Penas Blancas in the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve. Photo © Rebecca Ore (Own work), licensed CC BY-SA 3.0.

Hiking Bosawás Biosphere Reserve

North of Managua, Bosawás Biosphere Reserve is the largest uninterrupted tract of primary rainforest north of the Amazon. Any trip in Bosawás is a serious backcountry undertaking and should not be attempted without proper supplies, some wilderness experience, a tolerance for dampness and discomfort, and a basic survival instinct. Guides are both obligatory and absolutely necessary.

Sunset on Awas near Parl Lagoon. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.

Planning Your Time on Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast

The Atlantic coast of Nicaragua is a land unto itself. The coast is languid and lazy, with sultry mangrove estuaries, white, sandy beaches, and a relaxed lifestyle. Bluefields is a quintessential Caribbean port town, with enough fresh seafood to wear you out, an oppressive afternoon sun, and a no-hurry attitude. Corn Island and Little Corn Island are another scene altogether with soft sand beaches and rustling palm fronds, plus an isolated feeling that’s hard to find elsewhere.

La Iglesia El Calvario in Chinandega. Photo © La Iglesia El Calvario in Chinandega. Photo © Otto Dusbaba/123rf.

Planning Your Time in León and Chinandega, Nicaragua

In León and Chinandega, you can delve into the volcanic half of “the land of lakes and volcanoes.” Explore the Ring of Fire by peering into a crater lake at the top of Cosigüina, catching a glimpse of lava at night from Telica, or sliding down Cerro Negro at high speeds. There’s plenty to do, whether you come for two days or two weeks–exploring the cities, the shore, and places like Las Peñitas, Isla Juan Venado, Padre Ramos, and other points outside León that require more effort to reach but are excellent destinations.

Horseback riding on the beach in Nicaragua. Photo © Boy Driessen/123rf.

Things to Do on Nicaragua’s Northwest Coast

Although a trip to the scenic crater that makes up the highest point of Reserva Natural Volcán Cosigüina is the center point of a trip to this area, you can also relax in the Padre Ramos Wetlands Reserve, take a horseback ride, explore, fish, or lounge on the beach.

Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.

Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge

Howler monkeys and birdcalls will wake you bright and early in Los Guatuzos. Los Guatuzos contains dense populations of crocodiles; caimans; feral pigs; jaguars; and howler, white-faced, and spider monkeys. This is also home to a rare, ancient species of fish called the gaspar (Actractoseus tropicus), a living, armored relic of the Jurassic age. Between February and April, flocks of migratory species fly through in spectacular concentrations.

Ruins at Joya de Ceren. Photo © Jaime Jacques.

Day Trips from San Salvador

Two day trips in the vicinity of San Salvador stand out: the unique ruins of Joya del Cerén and exploring the suburb of Santa Tecla. It’s easy to spend a few days in Santa Tecla if you have the time, but if you stop by only for a day, definitely aim for the weekend to hit Paseo El Carmen for the street fair.

Lobster tail with local vegetables. Photo © Robert Lerich/123rf.

Sea to Soup: Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast Cookin’

Atlantic coast cuisine in Nicaragua is marked by its simplicity and freshness. Seafood on the Nicaraguan Atlantic is cheap by international standards, delicious by anyone’s standards, and well worth the wait. Here are some amazing dishes to try on your travels around the coast.

One of the many islets that make up the Solentiname archipelago. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.

The Solentiname Archipelago and the Río San Juan

The Río San Juan carries the waters of Lake Cocibolca to the Caribbean through a lush landscape of extensive nature reserves and broad cattle ranches. The biggest town in the area, San Carlos, has transformed from edgy port town to quaint destination, while offshore, the Solentiname Archipelago is a quiet group of islets of striking natural beauty. This region isn’t part of the casual traveler’s itinerary, but if you can invest a little more time than usual, the dramatic landscapes and remoteness will impress you.

Volcán Telica. Photo © lanabyko/123rf.

Hiking Nicaragua’s Maribio Volcanoes

Each volcano along the Maribio chain is unique and offers a different sort of adventure from the quintessential cone-shaped volcano, Momotombo, to the most frequently active volcano in the chain, Cerro Negro. Start early for each of these and bring a minimum of three liters of water per person. None of these hikes should be attempted without a guide, but luckily you won’t have any trouble finding a local one. Community tourism projects are growing at the base of many of these volcanoes.

La Catedral de León. Photo © Carles-Amalaric Navarro Parcerisas/123rf.

A Walking Tour of León’s Churches

A walking tour is the most enjoyable and effective way to treat yourself to the impressive architecture of León’s churches. Ranging from the 16th to 18th centuries, these churches showcase colonial, baroque, and neoclassical styles, and sometimes combine two or even all three with brilliant results. Start at La Catedral de León, near the central park, then head either northeast or southwest.