●Casa Iguana – Iguana Beach (Little Corn Island); casaiguana.net; ocean view casitas; well-run beach house collection on cliff-top over deserted, southern end beach; palm trees line sandy paths, and colorful cabanas sit close to shoreline, surrounding central common area with lots of books and comfy chairs; 4 bungalows are rather basic with shared bathrooms, while further 10 are more upscale, with private bathrooms and verandas; rooms are simple, with lots of light, double beds, and rainbow-colored furniture, though they could do with some curtains for privacy’s sake; run sustainably with solar- and wind-powered energy, recycling program, and fruits and vegetables from on-site garden; fantastic snorkeling reefs are within paddling distance; book early.
●Hotel Los Delfines – Little Corn Island; 011-505-8411-3572; hotellosdelfines.com.ni/d_english.htm.
●Cafe Desideri – beach front (Little Corn Island); 011-505-3412-6341; facebook.com/pages/Cafe-Desideri/256631707755832; Italian-ish; great lobster.
●Dive Little Corn – Main Street (Little Corn Island); 011-505-8856-5888; divelittlecorn.com.
●Dolphin Dive – Main Dock (Little Corn Island); 011-505-8917-9717; dolphindivelittlecorn.com.
GRANADA (& Jicaro Island)
Bars & Nightclubs
●El Tercer Ojo – Calle Arsenal (San Francisco, contiguo al convento); 011-505-552-6451; eltercerojo.com.ni.
●Eco-Lodge Jicaro Island – Granada Isletas (Jicaro Island); 011-505-8403-1236; jicarolodge.com.
●La Gran Francia – Esquina Sureste del Parque Central; 011-505-2552-6002, 6007, or 6012; lagranfrancia.com/eng; 21 rooms and atrium surrounding small pool
●Hotel Alhambra – Central Park, west side; 011-505-2-552-4486; hotelalhambra.com.ni; on central plaza; certain, neocolonial charm.
●Hotel La Bocona – Calle La Libertad; 011-505-2552-2888; hotellabocona.com; lovely, 8-room boutique in 19th Century mansion.
●Hotel Plaza Colon – Parque Central; 011-505-2552-8489; hotelplazacolon.com; 4 star hotel with pool; lovely.
●El Zaguan – Calle La Sirena; 011-505-2-552-2522; superb local cuisine (behind Cathedral).
●Mombacho Cigar Bar – 422 Calle Calzada Granada; 011-505-8775-9137; mombachocigars.com.
Sights & Sites
●Alhambra – Palacio de Carlos V; 011-505-95-822-0912; alhambra.org/eng.
●Convento de San Francisco – north of Plaza de Leones; 011-505-2-552-5535; old monastery turned national museum
●Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve – Granada; 011-505-2-558-0456 or 011-505-8-854-9344; apoyolalaguna.com; swimmable fresh water volcanic crater lake; high above it is Mirador Catarina, beautiful overlook.
●MiMuseo – 505 Calle Atraveseda; 011-505-2-552-7614; mimuseo.org; in former, Spanish colonial home; best place to see Nicaraguan, pre-Columbian art and artifacts.
MANAGUA (includes Masaya)
Bars & Nightclubs
●Bar Cultural El Caramanchel – Bolonia (Del Hospital Militar, 3 cuadras al norte, ½ cuadra al oeste); 011-505-8-931-4199; hippie do-gooder hangout; music ranges from electronic to house to salsa.
●Nau Lounge – Costado Sur Centro Comercial (Metrocentro Carretera Masaya); 011-505-2-276-8989; ichotelsgroup.com; sushi-oriented.
●Reef – Carretera a Masaya km 7 (Centro Comercial, at Galerias Santo Domingo); 011-505-2-276-9289; galerias.com.ni; popular bar with live DJs and outdoor deck.
●El Tercer Ojo – Zona Hippos 1 (½ Sur); 011-505-2-277-4787; eltercerojo.com.ni; cocktails beneath enormous carved Buddha; also, small shop inside (AnM) sells leather purses.
●Casa Naranja – Carretera Masaya del Tip-Top (city center, km 4.5); 011-505-2-277-3403; hotelcasanaranja.com; boutique with great breakfasts.
●Hotel Contempo – Masaya Highway, km 11 (400 ms south of residential “prairie”); 011-505-2-227-9226 or 011-505-2-278-8994; contempohb.com; boutique; 18 rooms; clean, modern design, featuring white marble and travertine tile; offers excursions, such as Mombacho Volcano zipline tours or volcano boarding at Cerro Negro.
●Hex – Frente al Centro Comercial Multicentro Las Americas; 011-505-2-277-7925; hotelhex.com; modern; small, well-designed rooms.
●Hotel Intercontinental – Costado Sur Centro Comercial (Metrocentro Carretera Masaya); 011-505-2-276-8989 or 877-859-5095; ichotelsgroup.com; enormous pool; luxurious.
●Hotel Los Robles – Del Restaurante La Marseillaise (30 m al sur, Los Robles); 011-505-2-267-3008; hotellosrobles.com/en/bienvenidos; only hotel with any real charm; 13 well-appointed rooms.
●La Posada del Angel – Bolonia (del porton del Hospital Militar); 011-505-2-268-7228; hotelposadadelangel.com.ni; bed & breakfast kind of place.
●Le Bistro – Planes de Altamira (de la Embajada de México ½ cuadra al norte, at Alliance Francaise); 011-505-2-267-2811; allianzafrancesca.org.ni; French wines by glass and light French fare.
●La Casa de los Nogueras – 17 Avenida Principal Los Robles; 011-505-2-278-2506; Mediterranean influenced food.
●El Churrasco – Carretera a Masaya km 7 (Centro Comercial, at Galerias Santo Domingo); 011-505-2-251-9258; galerias.com.ni; steakhouse.
●La Cocina de Doña Haydee – Carretera a Masaya km 4½ (Optica Matamoros 1 cuadra abajo #71); 011-505-2-270-6100; lacocina.com.ni; more traditional fare, such as Indio Viejo (“Old Indian,” beef stew), vigoron (pickled cabbage salad), and gallo pinto (fried beans and rice).
●Quesillos el-Pipe – Carretera a Masaya km 12½; 011-505-8-823-3556; roadside restaurant with shiny-clean kitchen and ingredients made on site; quesillos are sort of breakfast burrito: yoghurt-like cheese, boiled and salted, served with diced, vinegar-fermented onions, wrapped in tortilla, and drenched in cream; breakfast and lunch snack.
●Los Ranchos – Bo Altagracia (Montoya, 3 cuadras al oeste); 011-505-2-266-0526; facebook.com/pages/Rest-Los-Ranchos/205686472784061?rf=111835475503914; steakhouse where Nicaragua’s dealmakers eat; grilled pork, steak; also, guapote (“big handsome,” freshwater white fish).
●Sushi Itto – Carretera a Masaya km 7 (Centro Comercial, at Galerias Santo Domingo); 011-505-2-270-3120, 011-505-2-3230, or 011-505-2-278-4886; galerias.com.ni; sushi.
●Tacocontento – Carretera a Masaya km 7 (Centro Comercial, at Galerias Santo Domingo); 011-505-2-276-5390 or 011-505-2-276-5389; galerias.com.ni; taqueria.
●Taska Kiko – Funeria Monte de los Olives (1 cuadra al este, Casa #6); 011-505-2-270-1569; where expat Spaniards serve pulpo (octopus) and excellent pargo (red snapper) grilled with garlic and olive oil.
●Zacate Limon – El Tiangue (Modulo 2 del Club Terraza, 300 m arriba); 011-505-2-255-0504; known for breakfasts, especially huevos norteños (sunny-side-up egg on refried beans and tortilla, topped with salsa ranchera, cream, and Parmesan cheese.
●Mercado Municipal de Ernesto Fernandez – at central bus station (Masaya); gritty.
●Mercado Nacional de Artesanias – Carretera Masaya-Granada (Masaya); visitamasaya.com; brightly woven hammocks, carvings, ceramics, and other crafts; enclosed within 19th Century walls; on Thursdays, dancers perform.
●Mercado Roberto Huembes – at central bus station; disturbing.
●Simplemente Madera – Calle Principal Los Robles; 011-505-2-276-8840; simplementemadera.com; hardwood furniture, handmade.
Sights & Sites
●Alliance Francaise – Planes de Altamira (de la Embajada de México ½ cuadra al norte); 011-505-2-267-2811; allianzafrancesca.org.ni; art exhibits, concerts, and talks.
●Coyotepe Fortress – Masaya Cerro de los Coyotes; manfut.org/masaya/coyotepe.html; built in 1893; worth climb just for view: Laguna de Masaya; Lago de Managua; Mombacho Volcano; and, if clear, Momotombo Volcano; profoundly historically significant: here that Benjamín Zeledón, 1912 hero of resistance to US intervention, drew his last breath; US marines may have taken fortress, but they were watched by young Augusto Sandino, who vowed revenge.
●Museum of Sandinista Victory – Frente del Estadio Nacional; odd location; small but evocative collection.
●Nueva Catedral de Managua (Catedral Metropolitana de la Purisima Concepcion) – Carretera Masaya Zona Rosa; 011-505-2-278-4232; gcatholic.com/churches/centralamerica/2946.htm; designed by architect Ricardo Legorreta; construction 1991-1993; created much controversy, particularly about its architectural style and finance; locals refer to it as La Chichona on account of numerous cupolas adorning it (like so many “chiches” (breasts).
●Parque Historico Nacional Loma de Tiscapa – Barrio Martha Quezada; 011-505-265-0635 or 011-505-2-265-0150; manfut.org/monumentos/tiscapa.html; national historic park was once Presidential Palace site (where Augusto Sandino and his men were executed in 1934); his silhouette, hastily erected by departing FSLN government in 1990, visible from almost anywhere in town; what looks like dilapidated parking structure was for decades among Nicaragua’s most notorious prisons; also, Monumento Roosevelt, constructed in 1939, with lovely lake views, which is today memorial to those killed in revolution; hilltop actually Tiscapa Volcano’s lip; beautiful little crater lake, with incredible views over city out to Momotombo Volcano; zip-line tour begins in park and continues through cloud canopy.
●Parque Nacional Volcan Masaya – Managua Highway (6km from Masaya); 011-505-2-522-5415; described by Spaniards as Hell’s gates; craters here are country’s most easily accessible active volcanoes; 2 volcanoes, Masaya and Nindirí, in park; together, they comprise 5 craters; of these, Santiago Crater still quite active, often smoking and steaming; several marked hiking trails, many of which require guide; don’t miss Plaza de Oviedo, clearing by Santiago Crater’s rim, named after 16th Century Spanish monk who, suspecting bubbling lava was gold, descended to crater with bag and shovel yet came back alive; strong sulphur smell.
●Teatro Nacional Ruben Dario – Zona Monumental; 011-505-2-266-3630; tnrubendario.gob.ni; named for country’s most famous poet; even if no event, halls, filled with modern Nicaraguan art, worth seeing.
●Vieja Catedal de Managua – Zona Monumental; hollow shell because shattered by 1972 earthquake and, despite promises, never restored; still beautiful and serene, attended by stone angels and dappled in golden light.
●Totoco Eco-Lodge – El Callejon Publico la Palmera (Balgue); 011-505-8425-2027; totoco.com.ni; amazing and gorgeous layered by little bit basic worry (because day-long journey to Ometepe, involving roughly 9 hours travel on shuttle bus, public bus, ferry, and 2 taxis); front-row-center view of 1 of island’s 2 volcanoes, Concepción; main common space, which is open on most sides, consists of dining area, bar, and inviting rocking chairs and hammock (all with amazing view); compost toilets, greywater recycling system, and organic farm.
●Aqua Wellness Resort – 1 Redonda Bay; 011-505-8-849-6235; aquanicaragua.com; wellness & yoga retreat.
●Mukul Resort – Guacalito de la Isla; 011-505-852-99-829; mukulresort.com; 1- and 2-bedroom beach villas or Bohio, perched dramatically on hillside with wooden viewing deck and private plunge pool; hike forest trails, spend time at beach, or lounge by pool; opt for helicopter ride over spectacular coastline to Pellas family’s sugar cane plantation for private tour of their rum distillery.
SAN JUAN DE NICARAGUA
●Rio Indio Adventure Lodge – Indio Maiz Biological Reserve; 011-505-8363-4259 or 011-506-2231-4299; therioindiolodge.com; great for birders.
SAN JUAN DEL SUR
Bakeries, Coffee, Ice Cream, Juice & Tea
●El Gato Negro – Town Center (1 block east of Timon); 011-505-8809-1108; cafe; premises-roasted coffee beans.
●Pan de Vida – Town Center (50 ms west of Texaco Gas Station); 011-505-8-379-7549; facebook.com/PanDeVidaNicaragua; banana bread, cheddar bread, chocolate chip cookies; camouflaged by street businesses and houses, easy to overlook if driving; large brick oven makes day-to-day lineup.
●Buena Vista Surf Club – Maderas Beach; 011-505-8863-4180; buenavistasurfclub.com; zen-like retreat.
●Maderas Village – Maderas Beach; 011-505-8796-7243; maderasvillage.com; stylishly rustic; nestled in jungle.
●Morgan’s Rock Hacienda & Eco Lodge – Playa Ocotal; 011-505-8670-7676 or 011-505-2254-7989; morgansrock.com; charming jungle lodge; tropical forests and spectacular Pacific Coast beach; public areas are understated and cool, each indoor-outdoor space morphing gently into next, lobby to lounge to restaurant to pool; floors are polished dark stone, walls rusticated volcanic rock, roofs red tile and thatch; view, unmediated by windows, killer, mile-wide Pacific cove with perfect white crescent beach, nearly devoid of buildings.
●Pelican Eyes – De la Parroquia; 011-505-2563-7000; pelicaneyesresort.com.
●El Colibri – Parque Central (east side); 011-505-8863-8612; name is Spanish for hummingbird; set within funky-colored clapboard house with large veranda overlooking lovely garden; adventurous and organic menu includes hummus dip, beef kebabs, and filet mignon in bacon and vodka cream sauce; homemade pâté is revelation, made from chicken, bacon, and sherry.
●Taco Stop – Del Mercado Municipal 1c; 011-505-2568-2294; fish burritos.
●El Gato Negro – Town Center (1 block east of Timon); 011-505-8809-1108; bookstore.
Elvis Chavarria Island
●Albergue Celentiname – San Fernando; 011-505-8893-1977; riosanjuan.com.ni or firstname.lastname@example.org; 8 bare-bones rooms with cold-water showers in semi-detached cabins.
●Cabañas Paraiso – San Fernando; 011-505-8894-7331; hcp.nicaragua-info.com; less rustic than Albergue Celentiname but not hot water.
Sights & Sites
●Corredor de los Pintores – main path's walk through artists' displays.
●Musas – small museum.
●Pre-Columbian Petroglyph – volcanic boulder with intertwined snakes carving.
Sights & Sites
●Church – open-air stone structure built by Father Cardenas.