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 take a horseback ride, explore, fish, or lounge on the beach.

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

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

The estuary is a decidedly mellower place to swim than the ocean and is home to all the wildlife (especially birds) you could hope to see.Access to this northern region is from the Nic-12 highway, most of which was paved with financial support from the U.S. government in 2009. There’s no real coastal road to area beaches, only side spurs from Nic-12. Some of the side roads are in better condition than others. Four-wheel drive is still necessary to explore this area. Buses to Cosigüina’s scattered northern villages and beaches leave from Chinandega’s Mercadito and make stops in El Viejo before continuing northwest. Many of these destinations only have bus service once a day, which means you’ll be making an overnight trip if you don’t have your own wheels. Most visitors rent a vehicle or arrange a transfer with their hotel.

Padre Ramos Wetlands Reserve

Relax in the gentle waters of this protected estuary, laze in a hammock under the shade of a nearby palapa, or be lulled to sleep on a deserted starlit beach. Padre Ramos Wetlands Reserve is a little-visited part of Nicaragua that will reward you with an expanse of serene coastline and an overflowing supply of hospitality, wilderness, community, and culture.

The estuary is a decidedly mellower place to swim than the ocean and is home to all the wildlife (especially birds) you could hope to see. Check out the visitor’s center when you arrive to ask about fishing and boat trips into the wetlands.

One of the best ways to explore Estero Padre Ramos is by sea kayak, paddling amongst the birds, sea turtles, and mangroves that inhabit this rich environment. Ibis Exchange (tel. 505/8961-8548, U.S. tel. 415/663-8192, $35-120 pp) has new, safe boats, professional guides, unique expeditions, plus delicious meals, kayak gear, and camping equipment for day tours and overnight adventures. All ages and skill levels are welcome. Ibis Exchange offers eight-day package tours that include León, Estero Padre Ramos, and Juan Venado Nature Reserve. Contact Ibis’s local contact (tel. 505/8460-4854).

Volcán Cosigüina Natural Reserve

From the volcano’s rim you have amazing views of the crater lake below and a panorama of the Gulf of Fonseca and Padre Ramos estuary. Much of this hike is shaded by forests on the reserve and along the way you may catch a glimpse of local fauna and hear the call of endangered birds that conservationists are working to protect. The trail from Potosí takes three hours uphill and two more hours downhill. You can also take boat tours into the Gulf of Fonseca to see the islotes, which are stunning rock formations created from a volcanic eruption. If you want to soak your muscles after your climb, take a dip in the hot springs. To get here, take a bus to Potosí from Chinandega ($2).

Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Nicaragua.