Costa Rica & Nicaragua

A Match Made in Heaven (With a Little Bit of Hell)

Catarina, costa rica

By Jordan Hart

Costa Rica is well known as an up and coming vacation hot spot, but what about its neighboring country Nicaragua? While it may not be as famous, Nicaragua is equally as stunning as Costa Rica with just as many phenomenal sights to explore.

monkey in Nicaragua

On my recent trip to Costa Rica, I had the opportunity to venture out and explore some of Nicaragua with a tour group. What started as a whim of exploration ended with awe at the country I hadn’t even thought to visit. Our tour began by seeing Catarina, a gorgeous city with a jaw-dropping view of two lakes nestled between the sloping landscape. As the view is mostly hidden until you reach the lookout, you are in for quite the surprise when you do. If you can manage to turn away from the view, the streets of the square are lined with local shops boasting the finest and cheapest souvenirs for the tourists.

If Catarina isn’t your style, you can easily move along and visit Masaya Volcano National Park, home of a volcano affectionately called the “Mouth of Hell” (the Catholics weren’t a big fan of that name when they arrived). This volcano is pretty impressive; make sure to get a good look before the park ranger blows his whistle, signaling everyone needs to leave before the gases begin to damage anyone’s health. Trust me, it is worth the minimal risk.

After gazing into hell, you can take a boat tour of Lake Nicaragua, the only lake in the world with sharks- bull sharks, to be exact. This lake is one of the largest on the planet, with views of volcanoes and around 365 small islands. These islands are either locally owned, rented out for visitors, or uninhabited. One of these islands is the home of a friendly little orange monkey, who gratefully accepts any bananas thrown his way. As someone with a fear of boats, I can say that this tour was worth every ounce of trepidation.

When all that shark-induced worry makes you hungry, visit Choco Museo in Granada, where you can learn about chocolate, make your own, and best of all, try samples of some of the best chocolate I have ever had. They make hot chocolate for the kiddos, and alcoholic chocolate drinks for the kids at heart but not in age.

After getting your chocolate, take a walk around the city. Granada boasts beautiful churches, quaint streets, and lots of tourist shopping opportunities. There are plenty of sights to see and places to experience within Nicaragua, and Granada is just one example of that.

As Nicaragua is a small country, it is possible to do all this and more, just in one day. Pairing Costa Rica and Nicaragua together for your next trip ensures you can experience the best of both countries in a short amount of time and leave with a full passport and priceless experiences.

Island in lake, Nicaragua

To learn more about Nicaragua, visit: or book a tour at

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