the best things to do in Nicaragua

The best thing to do in Nicaragua!

Nicaragua is one of my favorite Central American countries and in my opinion so underrated.

This country got everything you could ask for in a destination: picture-perfect beaches, volcanoes, world-class surfing, a ton of wildlife as well as gorgeous lakes and islands.

If you plan a trip to Nicaragua, check out my 9 best things to do and be inspired!

cover best things to do Nicaragua

1. Go volcano boarding at Cerro Negro

Easily one of the best things to do in Nicaragua – volcano boarding at Cerro Negro volcano. In Leon there are many different operators for this tour, in fact it´s one of the main reasons many tourists travel to Leon.

One of the most popular tour operators is the Bigfoot hostel.

They take you to the volcano on a big party bus, you hike the volcano, board down for sunset and then grill marshmallows over a bonfire and give you free drinks. All that starting from 30 USD, not bad, right? The hike up the volcano takes between 20-30 minutes. Boarding down is a lot of fun and many people told me they got a really high speed, even though I didn´t actually go super fast myself.

There are, of course, also more expensive private tours available for the volcano boarding.

I decided to go volcano boarding by myself, as I usually try to avoid all kinds of tours. It´s possible to drive all the way up to the volcano (if you have a 4×4) and rent equipment at the National Park. The entrance to the National Park costs 5 USD, the equipment rental costs 10 USD and if you want to camp there like I did, it´s another 5 USD, so in total it comes up to 20 USD, not including the fuel on the long way up the volcano.

volcano boarding, Cerro Negro volcano
Cerro Negro volcano

2. Visit the most beautiful beach in Nicaragua

If you´re looking to visit the best beach in Nicaragua, it´s time to visit Little Corn Island.

This small island is located about 70 miles off the Nicaraguan coast, in the Caribbean Sea. Together with Big Corn Island, it forms the Corn Islands.

The beaches here are typical Caribbean beaches with powdery sand, palm trees and crystal clear water.

Even though the beaches along the Pacific coast are really pretty as well, I definitely prefer the beaches on the Corn Islands, specifically Little Corn Island. Otto Beach in the North of Little Corn Island is considered the most beautiful beach of Little Corn Island and it´s easy to see why.

If you like dreamy beaches and want to experience the chill island life, make sure to add the Corn Islands to your Nicaragua itinerary.

For the ultimate guide to Little Corn Island, click HERE.

Otto beach, Little Corn Island
one of the many different palm tree swings at Otto beach, Little Corn Island

3. Swim in the crystal clear waters of Ojo de Agua

Ometepe is one of my favorite places in Nigaragua, there´s many incredible things to do and places to see.

One of the most beautiful places on the island is Ojo de Agua. Natural swimming pool with the most insane clear water.

Even though this place is quite touristy and also pretty expensive (10 USD entrance fee, 5 USD of the entrance fee is consumable in the restaurant), it´s well worth a visit. Before I went, I was not sure I would like it, but I actually really enjoyed my visit.

The crystal clear water of Ojo de Agua is really one of a kind.

In order to avoid tourist crowds, it´s best to come as soon as they open (8 AM) and you will have the place almost to yourself. Same goes for any attraction that is popular among tourists.

There are many more amazing things to do on Ometepe island, for a full guide click HERE.

Ojo de Agua
swimming in the crystal clear waters of Ojo de Agua

4. Go surfing

Nicaragua is a great country to go surfing and also to take surf lessons.

The two main hubs for surfing are: Popoyo & San Juan del Sur. In both towns, there are many surf schools and different beaches with great waves for beginners, intermediates and pros.

San Juan del Sur is a much bigger town than Popoyo and generally is much more busy and touristy. However the beaches in the area are beautiful and surfing for beginners great.

I personally prefer Popoyo though, there´s much less people and the vibe feels more authentic. Also I prefer the beaches here to San Juan del Sur. Both places are very different from each other and if you are into surfing or want to take surf lessons, it might be worth checking out both places.

Even if you are not into surfing, you will likely still have a great time in both, San Juan and Popoyo.

There also are some less known places where the surf is great, some of them are:

  • Las Penitas
  • Puerto Sandino
  • Tola
ready for my 2nd ever surf lesson in Popoyo

5. Explore the colonial city Granada

Granada is probably the most beautiful city in Nicaragua and well visited by tourists.

When I first arrived in Granada, it reminded me a lot of Antigua in Guatemala. Due to it´s beautiful colonial architecture and cobblestone streets, it´s very picturesque and pretty.

The city of Granada is home to many points of interest such as the main square and cathedral, the central market and different museums.

It is located on the edge of Central America´s largest lake – Lake Nicaragua.

The waterfront area is very beautiful with lots of palmtrees and colorful decoration.

Being located at Lake Nicaragua, it´s a great opportunity for a boat tour on the lake and to visit one or more of the hundreds of islands closeby, known as the “isletas de Granada”. I stayed at a private island lodge called Jicaro island and had an amazing time.

Granada main square and cathedral

6. Enjoy the best views of volcano Concepcion

One of the best views I enjoyed during my entire roadtrip from the US to Panama!

Playa Peru is located on beautiful Ometepe island with direct views of volcano Concepcion.

At Playa Peru there´s a restaurant, kayak renal, swings in the water and you can also camp here for only 3 USD per night.

One of the best campspots I ever stayed at for sure!

Playa Peru a few hundred meters from the more popular Playa Mango, which has basically the same views of the volcano, a restaurant as well and also a kayak rental and swings in the water.

The only difference is that Playa Peru is much less visited, which is the reason why I prefer it over Playa Mango.

views of volcano Concepcion
sunset at Playa Peru
my campsite at Playa Peru

7. Swim in Laguna Apoyo

Laguna Apoyo is a picturesque crater lake located about 30 minutes from Granada.

It´s a great place for swimming, kayaking and paddle boarding.

Most people I met said that their best swim was in Laguna Apoyo indeed. When staying in Granada, make sure to also add a daytrip to Laguna Apoyo to your to do list or even consider staying here overnight.

The best place to visit to go swimming and kayaking at Laguna Apoyo is the Paradiso Hostel. They have a great little beach, restaurant and facilities. Organized day trips will come here or you can buy a daypass individually.

The day pass costs almost the same as staying in a dorm or camping in their parking lot for a night, so you might have a better deal actually staying here.

There are some other publicly accessible areas for swimming as well, but mostly without facilities. I also went swimming at two other places but the facilities at Paradiso Hostel definitely make it more enjoyable.

Hostel Paradiso, Laguna Apoyo

8. Visit the Masaya volcano and it´s unique lava lake

If you are planning to visit Nicaragua, you probably already know that it´s home to some amazing and unique volcanoes. Volcano Masaya is one of them. What makes it so special? A lava lake in the middle of it´s crater.

Once the sun has set and it´s dark enough, you can see a small lake with bubbling lava. The sunset here is gorgeous on a clear day and it´s well worth staying until it´s pitch black to see the show.

The National Park has a few different trails with amazing views, I suggest doing all of them before it gets dark.

When visiting the National Park there are two different options: the regular day entrance from 08.30, valid until 4 pm for about 4 USD or the sunset entrance starting from 4.30 PM until the park closes at 8 PM for 10 USD.

If you want to see the lava lake, definitely go in after 4.30 PM, do some of the trails and admire the views of the lava lake once it´s dark. On the way out, it´s also worth stopping at the museum of the National Park.

Masaya volcano and it´s unique lava lake

9. Have drinks at a floating bar

Ok, this is a cool one! Imagine having drinks on a floating bar, taking a swim and watching the sunset in paradise!

If you visit the Corn Islands and after reading about the most beautiful beach in Nicaragua, I hope you will, you need to make a stop here!

This is probably the coolest bar in Nicaragua, located at one of the best beaches on Big Corn Island.

Bit Coin Island Bar is a floating bar just off Arenas beach.

We visited this place during our stay and absolutely loved it. When at the beach, just wave over the boat or text their Instagram account @btcoinislandbar in advance and arrange a pick-up at the beach.

For 10 USD you get 6 bit coins (no, unfortunately not real bitcoins) and can use those to have drinks at this amazing floating bar. 1 beer is costs one bitcoin, so you get 6 beers for 10 USD in such a unique bar, a great deal!

The best is, you can jump off the bar anytime and have a refreshing swim in the crystal clear water.

BUT WATCH OUT: some months ago another floating bar just opened next to the original and is trying to copy the concept and steal customers, so be sure you end up at the correct floating bar!

Bit Coin Island floating bar
floating at the floating bar

I hope you added some of my “best things to do in Nicaragua” to your to-do list!

Check out more Nicargua blog posts below to help you plan your trip: