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Nicaragua travel advice please!!!

Old Aug 7th, 2005, 10:04 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Aug 2005
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Nicaragua travel advice please!!!



"Jeff_Costa_Rica" I hope you're out there as I know you're the expert on Nicaragua!!

If all works out as planned I will be traveling solo to Nicaragua mid September for a little over two weeks. I've obsessively been researching everything possible in print and online that I can find out about the country and am exited about going. One drawback is I don't speak Spanish but I don't see that as a major obstacle as I've traveled abroad extensively for many years and have always managed. I'm not going on a shoestring budget, but I'm conscious of my funds due to the fact my airline ticket is outrageously high. For accommodations I'm primarily concerned about the safety of camera gear I'll be traveling with. I don't really feel the need to (nor have the finances) to stay at the nicest resorts like Morgan Rock or Montelimar but would like to stay in places with a private room and bath, and preferably a/c hot shower (in the cities anyway). I've narrowed down the locations and specific sites I want to see in Nicaragua and hope that I'm not being to overly optimistic in the fact that one main objective is to relax too.


My game plan is to use Granada as a home base after I arrive in Managua, and when I depart as well. I like the idea of staying at a better place when I first arrive for a couple of days to acclimate, and then again the day before I depart back to the States. I'm hoping to take in Granada, Leon, Mayasa/San Juan de Oriente area, Mombacho (volcano and canopy tour), San Carlos/San Juan River/Solentiname Archipelago/El Castillo Fortress Castillo, San Juan del Sur, Little Corn Island via Big Corn.

My questions:

Is it realistic that I can travel to Managua from Granada in a reasonable amount of time to catch early morning flights for excursions to areas like San Juan and Big Corn Island? I'd really rather not stay in Managua for these excursions.

Rental cars seem outrageously expensive (especially with insurance and taxes,) what would be a reasonable amount of money to pay a driver to drive around for full day trips?? Do you know of any reliable drivers (potential guides too??) in Granada? Would I get burned if I tried to arrange through my accommodations?

As far as accommodations, my potential choices: In Granada: I like the Colonial as I think it would be a great place to acclimate when I first arrive, but it seems a bit pricey. Between the less expensive Oasis Motel (private room/bathroom) and the bit more expensive Hospedje Italiano, a preference? In Leon: between the less expensive Hotelito Calle Real and Hotel America or the more expensive Hotel Los Balcones or Hotel Austria? In San Juan del Sur: the cheaper Hotel Colonial, or between the more expensive Hotel Casablanca and Hotel Piedras Y Olas??? On Small Corn Island: between Los Delfines and Casa Iguana ??

Lastly I collect art, primarily painting, and am looking for areas with extremely high quality workmanship (not the work sold to tourist). I am specificaly looking for work with religious themes, any suggestions??

Please forgive the length of this posting but ANY advice or input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!!!!!!
cobrien1 is offline  
Old Aug 8th, 2005, 05:06 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 3,908
Well, thanks for the compliment, cobrien1. Let me get started with some of this, and continue in the next day or so. I'm excited for you about your trip.

Mid-September: You don't say which dates, but the 14th and 15th are holidays in Nicaragua. Don't expect much to be open then. Since they fall on Wednesday and Thursday, I could see a lot of Nicaraguans taking Friday off too and getting a very long weekend. I'd make plans NOT to go to the beach those days. (San Juan del Sur gets positively overrun with tourists on holidays; Corn Island might be okay, since it's more of a production to get there, but the planes are small and other people might have the same idea.) But, all in all, September is a nice time of year to be in the country. Expect some rain. Nicaragua has had quite a wet rainy season this year and everything is pretty lush and green. I much prefer that to dry and dusty March and April.

Granada: The original classic, nice hotel is the Alhambra. It's not as expensive as the Colonial. That might be an option. I like the Italiano. Rooms are simple but comfortable. Granada is a good base from which to explore Masaya, San Juan del Oriente and Mombacho. Oro Travel in Granada is one of the best small tour operators in the country. I'm sure they could arrange for drivers. I'll bet they could do it for your entire trip if you so choose. The website is:

www.orotravel.com

They're very nice people.

As for catching those early morning flights, there's a lot of construction taking place on the highway between Granada and Masaya (the halfway point to Managua). Normally, Granada-Managua takes 45-60 minutes. I'd add an extra half-hour these days to be safe. The airport is about another half-hour from the southern city limits of Managua. Then add the time you have to check in in advance of your domestic flight and you could have to roll of bed way before dawn if you're staying in Granada, depending on your flight's departure time.

As an aside, Nicaragua is observing daylight saving time this year. That means the sun does not come up until about 7 a.m. I've heard various versions about when it's supposed to end, anywhere from late August to the end of September.

Leon: I really like Los Balcones, but it's a bit more expensive. The America has seen better days.

This is what comes to mind off the top of my head. Let me go through my notes and write more in the next day or so.
Jeff_Costa_Rica is offline  
Old Aug 9th, 2005, 01:08 AM
  #3  
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Thanks so much Jeff! What a blessing to hear from you, and so quick too!

I will be traveling to Managua on Sept, 17th, specific timing to arrive after the holidays, and leaving Oct. 4th. I get the impression from materials I've been reading that there are some excursions that might be better suited for weekdays vs. weekends, and vice versa (flight and ferries etc...).

My question of locations to find high-end painting (contemporary and antique) is one that I've yet to find much information on anywhere. Any help in that area would still be of great help too, but not as much as the travel information.

Thanks again. Look forward to hearing from you. If you would rather email me directly you can reach me at [email protected].

Chris

P.S. Your work in the Fodor's Central America guide is excellent!!
cobrien1 is offline  
Old Aug 10th, 2005, 06:45 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: May 2003
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Okay, it's probably best you won't have to contend with the September holidays in Nicaragua.

Here's a bit more info:

San Juan del Sur: The Colonial has simple rooms, but they're perfectly acceptable. I often stay there when I go. You're a block or two from the beach, but that's no big deal. (But I love the Casablanca. And I did stay at Morgan's Rock for the first time in June. Very nice, but quite expensive.) I'd try to avoid the town on weekends. It's quieter during the week. And if you're using an old guidebook, all the phone numbers in San Juan changed this past December. The prefix is now 568.

Little Corn Island: I've only stayed at Casa Iguana, but Los Delfines is very nice.

Granada: The town has a growing selection of great restaurants, and most of them are closed on Monday.

The art question I won't be so good at answering. I was just in Granada in June and do recall passing a couple of art galleries. I couldn't tell you exactly where they are. There are still artists in Solentiname, but the place isn't quite the buzzing artists' colony it was in its heyday. I seem to recall a painter or two in San Juan del Oriente, but it's mostly pottery you'll find there. And the markets in Masaya, as I'm sure you know, are mainly geared toward tourists. They're fun, but I doubt you'd find upscale art there.
Jeff_Costa_Rica is offline  
Old Aug 10th, 2005, 07:45 PM
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Once again Jeff, thanks for the advice, you're much too kind! I'm feeling a lot more confident and positive in my approach to this trip.

Chris
cobrien1 is offline  
Old Jan 4th, 2006, 11:08 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 251
Jeff, hope you are still out there!

Am considering a long weekend trip to Nicaragua--just me and my hubby! We love the beach, but I am not sure about beaches, distances, etc.
Any general ideas? Costs? We are both hispanic, so we shouldn't encounter communication problems.
We have the option of going to either MExico (Pacific coast) or Nicaragua. @ totally different options and Nicaragua appeals to me...

Thanks / Gracias in advance
plmrod is offline  
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