Nicaragua Travel Guide
It's not to late to plan a volunteer vacation before the end of the year. The non-profit volunteer travel company Crooked Trails has launched a trip to Nicaragua next month where travelers will help locals and experience the beauty of the island of Ometempe in Lake de Nicaragua.
During their stay, volunteers will work at Si a la Vida, a nonprofit organization that works to rehabilitate street boys, rescuing them from the streets of Nicaragua and providing a new home on Ometepe. They will also help bring needed government documents to residents in remote areas who are without birth certificates or documentation. Registering those without proper ID can open open up much needed opportunities.
Even though CBS was trying to keep the exact location of Survivor: Nicaragua a secret, the cat's out of the bag. The cast and crew of the next Survivor are currently staying in the southern Nicaragua beach town of San Juan del Sur where, to the dismay of locals, they have taken over the best beaches for production.
CBS has said that they chose Nicaragua for "the country's natural beauty and the high level of support from the government." The support comes in exchange for the hope that Survivor will be good for tourism (despite the fact that CBS calls it a land of "impenetrable terrain, smoldering volcanoes and savage wildlife").
Sure we've slopped Thanksgiving dinners at soup kitchens and adopted families at Christmas, but a lot of us here at Jaunted have been rocking the city life for a while. So there was something about doing good and getting back to nature that really caught our attention. That's why we love the Earthwatch Institute. It offers international volunteer vacations that double as science classes with field research. They answer our desire to get outside, do some good and learn something, too. As far as Al Gore is concerned, this is the ultimate trifecta.
Earthwatch is already booking spots on one of its newest spring excursions. Volunteers will travel to Masaya, Nicaragua to chart the impact of active volcanoes on local wildlife and residents. Wannabe geologists hike the active Masaya Volcano and collect data using GPS and other sophisticated instruments. They also gather soil and water samples to chart the impact of volcanic activity over time. Sure, it sounds complicated, but Earthwatch makes it simple. Plus, it gives travelers a chance to feel like Mr. Wizard--at least for a couple of days.
[Photo: Mr. Luigi]
Remember back when the New York Times declared Bangladsh the new Bangladesh? Seems they're at it again, but the Grey Lady is keeping it in the western hemisphere this time.
Way back in 2002, when not too many people were stopping in Nicaragua on the way to Costa Rica, the Times ran a story on Grenada. It had the requisite references to buying a hammock in Masaya, "Granada's impressive central plaza" and William Walker, the war-loving soldier of fortune who tried to conquer Central America in the 19th century.
The next piece about Granada, two years later, was from a writer who went to rediscover the set of the Ed Harris movie Walker. (He had a part in the film.) It's pretty good, an interesting take on a city that had changed.
But the next Granada article from the Times goes back to the tried-and-true formula of cliches--"Visitors...wandered about the central part of the town, soaking up the evanescent atmosphere of more than a hundred years of solitude"--and tells us nothing new about the place. There are, as before, mentions of Masaya, of Lake Nicaragua and, of course, that scourge William Walker.
Fast-forward to September of this year, and the Times' travel magazine is calling Granada the "Ciudad of Dreams." (Guess who makes an appearance: Yup, Willie Walker.) And, apparently, the thing to do in the city of sueños is hang out in the Parque Central.
So we were excited to see this week's story about Granada: Would it bring anything new to the party? Would it tell us anything we didn't already know? Would it deploy some colorful description of the town's central plaza? Sadly: No, no and yes.
Ok, it's official: We're tired of winter. Want to meet us down in San Juan del Sur to go surfing? We'll be on the next flight to Managua, if you're game.
Yeah, yeah, we sort of panned SJDS a few months back. But that was when the winter weather was still revving up, and we were feeling righteous. Nowadays, we're all about getting our shred on, no matter who we have to fight for the waves.
Truth be told, even though it's "discovered," SJDS still maintains a pretty hassle-free scene. The place to get plugged in is Ricardo's, a foreign-surfer mecca right on the main drag. You'll get a ride to the beaches, find someone to surf with and probably have one too many Victoria beers. In other words, it'll get the job done.
When it comes time to pick a beach, we stick to the Moon Guide's picks: Bahia Majagual is always a must. But south of SJDS you'll find Playa Coco, which makes up for a lack of surf with great swimming. We'd be happy to check out either right now.
In times like these, when beach destinations are in high season wallet-attack mode, there aren't many places to soak up the sun for cheap. But digging up memories of a stay at Casa Iguana in Nicaragua for big sis site HotelChatter has us fantasizing about heading back. The eco-chic hotel is on the south side of Little Corn Island, probably one of the last deals in the Caribbean. (We're talking $25 hotel rooms and $10 lobster dinners, here people!)
A short flight and then boat ride from the east coast of Nicaragua, tiny Little Corn doesn't have an enormous beach full of umbrellas. But it does have a tiki hut stocked with cold beer right on the water. The Casa Iguana crew runs dive trips if you want to do more than just melt into the sand. (We usually don't.) Hanging out with the locals at the fried chicken stand is pretty fun, too.
· Casa Iguana Probably Not Into "Paris and Her Ilk" [HotelChatter]
Active Travel / Surfing / Sports / Beaches / → All Tags
Quick: what's the problem with famous surfing spots? Oh, right: 12 other shredders jumping every one of your waves and wrecking your epic day. Maybe that explains why everyone is abuzz about Nicaragua and its sleepy, southern, surfing burg of San Juan del Sur.
We actually went to SJDS a couple of years ago, and "back then" it was exactly like everyone says. It's the kind of place to have a Jack Johnson/Kumbaya jam session on the beach with your bleached blond--and blonde--buds. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) It's a surf destination where the guesthouses are cheap and the frosty beers are cheaper. And it's a town that's sure to be overrun.
So we'll go ahead and spoil the next, next big thing. Just up the coast from SJDS is Bahia Majagual. We wouldn't call it secret--it is in the Moon Handbook--but it doesn't draw big crowds. What's doing in Majagual? Next to nothing, besides surfing, sunning and sleeping. And, hey, we're OK with that.
Known for its past political strife, things in Nicaragua have calmed down a bit and it's become a new eco and adventure tourist destination.
Frommers highlights some of the great things about the country-its vast natural resources and inexpensive hotels and resorts. Intratours can get you there from Miami for a mere $383 RT. And Tico Travel has a eight-day surf trip for $1,099 complete with boat rides out beyond the shoreline to catch the best waves. Breakfast and lunch are included too.
The hotel is really a large house, rather than a hotel. It is impeccably groomed. Our room was very large, with AC and a fan and t.v. The bathroom was clean with worthwhile waterpressure. Breakfast was served in the morning in the common area. We didn't eat lunch or dinner there, but we saw that everyone else enjoyed the food. Last, the people at Los Robles were very friendly. They helped us immeasurably -- with directions, getting a taxi, using internet, recommending places to eat, etc.
· Nicaragua Steps Up As the Next Big Thing in Central America [Frommers]
· My Guerilla in the mist [The Observer]
· Nicaragua.com [Paley Media]