May 01, 2013

One Day in Nicaragua

{amazing view from the top of La Marced bell tower}

I was up well before our alarm sounded at 4:20 am, but still found myself running around trying to pack passports and other essentials that we would need on our day trip to Granada. We made it to the lobby of our hotel just before 5:00 am and awaited the arrival of our bus that would take us on the excursion. While in Costa Rica we had planned a day trip to Nicaragua to get in as much exploring of Central America as we could in our limited time span. The Nicaraguan border is an hour and a half from where we were staying in Guanacaste, so we knew we wanted to set out early enough to beat the border traffic buildup. Unsure of how long crossing would take, we decided to stop at a local restaurant for a traditional Costa Rican breakfast, obviously including rice, beans and plantains. It was a good idea since our anticipated 20 minute crossing took over an hour. 

The border, which the locals call La Frontera, appeared out of nowhere on the highway that spans all the way from Mexico to Panama. The Costa Rica-Nicaragua border is the only one in all of Central America, so while we waited for the officials to verify our passports we listed to the friendly locals tell stories of recent attempts to pass over with hundreds of kilos of cocaine, headed north, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, headed south. On the other side of the border there were dozens of trucks parked on the highway. Apparently it is typical for transport trucks to wait at the border for 3 days- suddenly our wait time didn't feel so long! After a quick stop in the duty free we were back on the road for our first stop at Catarina's Viewpoint. 

Catarina's Viewpoint looks onto the Apoyo Lagoon. The view was break taking, so we took a seat to listen to the locals play music, and then browsed the souvenir shops.  Our next stop was visiting an artisan market in the town of Masaya. Here we sipped local coffee and shopped the open markets. 
After a bite to eat we headed for Granada, which is one of Nicaragua's most important cities, and is also known for it's colonial-era architecture and vacation homes on Lake Nicaragua. Naturally I was excited when I found out the best way to get around the city was by horse carriage. We rode into the colourful city and walked around to check out some of the oldest, most beautiful buildings and churches.

With a few cervezas in hand we next hopped on a boat to cruise around Lake Nicaragua where I was assured we would not see any sharks (apparently I missed that episode of River Monsters where we learned bull sharks can live in fresh water). We sailed past a few of the 365 islands, saw some beautiful vacation homes and even fed monkeys!
{ignore the make-shift splint and take note of the palm grasshopper that the local kids made for us}

With the Mombacho volcano behind us we headed back to Costa Rica around sunset. Although the day was a long one we had a fantastic time in Nicaragua. I hope you enjoyed these (long) posts on my brief but memorable trip to Central America. There is so much more to do and see but I'm  just glad we got to experience a few of its beauties


  1. Did you book a tour thru your hotel? If you did take a tour do you recall the tour company? I am planning to visit Costa Rica and would like to do a similiar tour

    1. There was plenty of options to book through the hotel but we went with a separate tour group. We went with this company:
      I highly recommend it! They made the day so much fun and authentic.


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