Adventure and active travel are some of Nicaragua’s biggest sells—and not just for the wildest members of your bunch. Unforgettable activities abound for both young and old, for those who live for the next big thrill and for those who want to push themselves outside their comfort zone, just a little.
Viaventure director and co-founder Beat Brunschwhiler has an unquenchable appetite for adventure (he once biked all the way across Nicaragua, from Guatemala to Costa Rica) but is also a dad with three kids under the age of seven. He appreciates travel that offers both heart-pounding adventure and low-key thrills, and Nicaragua is a place for both. Here’s a quick look at some of what the country offers, as Beat has seen in his travels to and through the country.
Is Nicaragua best for certain types of families?
Nicaragua is definitely a place for families, but it also depends on the ability of parents to adapt to and enjoy different surroundings. Are you fine skipping the vacation where the hotel pool and a menu of onsite kids actitivities provide the main entertainment? Will you be happy, instead, trying new things like exploring caves, hiking volcanoes, and swimming in rivers, lakes, and creeks?
Keep in mind that opting for adventure and exploring with your children doesn’t have to mean that you go somewhere with no or limited facilities, either. There are a couple luxury resorts, like the all-inclusive Mukul Beach, Golf & Spa, which provides great accomodation and tours with special programs for kids. There are also simpler places where three generations of family can get what they want.
What are some of the wildest adventures Nicaragua offers?
The sandboarding on Cerro Negro lives up to the hype. Climbing up San Cristóbal volcano, the highest volcano in Nicaragua is also incredible. I consider myself fit and it took me one hour just to complete the final few kilometers. It’s really challenging, but so rewarding!
What are some cool but maybe not-quite-so-intense adventures?
Nicaragua offers many areas to explore: beach, jungle, cloudforests, mountains, volcanoes—there’s something for everyone. Take your family to a working farm or an ecolodge in the rainforest. Stay at a cloudforest lodge where you can witness incredible wildlife or experience local life by volunteering in a nearby village. These types of adventures aren’t just unforgettable, they’re also suitable for the young and old.
How does Nicaragua compare to other adventure travel destinations like Costa Rica?
If budget is a factor, Nicaragua is definitely more affordable than Costa Rica or Belize. And while it doesn’t have any significant Mayan temples like some of its nearby neighbors, it has a lot in terms of culture and history.
What’s on your Nicaragua adventure bucket list?
An ocean-to-ocean bike, hike, and canoe trip!
What’s your preferred way to experience adventure travel in Nicaragua?
I like rural, off-the-beaten track experiences or typical experiences done in different ways. I look for mountains to climb, plus hikes and bike rides where I can get in touch with the local people and their culture. I really like Nicaragua’s mountainous Matagalpa and Jinotega region for its bike riding, rappeling, and cloudforests. The climate there just makes you feel more alive.
Any general tips for adventure travel in Nicaragua?
For the best experience wherever you go and whatever you do, keep an open mind about trying out-of-the-ordinary things, even if it’s something as simple as talking to a street vendor, a taxi driver, or a local in a shop. These enriching experiences will make you feel more a part of the places you visit.