In this video, I head to Nicaragua for the very first time and share with you my adventures with the locals.
Produced by: Patricia Serrano & Lauren Spiegel
Edited by: Patricia Serrano
In February 2013, I bought a one-way ticket down to Managua, Nicaragua's capital on Spirit Airlines for less than $200 (stopover in Fort Lauderdale, arriving into Managua at 1AM - it was delayed until 3AM) and I didn't know what to expect. My Spanish was rusty but I figured I'd pick up a few words along the way. This was my first time in Nicaragua. Actually, it was my first time in Central America. I was beckoned by my good friend Kelly Rego to come along to volunteer in Nicaragua with the non-profit she manages called The Gwapa Project. So I did.
Apparently there are no addresses in Nicaragua so in order to find the hotel, we had to ask a local and then another local and then another local to find the hotel we were staying at.
We stayed at Villa Isabella, an intimate little bed and breakfast in the heart of the town. It was quite a walk to the beach but we really needed to be at a place that was close to where we were volunteering.
I went down to San Juan del Sur to volunteer at Barrio Planta Project (Proyecto Barrio Planta), a non-profit organization that offers free English and art classes to the kids and adults in the local community. Volunteering is a great way to get into a heart of a town. After a week of volunteering, I met so many people - other volunteers, teachers, kids, the parents of the kids and by the end of the week, I knew the whole town! The kids were calling my name on the streets. "Hola, Patricia!", running up to me and hugging me. We were practically locals. The people in the community were also so warm and loving. I really appreciated their hospitality.
If you want to volunteer at an organization, you can go through a company that arranges packages for you or you can like me, independently arrange it yourself with your friends.
Usually the people who run the non-profits know each other so if they can't accommodate you, they can put you in touch with those who can.
Through one of the teachers at Barrio Planta Project, I met a local guy, Luis at a surf shop Surf Nica Waves who agreed to take me on an adventure to the local market and to make a local Nicaraguan dinner for me. It turns out that we were making dinner for 30 people! It was a Nicaraguan feast! The crazy thing was everything - including the alcohol and the fish cost approximately $US30. Another local tip: If you're paying $US10 for a meal, you're paying way too much. Local prices range from $US3-5 a meal)
Although the waves on beach at San Juan del Sur itself were not that surfeable, Playa Hermosa was a short drive away through a very bumpy dirt road. I went to this beach twice during my stay and I recommend going their by motorbike. It was much less bumpy than when we went there my a 4x4. I know I was much less nauseous after I got off the motorbike. An absolutely beautiful and pristine beach, it plays host to the Earthship Pitaya music and surf festival every year. Survivor Nicaragua was also hosted on this beach. There's a lone rock not too far from the shore where one of the show's contestants were dropped on to "survive" there for a few days.
There is one hotel and one restaurant on the beach. Shared or private housing is available at the Playa Hermosa Beach Hotel. A really rustic place, there is no air-conditioning. Mosquito nets are available on the beds and lockers are available for your valuables. I had a lovely Nicaraguan breakfast (rice and beans with plantains and the salty cheese) on the beach. No complaints there.
I also did a little bit of zip-lining through the forest canopies. I booked a zipline tour through (COMPANY NAME HERE) It was really, really fun way to see the howler monkeys close up. [VIDEO/screenshot coming soon]
We were waaaaay off the beaten path here in Pochomil. We rented a mansion practically for less than $ /night. We ATVed down our private beach and jumped off a dock.
With one day left in Nicaragua, I had two choices - to go visit Granada or Leon. Granada is one of those beautiful towns that are architecturally pretty but volcano boarding was calling out my name. So I headed to the Big Foot Lodge for one night and brought my go pro with me.
It was awesome and I don't regret it one bit. Although in hindsight what I did was pretty reckless and I could have seriously been hurt, but thank goodness I wasn't. Although I ended up having a lot of volcano soot in my fingernails, my nose, my ears and my eyes. Yikes! Thank goodness that I had my goggles on. Next time I do this, however, I will also be wearing an oxygen mask.
Hike a Volcano
ATV in Pochomil
Big Foot Lodge - Leon - and go volcano boarding!
Rent a House in Pochomil
Macua - local Nicaraguan drink