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.

Catedral de Puntarenas. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

Sights in the Port Town of Puntarenas

Puntarenas has long been favored by Josefinos seeking R&R. This sultry port town is built along a narrow spit running west from the suburb of Cocal and backed to the north by a mangrove estuary; to the south are the Golfo de Nicoya and a beach cluttered with driftwood. Though tiny, there’s plenty to see here from museums to festivals to mingling with the locals.

El Salto Estanzuela in Nicaragua. Photo © Carles-Amalaric Navarro Parcerisas/123rf.

Exploring Nicaragua’s El Tisey Nature Reserve

Ascending into the Tisey Nature Reserve, you will notice a change in landscape as the cool air fills your lungs and the aroma of pine reaches your nostrils. This is the southernmost point in the Western Hemisphere where you’ll find pine forest, and the huge moss-covered trees are lined with hundreds of species of orchids. This area is also home to some inspiring communities and cultural sites. There’s more to see than you’ll likely have time for, so plan a few days at least.

Crater lake inside Volcán Santa Ana. Photo © Hugo Brizard/123rf.

Hiking Parque Nacional Los Volcanes, El Salvador

Parque Nacional Los Volcanes commonly known as Parque Cerro Verde, includes three prominent volcanoes that create the El Salvador’s most poetic portrait. They are of distinct ages rarely seen so close together. Volcán Izalco is the youngest volcano in Central America; Cerro Verde is considered middle aged, formed around 25,000 years ago; and Santa Ana is one of the region’s oldest volcanoes.

Nicaragua's national bird, the turquoise-browed ... Photo © Jeff Grabert/123rf.

Explore Miraflor Nature Reserve in Nicaragua

More than a trip into Estelí’s misty mountains, a visit to Miraflor is a trip backward in time. Miraflor is unabashedly rustic, natural, and unpretentious. Declared a protected natural reserve in 1990, this rudimentary tourist infrastructure was developed by locals. You can certainly visit parts of Miraflor in a day trip from Estelí, but consider experiencing the unique and friendly lodging options.

Coffee ready for roasting at a cooperative. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.

La Ruta de Café: Nicaragua’s Coffee Cooperatives

Both international coffee merchants and café-turistas can travel a circuit of coffee cooperatives scattered through the mountains of Jinotega, Matagalpa, and the Segovias. As a participant in this Ruta de Café, you can stay for a couple of hours or a couple of days, living and eating meals with the families, picking coffee, and learning about all stages of the process.