Travel Report: Nicaragua and Costa Rica

March 7, 2012

I’m back in the States! And trying to dig myself out of a huge vacation hole.

But it’s worth taking some time to reflect on the trip, I think. So here’s my summary:

Starting point: Managua, Nicaragua

End point: San Jose, Costa Rica

View Lexi’s Nicaragua and Costa Rica Trip on a larger map

Duration: Three weeks

Language: Spanish. Can get by with English, but this trip seriously motivated me to finally get my Spanish groove on. I want to be able to communicate better the next time I travel to this part of the world!

Cost: Nicaragua is cheap, folks! I was easily getting by on less than $35/day (including accommodation) until I crossed the border into Costa Rica and adopted (quite eagerly, I might add) the luxury lifestyle of friends who met me there. Costa Rica was more pricey, though $10 dorm beds could be found in most of the places I visited. Round-trip flight cost about $500.

Baby swings in a hammock on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua. Looks comfy, right?

Destinations (accommodation):

  • Granada (Treehouse Poste Rojo = rustic but awesome, full of partying backpackers, surrounded by howler monkeys. $8/night for dorm)
  • Masaya (still staying at the treehouse)

  • Ometepe Island (Hotel Aly in Moyogalpa = lovely courtyard, tasty authentic food, great base to explore the island. $7/night for dorm)
  • San Juan del Sur (Dreamcatcher’s = close to beautiful beach, surfer and party crowd, didn’t care for touristy-ness. $20/night for dorm)
  • Tamarindo (private house rented with friends = nicest place I’ve ever stayed, touristy town but no culture)
  • Monteverde (Pension Santa Elena = lovely, social hostel, great kitchen, $8/night for dorm)
  • San Jose (Pension de la Cuesta = devoid of character but central location, $10/night for dorm)

Favorites: Ometepe (hiked a volcano!) and Monteverde (beautiful mountain town)

  • San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua -- Love the colors of the buildings!

    San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua -- Love the colors of the buildings!

    Overall assessment: Loved much of Nicaragua, but Costa Rica was a bit too touristy for me.

    Of course, your impression of a place is always based on the experiences you had there. Tamarindo is the most touristy town in Costa Rica, yet I had a great time there because I hung out with friends from the States who were vacationing for a few days. And I hated the beaches of San Juan del Sur because they took the life of a young American surfer right before my eyes — one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had while traveling.

    I’d love to experience more of Nicaragua, especially Leon, which other travelers spoke highly of.

    Yummy breakfast in Nicaragua = so hooked on rice & beans

    Yummy breakfast in Nicaragua = so hooked on rice & beans

    On working while traveling: More on this in a future post. In short, next time I’d make it a true vacation — rather than a working vacation — and I’d go for two weeks rather than three.

    Two weeks was plenty to let me feel escaped and relaxed, but after that I started thinking about work, wanting a hot shower and my own bed, etc. Strange to hear that from someone who backpacked through Africa for six months, right? But I’m getting older (an elderly 31) and my discomfort tolerance is slowly dropping.

    So there you have it! First big trip of the year… Check. Where should I go next?!

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    10 Replies to “Travel Report: Nicaragua and Costa Rica”

    • Anne-Sophie says:

      Sounds like you had a great time! This makes me want to visit Nicaragua and Costa Rica even more.

    • I was in Costa Rica just a few months before you for 11 days. Vacation, so stayed at the Marriott! Did you go to Lola’s in Tamarindo? If you didn’t.. it’s a must next time! We drove from San Jose all the way to Guanacaste. Would NOT do that again! Trying to decide where to go next! I enjoy your blog!

    • elise says:

      Love it! So glad you were able to work in some time with us during your epic adventure. Hope to see you soon. XOXO

    • Shame you missed the most exciting part of Nicaragua…the Caribbean coast! Next time you will have to come out here and visit Bluefields, Pearl Lagoon and the Corn Islands!

    • Funny you chose the phrase ‘devoid of character’ to describe San Jose– or even if you meant it to modify the pension, I’d agree. That was the first international town/city I’d ever visited that disappointed like a flat Diet Coke. My traveling partner agreed.


    • Marcie says:

      San Juan del Sur. who was the surfer that passed? Philippe?

      He was my daughters boyfriend. Tragic!

      Jackie is up at El Coco Loco. Working the surf camp surf with amigas

    • Sean J says:

      Thanks for the great reads! I’m now super stoked to explore this region in the coming weeks. Question: How tricky do you think it is to travel by bus from Liberia to Ometepe, and eventually Managua? Or is it all about cheap charter flights?

    • Daniel says:

      Good info and Costa Rica is nice place too, but Costa Rica is the most expensive place. Please tell also best ways to enjoy Costa Rica on a budget.

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