9 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Nicaragua

Jul 22, 2021

The Caribbean coastal country of Nicaragua is like a breath of tropical air in the crowded Latin American landscape. Its neighbors, countries like Costa Rica and Panama, are bustling commercial centers, but with Nicaragua's natural beauty, lovely coastal towns, and unspoiled jungles and national parks, it provides a glimpse of what a less-developed Latin American country can be.

There are numerous top tourist attractions in Nicaragua, but the country's best are those found outside of its capital and largest city, Managua. To be sure you find the best places to visit in Nicaragua, this list of the top tourist attractions includes everything from great beaches to fabulous food, a volcano to a gorgeous national park.

Discover the best places to visit in Nicaragua with our guide to the top tourist attractions in the country.

Granada

Photo of Granada, Nicaragua
Granada, Nicaragua: en.wikipedia.org

Granada is best known for its famous Alhambra fortress, its beautiful buildings and squares, and the Palacio Nuevo and Palacio Viejo. However, there are many other things to do here, including visiting the wide-ranging Numismatic Museum, which contains a rich collection of artifacts including early coins and medals, and exquisite Moorish jewelry. The buildings and churches of the old city, however, are the main attraction, including the very beautiful Cathedral, the parish church of Santa Ana. The Parque Central, or town square, features more than a dozen large and graceful fountains, while the nearby Plaza Mayor is a perfect spot for a delicious ice cream or a pleasant café. In addition to the Alhambra, the old city is well served by the excellent, inexpensive Colonial Expressway. When traveling from Granada to Mérida, it's also possible to visit the Central America Canal or Maizal ski resort in the Parque Nacional Morazán. Granada also has a large International Airport (Granada International Airport) and is served by both international and domestic flights.

San Juan Del Sur

Photo of San Juan del Sur
San Juan del Sur: en.wikipedia.org

San Juan del Sur is a small town with two main places of interest: the beach and the "Cocoroc Swamp." The beaches are home to an almost continuous surf and a long beach. The surf is so good that even when there are other waves in the sea, it's almost impossible to get out. The road that links San Juan del Sur with the city of Granada, a long, picturesque coastal road, passes through the forest, hills and coastal mangroves and is interrupted by cliffs and beaches. Also notable in the town are the German U-Boat base. It was from this base that the U-boats of Imperial Japan attacked American supply ships during the Second World War. Nearby is San Juan del Sur's water sports center, San Juan del Sur Water Park, which has a swimming pool, wave pools, a sailing school and a marina for fishermen and tourists alike.

Managua

Photo of Managua
Managua: en.wikipedia.org

Managua is Central America's second largest city, located in the region of Chinandega. One of its most famous landmarks is the National Cathedral, which faces a hill along the city's main thoroughfare and is used as a stage for major annual events. Other highlights of Managua include the archaeological site of the Granada pre-Columbian ruins, which consist of a three-tiered pyramid overlooking a series of lakes, and Iglesia de San Francisco, which dates back to the early 19th century. In addition to playing host to the Central American Basketball Championships, Managua is home to a number of other sports clubs. Nicaragua is also known as a place to shop for souvenirs, including Panama hats and beads made from jade, agate, and lapis lazuli.

Isla Ometepe

Photo of Ometepe
Ometepe: en.wikipedia.org

Known for its pristine beaches, Isla Ometepe is an island off the coast of Nicaragua. From the rugged cliffs of the north to the remote fishing villages of the south, the island offers a great mix of activities and spectacular scenery. There are no roads connecting the three main towns of Isla Ometepe: San Juan de Nicaragua, Puerto Cabezas, and Santa María del Norte. Only a small portion of the island is accessible to visitors: it has an airport, a few hotels, and a natural reserve where sea turtles lay their eggs. The white-sand beaches are one of the great attractions and popular for swimming and sunbathing. The main area of interest for visitors is the wildlife, which is abundant, and include jaguar, puma, sloths, anteaters, coatis, raccoons, and river dolphins.

Lake Managua

Photo of Lake Managua
Lake Managua: en.wikipedia.org

Lake Managua is located in the Republic of Nicaragua, and is the largest lake in Central America. It is actually two lakes: Lake Managua proper and Laguna de Achala. Although not that spectacular, it is attractive for those who prefer lakes to oceans as the waters are clear. Like Lake Mỹạng, it has long been an important port and can be visited by motorboat for a fee. The Achala Lagoon is separated from the main lake by a narrow island and the mouth of the Yalahau River, the main river on Lake Managua. The Lagoon also offers some good snorkeling areas.

Matagalpa

Photo of Matagalpa
Matagalpa: en.wikipedia.org

Set in a mountainous area of lush tropical rainforest, Matagalpa is the commercial and transportation hub of the Meseta Central (Central Plateau). Of late, it has grown to be Nicaragua's economic center, being known for its highly industrialized and modern outlook. Things to see in the city include the baroque cathedral and cultural center that was opened in 1971, and the state museum, which boasts many superb pre-Columbian artifacts.

Puerto Cabezas

The town of Puerto Cabezas is the capital of the municipality of Nicaragua's southernmost province of Matagalpa. In this rugged region, the roads are in generally good condition and there is a well-developed service system. Public transport includes an efficient network of bus and van routes, as well as smaller 'colectivos' which run between the city and the main rural towns. Puerto Cabezas is the closest place of interest in terms of accessibility to Lake Managua, which makes it a base for trips into the lakeside country around the largest lake in Central America. One of the most attractive of these is the island of Ometepe, which is an island in Lake Nicaragua, almost 300 km (186 miles) from the mainland. This area is home to the Purépecha people and is made up of five volcanoes and two lakes, Tamapopan and Tumbarumba, surrounded by small towns and fields. Buses arrive in the capital from Managua, San Salvador, Granada and Somotillo.

Volcanoes National Park

Photo of Masaya Volcano
Masaya Volcano: en.wikipedia.org

A visit to the Volcanoes National Park (Volcán Mombacho National Park) in Nicaragua is a chance to see nature in her absolute rawest form. Among the many species of animals found at the park are maned sloths, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, white-tailed deer, anteaters, and jaguars. Other attractions include the Yanayacu Biological Station, where you can study flora and fauna. Be sure to visit the park's newest attraction, the Irazú Waterfall and Colombia River, an ideal spot for rafting and kayaking trips. The park is accessible by a good bus system from Granada. It's a 15-minute journey to get there.

Chichigalpa

Photo of Chichigalpa
Chichigalpa: en.wikipedia.org

Surrounded by rich jungle vegetation and steep mountains, the city of Chichigalpa lies on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, which at its deepest point is not more than 600 meters from the town. Chichigalpa was the capital of the Spanish province of Nicaragua until 1821, when a hurricane blew away the bridge over the Rio San Juan. At the beginning of the 20th century, the town was still a good-sized and important port with important connections to Managua, and it continued to be one until the opening of the railroad in 1952. Things to do in Chichigalpa include visiting the Santo Domingo Basilica, which boasts some beautiful architecture. An elevator takes visitors to the upper level, where visitors can enjoy the views, or on the way down, they can enjoy a delicious ice cream.