Why you should travel to Nicaragua
Nicaragua is scattered with pretty beaches, colonial towns and retains wonderfully unspoilt corners. Sarah Griffiths, head of our Latin America division, gives her insights on this thrilling destination and reveals what makes it so captivating
I fell completely head over heels in love with Nicaragua in a way that I haven’t anywhere else in Latin America. There may be a limited choice of comfortable hotels but the well-located few are mainly intimate, boutique properties with buckets of character and great, relaxed service in stunning locations. Here are just a handful of reasons why you should travel to this captivating, underrated country:
The varied scenery
Close to 20% of Nicaragua is protected by designated national parks, nature reserves and biological reserves. There are equally awesome, contrasting beaches on either coast, with the perfect mixture of white sands and clear turquoise seas on the Caribbean side, and rugged, rocky coastal beauty on its Pacific shores. Inland, the landscape comprises active volcanoes, jungle, lakes and lagoons.
The people + culture
Nicaragua is dotted with safe, colourful and charming towns and villages full of history and culture. This is an enthralling country with a rich history of Spanish conquests and Paleo Indians who inhabited the jungles and lowlands 6,000 years ago. On my recent trip, there were friendly, happy and genuinely welcoming people everywhere I visited.
Calala, a Caribbean island
Calala, a private island off Nicaragua’s east coast, has just four rooms and an extensive staff, including a Michelin-trained chef and top-level butler. It was perhaps the closest thing to paradise I have ever experienced. Here, you spend your days relaxing on the white-sand beach, dipping into the warm, aquamarine sea, or lying beside the infinity pool, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, fishing and snorkelling. Depending on the season, you can sometimes see hawksbill turtles laying their eggs on the beach here. We can arrange for you to go by boat to the mainland to spend time with a local Caribbean community or enjoy a delicious private picnic on the nearby islet of Little Calala.
The Pacific coast
The 305km western coast of Nicaragua is home to some dramatic scenery, with rugged cliffs, wild beaches and Pacific Ocean waves. The best place to stay here is Morgan’s Rock Hacienda & Ecolodge, which can be found in a 16sq-km expanse of lush coastal forest. Set up high, it has a fantastic view over a spectacular, cliff-edged bay, a short walk away from the lodge. We love its spacious, cool and comfortable bungalows and villas, which are made with natural materials and surrounded by the jungle.
The beautiful Lake Nicaragua, the largest in Central America, is a must-visit. Here, Jicaro Island Ecolodge, situated on one of 400 islands on the lake and with stunning vistas of the Mombacho Volcano, is a secluded oasis of guilt-free relaxation and quiet – the only sounds you will hear are from the resident howler monkeys and blue jays. With only nine two-storey casitas, a small restaurant offering tasty, organic dishes and a spa with open-air treatment rooms, you couldn’t feel closer to nature.
Another wonderful place is the charming city of Granada, Nicaragua’s oldest town. Our favourite bolthole here is Tribal Hotel. The ultimate in small-town chic, this is a super-stylish seven-room base from which to explore the many churches and the cobblestone streets lined with vibrant colonial buildings.
Nature at Nekupe
Nekupe lies within 6.4sq-km of natural reserve not far from the Pacific coast. Here, you can enjoy unspoilt views and many experiences – from horse riding and hiking to yoga, spa treatments and poolside relaxation – in Nicaragua’s gorgeous climate. We particularly recommend this middle-of-nowhere retreat to those who wish to surround themselves with nature. Harbouring more than 158 species of plants and abundant wildlife, Nekupe is dedicated to protecting its environment and supporting the local community through the American Nicaraguan Foundation (ANF).
Nicaragua is undoubtedly one of Latin America’s most exciting countries. Whether you’re interested in exploring the jungle, strolling around charming colonial towns or unwinding on a breathtaking Pacific or Caribbean beach, we can arrange an extraordinary adventure tailored just to you.