Nicaragua is still a diamond in the rough. It offers many of the same splendors that draw travelers to its neighbor to the south, Costa Rica -- lush rainforest, beautiful white-sand beaches, volcanoes, and rich wildlife -- but it's a much poorer country and it shows. However, it seems to be on a similar trajectory as Costa Rica was in terms of its growth as a tourism destination: It is already popular with the backpacker and adventure travel crowd, just as Costa Rica was before it saw an explosion of resort development. The handful of luxury resorts in Nicaragua are proof that the upscale travel market here is already emerging, and Mukul, the super-exclusive property that opened in February 2013, is helping to bring the country into the international spotlight.
Those planning a getaway to Central America should note that there are a few advantages to traveling to Nicaragua over Costa Rica. Nicaragua has much more Spanish Colonial history and charm, with historic churches and plazas in the towns of Granada and Leon. Because it is relatively undiscovered compared to Costa Rica, it also offers a more authentic experience -- visitors might see locals riding horses and carts through the streets, fruit stands selling unripe mangoes and jocotes (tart snacks popular among the Nicaraguans), and one of the country's many lively street festivals. Plus, prices for just about everything, including food and transportation, tend to be far cheaper.
Many travelers associate Nicaragua with the Sandinista Revolution and Contra War, and are hesitant to travel to the country because of its violent past. But today, Nicaragua has a warm, welcoming attitude toward tourists and low crime statistics; according to the country's tourism board, it is the safest country in Central America.
Most tourists will flock the beachfront resorts in the Rivas region of Nicaragua, where the laid-back party town of San Juan Del Sur is located. The Caribbean coast also has impressive beaches but is less developed. Those interested in Spanish Colonial sights and history should consider brief stops in Granada or Leon.
December to April
May to November
120 V, 60 Hz
10% at restaurants (often included in bill); not required for taxis