Getting around Nicaragua is easy, but it took a little time to figure it out. On our first trip we chose to rent a car. The highways are great and the car gave us a lot of flexibility to go wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted. It did carry a few practical challenges.
In Managua, there are no street signs or addresses, so navigating the city can be a little challenging. Also, we encountered some unexpected traffic hazards, including motorcycles driving between lanes, pedestrians crossing wherever a break in traffic allowed, horse-drawn carts, carts pulled by men, potholes, road construction without any warning signs, and the infamous traffic circles.
On The Road
The Nicaraguan police are notorious for issuing traffic tickets, and we got two for lane changes within thirty meters of an intersection (although my wife maintains those were my fault). On our second visit, we used a car service (NicaRoads.com), which we were able to book by email before our visit. Our driver, Luis Payan, calmly and safely negotiated the hazards for us and was happy to accommodate us whenever our plans changed. In our experience, this wasn’t any more expensive than renting a car, but much more relaxing, although it did require advance planning.
Planning Your Own Trip
If you are looking for active pursuits, Nicaragua has plenty to offer—hiking, surfing, climbing volcanoes, volcano boarding, and we even found a stand-up paddleboard tour on the Rio Tamarindo. We relaxed on more than a few beautiful beaches and watched the sunset at the most distant spot on Punta Jesus Maria.
A couple of my favorite tours were the historical tours in León (Sandino Tours) and Managua (Gerald Duran, toursbylocals.com). Visiting the local markets in Granada and León were highlights, and the Huembes Market in Managua is amazing. Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua is a jewel not to be missed. Dan suggested we rent scooters, and this great suggestion allowed us to see the whole island, including a fascinating tour of the coffee plantation and ancient petroglyphs.