9 Best Places To Visit In Nicaragua


Well, look no further! If you’re dreaming about Central America’s spirited culture and untouched nature, let me take you on a journey to Nicaragua.

Nicaragua is a land of volcanoes and rainforests, where colonial cities tell stories of the past, and the waves invite surfers to play. I’ve had the joy of experiencing Nicaragua firsthand, and it surprises you at every corner. Let me guide you through the 9 best places to visit in Nicaragua.

9 Best Places To Visit In Nicaragua


Granada, Nicaragua
Photo Credit: Warren Morelli

Granada is not just a city, it looks like a canvas, painted with the hues of its colonial architecture and the blues of nearby Lake Nicaragua. As one of the oldest cities in the Americas, Granada is a treasure trove of history, culture, and natural beauty. Walking its streets is like stepping back in time, with each corner revealing more of its storied past and inviting charm. Truly, one of the best places to visit in Nicaragua!

Things to do in Granada:

  • Explore the Colonial Architecture: Take a guided walking tour to marvel at Granada’s well-preserved colonial buildings and learn about their historical significance.
  • Kayak Around the Islets of Granada: Paddle through the tranquil waters of Lake Nicaragua, discovering the lush, small islands dotted around Granada.
  • Climb the Bell Tower of Iglesia La Merced: For the best views of the city and the lake, climb the bell tower of this historic church, especially stunning at sunset.
  • Visit the ChocoMuseo: Dive into the world of chocolate, from bean to bar. Participate in a workshop to make your chocolate.
  • Relax at Laguna de Apoyo: A short drive from Granada, this volcanic crater lake offers crystal-clear waters perfect for swimming, kayaking, and relaxing.

Best area to stay in Granada:

Choosing to stay in the Colonial Center of Granada is like choosing to live on a postcard. This area is the heart and soul of Granada, placing you within walking distance of the city’s most iconic landmarks, marketplaces, and the serene Lake Nicaragua.

Whether you’re leaning towards the rustic charm of a colonial guesthouse or the quiet luxury of a boutique hotel, the Colonial Center offers a variety of accommodations for an unforgettable stay in Granada!


Leon, Nicaragua
Photo Credit: Warren Morelli

León is a city where art, history, and activism paint the streets. Known as Nicaragua’s intellectual heart, it’s a place where poets’ words are found in the plazas and revolutionary murals color the walls.

The city’s rich history is created by its colonial past and pivotal role in Nicaragua’s political history. León’s energetic university life spreads into its ancient streets, making it a hub of creativity and learning.

Things to do in León:

  • Visit the León Cathedral: Stand atop Central America’s largest cathedral and gaze out over the city and its surrounding volcanoes. The rooftop offers a unique perspective on León’s beauty and architectural diversity.
  • Explore the Art Scene: Dive into León’s rich art scene with a visit to the Ortiz-Guardian Foundation’s art museum, which houses one of Latin America’s finest collections of contemporary and classical art.
  • Sandboarding at Cerro Negro: For an adrenaline rush, try sandboarding down the slopes of Cerro Negro, one of Central America’s youngest volcanoes.
  • Tour the Revolutionary Murals: Take a guided tour to learn the stories behind the city’s powerful murals, depicting Nicaragua’s tumultuous history and hopes for the future.
  • Relax at Las Peñitas Beach: Just a short ride from León, Las Peñitas offers a peaceful beach retreat, perfect for surfing, sunbathing, or enjoying fresh seafood by the Pacific Ocean.

Best area to stay in León:

In León, the historic center is where you’ll want to drop your bags. This area breathes life into your stay, surrounding you with the city’s most significant historical sites, buzzing markets, and the spirited university atmosphere. 

Staying in the historic center means you’re living its history, culture, and vibrant daily life every minute of your stay. Whether you’re stepping out to explore a museum, grab a bite of local cuisine, or simply wander and soak in the ambiance, everything you need is just a stroll away.

Ometepe Island

Ometepe Island
Photo Credit: Warren Morelli

Ometepe Island is an extraordinary blend of nature’s artistry and mystical allure, formed by two towering volcanoes, Concepción and Maderas, rising from the cobalt waters of Lake Nicaragua. This is why Ometepe Island is on everyone’s list of ‘best places to visit in Nicaragua.’.

This island symbolizes balance and beauty, offering landscapes ranging from lush rainforests and waterfalls to beautiful beaches and ancient petroglyphs. Ometepe is a sanctuary for those seeking adventure or solitude, wrapped in the embrace of its welcoming communities.

Things to do in Ometepe Island:

  • Hike the Volcanoes: Whether you choose the challenging ascent of Concepción or the forest-covered trails of Maderas, hiking on Ometepe rewards you with incredible views and encounters with the island’s diverse wildlife.
  • Swim in Ojo de Agua: This natural spring pool, surrounded by tropical foliage, is the perfect spot to relax and cool off after a day of exploration.
  • Visit the Petroglyphs: Discover the island’s ancient history through its petroglyphs, rock carvings left by indigenous peoples, scattered throughout Ometepe.
  • Kayak in Istián Wetlands: Paddle through the serene waters of the Istián Wetlands, a haven for birdwatchers and a peaceful way to immerse yourself in the island’s natural beauty.
  • Bike Around the Island: Rent a bike and take a leisurely ride around Ometepe, stopping at small villages, beaches, and lookout points.

Best area to stay in Ometepe Island:

Staying near the isthmus between the two volcanoes offers the most versatile experience on Ometepe Island. This central location gives easy access to the island’s main attractions, from Santo Domingo Beach’s sandy shores to the hiking trails leading up the volcanoes.

The area is dotted with a range of accommodations, including eco-lodges, guesthouses, and homestays, allowing you to choose a place that matches your travel style. The ambiance, coupled with stunning views and the convenience of location, makes it an ideal base for exploring all that Ometepe has to offer.

San Juan del Sur

San Juan del Sur
Photo Credit: Warren Morelli

San Juan del Sur is a beautiful bay flanked by verdant hills, offering a laid-back beach town atmosphere with a lively cultural twist. It’s a haven for surfers, yogis, and anyone looking to unwind along Nicaragua’s Pacific coast. With its stunning sunsets, vibrant nightlife, and welcoming community, San Juan del Sur perfectly blends the tranquility of a seaside retreat with the vibrancy of Nicaraguan culture. 

Things to do in San Juan del Sur:

  • Surfing at World-Class Beaches: Hit the waves at beaches like Playa Maderas and Playa Hermosa, known for their excellent surfing conditions suitable for all levels.
  • Sunset at the Christ of the Mercy statue: Hike up to this iconic statue for a panoramic view of the bay, especially magical at sunset.
  • Yoga Retreats: Join a yoga retreat or drop in for a class to rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul amidst the serene beauty of the coast.
  • Turtle Watching at La Flor Wildlife Refuge: Experience the wonder of sea turtles nesting or hatching on the beaches, a truly unforgettable sight.
  • Explore the Local Cuisine: Savor fresh seafood and traditional Nicaraguan dishes at the town’s many charming eateries and beachfront restaurants.

Best area to stay in San Juan del Sur:

In San Juan del Sur, the area near the beachfront is where you’ll want to find your stay. This prime location keeps you close to the heart of the action, with easy access to the town’s best restaurants, bars, and, of course, the beach itself.  This area is ideal for those who want to maximize their time soaking up the sun, diving into the local culture, and enjoying the laid-back nightlife that makes San Juan del Sur one of the best places to visit in Nicaragua.

Corn Islands

Corn Islands, Nicaragua
Photo Credit: Warren Morelli

The Corn Islands, Little Corn and Big Corn, are Nicaragua’s hidden jewels in the Caribbean Sea. A world apart from the mainland’s hustle, these islands have tales of pirate lore, offer untouched natural beauty, and embody the essence of the Caribbean. 

With their crystal-clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and laid-back island vibe, the Corn Islands are a sanctuary for those seeking paradise lost. Here, life moves to the rhythm of the waves, and the warmth of the island community makes every visitor feel like part of the family.

Things to do in the Corn Islands:

  • Snorkeling and Diving: Explore the colorful underwater world around the Corn Islands, home to some of the best snorkeling and diving spots in the Caribbean, with vibrant coral reefs and a rich marine life.
  • Relax on Pristine Beaches: Unwind on secluded, powdery beaches like Otres Beach on Little Corn, where the only footprints in the sand might just be your own.
  • Fishing Trips: Join local fishermen for a day out at sea. Whether you’re an experienced angler or trying it for the first time, the thrill of catching your dinner is unmatched.
  • Explore the Island by Bicycle: Rent a bike on Big Corn Island and cruise along the coastal roads, soaking in the scenic beauty and stopping at hidden coves.
  • Try Island Cuisine: Savor the flavors of the Caribbean with a Nicaraguan twist. Fresh seafood, coconut bread, and the vibrant local fruit are just the beginning of a culinary adventure.

Best area to stay in the Corn Islands:

On Big Corn Island, staying near Brig Bay offers a convenient and scenic base, with easy access to the island’s amenities, beautiful beaches, and the ferry dock. Accommodations range from beachfront hotels to cozy, family-run guesthouses, ensuring you’ll find a place that fits your vibe. Brig Bay is perfect for those who enjoy being close to the action, with a selection of restaurants, shops, and dive centers at your doorstep, balanced by the laid-back atmosphere that defines island life.

Little Corn Island, being car-free, offers a more secluded experience. Near the northern beaches or the village, eco-friendly lodges and bungalows emphasize tranquility and connection with nature. This area is ideal for travelers seeking a quiet retreat, with the soothing sounds of the ocean to wake up to and a night sky filled with stars to fall asleep under.


Photo Credit: Warren Morelli

Nestled in the heart of Nicaragua’s coffee country, Matagalpa is an energetic city surrounded by mountains and waterfalls. This region is a breath of fresh air for those looking to escape the heat of the lowlands, offering a blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, and the inviting aroma of freshly brewed coffee. 

Matagalpa serves as a gateway to exploring Nicaragua’s highland jungles, with its misty climate providing the perfect conditions for coffee cultivation. Beyond its caffeinated claims to fame, the city is steeped in history and brimming with activities for outdoor enthusiasts.

Things to do in Matagalpa:

  • Coffee Farm Tours: Dive into the world of coffee on a tour of a local plantation. Learn about the process from bean to cup, and taste some of the world’s finest coffee right at the source.
  • Hike in the Cloud Forest: Explore the Selva Negra Cloud Forest Reserve or the Cerro Apante Natural Reserve for breathtaking vistas, exotic flora and fauna, and serene nature trails.
  • Visit the Carlos Fonseca Amador Museum: It offers insight into Nicaragua’s revolutionary history, and it offers the life and legacy of one of the founders of the Sandinista National Liberation Front.
  • Explore the Local Markets: Matagalpa’s markets are bustling with activity, offering a chance to sample local foods, crafts, and the lively atmosphere of city life.
  • Waterfall Excursions: Venture out to nearby waterfalls like Cascada Santa Emilia or Cascada Blanca, where you can enjoy a refreshing swim in natural pools surrounded by verdant landscapes.

Best area to stay in Matagalpa:

You’ll want to base yourself in the city center of Matagalpa for convenience and experience. Here, you’re in the heart of it all, with easy access to cafes, museums, markets, and the street life that defines the city. Accommodations in the city center range from charming hostels to comfortable hotels, catering to a variety of preferences and budgets.

Somoto Canyon

Somoto Canyon, Nicaragua
Photo Credit: Warren Morelli

Somoto Canyon, a marvelous geological formation carved by the Río Coco over millions of years, is one of Nicaragua’s most awe-inspiring natural treasures and top of many ‘best places to visit in Nicaragua’ lists. This gem, located near the Honduran border, remained relatively unknown even to locals until about 2004. 

Today, it’s a sanctuary for adventurers and nature lovers. It offers dramatic cliff faces, crystal-clear waters, and a serene beauty that feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle of city life. 

Things to do in Somoto Canyon:

  • Canyoning Adventure: You can navigate the canyon by swimming, climbing, and jumping into its refreshing pools. Guided tours range from easy walks along the riverbank to full-on canyoning experiences.
  • Boat or Tubing Tours: For a more laid-back exploration, take a boat or tubing tour down the river, allowing you to admire the canyon walls from a unique perspective.
  • Hiking Around the Canyon: Various trails offer stunning views of the canyon and its surroundings. Hiking is a fantastic way to appreciate the scale and beauty of the landscape.
  • Bird Watching and Nature Exploration: The canyon and its surrounding areas are home to diverse bird species and wildlife, making it an excellent spot for nature enthusiasts.
  • Visit Nearby Artisan Communities: Explore the local culture by visiting nearby villages, where you can learn about traditional crafts and lifestyles.

Best area to stay in Somoto Canyon:

While accommodations are not directly available in Somoto Canyon, the nearby town of Somoto offers a range of options, from cozy guesthouses to more comfortable hotels. Staying in Somoto allows you to easily access the canyon and experience the warmth and hospitality of the local community.

Masaya Volcano

Masaya Volcano
Photo Credit: Warren Morelli

Masaya Volcano, often called the “Mouth of Hell” by the indigenous people and early Spanish conquerors, is an active volcano within Nicaragua’s first and largest national park, Parque Nacional Volcán Masaya.

This unique geological marvel offers visitors the rare opportunity to peer into an active volcanic crater and witness the mesmerizing glow of molten lava. The park surrounding the volcano features a diverse ecosystem, including various lava fields and an array of flora and fauna, making it a fascinating spot for both thrill-seekers and nature enthusiasts.

Things to do in Masaya Volcano:

  • Visit the Santiago Crater: Drive up to the edge of the Santiago crater, where you can gaze into the crater’s depths and see the lava glowing, especially captivating at night.
  • Explore the Environmental Museum: Learn about the volcano’s history, geology, and the biodiversity of the surrounding national park at the onsite museum.
  • Night Tours: Join a night tour to experience the volcano’s dramatic beauty under the stars, including the chance to see the glowing lava more clearly and possibly spot some nocturnal wildlife.
  • Hike the Trails: The park offers several hiking trails that lead to various craters, lava fields, and lookouts, offering stunning views and a closer look at the volcanic landscape.
  • Visit the Masaya Crafts Market: Complete your trip with a visit to the nearby city of Masaya, famous for its artisan market, where you can find handmade crafts, traditional textiles, and souvenirs.

Best area to stay in Masaya Volcano:

While there’s no accommodation within the national park itself, the nearby city of Masaya provides a convenient and culturally rich base for exploring the volcano. Staying in Masaya allows you to mix yourself in Nicaraguan culture, with easy access to the volcano, local markets, and traditional eateries. 

Masaya’s central location also makes it a great jumping-off point for visiting other attractions in the region, such as Laguna de Apoyo, Granada, and the Pueblos Blancos. 

Miraflor Nature Reserve

Miraflor Nature Reserve
Photo Credit: Warren Morelli

Miraflor Nature Reserve is a cloud forest sanctuary located in the northern highlands of Nicaragua, near Estelí. This protected area spans a variety of ecosystems, from lush cloud forests to tropical dry forests and picturesque orchid gardens. 

Miraflor is a testament to Nicaragua’s commitment to conservation and sustainable tourism. It’s a place where the air is crisp, the landscapes are breathtaking, and the biodiversity is astounding, making it one of the best places to visit in Nicaragua! Home to hundreds of species of orchids, birds, and butterflies, Miraflor offers an immersive experience into the heart of Nicaragua’s natural beauty. 

Things to do in Miraflor Nature Reserve:

  • Bird Watching: With over 200 bird species, including the resplendent quetzal, Miraflor is a paradise for birdwatchers.
  • Orchid Exploration: Discover the reserve’s vast collection of orchids, some of which are endemic to the area.
  • Hiking and Horseback Riding: Explore the reserve’s trails on foot or horseback, taking in the stunning vistas, waterfalls, and diverse flora and fauna.
  • Stay with a Local Family: Engage in a homestay experience to learn about life in Miraflor, participate in farming activities, and enjoy traditional Nicaraguan meals.
  • Visit the Waterfalls: Seek out the reserve’s hidden waterfalls for a refreshing swim or a picnic in a serene setting.

Best area to stay in Miraflor Nature Reserve:

The best way to experience Miraflor is to stay within the reserve itself, through one of the many homestay programs offered by local families. Depending on the host family, these accommodations range from simple, rustic rooms to more comfortable lodgings.

Staying within Miraflor not only supports the local community but also offers an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in the area’s natural and cultural richness. You’ll wake up to the sounds of nature, enjoy home-cooked Nicaraguan cuisine, and have direct access to the reserve’s trails and natural wonders. It’s an authentic, meaningful way to experience Miraflor, ideal for eco-conscious travelers and those seeking a deep connection with the environment and local way of life.

Tip For Visiting Nicaragua

Photo Credit: Warren Morelli
  • Embrace Flexibility and Patience: Nicaragua’s laid-back pace means schedules can change. Enjoy the unexpected adventures that come your way.
  • Learn Basic Spanish: A few phrases can enhance your experience and help you connect with locals.
  • Stay Hydrated and Protect Yourself from the Sun: The sun can be intense, so always carry water and use sunscreen.
  • Embrace Local Cuisine: Don’t miss out on trying traditional dishes like gallo pinto, vigorón, or indio viejo.
  • Use Local Currency: While US dollars are widely accepted, having Nicaraguan córdobas can simplify smaller transactions.
  • Respect Local Customs and Traditions: Show appreciation and sensitivity towards Nicaragua’s rich culture and history.
  • Travel Insurance is a Must: Ensure you have coverage for peace of mind, especially for health and travel interruptions.
  • Be Eco-conscious: Respect the natural environment, use biodegradable products, and support sustainable tourism practices.

FAQs: Best Places To Visit In Nicaragua

Is Nicaragua safe?

Yes, Nicaragua is generally safe for travelers. Like any destination, exercising common sense and staying informed about the areas you’re visiting is key. Stick to well-traveled areas, keep an eye on your belongings, and avoid walking alone at night in less populated areas. Tourists typically find a welcoming and secure atmosphere across the best places to visit in Nicaragua.

What is the most beautiful part of Nicaragua?

Nicaragua has abundant beauty, but many are captivated by the unique charm of Ometepe Island. With its twin volcanoes, lush landscapes, and serene waters, Ometepe epitomizes the natural beauty that makes Nicaragua a must-visit destination. Each region has its own allure, from the colonial elegance of Granada to the untouched splendor of the Corn Islands.

Is Nicaragua cheap?

Yes, the cost of living in Nicaragua is considered one of the lowest in Central American countries, offering great value for travelers. From accommodations and meals to transportation and activities, visitors can enjoy a range of experiences that fit various budgets, making it a fantastic option for those looking to explore the best places to visit in Nicaragua without breaking the bank.

Is Nicaragua tourist-friendly?

Absolutely! Nicaragua welcomes visitors with open arms, offering a mix of breathtaking landscapes, deep history, and culture. Tourist infrastructure is continually improving, with a range of accommodations and activities to suit all preferences. Nicaraguans are known for their warmth and hospitality, making it a tourist-friendly country.

What makes Nicaragua special?

Nicaragua’s diversity is what Nicaragua is known for. From surfing on the Pacific coast to hiking in mist-covered mountains, exploring colonial cities, and lounging on Caribbean beaches, Nicaragua offers many unique experiences. Its blend of natural beauty, cultural depth, and historical significance makes it a special destination among Central American countries.

What is the most visited city in Nicaragua?

Granada is arguably the most visited city in Nicaragua, attracting tourists with its well-preserved colonial architecture, lively street life, and the stunning backdrop of Lake Nicaragua. Its colorful buildings, rich history, and proximity to natural attractions like Mombacho Volcano make it a highlight for many visitors. No need to wonder why it tops the ‘best places to visit in Nicaragua’ list.

What’s the most interesting thing about Nicaragua?

The rich volcanic landscape is one of the most interesting facts about Nicaragua, featuring 19 volcanoes, many of which are active and accessible. This unique geological feature shapes much of the country’s terrain, creating stunning natural parks, fertile lands, and dramatic scenery that captivates adventurers and nature lovers alike. Additionally, Nicaragua’s blend of indigenous cultures, Spanish colonial history, and a vibrant contemporary scene makes it a compelling destination for those seeking a deep and diverse cultural experience.

What are the best beaches in Nicaragua?

Nicaragua’s best beaches offer something for everyone, from the surf-ready waves of San Juan del Sur to the tranquil Caribbean waters of the Corn Islands. Playa Maderas is a hotspot for surfers, while the white sandy beaches of Little Corn Island provide a perfect escape for those seeking tranquility and natural beauty. All are featured in the best places to visit in Nicaragua.

What is the best national park in Nicaragua?

Masaya Volcano National Park stands out as one of the best national parks in Nicaragua for its dramatic landscape and the unique opportunity to gaze into an active volcanic crater. Its accessibility and the mesmerizing sight of lava glowing beneath the surface make it a fascinating visit. It’s a prime example of the natural wonders that make Nicaragua a great place to visit.

Conclusion: Best Places To Visit In Nicaragua

Nicaragua, with its dynamic landscapes and rich culture, invites travelers into a world where every corner shows you a story worth discovering. Whether it’s catching the perfect wave in San Juan del Sur, immersing yourself in the cloud forests of Miraflor, or standing on the edge of the Masaya Volcano, the best places to visit in Nicaragua offer a blend of adventure, tranquility, and beauty that stays with you long after your visit.

This guide through Nicaragua’s best places is a testament to the country’s ability to enchant and inspire. Here, the warmth of its people, the richness of its culture, and the raw beauty of its landscapes converge to create an experience that is not just about the places you visit but the memories you create and the stories you’ll share.

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