Nicaragua stole our heart – it’s one of those rare destinations where we’d die to return. Since it’s also one of the most hyped destinations for 2016, we listed ten highlights of Nicaragua just to spirit you up. How many reasons do you really need? Go before everyone else is there!

1. Paradise Beaches with World-class Snorkeling and Surfing

With two coastlines and authentic Caribbean islands, you have a problem choosing only one beach destination. For snorkeling, go to the Corn Islands at the Caribbean side. For the surf, it’s the Pacific. Vibrant surf town San Juan de Nicaragua will keep you busy during the night, as well.

2. Imposing Volcanos

Yearning for demanding multi-day hikes or easy access points to misty cloud forests and steaming craters? Nicaragua has them both. Cloud forests can be found on the banks of Volcan Mombacho or Volcan Maderas. The island of Ometepe has even two cones to choose from, and in León, you can surf down from black-sanded Cerro Negro. The fuming peak of Masaya is conveniently accessible by car!

Easily accessible Masaya volcano, Nicaragua
Easily accessible Masaya volcano, Nicaragua

3. Virgin Jungles and Wild River Adventures

Nicaragua has still undiscovered corners and mysterious jungles if you are willing to step out from the beaten path. Visiting Reserva Biológica Indio-Maiź was indisputably the highlight of our tour. You can paddle deep down the old Indian River, called Rio Indio, or take a motor boat and still spend days getting deeper and deeper to the unknown. The more civilized adventure takes you through Rio San Juan in a public boat, all the way from the Caribbean to Lake Nicaragua. Both rivers are teeming with crocodiles, alligators, iguanas, monkeys, turtles, and hundreds of birds. In Indio Maíz, you could see even manatees, sloths, jaguars, and pumas! Check out our tips on how to organize a trip to Indio Maíz!

4. Authentic Encounters with Indigenous Tribes

Nicaragua has seven groups of indigenous people, living at both coastlines. The Caribbean coast is home to the Miskitu and Rama, whereas the Pacific side and North accommodate Chorotega, Nahoa, Cacaopera, and Sutiaba. We were lucky to spend a couple of days with the Rama: first touring Rio San Juan and then penetrating the virgin jungle with two Rama Indians to spend a night in their territory in Indio Maíz. The visit felt incredibly authentic: we were spending some quality time with two Rama families, who showed us their way of life. It felt like visiting old friends.

5. Adrenaline Sports with a Crazy Nicaraguan Twist

You probably foresee me listing surfing, riding, mountaineering, rock climbing, zip-lining, and rappelling. Quite many have also already heard about Nicaragua’s very own adrenaline sport: volcano boarding. Would you climb on top of an active volcano just to slide down with a surfboard? It’s definitely crazy, and becoming very touristy, but still well worth the try. Our favorite was Somoto Canyon Tour, dubbed ambitiously as “the best unknown adventure sport in Central America”. The canyon adventure is made of hiking, wading, swimming, boating, and some serious cliff jumping. The setting is by the notorious border of Honduras, well of the beaten path.

6. Charm of the Past Time

Where else could you choose from the picturesque colonial cities or rustic countryside? The island of Ometepe transports you to the bygone era with ox-carts and real cowboys herding their cattle back from the lush slopes of the cloudy volcanoes. Granada and León are competing among the travelers for the title of the most beautiful city in the country. We cast our vote for the crumbling charm of León.

7. World Renown Coffee and Cigars

It would be criminal to depart Nicaragua without some prime coffee beans and world famous cigars! If your schedule allows, collect your treasures from the field: visit Estelí for the cigar factories and Jinotega area for the beans.

8. Tasty Food and Beer

To add up: food and beer are more delicious than in neighboring countries and “the national rum” Flor de Cana is among the best we’ve tasted! Even the staple, gallo pinto, tastes better than in Costa Rica. Both national beers, Toña and Victoria, are better than the ones elsewhere in the Central America. And now I heard that they are brewing IPAs, wheat ales and even stouts in Nicaragua – I have to get back!

9. More Bang For the Buck

Being one of the cheapest countries of Central America, Nicaragua is easy on the wallet as well. Backpackers revel, but so do luxury-seekers, since even high-end facilities are affordable.

10. Classy Boutique Hotels

Last but not least: you can make the adventure comfortably. If you can’t stand basic accommodation, it would mean stripping down some of the depth from the experience in Indio Maíz, but you’ll still be able to see most things we listed in our “4-week itinerary into the heart of Nicaragua”. The good news: you can comfortably day-trip to the main sights from your boutique hotel haven almost everywhere. Check out our list of the best boutique hotels in Nicaragua!

One More for the Road: How Nicaragua Jumped into Our Hearts

We fell in love with Nicaragua instantly, even before landing. After visiting Costa Rica and hearing that Nicaragua would offer the same things but in a more primitive package, we knew it was the place for us. There aren’t as much tourism related services as in Costa Rica, and infrastructure is still quite poor in remote parts (no roads), but that’s just a part of the charm. The minor inconveniences translate into real adventures and fewer tourists.

Our four-week adventure in Nicaragua was the best holiday in years, being maybe the most versatile trip we’ve ever done (competing only with our one month tours in Japan and Cambodia). I blame our itinerary, which covers the main highlights, but adds up also some bizarre detours. Check it out and let Nicaragua blow your mind!

If you’re already in love, join the confession and share your favorite things about Nicaragua in the comments below!

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Nicaragua steals your heart with paradise beaches, wild jungle adventures, rustic colonial cities, and crazy adrenaline sports. Check out ten highlights of Nicaragua and go there now!