A two-week trip to Nicaragua over Christmas and New Year is exactly what we were looking for for our honeymoon. Katie knew someone from Whistler who now lives in San Juan del Sur, having built her own house as well as a rental place that’s listed on AirBNB, so we figured why not; when else would we ever make this trip? We got married in August 2013 – you can see more about that here in this blog post.
We stayed at Casa Santosha, part of a yoga/surf community in the hills a couple of kilometres up the road from San Juan del Sur. It’s run by Heidi, a fantastic host, sharing her home with us, cooking us a few delicious meals, taking us out to a couple of different beaches with surfing lessons, and setting us up with lots of activities and tours of the area. Armed with a little less Spanish than we should have had, we did pretty well at learning on the fly or having our rough translations down in our pocketbooks. The people of Nicaragua were very friendly with our broken Spanish, and we were always able to figure out what we needed to do.
On one of the hottest days, we walked down the road to do a Canopy tour with howler monkeys. It’s part of a tour with 16 long zip-lines, and it was pretty awesome. The braking was all manual on the zip-lines with a thick piece of leather glued into the palm of a glove so you could control how fast you’d go down the line. I’m pretty sure I came in way too quickly on most of the lines, but especially on the 1000+ foot one. Looking down above the tops of the trees is pretty spectacular.
We went on a 3 hour horseback ride that meandered through the countryside and then across three beaches– Playa Mathilda, Playa San Lorenzo, and Playa Maderas. This was a great way to see the area, at a nice slow pace where you could take in the sights and animals.
We did a day tour of some other areas of central Nicaragua, where we started off the day with a visit to an organic coffee plantation on the Mombacho volcano. We then continued to the colonial city of Granada, which was beautiful with all the old buildings so brightly painted. Granada was founded in 1524 and is rumoured to be the first European city in mainland America. We stayed here for a few hours and took our driver Edgard out for a nice lunch in the Central Park area of the city.
After lunch, we took off to the artists’ market in Masaya and checked out hundreds of individual markets to find some local pottery. To end the day off, we swam in the crater of the massive Apoyo volcano; it’s the largest volcanic lagoon in Nicaragua and was breathtaking to swim in, and was so refreshing after so much walking and driving around. We left just before the sun went down, and as we made our way back down the sketchy mountain road, we came across an old cemetery. I asked our driver to pull over so we could check it out. It was a surreal experience in this very colourful mountaintop cemetery just as it was getting dark out.
We ended our trip by taking a ferry over to the Isla de Ometepe (Ometepe Island), where we rented ATVs and toured the island that’s made up of two volcanoes, Concepción and Maderas, that create the shape of an hourglass. Okay, I change my mind; I think seeing the island by ATVs is the best way to see things firsthand. In the couple of days that we spent on the island, we could see a lot of the island that we absolutely would not have been able to see without. Some of the roads were so bad that they were a pretty rough ride on the ATVs, and we had to drive miles on them, particularly when we were making our way over to do a kayak tour.
We did a kayak tour of the Rio Istiam (Istiam River), where we could explore the lush biodiversity, see giant iguanas and baby howler monkeys up in the trees, and even saw the elusive caiman alligator. We had to stand up and balance across a couple of kayaks to see and get a picture of the caiman, which is not a great time to lose your balance.
We fell in love with the food there, which is primarily rice and beans– which can be very boring, but we found it really flavourful in Nica. I ate a ton of fresh fish almost daily and was blown away by the prices, relatively cheap by our standards. That top left fish plate was caught just minutes before it was thrown on the grill, a great way to finish off our kayak tour of the river. We found some recipes for the rice and beans and now make it at home all the time, served on our hand-made pottery from Nicaragua almost puts us back there. We cannot wait to get back down there and explore even more of the country.
PHOTO GALLERY | Enjoy this photo gallery from our Nicaraguan honeymoon below, just a small sampling of the 1000+ photos I shot. This gallery has all the images from the above article, and plenty more; scroll through them with your ‘right arrow’ key.