Nicaragua Bucket List: Top 15 Best Things to Do in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is never on many people’s minds when planning their next vacation, except for those who admire the charm of the off beaten paths and budget travel. Unlike many travel destinations in the region such as Panama and Costa Rica, Nicaragua is quite affordable and less touristy. But this slowly changing as the country is increasingly becoming a popular tourist spot for many international visitors.

With its stunning landscapes, appealing architecture, and rich history, Nicaragua is truly an ideal destination for adventure-seekers and history buffs. It offers everything, from surfing, hiking up active volcanoes, and exploring the lumbering colonial cities.

15 Best Things to Do in Nicaragua

Try volcano-boarding at Cerro Negro

Cerro Negro Nicaragua By NicaPlease – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, CC

Cerro Negro is among the youngest volcanoes in Central America. Its name is derived from the character of its landscape – dark sandy slopes. It is quite active too having been erupted several times in recent years.

Visitors can climb the hill and enjoy the views from the top or board-slide down the slopes for one of the most exhilarating activities in the country.

Discover the highest lake island in the world

Ometepe Island in Nicaragua
Ometepe Island in Nicaragua

A long time ago, two volcanoes erupted to form the Ometepe Island at the center of Lake Nicaragua. Now the beautiful landscapes serve as a one day getaway for travelers looking to escape the rut and try something new.

The island is also an important archaeological site for Nicaragua.

Besides learning about the rich history of the island, visitors can also admire the beautiful beaches and diverse wildlife.

Check out Granada

Granada Cathedral in Nicaragua
Granada Cathedral in Nicaragua

This Spanish-inspired settlement has some of the most impressive and well-maintained architecture on the island. You can just wander around admiring the many churches and buildings with Renaissance-style architecture.

After you are done admiring the beautiful architecture, take a traditional boat to the neighboring islands.

Admire Leon Viejo

Ruins of Leon Viejo photo via Depositphotos
Ruins of Leon Viejo photo via Depositphotos

As the only world heritage site on the island, Leon Viejo is an old Spanish colonial settlement in Nicaragua and the only place on the island to learn and experience the country’s colonial history.

Surf at San Juan del Sur

Surfing in Nicaragua photo via Depositphotos
Surfing in Nicaragua photo via Depositphotos

Nicaragua is a well-known surfing destination in Central America and the best place to enjoy the waves is at San Juan del Sur, a designated tourism city of the island.

This small, southwestern city also has beautiful beaches and infinite things to do including shopping local products and sampling traditional food.

Lounge on island’s silver sand beaches

The Barrel Hostel, Popoyo Beach Nicaragua
The Barrel Hostel, Popoyo Beach Nicaragua

The Emerald Coast between El Astillero and Tola is considered the most beautiful on the island. Straddling the Pacific Ocean, the beach is home to two of the most popular surfing spots in Nicaragua – Popoyo, and Colorado.

Despite facing the ferocious Pacific Ocean, the waves here are gentle and calm.

Take a day trip to the Corn Islands

Corn Island Beach in Nicaragua photo via Depositphotos
Corn Island Beach in Nicaragua photo via Depositphotos

The Corn Islands off the Caribbean coast are notorious for their beauty and serenity. They offer a perfect escape from the normal life of Nicaragua and explore the unique marine life as well as soak up the sun.

There are two main methods for reaching the island – by a ferry or flying. Both these methods offer different experiences though flying is a bit costlier.

Learn coffee making at Cafe Las Flores

Cafe Las Flores Nicaragua
Cafe Las Flores Nicaragua

Coffee has been an important part of the island’s economy since colonial times. If you are a coffee lover, there is a place on the island called Café Las Flores, where you can learn the process of making coffee from A-Z.

This family-owned coffee roaster is located near the town of Granada and offers a tour with hands-on experience of making coffee from harvesting the beans to drying and roasting.

Take a hike at Miraflor Natural Reserve

Miraflor Natural Reserve photo by Alan Durning via Facebook
Miraflor Natural Reserve photo by Alan Durning via Facebook

In the northern parts of Nicaragua, you will find Miraflor Natural Reserve. Here, nature and adventure lovers will enjoy walking through deep green forest and crossing gorgeous streams that feed tens of waterfalls.

The best part about it is that it is less touristy compared to other parts of the island.

We recommend taking a multiday hike so that you can get a chance to spend time and interact with the locals.

There is a program that joins you with a local host family.

Take a night trip to Masaya Volcano

Molten lava sloshes around inside the Masaya Volcano photo via Depositphotos
Molten lava sloshes around inside the Masaya Volcano photo via Depositphotos

Masaya Volcano National is not just any park. It is home to a rare lava lake (there are only 9 lava lakes in the world), and the only volcano in the whole of the Western Hemisphere that allows visitors to walk or drive around its rim.

There are also several underground tunnels created by the flowing lava, filled with different varieties of bats.

While you can visit this active volcano any time you want, hiking it during the night is probably the best experience.

Under the cover of darkness, the lava lake turns into a beautiful inferno, creating whole different scenery.

Explore the Apoyo Lagoon Natural Reserve

Apoyo Lagoon Natural Reserve by Phayne via Wikipedia CC
Apoyo Lagoon Natural Reserve By Phayne – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, CC

While Lake Nicaragua might be the most popular with its islands, it is not bad to try out new things. Apoyo in Managua is a great place to chill and hike around the beautiful countryside or fish in the lake.

Learn about the stone man

In a bid to quit drinking, a man named Alberto Gutierrez began to carve a variety of symbols and animals into stones.

His workstation is located just outside Esteli. He is quite friendly though doesn’t speak any English.

His exhibitions are free but if he welcomes donations.

Explore Somoto Canyon

Somoto Canyon in Nicaragua photo via DepositPhotos
Somoto Canyon in Nicaragua photo via DepositPhotos

Somoto Canyon is one of the oldest rock formations in Central America. Despite this, it was only discovered 16 years ago!

But that is a good thing because the rocks are still hugely unknown.

Coco River, the longest in Central America, runs through the rock formations, creating stunning landscapes.

Try Zip lining across Mombacho Volcano

Mombacho Volcano landscape Granada Nicaragua photo via Depositphotos
Mombacho Volcano landscape Granada Nicaragua photo via Depositphotos

Standing some 4,410 feet high, Mombacho Volcano has one of the best floras and faunas in Nicaragua, and the best way to explore it is by whizzing through on a zip line, which also passes over Granada and Lake Nicaragua.

Sample Nicaraguan Food

Gallo pinto photo via Depositphotos
Gallo pinto photo via Depositphotos

Though the island is not known for cuisine, you can still try out some of the local dishes such as Gallo pinto, the staple food of the island– beans and rice served with fried plantains and meat.

To help you plan out your visit to Nicaragua, we listed places to visit and other amazing activities to do in Nicaragua. We also listed some of the best travel and tour packages, as well as excellent flight deals and accommodation.

Searching for the best hotels, resorts, and affordable flights in the nearby Cities? Check out our list of affordable Nicaragua hotels and resorts via Agoda, or you may also see available Airbnb properties in the city.

Want more updates about new tourist attractions in Nicaragua? Follow #TeamOutofTown, on Facebook, and TwitterInstagram, and Pinterest for more travel ideas.

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