The best way to get to know Nicaragua is to spend time with Nicaraguans, and small farming communities across the country have created local tourism options for foreigners who want a deeper experience. You’ll feel right at home sharing hot tortillas and beans over freshly roasted coffee.
Supporting these tourism cooperatives keeps money in the local economy and promotes sustainable socio-economic growth, allowing communities to maintain their identities and allowing people to stay with their families instead of migrating to a city or to another country for jobs.
Here are a few top-notch co-ops that have mastered the tourism trade:
- Finca Magdalena: This coffee farm on Volcán Maderas on Ometepe Island was once a wealthy hacienda. Now it’s shared between a couple dozen families who offer lodging in the century-old plantation house and surrounding cabins. Learn about coffee and hike to the lagoon at the volcano’s peak.
- La Fundadora: The Eco Albergue is nestled in the mountains between Matagalpa and Jinotega on the edge of the Datanlí el Diablo Nature Reserve. Hike to the nearby reserve and take a tour of the co-op’s coffee crop. At night, snuggle around a bonfire under the stars.
- La Garnacha: This small rural community is located in Reserva El Tisey in the mountains of Estelí. Barring rain, you’ll have some of the most impressive mountain views in the country, and may even get a good, long look at the Milky Way. Sleep in rustic wood cabins. Tour the agricultural cooperative, visit local artisans, and consult a natural medicine specialist. It’s well worth the trip for the fantastic sunsets, cool air, and smell of pine.
- Telica-Rota Tourism Cooperative: Spend the night at the base of the smoldering Volcán Telica near León. Take a tour by foot or on horseback to the impressive crater where you can sometimes catch a glimpse of lava. Hike to the surrounding nature reserve and tour a bat cave.
- UCA-San Ramón: How better to learn about coffee than from the folks who grow it? Families in participating cooperatives offer lodging in their homes and tours of the coffee process. The nature in these highlands makes for beautiful hikes.
Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Nicaragua.