Things To Do In Nicaragua (Backpacking Nicaragua Travel Guide)

Last updated on August 3rd, 2018 at 05:20 am

Traveling to the “land of lakes and volcanoes” is relatively easy, and there are many things to do in Nicaragua. You can opt to visit the cities, their nice beaches, and the locals over there are quite friendly. You can even organize your travels on your own to cross Nicaragua. Best of all, Nicaragua is a very easy country for traveling. Backpacking Nicaragua is a one of a kind experience, and there will be something different for everybody. Nicaragua is the most popular backpacking destination in Central America. In fact, Nicaragua was my favorite country to visit in Central America and South America. Take a moment to read this article soon and this will serve as a guide for you as you journey through one of my favorite countries not only in Central America but also around the world! Things to do in Nicaragua, places to visit in Nicaragua, where to stay in Nicaragua, the best time to visit Nicaragua and How much daily budget you need for backpacking Nicaragua.

Before Backpacking Nicaragua

Currency and ATMs

One of the most important things to do in Nicaragua, or just anywhere you travel to is preparing and taking care of your money. If you’re traveling to Nicaragua important thing you should do is double-check your ATM daily limits before you go. More helpful tips from us, don’t exchange your money at the airport, and they like you to give them clean bills, no cuts, stamps or holes. In Nicaragua, everyone accepts US cash and if you want to know more about the currencycheck the exchange rate at the moment.

Is Safe Traveling to Nicaragua?

Is Nicaragua safe to travel to? We will say that the main tourist destinations are very safe; San Juan del Sur, Granada, Leon and Ometepe it’s all safe right now. Always remember as well that when you’re traveling, you can’t help but be attracted to places that instantly catch your eye or you’ll be a little distracted. But please be aware that you are also traveling to a place you’ve never been to so you must take good care of your belongings. Just use common sense!

How to get to Nicaragua?

By Plane

Travelers looking to see the country can book or schedule flights with Skyscanner.  You can get return ticket from United States to Nicaragua starting from $400 USD. Most common arrival destiantion will be Managua the capital of Nicaragua!

Overland

You can enter Nicaragua by land from Honduras and Costa Rica.

From Honduras to Nicaragua? You can go by bus, shuttle or by car. If you are traveling by car you can make a travel insurance in the border. The visa will cost $12 USD to enter for backpacking Nicaragua. If you are leaving Nicaragua, the fee is $3 USD.

From Costa Rica to Nicaragua? Same like if you are coming from Honduras, by car, shuttle or car. The fees are the same that we mentioned above. Be careful if you are going to Costa Rica, they will ask you for a prove orf traveling. It could be a bus ticket or a plane ticket making sure that you are leaving the country.

Visa

Good news for citizens of one of the following countries you do not need a visa to enter the country: all EU-countries, USA, Scandinavia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia. You are able to acquire 90-day tourist visa and will only need to have at least 6 months remaining on your passport. You may refer to this link for more info about the matter. Check here if your country is eligible for 90 days visa in Nicaragua.

Best time To Visit Nicaragua

You might be wondering when is the best time to visit Nicaragua? We suggest you book flights to visit the country in April, and you could be able to get the best combination of warm temperatures and minimal rainfall. Or if you want to see a much brighter and lush environment, December, January, July, and August would also be a good time. They have two distinct seasons in Nicaragua: the rainy and the dry season.

How to get wifi in Nicaragua

If internet access is essential for you when you are traveling, there are places you can get wifi like most cafes, they have pretty good wifi. There is also wifi in hotels and hostels in Nicaragua. The connection is improving every year and you will not have a problem at all with internet signal in cities and touristic places. But if you want something handy, just rent a portable pocket wifi at Nicaragua so you can avoid roaming charges as you travel abroad.

How much budget per day: Travel Guide Nicaragua

You can manage easy with $20-30 USD per day backpacking Nicaragua. You can even go down this daily budget, taking chicken buses, hitchhiking, eating in local markets, staying with locals and volunteering while traveling in Nicaragua. This budget doesn´t include tours or activities like surfing, you will have to add little bit extra for them.

Food in Nicaragua

There are amazing cuisines to try in Nicaragua. Prices are very affordable and starts from $2 USD in local restaurants. You can get frescos (local juices) and a few snacks as street food for $1 USD. Beers and drinks at night will cost you $2-3 USD.

Where To Stay in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is one of the cheapest places to travel to in Central America! There is definitely a number of cheap hostels to stay in which you will be pleased to know. The average price of a dorm bed in Nicaragua is around 10 USD depending on the season can be more or less of that price. If you’re going for a much cheaper option, most hostels offer the option of camping and a hammock for just a few dollars! You may also opt to use Airbnb in finding place where to stay in Nicaragua for a cheap price. Click here to get free $30 USD credit booking with this link in Airbnb.

We always recommend to stay with locals using Couchsurfing where you can have an amazing experience and you will save your accommodation!

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION BEFORE YOUR TRIP IN NICARAGUA WITH BOOKING.COM!

CLICK HERE TO BOOK WITH AGODA.

Transportation

One interesting form of transportation in Nicaragua are decommissioned American school buses that were revamped called the Chicken Buses. These buses are often painted in many designs to make it look more interesting and some have installed speakers for passengers to listen to as they go on the road. These buses usually have a conductor who comes around to collect your fare, so you can sit down first and then pay later. The fares are cheap so no worries. If you want to get a taste of the Nicaraguan lifestyle and culture, the famous chicken buses is one way to start. We totally recommend Chicken Buses to move around the country.

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Another form of transportation are the minivans, they are faster than the chicken buses. But also little bit more expensive.

Is Hitchhiking working in Nicaragua? Yes, it´s really easy hitchhiking in Nicaragua for short distances to get a ride in Nicaragua and it´s always fun to do it. Just be careful when hitchhiking, you can read our full travel guide to hitchhike around the world!

Backpacking Nicaragua One Month Itinerary

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If you are coming from Honduras as I did. You can start your route backpacking Nicaragua from the North and your first stop can be Leon. One of the biggest cities and with a lot of interesting plans to do. A day of adventure to do Volcano boarding is also offered. You can go down to the capital Managua. From Managua you can stop in Granada, a very beautiful city. From Granada you can do a day trip to Masaya Volcano. I did by bicycle and it took me a few hours to reach Masaya. You can also rent a motorbike to go there. You can get free bicycle in your hostel. After Granada you can go and relax in San Juan del Sur. You can party, surfing, relaxing and even camping in the beach for free! And one thing that you can´t miss in your one month itinerary in Nicaragua is Ometepe Island. You will get to Ometepe by boat and you can hike two volcanos, rent a bicycle to go around the island or a motorbike. All these places are so close and you will spend just a few hours moving around the destinations. If you are planning to visit Corn Island or Isla del Maiz, you will spend a long day traveling. Little Corn Island is an amazing place for snorkeling and diving in Nicaragua.

Places to visit in Nicaragua

Leon

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Leon is called Nicaragua’s center of tradition and culture, and this fact is apparent to those staring at the city’s love of poetry. The city is crowdy and you will find the cheapest places for staying in Nicaragua. If you are coming overland from Honduras maybe will be your first contact with Nicaragua. In 2000 Leon Viejo was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You’ll discover that nearly almost all of the locals there are interested in art, which simply makes Leon so alluring. Leon’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption is Central America’s largest cathedral, and also one of the oldest. It has withstand volcanic eruptions and also during the revolutionary times. There are interesting museums where you can learn about the Revolution in Nicaragua. Nightlife is good, there are many bars and restaurants!

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR STAY IN LEON WITH BOOKING AND AGODA!

Granada

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Granada is one of Nicaragua’s most touristy destinations and is the real definition of Spanish charm. It is also best known for its colorful buildings, churches, and plazas from way back in the colonial days. If you are traveling on a budget won’t have trouble finding cheap places to stay in Granada, cheap places to eat at, and meeting new local friends. Small colonial city and it´s full of culture, nice parks great architecture.

I recommend spenigng a few days in Granada. From Granada you can also do a day trip to Masaya Volcano or Laguna de Apoyo. You can rent a motorbike, rent a bicycle or you can join to a tour. Depending on what you prefer or your budget. The nightlife is really good like the whole Nicaragua.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR STAY IN GRANADA WITH BOOKING AND AGODA!

San Juan del Sur

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San Juan Del Sur is a small coastal town on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. The place attracts hundreds of foreigners because it is the best location for restaurants and nightlife, especially Central America’s biggest party. Beaches in San Juan del Sur are very quiet.

I recommend you to hike to the Christ of the Mercy 30 minutes walk. Once in the point of view you will get amazing views! If you want to go surfing, you can go to Playas Maderas. It´s full of people surfing, there are also accommodation if you want to stay in Playas Maderas. You can rent a board, or even have lessons for surfing if you have never tried before.

Travel Tip: To reach Playas Maderas is great to have an adventure and you can try hitchhiking, there are locals driving in that direction and also many foreigners. I did a couple of times and it was so easy. Especially leaving Playas Maderas, you just need to ask who has a small space in their car. And even better if you are bringing a tent, you can do free camping in Playas Maderas.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR STAY IN SAN JUAN DEL SUR WITH BOOKING AND AGODA!

Ometepe

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The Ometepe Island is a volcanic island in the southern part of Nicaragua. Maderas and Concepcion, the two volcanoes form an island that is shaped like a figure eight or simply the infinity symbol, as many would people on the island would say. It’s hard not to feel peace in such a beautiful place like Ometepe Island. There are a lot of small towns on the lake shore surrounding the two volcanoes which makes it interesting for many tourists or travelers to stay.

One thing to do in Ometepe Island is rent a scooter $15-20 USD per day or bicycle $5-7 USD per day and explore the island for the day. Also since you’re already in this wonderful island, spend time by the water in Lake Nicaragua which is the best place to beat the heat and watch one of the best sunsets ever. You can also hike Madera Volcano and Maderas, you should hire a guide to do it. Prices are around $25 USD per person and the activity lasts 7-9 hours. If you like hiking, read our experience hiking Taal Volcano. The second most active volcano in the Philippines.

How to get to Ometepe Island? If you are coming from Granada or other destination in Nicaragua. You can go by bus until Rivas where you can get a ferry to get to Ometepe Island around one hour ride with amazing views during the ride of Maderas and Concepcion volcanoes.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR STAY IN OMETEPE ISLAND WITH BOOKING AND AGODA!

Corn Island

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Little Corn Island is about 50 miles off the coast of Nicaragua. It may be little but it’s bursting with charm. Little Corn Island is one of the best places to dive and snorkel, and they also offer deep sea fishing and yoga. If you want to experience a true Caribbean island experience then head on to Little Corn Island. Little Corn Island is full of backpackers.

It´s very relaxing and there are no cars in the island. So you can walk around or rent a bicycle to move around the island. Staying in your hammock reading a book, swimming, snorkeling and even diving are the best palns to do in Little Corn Island.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR STAY IN LITTLE CORN ISLAND WITH AGODA AND BOOKING!

Managua

The capital and the largest city in Nicaragua, introducing Managua. Also the main trading and industrial center of the country. Managua is a big and dodgy metropolis, so you really need to make it more digestible. Definitely download or learn a few Spanish words if you plan on making a friend or two over there. Definitely stick around Managua for the cheap food as well as the nightlife, although some parts of the city aren’t that bad.

There are local markets to visit. There are malls, as Im not a big fan of very crowdy cities. And a couple of days is enough to stay in Managua. You can walk around city center. You can also visit the old Catherdal of Santiago and of course see the nightlife in the capital of Nicaragua.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR STAY IN MANAGUA WITH BOOKING AND AGODA!

Somoto Canyon

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For backpackers that are looking for an epic adventure, head into Somoto Canyon in Nicaragua. They all want to visit the place to the northern part of Central America in hopes to hike Somoto Canyon, and rightly so, what a beauty it was! Blue waters and large cliffs, definitely a great place to be surrounded by the pure beauty of nature. You can join tours around Somoto Canyon, or self guide your way through Somoto Canyon. If you hire a gudie will be cheaper and it will cost you around $25 USD.

You can stay in Esteli or in Somoto Canyon, and most accommodation types in the latter are a homestay, which gives you the authentic taste of the Nicaraguan life.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION IN ESTELI WITH BOOKING AND AGODA!

Volcano Boarding

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Feeling brave? Then go Volcano Boarding. Cerro Negro is the most popular volcano for this activity. You can get a tour from Leon. Guesthouses will help you and it will cost you $25-30 USD. You will go there after 40-50 minutes drive from Leon. Once you get to the top, you will go down in less than 3 minutes. The experience is quite similar to a famous activity which is sandboarding. A great experience if you like to try the adventure in Nicaragua!

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR STAY IN LEON WITH BOOKING AND AGODA!

Laguna de Apoyo

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This crater lake in Nicaragua is a body of water naturally heated and full of igneous minerals. It’s the cleanest and deepest lake in Central America and the water is more blue than any lake water you’ve ever seen.  The lagoon is quite big but not big enough that it does not feel crowded at all. Beautiful place to have quality time with people you are with, what more could you ask for?

You can go to Laguna de Apoyo in a day trip from Granada. You can get a bus to Laguna passing by Masaya! It will be one of the best places to visit in Nicaragua!

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR STAY IN GRANADA WITH BOOKING AND AGODA!

Masaya Volcano

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Masaya has the largest local artisan market. This small and stunning town is also known for their crystalline crater lake Laguna de Masaya, and the artisan market Mercado de Artesanias de Masaya. Shop all you want to handmade ceramics, woodcrafts, jewellery, cigars, leather and the signature Masaya hammocks. Also try barter prices and you might walk away with a great deal.

I went to Masaya Volcano from Granada by bicycle and it took us a couple of hours to get to the crater. The views are increidble and its an active volcano. There is an entrance fee of 100 Cordobas around $3.5 USD.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR STAY IN GRANADA WITH BOOKING AND AGODA!

Things To Do in Nicaragua

EATING AND DRINIKING IN NICARAGUA

 Gallo Pinto

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The staple food in most Nicaraguan’s diet. This is the most popular dish with black or read beans and rice. It´s very common in Central America. If you keep traveling to Honduras, El Salvador the name of this dish will be Casado and Casamiento.

Indio Viejo

A heavy meal that takes several hours to prepare. Corn tortilla with meat, onions, garlic, sweet pepper, and tomato and cooked in orange juice and broth and sopa de albondigas (meatballs soup).

Pinolillo

It´s very sweet Pinolillo which is a corn flour/cocoa based beverage. Pinolillos are easily found in most market stalls. You can also add milk if you like.

Quesillo

This is my favorite snack in Nicaragua. It´s served as street food and you can find for $1 USD. It´s a corn tortilla make with cheese. You can add onions and I love it in this way.

Vigoron

It´s a traditional Nicaraguan dish. It´s made with cabbage salad, tomatoes, onions and with vinegar, pepper and salt. It´s boiled with yuca and chicharrones (fried pork also used in the Philippines). As street food is served in a banana leaf.

Flor de Caña

We already mentioned that old places to visit in Nicaragua has an amazing nightlife. Well Ron Flor de Caña is made in Nicaragua. And it tastes great mixing with coke for an affordable price.

Local Juices (Fresco)

I love walking around, eating street food and in Nicaragua you can find Frescos everywhere. Tamarindo, Cebada, Cacao and usually served in a small plastic bag with a straw. So sweet and you can find them cold and for less than $1 USD.

Chicha

It´s a homemade fermented or non feremented derived from grains, maize or fruit. Be careful guys when drinking chicha is so sweet and after a few of them maybe you will get drunk.

Toña Beer

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There are a few local beers in Nicaragua. Toña and Victoria are the most popular ones. Toña was my favorite and you can find for $2 USD. Watch out Happy Hours in Nicaragua!

More Things To do in Nicaragua

Sandinist Wars

As thoroughly explained in the Nicaragua website, “the war began through many series of rebellions Sandinista government of Nicaragua. Eventually, what is known as the Iran-Contra scandal was made public, bringing much disrepute to the Reagan administration. American support, both above and below the table, was not sufficient to turn the tide of the war in favor of the Contras, so both sides settled for a ceasefire in March of 1988 that was followed in 1990 by an internationally monitored election in Nicaragua in which the Sandinistas were defeated. Over the past 15 years, Nicaragua has made great strides economically and may have at last achieved a measure of political stability. The country has resumed its place as a premier tourist destination and has generally succeeded in healing the wounds received in the difficult decade of the 1980s.”

It´s really interesting to visit museums about this in Leon or other big cities. It´s part of the new history of Nicaragua.

Festivals in Nicaragua

Día de los muertos

Halloween, he Day if the Dead people is also celebrated in Cetral America and Nicaragua. It´s special time for families remembering the loved ones who died. They visit their crypt, clean it and spend time with them.

Nicaragua´s Independence Day

Nicaragua gained th Independence Day on September 1821. The festival is celebrated also in other nations like Mexico and Guatemala which was a few days before than Nicaragua Independence.

Semana Santa

Holy week! It´s celebrated by Spanish speakers countries with the commemoration of Jesus death and resurrection. It´s great to see processions around the cities and small towns.

Old Cathedrals in Nicaragua

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As Spanish heritage, there are very beautiful old Cathedrals in Nicaragua. My favorite ones were in Managua, Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago. And Cathedral of Our Lady of Assumption. Click here to read the complete lsit of old cathedrals in Nicaragua.

Chicken Buses

It´s a great exoerience traveling in chicken buses with locals. The bus is very affordavble and it´s stopping in all the town. It´s a continuos go up and down people during the whole journey. There are sellers with frescos and snacks.

Sunset

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My favorite sunsets in Nicaragua were in San Juan del Sur. Pacific sunsets were so beautiful and colorful and they are always perfect after a nice day in the beach or exploring the town.

Nightlife in Nicaragua

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I got surprised of the nightlife in Nicaragua. All the places to visit in Nicaragua were great. Leon and San Juan del Sure were my favorite palces to hang out in Nicaragua. Prices are affordable to go out for dinner and drinking. You will find locals and also foreigners!

Local Market in Masaya

It´s only 30 minutes far from Granada. El Mercado Viejo Craft Market is the perfect place to buy souvenirs and hand crafts in a good price. The best product in the market are the hammocks.

Climbing a Volcano

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If you go to Nicaragua, I can recommend you the expereince of climbing a volcano. I did two of them: Concepcion and Masaya. Both of them totally worth it. Masaya is easier and Concepcion in Ometepe Island you need a gudie to do it. Be ready for the hike, from hot weather can be rainy and can take 7-9 hours to climg Concepcion. Read here also our travel guide to climb Mount Rinjani in Lombok, Indonesia.

Learn Spanish

In Nicaragua people speak Spanish. It´s a perfect chance to learn your first words in Spanish. Or even take a course if you have time. Prices are very affordable and once you learn the language travel around Nicaragua can be much more fun!

Watch a Baseball Game

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Baseball, basketball and soccer are the most popular sports in Nicaragua. I had the opportunity to watch live a baseball game. It was my first time in Rivas and the experience was great watching with locals. Just one game I learnt many thingas about baseball. Apart from the game sellers are continuosly selling ice cream, sodas and snacks.

Surfing

If you like surfing or you would like to try can be nice to do it in Nicaragua. San Juan del Sur beaches are perfect to do it. You can spend a few days and even camping in those beaches. You can rent a board the whole day for $15 USD and even get lessons if you never tried before.

There is so much wonderful activities and sites waiting for those who plan to travel to Nicaragua. So don’t miss out on an amazing chance to get here ahead and share what you think about Nicaragua in the comments below!

For more places to visit in South America read our full backpacking Ecuador guide and our backpacking Colombia guide.

Happy Travels!

Ruben Arribas is a Spanish traveler who has traveled more than 70+ countries around the world. He believes in travel without money. Recently, he finished a bicycle trip, 9500 km, from Madrid to North Cape.

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