Jiquilillo and Padre Ramos
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Less than a one-hour bus ride from El Viejo, Playa Jiquilillo is on a northwest-pointing peninsula of beaches which make this area either a beautiful day trip or an extended, lazy stay, paddling through the wetlands and lazing on the beach. Avoid the area during Semana Santa, when it’s overrun.
The area remains deserted and undeveloped. Five buses make the daily round-trip from Chinandega to Jiquilillo, starting at 7 a.m. last one at 4:30 p.m. The bus to Jiquilillo continues up the coast, through the Los Zorros barrio, and arrives at the end of the road in the community of Padre Ramos. A simple fishing village of some 150 dispersed families, Padre Ramos is the gateway to the neighboring protected wetlands, and consequently the site of several grassroots tourism projects.
Lately, unusual high tides have been washing away large chunks of the gorgeous beach up and down the peninsula. The best local cooks are Doña Widia and Don Pablo—just ask for them.
In peaceful, rural Padre Ramos, there is a family-run hostel behind the school, just 50 meters from the beach and 100 meters from the estuary; the place was started with the help of its sister hostel, La Tortuga Booluda, in León (inquire there for more info). Simply tell the bus driver to let you off in front of Doña Reyna’s house, and she and her seven granddaughters will make you feel like you are part of the family.
Dine at Bar Zulema or Don Roque’s traditional ranchos on the water’s edge. You can get a quick boat ride to the community of Venecia across the estuary, where you’ll find long stretches of utterly deserted beach. The entire area is a breeding ground for sea turtles, the eggs of which are laid and hatch between November and January.
Accommodations and Food
Things are still very basic in this area. Rancho Esperanza (tel. 505/8680-0270 or 505/8879-1795, rancho.esperanza [at] yahoo [dot] com, www.rancho-esperanza.com, $8–10 pp) is a unique, community-centric operation offering a cluster of bamboo huts and dormitories with sand floors and grass mats; only $4 to pitch a tent or hammock. There is electricity and fans, lockboxes, books, surfboards, a community garden, and games. Experience low-impact natural living with projects that actively benefit the village like a kids’ club and community center. Ask about special rates for volunteers (two-week minimum, some Spanish required). The hostel offers great local food ($3–4 per meal) and will organize excursions to nearby Padre Ramos estuary and Volcán Cosigüina.
A bit farther up the beach, Rancho Tranquilo (tel. 505/8814-2245 or 8968-2290, $6 dorm, $20 private hut) has beachside bamboo-thatch huts with cement floors, mosquito nets, and shared toilets and showers. Features include a good learning beach for surfing, open rancho right at the waterline, primitive veggie living. Ask about English-teaching and Spanish-learning opportunities.
Around the corner, on the estuary-side of the peninsula, Hotel Los Zorros (tel. 505/8688-0878, $30) has five rooms lined up on the calm water and a breezy, stilted restaurant with stunning views, fried fish, and cold beers. They offer the only area deep-water sportfishing trips.
For guide services, Eddy Maradeaga (tel. 505/8371-6761) is available for mangrove tours by boat, hiking, or horseback riding. Eddy is one of the most engaged community members and is very knowledgeable about the local ecosystem and conservation efforts. He is working with a group of local students to develop a community-based tourism program for Padre Ramos.
© Randall Wood & Joshua Berman from Moon Nicaragua, 4th Edition