Last January, before my husband and I tackled our new roles as parents and small business owners, we decided to go on an adventure to Central America. Debating between the options in this region, we settled on Nicaragua. Probably being the lesser known country, it pulled to us. One of the more undiscovered countries in Central America, Nicaragua offers a unique setting where you can experience pristine nature and the fascinating history away from the crowds. Nicaragua’s appealing remoteness can become its strength by knowing the best spots for activity and accommodations. Most notably, the thrilling experience of surfing down an active volcano!
Our first stop on our trip was the city of León. León offers a quiet, relaxed and pleasant atmosphere and is home to the Hotel El Convento. Hotel El Convento has been rebuilt on the grounds of the old San Francisco convent using the same Spanish colonial style. My favorite part of this hotel was the peaceful inner courtyard garden. We would have breakfast every morning while the fountain and birds offered our soundtrack.
Within the first 24 hours of our trip, we were being escorted to Cerro Negro. The youngest volcano in Central America, formed in 1850, as well as one of the most active ones. Its last eruption dates from 1999.
By far, one of the most memorable and terrifying trip adventures!
Also, the perfect way to shake off some stateside stress and embrace your country of travel. The hike up, about 700 meters above sea level, is made difficult due to the loose rocks, steep inclination, and heavy board you carry up. In addition to the magical views of uninhabited country side, we spotted the craters and lava fields on our journey up.
After tacking the trek up and absorbing the panoramic views, the real world set in. I realized it was time to slide down this volcano on a simple wooden board. I had no fear about this adventure until I was standing on the top of this volcano, looking down what seemed like a cliff, not a gentle slopping hill. Panic set in. For my husband, the opposite. He suited up and waved goodbye as he screamed with delight the whole way down! Seeing others locked in fear on the top, refusing to go down, I took a final glance around the spectacular view, took a deep breath, and chanted “giddy up”. Down I went. Slow at first. Then faster and faster as I became more comfortable, thanks to the increased adrenaline. By the time I made it down the volcano, I was shaking from head to toe from all the fear and excitement! I will NEVER forget this adventure.
After more sightseeing, drinks, and dinner in León, we headed out to our next stop. Our transports doubled as tour guides, taking us to Masaya Volcano National Park and Masaya´s artisan market. At the volcano, the drivers are always on alert and park facing the exit. Prepared for a quick escape, I thought the locals were teasing our American spirit at first. They were not. This is a very active volcano and they did not want to stay long. The market was fantastic. Some artifacts obviously mass produced for tourist, but lots of handmade goods as well. Perfect place for gifts and treats to bring home.
Before making it to Granada, we made a final lunch stop at Apoyo Lagoon then visited San Juan de Oriente, one of the so called White Villages. This was another trip highlight. We had a private tour, translated by our guide, of the local craftsmen’s production of fine ceramics out of clay. They even humored my attempts to mold a bowl. A task much more difficult when you are spinning the board by the power of your foot kicking it. I will treasure the small vases we brought home from this stop.
Once in Granda, we parked it at the breath taking Hotel Plaza Colón. Here we enjoyed a needed bottle of bubbly and watched the town’s flurry of activity with a view of the central park and cathedral. In Granada was one of my husband’s trip highlights. We toured the Mombacho Cigar factory located in a grand historical mansion.
The factory, once the home of Mario Favilli, an Italian architect who built many notable structures throughout Granada in the early 20th Century, combining colonial and art deco styles.
We toured and hand rolled our own cigars throughout the tour. The smile on my husband’s face was ear to ear.
Next stop, Isla de Ometepe where we stayed at The San Juan de la Isla Lodge and slept in a beach front lodge on Ometepe Island. Mornings started with magnificent sunrises allowing you to take advantage of a full day. Horses and cattle ran wild and enjoyed drinking the fresh water on the beach. While on the island we toured organic
coffee farms, swam in natural pools with healing powers, and kayaked through the Istiam River.
After all this adventure and non-stop sightseeing, we headed for some R&R on the “Nicaraguan Riviera” at Mukul Resort. This luxury boutique hotel is spectacularly set where the jungle meets the dramatic coastline. The resort offers space and privacy in a style that fully embodies and compliments the natural surroundings. Owned by the Flor de Caña Rum family, this resort caters to your every need.
We stayed in the bohias. Nestled like tree houses in the rainforest canopy 300 feet above Manzanillo beach, the bohias feature a sweeping deck and private plunge pool, overlooking the incredible ocean views.
Time at Mukul was spent drinking poolside, in their one of a kind spa, paddle boarding, playing golf, yoga beach side, and more. It was the perfect end to a perfect adventure.