In this article, I will be sharing a one day itinerary for visiting Nicaragua from Costa Rica’s Tamarindo beach, highlighting the best parts of my day tour. Often overshadowed by its popular neighbor, Costa Rica, Nicaragua has a troubled political past that has kept it off the radar for many travelers. However, the largest Central American country has made great strides in becoming a safe and affordable destination with a vibrant culture, rich history, pristine tropical beaches, delicious food, and plenty of exciting opportunities for adventure. Despite remaining relatively undiscovered by the massive tourist troves, Nicaragua provides genuine travel experiences that make it an exciting and authentic destination for those seeking to immerse themselves in a different culture and enjoy unspoiled nature.
One Day Tour to Nicaragua From Costa Rica
The one day tour left early in the morning from Playa Tamarindo. After an easy and quick land border crossing we made our first stop we made our way to lake Nicaragua. The full-day tour I took through Viator included a visit to the Catarina Viewpoint and market, the Masaya Volcano, the colonial city of Granada, and a cruise on Lake Nicaragua with a stop at Monkey Island. We also enjoyed a delicious traditional Nicaraguan breakfast and lunch.
Breakfast on the Shores of Lake Nicaragua
Our first stop was at a small restaurant on the shores of the impressive Lake Nicaragua. Here we enjoyed a traditional Nicaraguan breakfast of scrambled eggs, gallo pinto, cheese and fried plantains. You can’t visit Nicaragua without eating some gallo pinto (rice and beans). Nicaraguans eat this staple for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and there are endless variations of this simple dish sometimes the recipe includes pieces of chicken or beef and usually some fresh greens or even hot peppers for those who like things with a bit of heat.
We also had a few minutes to explore the shore of lake Nicaragua, the largest freshwater lake in Central America but also one of the most interesting and unique in the world. The lake is home to over 400 islets, some of which have become popular tourist destinations for their natural beauty, rich history, and unique culture. One of the most noteworthy islets is Ometepe Island, which is located in the middle of the lake and is formed by two majestic volcanoes, Concepcion and Maderas.
Awe-Inspiring Views of Masaya Volcano
For those seeking an adventure that will leave a lasting impression, a visit to the Masaya volcano is an absolute must. During my trip to Nicaragua, I had the opportunity to look into the active crater of this incredible natural wonder, and it was an experience I’ll never forget.
What sets Masaya apart from other active volcanoes in Central America is its accessibility. Visitors can easily drive right up to the crater and park right next to it, making it a convenient option for travelers with limited time. I was able to witness the constantly spewing gas plumes and, on a clear night, see the lava glow deep inside the crater.
But that’s not all Masaya National Park has to offer. Hiking one of the many trails in the park gives you a chance to take in the eerie and desolate landscape where grasses fight to grow and partially cover old lava flows from the volcano’s last major eruption in the 1700s. If you’re looking for an awe-inspiring adventure that will leave a lasting impression, be sure to add Masaya to your Nicaragua itinerary.
Exploring the History and Culture of Granada
If you’re looking for a taste of history and culture in Nicaragua, Granada is the perfect place to start. During my visit, I was struck by how the city’s pastel-hued colonial houses and Spanish-inspired architecture blended seamlessly with the laid-back tropical vibe of the area. It’s no wonder that visitors from all over the world are drawn to the city’s streets and many end up staying longer than planned.
One of the highlights of Granada is the stunning bright yellow cathedral, which overlooks the central park. This is a great place to people-watch and soak up the local atmosphere. As a hub for Nicaraguans, it’s always buzzing with activity and energy. From here, it’s easy to explore the city’s many cultural and historical sites or venture out to discover the natural beauty of Nicaragua.
Exploring the Islets of Granada
One of the most memorable experiences during my dat trip to Nicaragua was exploring the Islets of Granada, located in the vast Lake Nicaragua. The Islets are made up of over 300 small islands that are perfect for a day trip filled with adventure, history, and breathtaking natural beauty.
As you navigate through the Islets, you will come across uninhabited islands as well as others that are privately owned with beautiful vacation homes, hotels, and even restaurants where you can make a short stop for lunch. The islands also have a rich colonial history, and you can visit San Pablo fort, which was built during the eighteenth century to protect Granada against pirates and invaders. One of the highlights of my trip was visiting the monkey-inhabited islands where tour boats often stop, and tourists can feed the monkeys. The more confident spider monkeys would often jump aboard to get a closer look at their visitors while the white-faced capuchins were curious but kept their distance.
Beautiful Views of Laguna de Apoyo
The tour makes a stop at the Catarina overlook where you can take in the stunning views of the Laguna de Apoyo. Laguna de Apoyo is a crater lake located in Nicaragua between the cities of Granada and Masaya. It is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike due to its crystal-clear waters, natural beauty, and peaceful surroundings. The crystal-clear waters of the lagoon were a sight to behold, and I immediately wished I had more time to spend exploring the area.
Here you will also find a artisan market. The Catarina Artisan Market is one of the most popular attractions in the area. Here, visitors can browse an array of handmade products, including ceramics, textiles, jewelry, and wood carvings, all made by local artisans. The market is also a great place to try traditional Nicaraguan food and drink, such as coffee and fruit juices, while enjoying the beautiful views of the lake and surrounding countryside.