Itinerary for a 10-day trip to Nicaragua: Lake/Beach/Volcano Style

Justin and I have been fortunate to travel a decent amount of Nicaragua while living here.  Every trip we take, I deign to say it was my favorite, until the next one comes along.  I have documented various sojourns throughout the country in previous posts:

Purisima in Leon, Leon Viejo, Volcano Boarding, PoneloyaGranada, Granada IsletasOmetepeCorn IslandsEsteli, Condega, Miraflor, and TiseyJinotegaLaguna de ApoyoMasayaTolaMontelimar

But I am often asked for ideas for a solid 7-10 day vacation for first-time visitors to Nicaragua.  Though this particular itinerary may not reflect all of my favorite locations, it is a good first primer on the country.  Check back later for further itinerary ideas.

Airlines flying to Nicaragua:
American Airlines, via Miami
Continental Airlines, via Houston
Delta Airlines, via Atlanta
Spirit Airlines, via Ft. Lauderdale
Taca Airlines, via San Salvador
Copa Airlines, via Panama City

Upon arriving in Managua, you will want to have a shuttle or a car rental available.

Shuttle Companies Servicing San Juan del Sur Area:
Iskra Travel
Adelante Express
Pelican Eyes Resort

Rental Car Companies
At the Managua Airport
In San Juan: Dollar, Alamo, Classic Cruisers 

Should you arrive in Managua late at night, I highly recommend spending the night in a hotel.  If you want to stay near the airport, try:
Hotel Camino Real

Unless you have a lot of shopping needs (i.e., you’ve bought a home here and need to furnish it, buy sheets and towels, etc), I recommend skipping Managua altogether.  It is rather chaotic and not very tourist-friendly.  Upon departing Managua, your vacation truly begins!

For an itinerary, you might consider the following:

Day 1: Arrive in Managua early afternoon, 45-minute transfer to Granada. Granada is a beautiful little city and always a favorite of first time visitors. It has the brightly painted buildings, the horse-drawn carriages, etc.  Relax at hotel pool, wander city in the evening. Stay at Hotel Plaza Colon or Hotel Dario 

Day 2: Take Panga Tour of Isletas on the Lake Nicaragua in morning, relax in afternoon.  Good chance of seeing Howler Monkeys here.

Day 3: Transport to San Juan del Sur in the morning – possibly stopping at Mombacho Volcano for a hike before heading to San Juan.  You will need a solid half day for this excursion.

Days 4-7: Stay in San Juan del Sur.  Click here for further ideas on activities in San Juan.  Stay at Pelican Eyes Resort and SpaPosada AzulVillas de Palermo or rent a house from Vacation Rentals Nicaragua.

Days 8-9: Visit Isla de Ometepe, on Lake Nicaragua, home to Volcan Concepcion and Maderas.  You can access Ometepe via a ferry from San Jorge, a town located just outside of Rivas and appx. 30 minutes from San Juan del Sur.  The ferry takes about 1 hour to get to the port at Moyogalpa.  Taxis and buses are available at the port or you can arrange for a private transfer ahead of time.  Once there, hike the San Ramon waterfall, ride horseback to the Ojo de Agua (a natural swimming pool), kayak on the istian river, and rent bicycles to explore the island and visit the museum in Altagracia, home to view pre-Columbian Nahuatl Indians petroglyhps.  Stay at Hotel Villa Paraiso or Totoco Eco Lodge

Day 10: Depending on what time and date you plan to depart, you could stop in Masaya on your way out of town.  There is an artisan market there and/or you could drive up to Masaya Volcano.  There is no hiking involved with this volcano.

The itinerary allows for flexibility.  Some prefer to skip Ometepe altogether or visit the island before relaxing at the end of your trip in San Juan.  For people with more time, I would also recommend a visit to the colonial city of Leon, located approximately 3.5 hours north of San Juan.  For extended vacations, consider going further north to Esteli, Jinotega, Matagalpa, Somoto.  Don’t forget to pack your sunscreen, bug spray, camera, and bathing suit and have a great time!

Jicaro Island Ecolodge

Last weekend, our good friend, Gladis, invited us to spend a weekend at Jicaro Island Ecolodge.  As we both work in the hospitality business, it is helpful to explore how other hotels, inns, and resorts operate.  It keeps us on our toes and constantly thinking about new ideas.  Although, it was also just a wonderful weekend escape.  

Jicaro Island Ecolodge is Nicaragua´s most upscale nature resort located on a private island in Lake Nicaragua. The lodge is located just a short boat ride from the colonial town of Granada with spectacular views of the Mombacho Volcano across the lake.  The entire hotel consists of 9 private casitas, a restaurant, small spa and yoga deck, and numerous outdoor seating areas and lounges.  

I cannot say enough positive things about this place!  From exquisite service to fine details to gorgeous architecture, this place was heaven on an island.   Some people may be familiar with the architect, Matthew Falkiner, who is also behind Morgan’s Rock and Balcones de Majagual.  Even more impressive is their commitment to sustainability.    Straws, bowls, placemats, and other utensils are made from  jicaro.  Water is heated with solar panels for guest and kitchen use, no air conditioning is installed on the island, and they use only organic and biodegradable soaps, cleaning detergents and spa products.

We went out on two kayak trips while at Jicaro – the first at sunset and the second at night, under a full moon.  During the first trip, we must have seen over 30 species of birds and Fabian, our guide, said that he counted over 50 in a 24-hour time period.  Both mornings, we woke to fresh coffee awaiting us on our private deck.

The photos are numerous, but it was just too difficult to narrow down the album, as the entire place was so beautiful:

Granada Hipica


A few weeks ago, we headed north to Granada for one of the larger Hipicas in the country.  A hipica is a grand parade of horses throughout the town, traditionally honoring a well respected community member and often marking the beginning of a fiesta patronal (saint’s day).  Though the temperatures were well above 90 degrees, most of the locals were dressed to the nines in jeans, cowboy boots, hats, and even leather chaps.  Many of the riders wore traditional dress, including full dresses and skirts.  Those not participating in the parade  arrived mostly to eat and drink (a lot).  I’ve been told that historically, it’s rained during the Granada hipica, but on this particular day, it was hot!