3 weeks Backpacking in Nicaragua

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1st Stop: GRANADA

View of Granada Cathedral from Iglesia Del Merced Tower
From Managua airport, organise a pick up from Hostel de Boca en Boca who will be waiting for you at the international departures with your name on a board. Granada is only one hour away from the airport and will cost you in taxi $35. If Granada is your last stop, book a shuttle from Oasis for $15 pp to Managua Airport. 

Where to stay

- Hostel De Boca en Boca C$ 470 for 2 nights with free pancakes, bananas, oat meal and coffee, free wifi
- Hostal Oasis $10 per night with free pancakes, bananas, oat meal and coffee, free wifi, swimming pool
Hostal De Boca en Boca - Common Area

What to do

- Iglesia Del Merced: walk up to the tower for a 360 view over Granada. Entrance fee is C30 or $1 
- Tour to Las Isletas 
- Horse-drawn carriage 
- Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral
- Central Park 
- Food Market
- Artisan Market
- Day trip to Laguna de Apoyo
- Masaya Volcano
Fruit and Veggies Market in Granada
Our Lady of the Assumption - Cathedral of Granada
Central Market of Granada

Where to party

- Encuentros at happy hour from 4pm to 7pm and 8pm to 9pm
- Reilly’s for dancing and some great backpackers party time!

Supermarket

Pali , 4 blocks away from the Hostel De Boca en Boca , straight after the Iglesa del Merced. Perfect for cooking back at the hostel. Fruits and Veggies are cheaper than in the food market in the streets because prices are set and locals will not give you gringo* prices.

View Map

*did you know where gringo nickname come from? Back in the day when the Americans arrived in Mexico, policemen were wearing green costumes and were not very welcomed. That’s why Mexican were saying “Green Go” and the nickname became gringo. Now even in Asia it is being used by locals to describe white tourist people!

2nd Stop: LAGUNA DE APOYO

Sunset at Laguna de Apoyo from Paradiso Hostel
You have two options to discover this beautiful heaven:

Option 1:
Day-trip from Granada to Laguna de Apoyo. Leave at 10AM arrive at 10:30AM, spend the day at Paradiso Hostel for $7 (including Free Kayak and Transats). Go back to Granada around 4PM.

Option 2:
Stay one night or more in the Lagoon. From the hostel in Granada, book the same shuttle as option 1 except it’s $3 one way. Stay at Paradiso Hostel (make sure to have a reservation prior to arrival as it gets booked up very quick - you’ll understand why once you get to this place!). Dorms are $12 with private bathroom, free kayaking, free tea and coffee, delicious restaurant & bar and THE view over the lagoon.
Paradiso Hostel Beachfront
Trust me, you will arrive booking one night, put your stuff in the room, have a quick look around and go back to the reception to book a second night!

What to do

- Kayak
- Swimming
- Swim ring
- Diving
- Read a book in a transat
- Have a passion fruit & pineapple smoothie $2
- Order the handmade mozzarella stick salad (with lettuce, onions, carrots, croutons, eggs & french dressing for $6)
- Drink a Toña (local Nica beer) at sunset
- Get suntanned on the platform in the lagoon
- Order the Morning Bagel breakfast (eggs, selva negra ham, mozzarella cheese & fruits for $5)
- Wake up at 5:30AM for sunrise behind the hills at 6AM, just sit down and enjoy the show. Right after the sun rises, jump in the water for a swim alone with the holley monkeys waking up and the fresh water or reach the sun with a kayak. Best feeling ever guaranteed!
Sunrise Laguna de Apoyo
Sunrise Beachfront of Hostal Paradiso

3rd Stop: ISLA DE OMETEPE

Punta Jesus Maria looking over Concepcion Volcano
From Laguna de Apoyo, book a shuttle from Hostel Paradiso . Minimum 2 pax for $15. The taxi driver will bring you to San Jorge where you can take the ferry to Moyogalpa (Ometepe Island). It costs C$35 (small boat) or C$55 (ferry).

Warning: you may hold your hunger and only eat after the boat trip. Why? Because this is probably going to be the most turbulent one you’ll ever experience! (no kidding - even the locals get sea sick…) Just be patient, drink water or coke, look at the horizon or close your eyes and in an hour and a half you’ll be in the beautiful and tropical island of Ometepe!

The island is pretty big (yes you'll be surprised!) so depending of where you want to start you have multiple choices where to sleep.

Santo Domingo / Santa Cruz: for Ojo Del Agua, sunrise on the beach, wind surf
Balgüe: for the volcano Maderas from Finca Magdalena
Moyogalpa: for the volcano Concepcion, supermarkets, banks, restaurants and the ferry back to mainland, sunset, Punta Jesus Maria

What to do

- Hike Concepcion and Maderas Volcanos
- Ojo del Agua
- Horse riding
- Kayak
- Scooter, Bicycle or Motorbike
View from Ojo Del Agua
Horses in Santo Domingo Beach
Maderas Volcano
Motorbiking around Isla de Ometepe

Where to stay

MOYOGALPA
- Hosepdaje Central El Indio Viejo $3 hammock, $5,5 dorm or $15 private room + free wifi + lockers 
- Hostel Life is Good

SANTO DOMINGO
- Hospedaje El Bosque $10 private room + $10 coffee on demand + free wifi

SANTA CRUZ

- El Zopilote

MADERAS VOLCANO

-  Hacienda Merida

BALGÜE

- Hostel Lazy Crab $8 dorm + free coffee + free wifi + lockers
- Finca de Magdalena $12 dorm, close to the entrance of Maderas Hike and coffee tour
Travel Crush

- If you’re looking for authenticity, no tourist and cheap accommodation, Hospedaje El Bosque is a great change of scenery and immersion into the “Nica” culture. Arisel, the owner will show you your room and have a quick chat with you. She is very very very nice and smiley and will be very happy to welcome you in her hostel. If you ask kindly she can prepare you breakfast for the next day and also a very nice coffee for C10. The room comes with a double bed, a fan, free wifi and a shared bathroom for $10. Great location, one minute away from the most beautiful beach of the island, near the bus stop and Ojo Del Agua attraction. Little supermarket, ATM, horse and motorcycle renting, restaurants and internet, she has the perfect location!

- If you're looking for making friends and partying with a bunch of cool people, the place to be is Hospedaje Central. The owners are super friendly and so are the volunteers. The restaurant and bar make it easier to gather around a bottle of rhum and a guitar. Trust me, there is no way you'll stay alone one night in this hostel, plus it's super cheap, great food and amazing location when you have to catch the ferry the next morning! Special thank you to the awesome team!

Transports on the Island

Gas is very expensive and the island is pretty big these are the two most important things you must know before arriving because your hostel location will depend on it. There is no public taxis, only private and they run if you’re a decent group (to make it profitable). They will be waiting for you with a map of Ometepe Island at Moyogalpa port. From there to Balgüe for instance, count at least $10 and an hour ride in a van with AC and bluetooth music.

The cheapest way is to take the chicken bus departing every hour or so depending when and where. Better ask the people around when is the next bus leaving. In the hostels you will also be able to ask for schedule. It costs C$ 20 per ride and you can ask the driver to drop you off somewhere specific although there are bus stops. Don’t worry about your backpack it will come on board too with no extra fee.

Scooter or bike for one day renting from Moyogalpa (if you rent if from other towns on the island it will be more expensive) $15 or $5 with passport hold as a warranty.

Ojo Del Agua Day Trip

Visit Ojo del Agua on Ometepe Island by Hibiscus & Nomada in Nicaragua.jpg
From Playa Santo Domingo, Ojo del Agua is only 1.5km away. Walking distance, count about 20 to 30 minutes. No need to call a taxi or a shuttle, the walk is actually very pretty. You will be walking towards Concepcion volcano with palm trees and green grass in the background, and the closer you’ll to the view of the volcano in the clouds. You will be sharing the road with banana trees, palm trees, cows, horses, dogs and a few bicycles or pick ups. The road is pretty quiet and not dangerous at all, it’s also super easy to stop at any time to take some photographs.

Entrance fee for the natural swimming pool is $3 or C87. For campers, you can camp overnight and have the entire site for yourself since it is close to public at 6pm. Enjoy a swim and a coconut water or a coco loco (with rhum), there are seats, ropes and diving platform for the most adventurous!

Leaving the site, you will have a few artisan stalls as well as a restaurant. I highly recommend you walk all the way until the end to the main road to meet Roger, a young man doing artisans for a living. He was taught how to make bracelets in an orphan in Moyagalpa and will explain to you how much time one bracelet needs to look like this. Super friendly he will enjoy a quick chat with you, and you’ll probably make his day buying of souvenir or two.

Bike Riding Trip

If you think you’ve seen it all Isla Ometepe walking or by chicken bus you’re wrong. The best way to recover the entire island in one day is by renting a motorbike from your hostel. Great deal with Hospedaje Central El Indio Viejo (where you will have a blast partying the night before and gathering other backpackers to make a motorbike crew, plus it is so cheap to sleep in a dorm $5.5 or even a hammock $3!). From 7am to 7pm you can get a 200mph bike for $15 (excluding gas at the end). Here is the best itinerary starting at 8am after a great refuelling breakfast at the hostel (yes if you party the night before you will find it hard to be ready at 7am!)
1. San Ramos Waterfalls - entrance is $2 by foot, add an extra $2 if you want to bring the motorbike at the parking, 2 kms away. Warning: bike beginners should go by foot since it is quite stiff and rocky…The hike to the waterfalls is about 20 to 30 minutes. You may encounter a big blue snake half way through, sleeping. And if you think you’ve missed it, all the backpackers will tell you where the spot is. The waterfall is quite impressive, especially when the clouds are moving above it. The water coming down depends on the season (rainy or dry one)
San Ramos Waterfalls
2. Maderas Volcano - no need to stop, you will just see it on your left until the next stop.
3. Comedor
- you are gonna go through some dirt road for a while, for whom is sitting in the back, bum may hurt! This is the best part of this trip since buses or taxi will not go through here. You will see life through a local lens. Kids will wave at you and working men say hola with a friendly smile. Banana trees will surround you for a while, horses used as a truck for collecting them. When dirt road meets concrete you will find a comedor down the hill (just before the village). You will be very hungry since it will be around 2pm but the wait is worth it. The lady there will be cooking with love fried fish, chicken or porc with rice, beans and vegetables. Count 130 for a big filling plate. From there, you have two options stop at Ojo Del Agua, if you have not done it the day before or go around the northern part of the island.
Comedor
Fried Fish, Rice, Beans, Tostones (plantains) & Veggies for C$ 130
4. Balgüe, Santa Cruz & Santo Domingo - optional stops for a drink, a jump in the lake or a booking at the famous hostel El Zopilote. Even if you do not plan on staying there, it is worth checking it out. Wal up for 7 minutes until you arrive in heaven with lots of monkeys and jungle around you.
5. Altagracia
- if you’ve decided to see the northern part then you will meet soon the second biggest town in the island, Altagracia. From there you will head north towards a sandy road where you will rid around the second volcano of the island.
6. Concepcion Volcano
- Sunset is coming soon so you will have the sun in front of you and the volcano on your left. Stop for a picture, the show is spectacular.
Concepcion Volcano
7. Punta Jesus Maria - hurry up you have only half hour left, but that’s probably for the best. Even if you’ve done it the day before, it’s worth seeing it again since we all know a sunset is different every night. Have a swim in the lake, look back for the volcano scenery and see the sun going down. Time for a group picture and lots of giggle, what a day!
8. Moyogalpa
- time to head back, 7pm is coming soon. Fill in the tank and return back the bike to the hostel. Time to cheer with some Nica Libre!

Warning: You may get flat tires during your trip but no panic, there are lots of people on your way that will be able to fix it within 30 minutes for $10.

Punta Jesus Maria Sunset

4st Stop: POPOYO

Popoyo Bahia Beach for beginner surfers
From Ometepe, take the ferry from Moyogalpa, there are running very often every half hour. At San Jorge, get a taxi straight to Popoyo for $30 if you’re 3. It will take you about 1h15. Popoyo is a wild beach on the Pacific Ocean, beautiful long sand beaches with almost no habitation. Perfect spot for advanced and beginners surfers, swimmers and to RELAX! If you go to the Bahia, there is a big rock where you can sit and enjoy the sunset. Popoyo is very windy so beware of your belongings as well as your eyes. Some people get eye infection from the sand, sun and wind.

Where to stay

- Camping La Luna $6 tent (bring your own food prior to arrival since the nearest supermarket is 30-minute walk away. They have a kitchen, a fridge, surfboards rental, tents, shower, bathroom and NO wifi)
- Magnific Rock $15 dorm (no kitchen, restaurant and FREE WIFI)
- The Barrel Hostel $10 dorm
Hibiscus Flower Surfboard at Camping La Luna
Camping La Luna Tents
Surfboards at Camping La Luna

What to do

- Surf (surfboard rentals between $5 to $10 depending on sessions, private or group surf lessons)
- Yoga (from Magnific Rock you can take classes)

Where to eat

- Finca de Popoyo (Bar & Restaurant with Wifi, Hammocks, Surfboards rental and rooms)
- Jardines del Paraiso mobile truck (Burgers, Hot Dogs, Fries and Fish Tacos)
- Morning food truck honking fruits, veggies, bread and eggs
- Cafe Cerveza (Bar & Restaurant)
- Cafe con Leche (sometimes closed due to private hire)

5th Stop: CORN ISLANDS

View from Ike's Place in Big Corn North End

How to book your flight

Don’t waste your time or money calling La Costeña airline, you will be waiting forever. The best way is to either book it through a travel agent (ask your hostel they may know some) or if you’re in a rush, book in online ($18 extra online booking fee). Through the travel agent you get an open return flight whereas online if you book the return trip it will cost you an extra $40 to change your return.
Managua - Big Corn Island last minute booking should cost you between $185 and $220 round trip.

Big Corn Island

Pier on Picnic Beach Center

Where to stay

Ike’s Place - Vientos del Norte 

Ike and his wife will welcome you with a great smile. You can get a private room with two separate beds, AC, fan and bathroom for $30. Discount on further nights. Best Nacatamales in Nicaragua and perfect spot for watching sunset on the island.

Book Now >
View from Ike's Place in Big Corn North End
Sunset in Big Corn Island North End

Where to eat

- Big Fish Cafe for dinner - Caribbean sauce lobster with tostones (plantains), coconut rice, beans and veggies for $14. Must-try: their piña colada, Michelle has a secret ingredient in her recipe! View Map
- Sava’s for dinner
- Shrimp, lobster and entire filet with Caribbean sauce is a must for $9! For starters, plantains with goat cheese and a victoria frost will make your evening! Located on the north end of the island, another 5 minute after Big Fish. 
- Fisher’s Cave restaurant for breakfast
- island breakfast with fried fish, coconut beans, coconut bread and a coffee or tea for $7 View Map
- Ike’s Place
- book him the day before and ask for Nice breakfast on Nacatamales on weekends View Map
Fisher's Cave Restaurant

Where to party

If you ask the locals where is the party they will all reply "Darrin's Place". Not on the map, so best thing to do is ask a taxi driver to bring you straight to the dancefloor! Local music, cheap rhum and shots, you're in for a great night!

Best Beaches

Picnic Center Beach on Big Corn Island
- Picnic Center Beach: long white sand beach with turquoise water and no wave. You can even see the plane landing above your head.
- North End:
tiny beaches with fishermen boat, perfect for a swim at sunset or in the morning if you’re staying on the North End of the island
Picnic Center Beach on Big Corn Island
North End of Big Corn Island

Little Corn Island

How to get there

Small boat to Little Corn Island
There are only 2 boats per day from Big Corn to Little Corn and vice versa. Make sure to plan your trip according to the below schedule:

From Big Corn to Little Corn: 10 AM & 4:30 PM
From Little Corn to Big Corn: 6:30 AM & 1 PM


Tickets are $6 one way and it takes about half an hour. 

Where to stay

Elsa Sweet Breeze Place - Perfect spot to relax on the island, away from El Tranquilo center, with cabins right on the beach and the most delicious Caribbean breakfast! Cabins are $35 for 2 separate beds, private bathroom and feet in the water (almost!). Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner as well as laundry. No wifi, no beers - perfect spot for a detox from the crazy parties! You can book all the activities such as snorkeling, diving, kayak, paddle through them as well!
Elsa's Place
Beach of Elsa's Place on Little Corn Island
Cabins at Elsa's Place on Little Corn Island

Where to eat

- Rosa’s Comedor (try their garlic sauce lobster for $6)
- Elsa’s Place (try the Nica Breakfast with coconut bread, you're gonna die!)
- Café Desideri (try the bruschetta or the coconut sauce shrimps and take a nap in their hammocks on the beach + FREE Wifi and iPads)
- Tranquilo Cafe (Try their guacamole and calala passion fruit juice! + FREE Wifi)

Nica Breakfast at Elsa's Place
Tranquilo Cafe & Restaurant in Little Corn Island
Bar at Cafe Desideri on Little Corn Island
View from Desideri Cafe on Little Corn Island
View from Cafe Desideri with transats, hammocks and swing

Best Beaches

You can recover Little Corn Island in about 2 hours. So instead of staying on one beach, I'd suggest you explore it all. No way you can get lost, there is only one path and no cars! Starting from Pelican Beach near Hotel Los Delfines you can check the locals' beach in front of Three Brothers Hotel on your left and then head north towards Otto Beach Bar. It's about 30-minute walk, crossing the Baseball field. You will pass by houses, palm trees and banana trees and you should only follow the sign Yemaya Spa. Now open your eyes, the show is spectacular! From there you can carry on walking on your right and find the most beautiful and desert beaches were palm trees are more popular than tourists. You will pass by Ensueños Hotel, Kite Little Corn School and then come back to Elsa's Place. Enjoy because it is very rare to still have desert beaches in this world and it is very much appreciated! 
Sunday Kids Day at the Local Beach
Otto Beach Bar Beach
Elsa's Place Beach
Wild paradise on Little Corn Island
Wild beaches of Little Corn Island

6th Stop: LEON

Our Lady of Grace Cathedral in Leon

How to get there

From Managua airport, the best way to get to Leon is to cross the street from the airport, wave at a taxi and ask him to bring you to UCA Bus station. Negociate a $8 fare for 2. From UCA Bus Station get onto a shuttle to Leon for C$ 54. Make sure to ask the driver if you have to pay for your backpack because they may be sneaky and at arrival when you have to pay, you can have a surprise! It takes about 1h30 to get to El Mercadito Terminal bus. From there, take a Tuk Tuk or a taxi (same price) to your hostel. 
Local Bus in Leon - also called "chicken bus"

Where to stay

- Bigfoot Hostel: Their specialty is Volcano Boarding. They're also well-known for being a party hostel. FREE Wifi + swimming pool + billiard + restaurant for $10 a dorm with fan.
- Via Via Hostel : $7 for a dorm, across the street from Bigfoot
- Poco a Poco: $9 for a dorm, brand new hostel!
Bigfoot Hostel & Via Via Street

What to do

- Volcano Boarding
- Market
- Our Lady of Grace Cathedral (go up for $3)
- Central Park & Artisan stalls
- Walk around the colorful & colonial houses and churches
El Oasis
Central Park
Our Lady of Assumption
Our Lady of Grace Cathedral

7th Stop: LAS PEÑITAS

Las Peñitas Bahia - View from Barca de Oro Hotel

How to get there 

From Leon, jump in a taxi to El Mercadito Terminal Bus for C$ 30. Ask the taxi driver to drop you off the bus to Las Peñitas. You will share the ride with locals heading all the way down to the beach. Fare is C$ 13 and it will take about 45 minutes. Tell the bus driver or the other guy collecting money where you want to stop (hotel or hostel). If you do not know yet, stop at the Terminal and walk around to find a hostel, there are a few nearby. 

Where to stay

- Barca de Oro : For $7 a dorm and a welcome juice, you've just arrived in a very relaxing atmosphere. Right on the estuary were fishermen park their boat, the beach is a few minutes away and can be seen from afar. They have a restaurant, Free wifi, Hammocks and a billiard. 

What to do

- Horse Riding at sunset for $12
- Surf lessons or rental boards from Coco Surf 
- Boat tour to the mangrove
- Eat fried fish at La Cocina de Doña Carmen (around the corner of Hotel Barca de Oro on your left)
- Wake up for the sunrise and seeing fishermen leave early in the morning to catch fishes
Sunset in Las Peñitas
Surfing in Las Peñitas
Surf Lessons in Las Peñitas
La Cocina de Doña Carmen in Las Peñitas
Sunrise at Las Peñitas from Hotel Barca de Oro
Yes you're gonna end up staying longer than expected, trust me!

Marion Payen
, Founder of Hibiscus & Nomada

“Travel far enough, you meet yourself”

@Hibiscusandnomada

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