Don’t let Nicaragua’s small size fool you! This country packs so many things to see, do, and taste. Luckily all you need is to follow this guide of top things to do in Nicaragua! If vegan and vegetarian food are what you looking for head on to my list of top vegan restaurants in Nicaragua.
Forget about all your preconceived notions about Nicaragua and travel there today! Trust me, as a Latin American Studies major, I had plenty of information about Nicaragua, about violence, poverty, and other things you read in scholarly sources. Since I lived in Brazil (and being an Israeli) I knew better than believing what I see in the news and read in my textbook. And boy was I proven right. My textbooks said nothing about the beauty of this country in which nature, volcanos, and black beaches are intertwined in the urban fabric of colonial cities and surfer towns. In my 12 days there I learned more about this country and its culture that in my 6 years of education. Nicaragua proved to be the hidden gem of Latin America! This country has so much to offer and due to its relatively small size, you can actually see most of it in a short amount of time!
My trip to Nicaragua special for me since it was my first non-solo trip in Latin America. In the time of our trip I was studying in New Orleans and Gal, my friend was working in Madrid. The struggle of relocating brought us closer and we decided we both deserve a trip. Given our love of everything Latin American and the fact we had less than 2 weeks off Nicaragua was the ultimate choice for our trip! Both of us didn’t know much of Nicaragua and, of course, I began researching this destination as if it was my thesis. As in my other trips, I was determined to find the best places to stay, the must things to see and the hidden gems of this country.
In this guide, I will present to you my findings. you can go directly to my list of Top Things to do in Nicaragua. This list will serve you if you are limited with time or if you want to choose the places where you would like to spend more time. Gal and I agreed our favorite place in Nicaragua were the Magical Island of Ometepe so I dedicated a whole post just for this amazing island. Our experience on this island was without a doubt shaped by our choice of hostel,El Zopilote, and you can read more about this amazing permaculture farm here. And of course, eating vegan in Latin America is thought to be mission impossible but just like Tom Cruise, I’m here to prove you wrong with my list of Top Vegan Restaurants in Nicaragua.
1. Stay in El Zopilote in Omepte Island
This amazing permaculture farm shaped our experiences in Nicaragua! we were completely in love with the place that I decided to dedicate an entire post just to review the hostel and the island of Ometepe as a whole. you can read it here. We were so fortunate to book this place and to stay in our own private cabana. Check out El Zopilote here.
2. Visit Colorful Leon
Leon is a university city in Nicaragua and has the prettiest colorful houses. We couldn’t even make it to lunch without stoping at every colored wall and take pictures.
3. Go volcano boarding in Cerro Negro, Leon
Nicaragua has many volcanos but this is one of the most unique ones. In order to do the volcano boarding from its top, you will have to hike the volcanic ash and black rocks. The difficulty level is low, especially given the fact that I managed to do it (and we even had a girl with a knee problem). Butttt what complicates the hike is the extreme wind! for this reason, I would highly recommend you not to carry your board and pay the small fee (5$) so the tour company carries it for you. Let me be clear, the wind is so strong at times you will feel as if you’re flying, and having a shabby board held behind your back would make it even more difficult. Another thing you should know, you might fall, but don’t worry I did and it was totally fine. The only thing that I was disappointed was that after more than an hour of hiking the slide back down was so quick.
4. Swim in Laguna de Apoyo with the view of a volcano
This natural reserve is formed by the black volcano behind it. The beach is dark and the water is so pleasant. You can go for a swim, kayak, or just tanning on top of the raft in the middle of it. We heard a lot of good things about this place so we chose to spend the night at Paradiso hostel and it was very peaceful. Most people just go there on a day tour from Granada.
5. Try the avocado chocolate smoothies in El Pital
Forget about the gimmick of melting chocolate ball that melts… that was great but their smoothies were something else! Unique combinations of fruits and chocolate and everything was clean and colorful. We have there chocolate avocado smoothie and loved it! But more than everything it was the atmosphere in this place, owned by an Israeli that moved to Nice, that made our afternoon there so special and made this place get to my top things to do in Nicaragua list. You can hang out in the swings, go out for a swim or just nap on the hammocks… it’s was so peaceful. By the way, the factory also functions as a guest house and it’s a walking distance from zopilote and a bit more then Morgans tree house.
6. Pay a visit to the white cathedral in Leon
Among all the colored houses there the main cathedral of Leon. You pay a small entrance fee (about a 1$) and go to the top. It’s preety simple but the view of the city from the top makes it worth it!
7. Watch the amazing sunsets in San Juan del Sur or in El Zopilote, Ometepe
Nicaragua has amazing sunsets!!! 2 of my favorite places to watch the sunset was on top of the tower in our hostel in Ometepe, El Zopilote. The other place was in Leon in the hostel BigFoot beach hostel.
9. Make sure you connect with the locals and have some local food
Nicaragua has amazing people that are very friendly and would love to talk to you! We spoke Spanish so we loved communicating with the locals and try different foods that were vegan like this flatbread with fig honey. And in the picture you can see Raphaela, a former teacher and a bananas specialist we met in a grocery store in Granada kindly corrected us after we chose to buy yellow bananas instead of the green ones of her counter, thinking the green ones aren’t ripe yet. Raphaela explained to us that the greens one are a different type of banans and in fact, they are so good she was convinced after I bought had one I will by some more. She was right. They were amazing! We also had a wonderful time with our driver in Ometepe and used his services on our way back to the port. He introduced us to the island, showed us amazing places take pictures and all against the background of Nicaraguan cumbia music! Another lovely encounter was with Momo, an artist who owns an art gallery in Granada.
10. Enjoy the nature and animals that surround you
Finally, this Nicaragua Travel Guide wouldn’t be complete without this last tip: I only have one thing I would recommend skipping while in Nicaragua: Ojo del Agua, the natural pool, in Ometepe island. It’s actually an artificial pool that is full of people. We came, saw and left briefly after.
Now that you know about what to see and do in Nicaragua let me show you what to eat with this list of Vegan and Vegetarian restauratns in Nicaragua.