I’m always looking for off-the-beaten-path destinations and last month’s Spring Break vacation with my family was just that — we decided to go to Nicaragua. I called Ignacio Vallin, our Latin America Manager, and asked him to put together an itinerary that would be fun for a seven-year-old… and what a fantastic job he did.
We flew through Atlanta and just three hours later landed in Managua. After being met by the smiling Señor Juan Carlos, who was our guide for the week, we continued to the charming colonial city of León, which is just about two hours from the capital of Managua. Along the way, we learned some fascinating facts about “Nica.” First, the country is known as the land of volcanoes with 24 volcanoes along the Pacific coast, eight of them active. Out of the seven countries in Central America, Nica has the lowest crime rate. Incoming tourism business is the country’s biggest import with coffee (some of the best I’ve ever had) being the largest export.
León is a lovely little city. We stayed at the Convento Hotel and spent our first day in the mangroves viewing spectacular birdlife and taking walks along completely deserted beaches. Our second stop took us to Granada. I knew immediately we were going to love it — the streets were buzzing with people, restaurants, bars and street entertainers.
Granada is centered around the central plaza as most Central American cities are. You can dine at many of the wonderful dining establishments, take a horse-drawn carriage ride and walk through wonderful art galleries and museums. Our city tour included stops at the cathedral and the cigar shop, where they hand rolled one for us — but the real highlight of the day was the boat trip on freshwater Lake Nicaragua, which is 100 miles long and 45 miles across. There are 365 islands in the lake, many with large beautiful homes. On our voyage we saw a number of local birds as well as the three species of monkeys in Nicaragua: white-face monkey, spider monkey and howler monkey.
We said adiós to Granada and took a short drive to the Mombacho Volcano. We ventured to the top through lush cloud forest and proceeded along the trails surrounding the crater for an invigorating hike exploring the flora and fauna of the dwarf forest. Just when my daughter thought the day couldn’t get any better, we did an 11-platform canopy ride through the treetops — the perfect day completed!
The new Mukul resort in Guacalito de la Isla is an ideal way to end a trip through this magical country. The views overlooking the Pacific from the lovely villas are breathtaking, the golf course was designed with great detail for challenging oceanfront play and the spa is housed in six different treatment rooms including a Turkish-style hammam. There’s even a Kids Club offering lots of options for children to partake in each day. Throughout the luxury beachfront resort, the staff is unfailingly delightful and welcoming.
If you have ever been to Costa Rica or thought about a Central American vacation, I encourage you to consider Nicaragua. It is truly an authentic experience — you get to speak some Spanish, hike a volcano, boat on volcanic lakes, zip-line, dine on fresh local seafood and be welcomed by some of the friendliest people in the world.
Thank you, Ignacio, for planning the perfect family trip!
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