Southern Nicaragua: A traveler's guide to everything you need to know!
Nothing is more often said about Nicaragua than this: It’s like Costa Rica was 20 years ago. And it’s true. While Costa Rica has been built up over the years, Nicaragua has remained a remarkably beautiful but untouched country with a gorgeous coastline that boasts some of the best waves for surfers anywhere in Central America.
If your dream vacation is to travel in a sustainable way, somewhere off the beaten path, where you can really experience another culture and country, Nicaragua is the place for you! There’s warm water, great surfable waves with no line-ups, jaw dropping scenery at every turn, delicious fresh food and so much to do. Even the most challenging kid to entertain will be thrilled with what Nicaragua has to offer. It’s nature tourism at its best! Think zip-lining, hiking waterfalls, skurfing, fishing, surfing, swimming, beach games, hiking volcanoes and
waterfalls, or just soaking up the sunshine on a quiet beach with pristine golden sand. Not to mention that Nicaraguans are incredibly openhearted. They genuinely love sharing their country with everyone who makes the trip here, and they welcome travelers from all walks of life with open arms.
Weather and When to Come
Honestly, there is no time that is not a good time to come to Nica. It’s a tropical paradise pretty much all year round with little variation in the temperature. Daytime temps usually hover in the mid-to-high 70’s and low 80’s, and evenings are only slightly cooler, but not less than the low 70’s, unless you're in the northern mountain regions.
Rather than winter, spring, summer and fall, Nicaraguans refer to a “wet” season and a “dry” season. During the wetter months, May to October, it rains sometimes, but never for long. Except for October, the rainiest month in Nica, wet just means that there’s enough rain to keep plants lush and leaves on the trees, but not so much that it puts a damper on your vacation.
During dry season, which runs from November to April, there’s almost no rain. The landscape gets much less green, but it’s also when leafless trees sprout bright blooms like Sacuanjoche (the Nicaraguan national flower) dot the landscape with magnificent bursts of color.
Summertime is an ideal time to visit, especially if you have surfers in the family, because summer is the height of swell season, when the waves are overhead and clean. It’s also a less discovered time of year to travel to Nica. People think the summer here will be screaming hot, but, as you just read, it’s not! Plus, the fact that Nica is less discovered as a summer destination, means flights and hotel prices are generally less expensive – a real bonus, when summer travel elsewhere is so pricey.
What to See and Do in Southern Nicaragua
Nicaragua is sometimes referred to as “the land of lakes and volcanoes.” And, no wonder – there are 19 volcanoes in the country, and seven of them are active. Masaya is probably the most famous, and also happens to be the easiest one to get to from Southern Nicaragua. It erupts pretty frequently (but not so aggressively that you need to worry about safety) so you’ll surely see molten red hot lava moving around in what’s called an active lava lake when you visit.
The views of the crater and the surrounding area, particularly at sunset, are spectacular. That’s why we like to take a trip to Volcan Masaya after a stroll and lunch in Granada to see the crater as the sun goes down.
Granada, Nicaragua’s oldest city, sits on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, which happens to be the largest freshwater lake in Central America. This city is also home to several picturesque Spanish colonial landmarks, the most iconic being the bright yellow Catedral Grenada, which was originally constructed in the 1500’s but was destroyed and rebuilt a few times over since then. The current structure was completed in the 1970’s.
It’s easy to while away a day wandering the charming cobblestone streets of Granada, bopping into a cafe for coffee or a bite to eat, between visits to The Museo de Chocolate, where the whole family can take a chocolate making workshop, and the must see Convento San Francisco, a convent turned museum which houses the Zapatera statuary, where you can marvel at black-basalt statues carved between AD 800 and 1200. A boat ride to check out the isletas (small islands) dotted throughout Lake Nicaragua, is another engaging family adventure you can do when in Granada.
About an hour from the city center is the Mombacho Volcano Nature Preserve, home to one the last remaining cloud and dwarf forests in the country, where even in the dry season, the landscape is lush and green. Several species unique to these forest ecosystems are thriving here, and the variety of flora is sure to wow the nature lovers in your group. Hikers can enjoy three different walking trails of varying difficulties in the preserve, all with panoramic views of the volcano. At certain points along the trails, you’ll have views of the city of Granada, the isletas, Laguna de Apoyo and even the Masaya Volcano National Park. If you’re really out for a thrilling adventure, you can even zip-line over the forest treetops!
Laguna De Apoyo is Nicaragua’s largest volcanic crater lake. It was created 23,000 years ago when, after a huge volcanic explosion, the crater filled with water. Today, the clear cool waters offer a relaxing respite. You can swim, kayak, or even paddleboard on the lake, or just gaze at the natural beauty from a restaurant nearby in Mirador de Caterina. Horseback riding, and hiking are available starting out from The Mirador. The lake is also home to over 200 different types of birds, making it a bird watchers' heaven. However you choose to experience it, it is a site to be seen.
You do not have to leave the magical hillside where Verdad Nicaragua resides, if you don’t want to. There is plenty to do right here on our shores, or close by in and around the town of San Juan del Sur, about a 15 minute drive from Verdad. Take a waterfall hike, go sailing, boating, fishing, zip-lining, surfing or beach-hopping or even play a game of pickleball. There is no shortage of things to do, and most definitely there is something to engage every member of the family, young and old alike!
Where to stay
Verdad Nicaragua is perfectly situated as a jumping off point for all your adventures. If you’re planning a trip for a larger group, and looking for a boutique hotel to rent you can take over our entire hotel! Your group can buyout the hotel and have exclusive use of our property for your entire stay. Soak up the sun overlooking the ocean poolside, hang out in our open air lounge with views stretching across the valley and out to sea, swing in one of the hammocks in our hammock lounge, or share a sunset at our honor bar. There’s also a gorgeous studio equipped with everything you need to workout or practice yoga, and we can arrange group classes, too. The entire facility is all yours!
Not only can you have exclusive access to our hotel and grounds, but our entire staff is here for you as well. Verdad is known for its individual service, and there’s someone on site 24 hours a day to take care of anything and everything you might need.
And, an added bonus: Verdad is 100% off the grid. The solar panel field you see on our hillside sustainably powers absolutely everything here! Additionally, our water comes from a well and is filtered on site, enabling us to cutback on plastic use, too.
Another thing you'll notice as you travel around are wind turbines. Nicaragua, with it's strong winds that come off Lake Nicaragua, is an ideal place for wind power!
Each guest will stay in laidback luxury in one of our architecturally designed rooms or casitas with gorgeous ocean views, some even have views from the shower! No matter where you are at Verdad Nicaragua you’ll be able to take in the striking beauty that surrounds us in relaxed comfort, and our staff is always around to help you organize activities and day trips.
Meals are also a highlight of group stays here at Verdad, where everyone comes together at Cocina Verdad to enjoy the local fare, prepared fresh daily at our on-site kitchen. Think food that’s locally sourced in Nicaragua – fresh fish from our shores, greens from our garden, eggs from local farmers, yogurt made in Nica, homemade pizza prepared in our brick oven, granola made here in our kitchen,fresh juices made from locally grown fruits (some from our land!) plus delicious traditional dishes like gallo pinto, the absolute best breakfasts ever, and of course, mouth-watering desserts.
We get asked this question often. Is it safe to travel in Nicaragua? Our answer, simply put, is a resounding YES! But, you probably want more reassurances than that, so we will let our guests speak for us.
“When considering this trip to Nicaragua with my daughter, we originally had some concern about safety. Now that we're back home I can say the total number of seconds I felt some anxiety during the trip was zero.” - Pia
“As a young female, I am extremely concerned about safety. I traveled to Verdad alone from the United States and felt completely safe everywhere I went - both at Verdad and in the surrounding community.” - Kate
But, we are aware that the United States State Department is currently cautioning US citizens to reconsider travel to Nicaragua due to limited healthcare and arbitrary enforcement of laws. Here’s what we know about both things:
Healthcare: There is a clinic in San Juan del Sur which is about a 15-minute drive from us, and they can handle most injuries or illnesses. There’s also a larger clinic in Rivas with more sophisticated facilities that’s about a 45-minute drive. Additionally, there is a fantastic private hospital in Managua that can handle anything and everything.
Law enforcement: As for the chances of you interacting with law enforcement, so long as you abide by the law when you are here, they are slim. The arbitrary enforcement of laws may be a concern for Nicaraguan dissidents, which is why the US State Department posted their politically motivated warning, but it is not a concern for law-abiding tourists. Nicaragua has the lowest incidence of crime in Central America. It also has one of the lowest rates of guns per capita in the world and one of the lowest homicide rates in the Americas, half of that in Costa Rica for example.
Verdad is on a secluded hillside and there is someone on site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We live here on the hillside, and (don’t tell anyone) but we don’t lock the doors to our home or our car when we are here. We’ve lived next door to Verdad on and off for the past 15 years, and we have never been the victims of a crime.
For us, Nicaragua is a place of unrivaled beauty, and the Nicaraguan people are some of the warmest, kindest people we have ever met. We love it here, and we feel completely safe each time we make the trip here. We hope you decide to come, so you can experience this magical place yourself.
Hope to see you in Nica soon!