Elizabeth Perkins

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.

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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.

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Planning Your Time in Nicaragua’s Highlands

East of the Pan-American Highway is a rugged region of blue-green hillsides, thickly forested mountains, and small farming villages of adobe homes and clay-tile roofs. Unlike anywhere else in the country, these are Nicaragua’s Highlands. Draped over the curves of rolling hills, Matagalpa is the more elegant of the region’s two big cities, while Jinotega remains a cowboy town and feels like the end of the road.

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Spend a Night at Chocoyero-El Brujo Nature Reserve

Less than 28 kilometers away from downtown Managua is a little pocket of wilderness so vibrant with wildlife you’ll forget the capital is literally just over the horizon. The Chocoyero-El Brujo Nature Reserve a naturalist’s paradise; among hardwood forests and pineapple farms, you’ll find waterfalls, hiking, and camping alongside numerous species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

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Sights in Masaya, Nicaragua

Soak in the culture and people-watching of Masaya’s plazas, especially the throbbing social and commercial heart of the mostly indigenous Monimbó neighborhood, peruse crafts markets where find all manner of delightful surprises: locally made leather shoes, brass, iron, carved wood, and textile handicrafts, plus paintings, clothing and hammocks, and cool off after an intense morning in the market on the windswept malecón.

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The Beaches of Tola, Nicaragua

Ten kilometers west of Rivas is the agricultural community of Tola, gateway to the steadily improving shore road and a string of lonely, beautiful beaches that make up 30 kilometers of Pacific shoreline. The word is out and land prices are rising, but the beaches west of Tola are still far less developed than San Juan del Sur and retain some of their fishing village character.

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The Natural Beauty of Nicaragua’s Las Isletas

The 365-island archipelago of Nicaragua formed when Volcán Mombacho erupted some 20,000 years ago, hurling its top half into the nearby lake in giant masses of rock, ash, and lava. The natural beauty of the isletas is spectacular there is plenty for history buffs to enjoy as well. The islanders themselves are interesting and friendly, maintaining a rural lifestyle unique in Nicaragua: Children paddle dugout canoes or rowboats to school from an early age, and their parents get along by fishing and farming or by taking camera-toting tourists for a ride in their boats.

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Tourism Cooperatives in Nicaragua

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. Supporting these tourism cooperatives keeps money in the local economy and promotes sustainable socio-economic growth, which means communities can maintain their identity and families can stay together.

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Moon Guides Author Spotlight

Moon author Jason Frye

Jason Frye (Moon Great Smoky Mountain National Park)

Raised deep in the mountains of West Virginia, Jason Frye first fell in love with North Carolina as a kid during family vacations to the Outer Banks. In 2002, he swapped his mountains for sand dunes and his river for an ocean when he moved to Wilmington to pursue a master of fine arts in creative writing. There, his love for North Carolina deepened into a longing to stay, settle, explore, and be a part of the people, culture, and history of the state.

Along with his wife, Lauren, Jason has kayaked the marshes and waterways near his home; hang glided off the Outer Banks; explored the cityscapes of Charlotte, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem; and wandered the woods and wilds around Asheville.

A member of the Society of American Travel Writers, Jason has contributed stories to VisitNC.com, AAA’s Go Magazine, Our State magazine, Southern Living, Salt, the Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer, and acts as a culinary critic for the Wilmington StarNews.

Keep up with Jason on Instagram @beardedwriter.