel, get accustomed to the heat, and relax after your flight.
Tour Granada, visiting museums, the cathedral, and enjoying the languide waterfront. Paddle to the nearby isletas or go hiking on Volcán Mombacho, whose heights above the city make for a cool day.
From Granada, it’s a short day trip to visit the city of Masaya and its the active volcano. Start early at Volcán Masaya National Park, then browse the handicrafts in the El Mercado Viejo Craft Market. Return to Granada that evening.
Pack up and head south. Catch the boat at San Jorge to Ometepe. Spend 2–3 days exploring the island’s unique getaways, or arrange a guide to take you to the top of one of the volcanoes for more adventurous travel.
Catch the boat back to San Jorge and bus it south through Rivas to the beach at San Juan del Sur. Spend at least one night there, but tag on a few more if the surf’s up or the turtles are laying.
Catch the early express bus to Managua, then transfer directly to Matagalpa; continue east to the village of San Ramón. It will take you the better part of a day to get here, so enjoy the afternoon and that plate of gallo pinto waiting for you in the mountains. Spend the next two days hiking to the mines and touring a coffee farm or two.
Catch a ride to Managua and take the afternoon flight to Big Corn Island. Spend two days on Big Corn Island and brave the boat and make for Little Corn, soaking up sun, fresh lobster, island vibes, and perhaps a dive on the reef. Make your way back to Managua on the last day and fly home.
Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Nicaragua.