Nicaragua Trip Review 2011

I was in Nicaragua for twenty days from December 8th through the 28th.  Trip highlights included Puerto Cabezas on the Caribbean coastline, Mombacho, Gran Pacifica, Granada and the isletas and many great restaurants.

Nicaragua Gran Pacifica Sunset

Upon arriving in Nicaragua it struck me harder than in years past, Managua seems more run down than years past.  It feels like many street repairs and general clean up hadn’t been done in the past ten years.  This was evident from the very beginning on the North Highway near the airport.  Traffic seems to be worse and worse each year but it is still nothing compared to other major cities in Central America.  In spite of that it felt good to breathe in that nice warm Nicaraguan air.  One of the first highlights of the trip was getting to try the Porterhouse Steakhouse on the Masaya Highway across the street from the Gallerias Mall.  It is an American style steakhouse with ribeyes, New York steaks, filet mignon and more.  The prices are high by Nicaraguan standards ranging from $17 to $40 but the food and atmosphere were amazing.  Be careful though because the steaks tend to be undercooked so request them more cooked than what you would normally ask for.

*More extensive picture galleries of the trip may be seen on facebook page: “Nicaragua Magazine Online”

Puerto Cabezas NicaraguaA few days after arriving in Nicaragua I took an hour flight to Puerto Cabezas for a few days.  The flights in those little airplanes can be “interesting” with lots of dips in the air that make you hold on to your seat just a little tighter.  Aside from the never dull flight on those planes the time in Puerto Cabezas was unbelievable.  Even though it has unbelievable beauty but it is not built up and therefore it is not a tourist destination due to its location but well worth visiting.  We were there for a 30 year anniversary for a church.  We visited the church and an orphanage.  Puerto Cabezas as well as the rest of the Caribbean coastline is like visiting an entirely different country.  The city has grown so much since I was last there in the year 2000.  It has gone from a small town to a bustling little city.  Twenty five years ago there were about fifteen cars in the entire community and now there are traffic jams.  The people of Puerto Cabezas are beautiful both inside and out.  There is an ethnic blend of Miskito Indians, Mestizos and black people due to the slave trade that went on hundreds of years ago.  Most are carefree with smiles that go from ear to ear.  I was able to have some delicious coconut bread; I probably ate a whole loaf in one day.  Unfortunately I did miss out on having a soda cake, a staple treat from Puerto Cabezas.

Puerto Cabezas Moravian Church

Upon arriving back in Managua I went to the Cocina de Doña Haydée.  The Cocina de Doña Haydée is a great place to try Nicaraguan food in restaurant atmosphere as opposed to the side of the road.  You can try all of the best of Nicaraguan food at an affordable price.  In our group five of us shared two assortment platters with a few drinks for about $40.  

The next highlight of the trip was hiking the Mombacho Volcano near Granada.  We got there a few minutes before 10AM to take the shuttle at the base of the volcano that takes you to the top.  Being a dual citizen of both the US and Nicaragua I used my Nicaraguan cedula card to only pay $6 as opposed to double that which is the price for foreigners.  On the way up you pass through many coffee farms as you make your way up to the top where it is a rain forest.  Once at the top there is a little lodge where you can hire a guide to take you on the hike of your choice.  We chose to go without a guide around the first crater.  This is an easy hike for almost anyone who is able to walk.  Half way around the crater we found a sign for another 4 kilometer hike.  A sign said the Nicaragua Mombacho Volcanohike was not permitted without a guide.  There was no guide around but we decided to do it anyways.  This trail is more intense but definitely doable for anyone who is in decent physical condition.  The trail is well kept but there are lots of steps and in some places in can be pretty slick so be careful.  At the end of our hike we saw a sloth in the tree which was pretty cool.  The beauty of the Mombacho wildlife is truly astounding.  The one downside of the day we went up was that the cloud cover never lifted and we never got to see the spectacular views of Granada, the islands and Lake Nicaragua.

Our group also spent three nights at the Gran Pafica Golf and Beach Resort.  The resort is really a beauty and one of the great beach resort options that is much closer to Managua than those located in Rivas.  Gran Pacifica has been hit pretty hard by the economy with construction at a standstill.  That being said the facilities have been well kept and there is a restaurant that is fully functioning for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Our group rented a three bedroom.  The house was a little over priced but it does include access to the pool near beach and you have access to several surf breaks.  The famous Meat Grinders reef break was not really breaking but down the beach Asuchillo had some good waves.  We had a lot of fun surfing there.  Be careful the current is strong and will pull you down the beach in a matter of minutes.  The pool is a great place to spend the afternoon.  If you need a drink the restaurant is right next to it and from the pool there is a great view of the beach.  The sunsets are absolutely spectacular.

Gran Pacifica Nicaragua

The last highlight of the trip was spending a day at isletas of Granada the day after Christmas.  We took the 20 minute boat ride and spent the day on the El Corazon Island.  It was a perfect day with blue skies and the water was refreshing.  In between dips in the water we hung out on the hammock chairs and enjoyed the views.  We swam around the island as well as to neighboring islands.  The island next to us had wild howler monkeys in the tree.  Off in the distance we could see large turtles sun bathing on the rocks.  We had dinner at El Zaguan restaurant where I had a steak with fried plantains and fried cheese.  And yes to answer your question Nicaraguans do love their fried foods.

Nicaragua Mombacho and the Isletas

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