The United Nations now rates Nicaragua as one of South America’s safest countries. Photo: Courtesy of Bryan Rowe

Easy access and welcoming locals are putting Nicaragua on the map for travelers of all kinds, from surfers to remote workers. A country ravaged by civil war that ended only two decades ago, Nicaragua has made a comeback and is now rated by the United Nations as one of the safest countries in Latin America.

Now is the time to start planning to fly south for the winter.

Fly into …

Nicaraguan hotel

U.S. dollars are accepted in Nicaragua. Photo : Courtesy of Bryan Rowe

Managua marks the spot for your entrance into Nicaragua. As you’ll most likely have booked a hotel or hostel before you arrive, it’s simple to coordinate a pickup from the airport to your destination through them. Taxi fares are typically in the $100 range, and to keep things easy, U.S. dollars are accepted throughout the country alongside the local currency, the Córdoba.

Check into …


There are plenty of lodging opportunities, whatever your price target. Photo: Courtesy of Bryan Rowe

Nicaragua boasts a variety of truly special spots for travelers of all kinds. Couples may enjoy a stay at romantic and quiet Buena Vista Surf Club, while single travelers or more community-driven types might be better suited to Maderas Village, just a stone’s throw away.

Both locations sit directly up the hill from Playa Maderas, a popular surf destination near San Juan del Sur, and have similar price ranges after breaking down costs by food and activities.

Surf’s up

Playa Maderas

Playa Maderas is simply where it’s at for surfers. Photo: Courtesy Whitney James

If you’re staying at Maderas Village or anywhere nearby, you’re already at one of the most popular spots for beginners and locals alike. With no reef and only a few pesky manta rays to watch out for, Playa Maderas is simply where it’s at.

The backpacker’s hostel on the beach blasts a selection of hip-hop, dubstep and ’90s jams loud enough to hear from the back line, and several authentic institutions serve up fresh tacos and tropical concoctions (try the passion-fruit mojito at Maria’s). Not into the crowds? Just walk five minutes north along the beach to reach a more secluded section of shoreline — just make sure to stash your flip-flops if you take a dip.

Rise and vinyasa


Surfing pairs well with yoga, and there are plenty of options for some om time in Nicaragua. Photo: Courtesy Bryan Rowe

These days, surfing and yoga are best when paired, as anyone with sore paddle-shoulders would agree. Take a mid-morning class at Maderas Village after your dawnie in the beautifully crafted studio. The combination of the local hardwood floors, lack of walls and authentic thatched roof will have you om-ing your way into bliss in no time.

Culture check


Expect top-notch cuisine in Nicaragua. Photo: Courtesy of Bryan Rowe

Hop aboard the shuttle to the nearby town of San Juan del Sur, where you can roam colorful roads humming with horse-drawn carts and bicycles. Catering to tourists, this is the perfect spot to pick up a souvenir or two — along with a cerveza.

Try the local brewery, which serves something other than Toña, the national beer of Nicaragua, or stick with the staple. Auric is the shop of choice for signature Nica tees; Republic is the bar to grab some fried plátanos. If you’re looking for a refreshing treat, make a pit stop at Buddha Cafe, across the street from the church. The mixed-berry-and-date ice cream is made fresh behind the counter and served up in portions that rival those Stateside.

Set sail


Did anyone say, “surfer’s paradise”? Photo: Courtesy Whitney James

If you’re itching to get off the coast, hitch a ride with Nica Sail & Surf. Trips start at $75 per person and depart to two unique beach destinations. Spend the day fishing, swimming and snorkeling off the side of your catamaran.

Taste the local rum at the open bar and dig into bottomless ceviche as you watch the sun go down over the horizon. Just don’t forget to keep an eye out for the dolphins and turtles that frequent the route.

Plug in


Like you weren’t going to bring your laptop. Photo: Courtesy Bryan Rowe

Most resorts are of the philosophy that you’re traveling to unplug and get away from your inbox for a few days. Maderas Village takes the other side. Welcoming creators and creatives of all kind, the communal lounge area of the Village is packed with youthful entrepreneurs cranking out marketing campaigns and graphic design from their laptops while they sip fresh smoothies.

Want a digital detox? Don’t worry: The Wi-Fi doesn’t work as well in the cabanas down the hill.



Margaritas, anyone? Photo: Courtesy Bryan Rowe

The full-service restaurant at Maderas Village serves up freshly mixed concoctions any time of day, like freshly crushed watermelon margaritas, but for something served away from home, try Revolución Cafe beachside at Playa Maderas. The open-air bar provides a perfect view as your cocktail master (who probably doubles as one of the best surfers around) carefully crafts your margarita. You’ll have a hard time not Instagramming it — and ordering another.

When to go


If you’re looking for warm temps and calm swell, head to Nicaragua in December. Surfers typically venture to Nicaragua during the rainy season, which starts in July. Photo: Courtesy Whitney James

Ask the locals and you’ll hear mixed things on when to visit Nicaragua. If you’re looking for warm temps and calm swell, December is the beginning of the dry season and can be perfectly blissful. Waves are biggest in the rainy season (July through September) and there are typically fewer tourists.

Needless to say, you can’t really go wrong no matter when and where you land in this tropical paradise.

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