This past Saturday I returned from a nine day journey to Nicaragua with my best friend Caitlin and her family. Caitlin and I have know each other for over 15 years, and her family is like a second family to me. I've done quite a bit of travelling with Caitlin's family and it's always a lot of fun. Her family traveled to Nicaragua for the first time three years ago and had such a good time that they decided to return, and this time I was lucky to get to come along!
|We stayed near Rivas, which is on the Pacific side of Nicaragua to the west of Lake Nicaragua.|
In Nicaragua we stayed in a rental house near a resort which had a lovely beach, restaurant, and spa. Our time was split between leisurely beach time and time for activities and excursions. On days we stayed near the house we spent time sunbathing, swimming, and enjoying the company of the howler monkeys which liked to hang around the house. Through the resort we were able to do morning yoga on a platform overlooking the beach, attend a chocolate workshop in which we learned about cocoa beans and even go to make our own truffles, and have a relaxing spa session on the last day.
|Homemade chocolate truffles!|
Our two main excursions were to Granada and Ometepe Island. In Granada we went zip-lining and toured a volcanic crater cloud forest. The plants were very pretty and interesting (we saw poisonous spiky plants and hallucinogenic mushrooms!) and we got to see a sloth! In the afternoon we took a boat tour of Lake Nicaragua. One of the stops was a small island called "Monkey Island". A veterinarian who has a house on one of the small islands looks after the monkeys. One of the monkeys named Linda had a small baby which rode on her back. It was muy amable (very cute)!
|Linda with her baby.|
A few days later we took a ferry to Ometepe Island and visited a interesting natural phenomenon called Punta Jesus Maria. It is a sandbar that is created from volcanic dust that stretches out far into Lake Nicaragua. The name means "Jesus on the Sea" because if you walk to the end of the sandbar it looks as if you are walking upon the water, just as Jesus did. After that we hiked through a nature trail and got to see lots of plants and animals, including lots of butterflies and a tree snake. In the afternoon we went to a volcanic mineral spring to swim. Caitlin and I didn't swim, but we sat with our feet in the water and shared the place's signature drink- coconut water and rum- called a "coco-loco". Other than the two excursions, my favorite part of the trip was getting to go rappelling off of a 340 foot cliff. I'm not afraid of heights, but rappelling was definitely a challenge. Going over the edge is very scary! I was almost too scared to do it, but I'm so glad I did! The view was amazing, and I felt so brave afterwards! On the last day we visited the Masaya Volcano National Park, which was also very cool.
|Punta Jesus Maria|
Although I would have liked to, I didn't learn much Spanish during our visit. Latin, Greek, and German are already enough for me to handle! I did learn a few new words and phrases, though. Even without knowing the language I feel that I got a good impression of the country. Although the standard of living seems much lower than in the USA, I think that the simplicity places the focus on the more important things in life. Everyone I met was very friendly, happy, and everywhere I looked I saw families spending time together, kids playing together, neighbors chatting, and people enjoying nature and community. Even though Nicaragua may be behind the USA developmentally, I think there is a lot we can learn from the Nicaraguans. I know that seeing the differences in lifestyles- both positive and negative- between the USA and Nicaragua gave me a lot to think about.
|View into the volcano at Masaya Volcano National Park|
In case anyone reading this is interested in visiting Nicaragua, the place we stayed was near Playa Gigante. I reviewed most of the attractions and restaurants we visited on TripAdvisor, so if you are interested in checking out which places I recommend, take a look at my TripAdvisor profile. Also, we had two tours through Macua Tours. When Caitlin's family visited Nicaragua for the first time they met a young man named Edwin who has since started his own tour company. Both tours and guides were excellent, and I definitely recommend Macua Tours to anyone planning to visit Nicaragua. Of course, if you have any questions or comments about my visit, feel free to post them in the comments section below.
|Our beach in Nicaragua. I rappelled from the highest point on the cliff!|
When we finally boarded our plane back to Texas, I was sad to leave the land of lakes, volcanoes, monkeys, dragon fruit, plantains, and rum! I had a wonderful trip and I hope to return to Nicaragua someday.