Looking for a unique and exciting place to visit? We’ve got the perfect destination for you: Nicaragua.
While it has a peppered past (who doesn’t?) and is experiencing some political unrest, if you’re up for a bit of an adventure, you’ll be sure to love your time visiting Nicaragua.
Never been and don’t know what to do in Nicaragua? You’re in luck.
Whether you’re more interested in Nicaraguan sights or activities, a slow pace or extreme adventures, the country won’t disappoint. Narrowing down a list of things to do in Nicaragua was tough, but we’ve put together the ultimate list of places to see in Nicaragua.
Here is our list of the best things to do in Nicaragua:
1. Volcano Board Down Cerro Negro
Cerro Negro, at 170 years old, is Central America’s youngest volcano, but it’s also one of Nicaragua’s most active volcanoes. Located about 10 km (6.2 mi) from Malpaisillo, boarding down Cerro Negro is definitely one of the most popular activities to do in León, Nicaragua.
Volcano boarding is a popular sport among both tourists and locals, where you’re given a board at the top and can “surf” down the 488-meter (1,600 ft.) slope. You’ll want to book your trip down the volcano well in advance, as you can’t expect to walk up to a tour shop and get in on the day of. Check out Bigfoot Hostel for one way to book volcano boarding tickets early.
2. Visit Nicaragua’s Grand Canyon
The Somoto Canyon is one of the most stunning views in Nicaragua. Once you arrive there, it’s easy to understand why it’s a must-see Nicaragua site.
Many compare the Somoto Canyon to the Grand Canyon. Towering limestone cliffs surround the turquoise blue water flowing through the Somoto Canyon. You can simply enjoy the views here, or test your adrenaline by jumping off 10m (33 ft.) cliffs. Regardless of how you spend your time at Somoto Canyon, it’s recommended to buy a tour pass for expert help navigating one of the best places to see in Nicaragua.
3. Gaze Into the Abyss at the Masaya Volcano Pit
If you’re amazed by the wonders and forces of Mother Nature, be sure to head to Granada and check out Masaya, Nicaragua’s most active volcano [Google Maps]. Located just outside the city, Masaya is a life-changing sight to see in Nicaragua. There’s a reason it’s one of the top things to do in Nicaragua.
Standing a safe distance away from the lava pit, you’ll be able to peer down into the belly of the volcano. It’s a relatively cheap activity to do, and given the nature of the activity, you should expect to be among a large crowd if you choose to do this. Moreover, you should be aware that you can’t look into the pit for much longer than 10 minutes, due to the noxious fumes emitted by the volcano. Anyway, as Friedrich Nietzsche said, “if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” So, you know.
4. Go Swimming in an Ancient Volcano Caldera
Nicaragua has so many cool free things to do, but one of the best may be the opportunity to swim inside an extinct volcano. Located halfway between Managua and Granada lies Laguna de Apoyo. This lake was formed in a caldera—a large volcanic crater formed by a major eruption and subsequent volcanic collapse—of a once-active volcano over 23,000 years ago, according to scientists.
The lake is approximately 175 meters (574 ft.) deep and remains warm year-round thanks to geothermal activity underneath the lake. At the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, you can swim, rent a kayak, paddleboard, and enjoy the stunning views.
5. Take Surf Lessons in Las Penitas
You could certainly opt to learn how to surf in San Juan del Sur. However, if you prefer to go somewhere a bit quieter, to a beach that’s a bit prettier, your best bet is going to Las Penitas. Often rated as one of the best things to do in Nicaragua, learning how to surf in Las Penitas is a fun activity, definitely worth trying while traveling to Nicaragua. You can buy lessons a la carte or enroll yourself in a surf camp, depending on how long you plan on staying.
6. Hike Around in the Miraflor Natural Reserve
If you’re someone who loves to explore a country’s natural wonders, check out Nicaragua’s northern landscape. Here, among all the other popular places to go in Nicaragua, you’ll find the Miraflor Natural Reserve. You can opt for a guided tour, a full day trip, or a short hike. If you’d like to immerse yourself further, look into doing a homestay with local families within the reserve.
Pro Tip: Take the “chicken bus” to get around Nicaragua. A chicken bus, or camioneta, is a small bus that is the main form of local transportation from town to town in Central American countries. It’s a great way to get a feel of the local culture, with street vendors sometimes hopping aboard to sell their goods. And, it’s usually the cheapest option, whether in Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, or Guatemala.
7. Party it Up in San Juan del Sur
If you’re all about the nightlife, check out San Juan del Sur. It’s a surfing destination, but it’s also among the places to go in Nicaragua where a lot of the young adults go to party. There are plenty of activities centered around partying, including a pool crawl on Sundays and nightly sunset booze cruises.
8. Sleep Atop a Volcano
Talk about life-changing experiences. While you’re in Nicaragua, sign up to sleep on top of Telica Volcano. Although it’s one of the country’s most active volcanoes, it provides arguably the best view. It’s located directly on the Ring of Fire and provides scenic views of the Pacific Ocean and Lake Nicaragua. Watching the sunrise from the top of this volcano will be like nothing you’ve ever experienced before.
9. Go Scuba Diving in the Corn Islands
Located just off the coast of Nicaragua, the Corn Islands (Las Islas del Maíz) certainly comes up for an answer to the question of what to see in Nicaragua. Made up of two islands, Big Corn Island and Little Corn Island, they provide stunning views of marine life and picturesque beach fronts. You can sit back and relax on the beach or get certified for scuba diving during your stay on the islands.
10. Make Nicaraguan Chocolate
Did you know that chocolate is one of the most important Nicaraguan crops? While you’re in northern Nicaragua, be sure to stop in Matagalpa to learn how to make chocolate. Specifically, you should swing by El Castillo de Cacao, a charming small factory, where they’ll walk you through how they make the chocolate and provide plenty of samples along the way.
11. Visit Coffee Farms
If you get a chance, you should also visit a local coffee farm to learn how Nicaraguans harvest their world-renowned coffee. There are plenty of places that offer tours, but these tours happen only a few times per day, so be sure to call ahead to not miss out on this fun thing to do in Nicaragua.
12. Walk on the White Roof of the León Cathedral
Atop León Cathedral (fully known as the Basílica Catedral de la Asunción de León, or the León Basilica Cathedral of the Assumption), Central America’s largest cathedral, you’ll be able to enjoy the most beautiful views of the city and surrounding country, from the surrounding volcanoes to the rest of the beautiful landscape. It’s the perfect opportunity to take an Instagram-worthy shot—you’ll be one of many to do that same thing on your visit.
13. Go Waterfall Chasing – Chase waterfalls in Estelí
Many different waterfalls surround the town of Estelí, officially known as the Villa de San Antonio de Pavia de Estelí, located 150 km (93 mi.) north of Managua. For a nominal fee, you can sign up for a day trip that includes food, drink, transportation, and guides for waterfall chasing. It’s recommended that you sign up for these tours for your safety.
To celebrate the conclusion of your adventurous day, take a shot of cucusa, a clear, moonshine-like beverage at one of the local cantinas. Be forewarned, though: cususa is easily found, but it’s also illegal.
14. Kayak Through the Mangroves
If you’re searching for relaxing activities in Nicaragua, you should make plans to kayak through the mangroves of the Juan Venado Island Natural Reserve. Here you’ll be able to observe Nicaragua’s wildlife and serenity first-hand. It’s not very touristy, which is also a plus if you’re looking for calming activities.
15. Swim in a Natural Spring on Ometepe Island
Take a break from the hot tropical weather by going for a quick swim in a natural pool on Isla de Ometepe, such as Ojo de Agua. While in the water, wildlife surrounds you, such as the white-headed capuchin and the mantled howler monkey. Ometepe island was formed by two volcanoes in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, and it’s definitely something you’ll never forget.
16. Get Exploring!
Still asking where to go in Nicaragua? The activities listed here are just a few of the things Nicaragua has to offer. Hopefully these ideas will help you get started planning your trip to Nicaragua and ensure that you don’t miss out on enjoying the country’s many amazing opportunities and activities.
Got any more Nicaragua tips or must-see activities to do in Nicaragua? Let’s talk about it below in the comments, and thanks for reading!