When I plan my travels I have one fault; I get very greedy. When I read about all the amazing places to see and things to do nearby in the region I’m travelling to I want to see everything there is to see and not leave anything out! Sadly this does not quite work most of the time, because my trips would end up being way too long… That’s why I have perfected my skills in planning travel efficiently so that I get to see a lot without feeling like I am racing from one place to another. Travelling is supposed to be relaxing after all!
Planning my Nicaragua and Costa Rica trip was almost a challenge because there is so much to see. I had chosen to fly to San Jose in Costa Rica as it was cheaper but my main goal was to explore Nicaragua. In addition, I also had limited time in my hands, just 10 days. I had no choice but to pass on most of Costa Rica’s main tourist attractions and leave them for next time but I did manage to get a taste of Costa Rica too.
Day 1 San Jose
I spent aday and one night in San Jose (my flight arrived quite early) and I can now safely say that next time I go to Costa Rica I know to leave the capital out of my plans… If you have limited time, plan to leave the city and head to the nature as soon as possible! It’s not that it’s a horrible place or anything; it’s just that it isn’t an amazing must-see city and really does not offer anything special.
Day 2 Rincon de la Vieja
I took a bus to Liberia in northern Costa Rica and from there continued to my only ‘real’ Costa Rican experience to the Rincon de la Vieja area for a very comfortable night. My friend had just flown in from Finland the night before so sitting jetlagged in a bus for 9 hours didn’t sound too appealing which is why we didn’t shoot for Nicaragua right away. We didn’t have lots of time for sightseeing because of all the bus travel so we had picked out a nice lodge where we could relax and most importantly catch up since we hadn’t seen each other for several months! Canyon de la Vieja Lodge was the perfect place to sit back and get ready for next day’s adventure, I highly recommend this place if you are in the area.
Day 3 & 4 Isla de Ometepe
Day 3 saw us travelling from Rincon de la Vieja area to the Nicaraguan border on a TransNica bus, which we waited for an extra hour or so…Lesson #1; when in Central America, don’t make travel plans that require flawless connections! Once we got on the bus we were at the border really fast (less than an hour) but had to of course wait a bit with the border formalities which thankfully were very easy with the bus company taking care of most it. We continued on with TransNica to Rivas and hopped on a taxi to get to the port of San Jorge from where we got on yet another type of transportation; a boat.
And what a boat that was..! Rickety little boat loaded with supplies and local people also travelling to Isla de Ometepe. That 1.5 hour boat ride was the most memorable experience on the trip. Basically there are three types of boats you can take across to the island; a large ferry that can transport cars as well, a medium size boat that looks and feels pretty sturdy and then there is the boat we took to go to the island, similar but less full than the one pictured above. The waves were big (for a lake) and the movement of the wooden boat made some of our fellow passengers empty their stomach content into the sea. Oh and there was water coming on board which was constantly pumped away, which seemed like the normal thing to do. Oh the adventures you can have when you travel 😉
Anyway, back to our route and itinerary. We spent two nights (this would be days 3 and 4) in the Isla de Ometepe which was the highlight of my trip. We stayed right by the lake at Tesero del Pirata in little cabins and listened the waves gently lapping against the shore- Perfect place for peace and quiet! It was so relaxing laying there in a hammock I wish I could have stayed there forever. It wasn’t all just relaxing though, we did some exploring too – Read here about my visit to a Nicaraguan coffee farm.
Day 5 Granada
From the volcano island we continued to colourful Granada for a taste of city life for one night. Granada is very pretty and has tons of colourful buildings like the yellow cathedral you can see in so many Nicaragua photos and postcards. Granada also has a NicaBus ticket office so you can buy tickets there (it was not possible to buy them online so I had to plan ahead and buy tickets whenever possible). We arrived in the afternoon and explored the city and of course had a delicious dinner at a restaurant.
Day 6 Granada, to San Juan del Sur
After exploring some more of Granada we made it to the ‘bus station’ just in time to get the last seats in the bus to Rivas, phew! That would have been an uncomfortable journey standing up. From Rivas we continued on to our last place in Nicaragua, San Juan del Sur on the Pacific Coast where we arrived in the late afternoon.
Day 7 & 8 San Juan del Sur
Days 7,8 and part of day 9 consisted of things like sandy beaches, palm trees and happy hour. Needless to say, this was a very laid back little town! Although far from genuine Nicaraguan town and filled with backpackers, it was a cool place to visit and take in the sun and chill vibe for a couple of nights. One could get active and learn to surf there, but I’m pretty convinced surfing isn’t my cup of tea. Cold (dirt cheap!) pina coladas at a beach front bar on the other hand..Definitely my cup of tea.
Day 9 From San Juan del Sur to San Jose
This was a long day when we travelled from San Juan del Sur back to San Jose in Costa Rica, through Rivas again. Rivas is a big transportation hub in Nicaragua so if you are planning a trip you will most likely go through here once or twice. After about 9 hours of travelling we were back in San Jose just in time for dinner and a leisurely stroll in the city.
Day 10 Fly home!
The next day I headed to the airport and that was my 10 day adventure in Nicaragua and Costa Rica! Not nearly enough time to see it all and that was not the point of this trip anyway. I am more than happy to return to explore more!