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Trip Report 11 day trip report - Nicaragua

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Day 1 -- Arrived in Managua airport at 12pm. The exchange rate is terrible --use atms to get cordoba or dollars. We arranged for a car to pick us up from the airport to take us to Hotel La Perla ($55 usd with Tierra Tours). It took over an hour to get there. Hotel La Perla is a gorgeous, elegant colonial hotel with a pool, lovely courtyard, and a/c. Hotel is centrally located. We had lunch at Restaurant Sesteo by the square, which was good. We visited all the churches and museums in the afternoon. Make sure to visit the rooftop of the Cathedral de Leon (buy the ticket outside in the back of the church). It was so hot in Leon. We swam in the pool at Hotel La Perla before we went to dinner at Taquezal restaurant (also good). Even though the pool is small, there is no one using it so it was perfect.

Day 2 -- We visited the other museums we missed the first day. Our favorite museum was Centro de Art Fundacion Ortiz Guardina (not to be missed). We then went to Cerro Negro with Tierra Tours ($28 each). It is an hour hike up and the views are awesome. I wore closed toe shoes but my husband wore closed toe keens with socks. The sandboarding down the volcano was the highlight of our trip! My husband stood but I sat. My only regret was that the board wasn't fast enough. I would say it is worth it to go to Leon just to do this! We had dinner at Restaurant Sauchnoje (which was so-so).

Day 3 -- We took a cab to Las Penitas ($10 usd with negotiating!). The road is so bad so it took about 45 min. We stayed at Hotel Olazul right on the beach. The hotel was fine and the location was great. There was no one on the beach! It was perfect. The water was fine also but there were some big waves so I wouldnt swim there. We took a boat at Isla Juan Venado wildlife reserve ($35). It was beautiful. Watched the sunset and had dinner at Suyapa hotel (lots of seafood!) and had a frozen Macua (must try this drink!)

Day 4 -- Left for Granada by car (arranged by hotel $70). It took almost 3 hours to get there. Visited the churches and just walked around Granada all afternoon. Stayed at Hotel con Corazon (fantastic hotel in a great location, clean, new, pool, and what a great cause!). Had dinner at El Zaquan which was pretty good.

Day 5 -- Had a huge breakfast at Hotel con Corazon. Then took the Masaya volcano day tour with Tierra Tours ($25 each). It was a good tour but I wished we could have walked around San Juan de Oriente instead of going straight to a ceramics workshop and then leaving. We then did the Lake Isletas boat tour in the afternoon with Tierra Tours ($18 each) which was nice. Had dinner at Restaurant Las Colinas (took a cab there for $1). The lake bass (guapote) was excellent and huge! ($16 for the fish alone!)

Day 6 -- Went to San Jorge by Paxeos shuttle ($18 each). Tierra tours was cheaper at $15 each but they needed a minimum of three people. Cabs were even more expensive. It took about an hour. Caught the 10:30 am ferry and the ride was fine. We arranged for a taxi to pick us up at the ferry and bring us to Totoco Ecolodge. The road from the ferry was so bad and took over an hour. Totoco was worth it though as it has the most spectacular view of the Concepcion volcano. The rooms are also private and nice and the whole place is ecofriendly and the owners and staff were great. We hiked to Finca Magdelena from their property to check out the coffee plantation (took about 2 hrs roundtrip) and we saw howler monkeys on the way. We bought some coffee there at $4 per lb. Their coffee is great and I didnt see it for sale anywhere else. The food at Totoco was also great and the sunsets are amazing!

Day 7 -- We missed the bus so we got a ride from the hotel to Ojo de Agua and stayed there for about 3 hours. There was hardly anyone there but at 11am, people started coming. We left there at 12:30 by arranged taxi and went to Caballitos for kayaking. We had lunch there which was ok. We kayaked for about 1 1/2 hours. The cab ride from Ojo de Agua to the kayaking place to Totoco was $40. The first part of the kayaking was hard as you are kayaking in open water. Rio Istian was lovely once you got there but it was short as you couldnt go too far. We then went back to Totoco to relax and watch the sunset. Note: there is a new Dutch ferry so ask the hotel you plan on staying at for the times.

Day 8 -- We hung out at Totoco for most of the day. We then took the 4:30 brand new Dutch ferry back to Granada. The hotel arranged for a taxi to pick us up. He charged us $30 to bring us back to Granada b/c it was nighttime (otherwise it would have been $25). This new ferry is closer to Totoco then Moyogalpa.
We arrived in Granada around 7 and stayed at Hotel con Corazon again. We just loved that hotel. We ate at El Mediterraneo which was great!

Day 9 -- We took the shuttle from Hostal Oasis to Laguna de Apoya. We really enjoyed our time there, the water was warm and a beautiful blue. Lunch at the Crater's Edge was fine (pizza). We returned to Granada at 5pm. We had dinner at El Zaquan again.

Day 10 -- We went on the Mombacho Tour and Canopy Tour with Tierra Tours (as Mombotours did not have space for us). The combo tour was $50 each. We hiked the Sendero Crater trail, visited Cafe de Flores and went on the canopy tour. We have done the canopy tour before in Costa Rica and Whistler but we thought we would try it here. We were able to go upside down, do the superman, go with each other and do other tricks. We saw howler monkeys up-close. At the last zipline, they pull the cable up and down so you are bouncing the whole way down which was really fun. I heard the difference with Mombotours canopy is that they dont let you do all these "tricks" but that they have a rappel at the end. We got back from the tour around 3 and walked around Granada again. We drank a cacao drink at Hotel Dario (Fantastic!). We then had dinner at Hotel Terrasol which was the worst meal we had in Granada. We had fish and shrimp. It was also about $30 -- not worth it. We ended up eating some chicken on the street after which was delicious for $2 (and we didnt get sick).

Day 11-- We took a cab from our hotel to the airport ($35). It took an hour. When we got to the airport I realized all the rum and coffee (other than the coffee we bought at Finca de Magdelena) we bought was available for the same or less at the airport duty free.

My impressions from our trip:
Nicaraguan People - So friendly and helpful
Best drink - the Macua and Nica Libre (My husband thought the 7 yr old FDC was great but really loved the 18yr at duty free)
Best Activity - Cerro Negro sandboarding
Best thing on Ometepe -- View at Totoco Ecolodge
Best Food -- Hotel Suyapa in Las Penitas
Best colonial city -- this is tough as I found Leon to be less touristy and gritty which I really liked. Granada is beautiful but a bit too redone for my taste and full of tourists (if you could even say that). If you can -- visit both towns.
Worst Experience -- the roads in Ometepe

In hindsight, I think I should have rented a car for part of this trip -- then I could have drove myself to all the outer sights instead of doing all these tours as I would have had more flexibility. It may have also been the same or cheaper in the long run as the taxi transport was not cheap in Nica.

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