We’ve been exploring Nicaragua for the last 2 weeks and are all in agreement that it is one of the most amazing countries we’ve ever visited. There have been high points (partying at Sunday Sunday, sliding down volcanoes) and low points (Abbie getting Chikungunya) and this is the post where we share all of our advice with you…
Where to stay:
Casa de Olas, San Juan del Sur
$16 per person, per night (6/16-BED DORM)
9/10 – Easily the hostel with the best view and atmosphere. Sunsets and sunrises are an absolute treat when you spend your days at Casa de Olas. The communal areas in this hostel are insane – swimming pool, hammocks, bar, Netflix barn, breakfast room with a choice of dishes every morning… there are even pet monkeys (gonna leave the debate as to whether that’s a good or bad thing closed for now). The -1 point is taken away purely for the fact that the dorms aren’t all up to scratch. You’ll pay the same price wherever you stay but you could end up in a 6 bed dorm with an en-suite bathroom and a sturdy ceiling or a 16 bed dorm with a thatched roof that lets rain in… If you’re prepared to take that gamble or not too fussed about spending much time in your room then this is definitely the hostel for you. It’s next door to Naked Tiger Hostel and both of them share facilities at times, plus they offer hourly shuttles into town, surfboard rentals, amazing staff, free popcorn and cheap taxis to other Nicaraguan cities…. what more could you want?
Honorable mentions – Casa Oro Backpacker Hostel (if you would rather stay in the centre of town)
Santa Cruz, Isla de Ometepe
$10 per person, per night (PRIVATE ROOM)
8.5/10 – A quick last-minute saviour for us which turned out to be one of the nicest hostels! The private room had 1 single and 1 double, an en-suite bathroom and a killer view from our window. The hostel serves food all day long and has a pretty good menu (vegans rejoice – there are vegetable curries and smoothies with coconut milk galore), the only downside is that nothing is included so anything you buy will be added to your bill at the end. You know free breakfasts are important to us! There isn’t much of an atmosphere as it is not a traditional backpackers hostel but at the same time we spent so much time outdoors doing activities in Ometepe that this didn’t really affect any of us. P.s. if there are lizards in your room (which there will be…), please don’t behead them with your razors *cough* ABBIE *cough*.
Honorable mentions – Captain Morgans
Try at your own risk – Zopilote Farm
Hostel Oasis, Granada
$10 per person, per night (10-BED DORM)
9.5/10 – This may be one of my favourite hostels to DATE. There’s no incredible views and the free pancake breakfast is average, so why are we rating it so highly? I think it’s just the atmosphere of the place – it has a real ‘welcome home’ vibe – something that is highly sought after when you’ve been living out of a backpack for so long. The travellers you’ll meet here are all very relaxed and laid back and most people are happy to spend their days just relaxing in hammocks and sitting by the pool. I really can’t justify why I love this place so much in words. All I can say is that you’ll have to trust me and go experience the vibes for yourself!
Hostel Casa Ivana, León
$5 per person, per night (PRIVATE ROOM)
9/10 – Another GREAT find. Firstly, this hostel was one of the cheapest hostels we’ve ever stayed in but it certainly didn’t ‘feel’ cheap. Okay, there was no free breakfast but we didn’t expect one for the price, plus the kitchen was perfectly adequate for cooking our own meals. There’s a pool table, dart board, tons of books and board games – it was really easy to create a social, homely vibe here. The staff are super friendly and it’s only a short walk into the centre of town. The -1 point is just because it wasn’t the most memorable hostel and their volcano tour is slightly more expensive than other places in town.
• When you look on TripAdvisor and Hostelworld, you’ll notice that you see some familiar chain hostel names (like BigFoot) at the top of every list. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are ranked highest, it just means that they get the most visitors and therefore have the most reviews. If you’re looking for a party scene, then by all means choose the traditional backpackers hostels but if you’re looking for something more relaxed then scroll for the less popular but higher rated places. This is how we found Hostel Casa Ivana in León!
• Some hostels aren’t even advertised on popular booking websites (e.g. Casa de Olas in San Juan) so you’ll need to rely on word of mouth. A few people had mentioned the hostel to us on our travels and then after a quick Google search I stumbled across a few travel bloggers (just like myself) who had written reviews of their stay – it’s quick and easy to email the hostels directly to make a booking.
• Hostels do offer shuttles to various locations across the country but the bus services are really good. You may have to change vehicle a few times but, considering the price of public transport here, we think it’s worth it! If buses are your idea of hell then know that the taxis are all very reasonably priced and you could probably score a 2/3 hour journey for just $20 if you’re savvy enough.
• ALWAYS HAVE SOME HARD CASH (OF ANY CURRENCY) WHEN YOU’RE CROSSING A BORDER. We learnt this lesson the hard way but seriously it’ll make everything 10x easier – there will be plenty of people offering to convert your Costa Rican/Honduran money for a good rate but there will be zero ATMs so bear that in mind!
• It costs $13 to enter Nicaragua at a land border and $2 to leave – you can pay in US Dollars or in Nicaraguan Cordoba but it’s best to have exact cash as sometimes they don’t have change.
• When you go volcano boarding in León make sure to note down the contact details of your tour company. A lot of them will take photos/videos of your day and you want to make sure you can get your hands on them (just THINK of the Instagrams!).
• Try not to arrive in San Juan del Sur on a Sunday. 1) The hostels are all majorly full at weekends so it will be difficult to get a bed and 2) Sunday Funday starts at 2pm and you’ll probably want to do the opposite of what we did and actually have time to get ready and prepare yourselves for 12 hours of partying.
• There’s a hostel in San Juan del Sur called ‘Casa Oro’ which runs daily shuttles to various beaches and gives up-to-date surf information for each of them to make sure you catch the best waves. The hostels on the hill like ‘Casa de Olas’ and ‘Naked Tiger’ offer free shuttles into town every hour on the hour so between these various transport forms, you should have no trouble getting around!
• The hike to Jesus de la Misericordia in San Juan del Sur is notoriously easy to get lost on. People will tell you different things but basically the idea is to walk along the beach and then turn right… Too bad this didn’t really work out for us and we ended up getting totally lost and taking the back roads. I can’t even tell you the correct way because we honestly have no clue. You could just get a taxi there… but we think that’s cheating.
• Most activities can be booked through your hostel but, if you have time, try to check the prices with tour companies in town/other hostels before you make a rash decision.
• The boats to Ometepe island are all different depending upon which hour they leave. There is allegedly a timetable online with up-to-date information but we struggled to find anything. Basically, just be aware that some of the boats are much bigger and swankier than others (but they all cost the exact same amount) and if you’re prone to seasickness then you’ll probably want to avoid the smaller/lower quality boats.
• All the cities we visited in Nicaragua warned us about being out on the beach/around town late at night. Unfortunately it is a fact that crime is high here but most of the time it can be avoided by taking necessary precautions, so don’t consider this a reason not to visit.
Diacachimba – We saw this word written on a load of Nicaraguan souvenirs and found out that it means ‘cool’ but in more of a ‘f*** yeah’ kinda way. Completely unsure why I just *’ed that swear word when I use bad language on my blog all the time, but hey, it makes it feel more professional so I’m just gonna leave it.
Chele/Chela – The Nicaraguan word for ‘gringo’, which basically refers to a white or European person but can sometimes even be used jokingly towards pale-skinned Nicaraguans.
This next picture isn’t actually relevant to the post. It’s just a sign that was hanging up in the kitchen at one of our hostels and we thought was too good not to share. Enjoy…
If you’d like to know more about the individual destinations that we visited in Nicaragua then click here: