This story originally appeared in the March/April 2017 issue of Latina magazine.
With a dramatic terrain of lakes, volcanoes and beaches, Nicaragua has shed its political past to become the eco-surf "It" destination for in-the-know travelers. Here's all you need to know:
There’s a photo op at nearly every turn in this charming colonial town. As the first European city on the mainland, Granada boasts beautiful Spanish architecture and plazas throughout the city.
In between your snaps, stop into Dona Elba Cigars for a cognac-cured taste of Nicaragua and to view the cigar-manufacturing process and even practice rolling. Or pop into the Choco Museum (entry is free) to
take a chocolate-making class and learn the history of cacao.
Rest your head at Jicaro Island Eco Lodge, located just outside of Granada on its very own private Island in the archipelago water world at Las Isletas. The Islets are a group of 365 small islands in Lake Nicaragua that formed when the now dormant Mombacho volcano erupted into the lake thousands of years ago. Tour the islets by kayak, paddle board, or just enjoy the view from Jicaro’s floating dock.
Nearby Volcán Masaya is the second-most active volcano in the world. Visit it at night for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The thriving stretch of coastline hosts two of the most famous surf breaks in the country — Colorado and Popoyo — and bankers and hipsters alike are flocking to catch its world-renowned waves.
Stay at the family-owned Mukul Resort & Spa, the Emerald Coast’s most luxurious destination with an enclave of sandy beaches, a private surf break, and a worldclass golf course. Don’t miss their “turtle watch program,” where you are invited to the beach at sunset to help release the newly hatched native and endangered Olive Ridley baby turtles into the ocean.
Play in San Juan del Sur, a beautiful fishing village located on the coast’s southern tip. Colorful buildings and landscapes line the streets and the nightlife is almost as epic as the sunsets. Surfers of all levels are welcome in Playa Maderas, about six miles north of San Juan del Sur. If you’re feeling the vibe, set up camp at Maderas Village — a laid-back luxe hotel in the center of town.
Playa Guasacate is just a short walk from the famous Popoyo surf break. The charm of this one-road town is its lack of development, so get there before it explodes.
Grab breakfast seaside at La Vaca Loca, learn to surf with Morrie the Kiwi from Surf Popoyo Lessons, or take a sunset yoga class at Prana Shakti.