The best of Nicaragua—a hiking, kayaking, & wildlife adventure tour
With some 40 volcanoes, vast freshwater caldera lakes, and the second largest rainforest in the Americas, Nicaragua is the next great eco destination. Discover the country’s many habitats as you kayak through a 300-island archipelago on Lake Nicaragua, hike through verdant cloud forest on Volcan Mombacho, and marvel at pre-Columbian artifacts on an island volcano. Spot monkeys, macaws, and other jungle wildlife in the diversity hotspots of Rio San Juan and the Indio-Maiz Biological Reserve. Visit vibrant markets and artisan studios in the pueblo blanco of Catarina, and explore the lovely colonial town of Granada. This active adventure is great for families, so let our expert local guides introduce you to the hidden wonders of Nicaragua.
- Explore Central America’s hottest emerging eco destination, accompanied by expert naturalist guides
- Watch for incredibly diverse wildlife as you kayak through multiple islets and hike forest-clad volcanoes
- Stay in historic colonial Granada with horse drawn carriages and be transported to a different time unchanged by modernity
Duration: 9 days Start Location: Managua End Location: ManaguaDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive in Managua – Laguna de Apoyo
Arrive in Managua. Your trip leader or a representative will meet you outside the customs and immigration area at the airport. He or she will answer questions, brief you on the immediate arrangements, and transfer you to an eco-resort nestled on the banks of the Apoyo Lagoon, a 500-foot-deep caldera lake set within a dry tropical forest (45-minute drive). Our accommodation is Posada Ecologica La Abuela, which boasts awe-inspiring views, a waterfront restaurant and bar, and a roaming group of monkeys! Evening “welcome” dinner and trip orientation.
Day 2 : Volcan Mombacho – Catarina
You may be awakened by the daily chorus of howler monkeys! After breakfast we depart for a morning hike at Volcan Mombacho, located about 10 miles from our hotel. (We will have a special private tour since the park is officially closed Monday through Wednesday.) We will be greeted by our local conservation partner who manages the park—Fundacion Cocibolca—and the naturalist will give a brief overview about what makes this place so special. Lush shade-grown coffee plantations cover the lower slopes and we will have a brief stop at the coffee finca to sample some of the fresh product.
Once we arrive at the visitor center, we will have two options for exploring Mombacho’s cloud forest. One is a short hike (about a mile) with an interpretive emphasis—explaining the complex plant community, observing the many orchid species, and taking time to observe the wildlife. The second option is to hike the four-mile Jaguar Trails, which takes two to three hours with a climb of about 800 feet in elevation. Both options boast spectacular views, including Laguna Apoyo, Masaya Volcano, Lake Nicaragua, the colonial city of Granada, and the hundreds of islands called Las Isletas.
After our morning hike we will visit the charming community of Catarina for lunch and a tour of the artisan markets. We will also have a private tour of some artists’ studios for a special local cultural experience. Optional hike through the tropical forest back to our hotel or ride back on our transportation.
Back at the hotel, kayaks and small sailboats are available for those who want to get out and explore. The water is relatively warm and great for swimming. The wildlife is excellent with howler monkeys frequently visiting the fruit trees outside our rooms.
Day 3 : Granada – Las Isletas
We will have an early morning birding option for those interested. After a leisurely breakfast we will transfer to the town of Granada on the shores of Lake Nicaragua. Granada is the oldest colonial city in Central America (founded by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Hernández de Córdoba in 1524) and is rich in colonial architecture. (Nicaragua's currency, the córdoba, is named after him.) After we check into our hotel we head down to the lake for a kayak paddle through a beautiful archipelago of more than 300 islands, an interesting mix of quiet backwaters filled with birds and local dwellings. We will return in the mid-afternoon with some free time to explore the charming city of Granada. Our accommodation is at the historical Hotel Alhambra, located on the central square in Granada.
Day 4 : Zapatera National Park
After breakfast we go by boat to Zapatera National Park, an island that’s an extinct volcano located a few miles offshore Lake Nicaragua and about a 45-minute boat ride from Granada. We’ll spend most of the day here, exploring the important archaeological sites of La Punta de las Figuras and Zonzapote, rich in pre-Columbian artifacts. There is also a network of caves, rock art, and a small community. We can also take an optional hike to the summit of Zapatera Volcano (2,063') through lush tropical forests abounding with wildlife. We will explore this area on foot and have a picnic lunch with spectacular views of Volcan Mombacho and Lake Nicaragua.
Day 5 : Transfer to Sabalos Lodge
Travel by plane (or land transfer depending on changing flight schedules) to the small community of San Carlos. After lunch in San Carlos, we take to smaller boats and head to the rainforests of the Río San Juan, located on the southeast border with Costa Rica. This area is a Conservation International Mega-Diversity Hotspot for wildlife. Accommodation is at Sabalos Lodge, located right at the water’s edge, with howler and white-faced monkeys ready to serenade you and numerous beautiful resident birds, as well as migratory birds from North America.
Day 6 : El Castillo – Río San Juan
Over the next two days we’ll have a number of different options to explore the area by kayak, canoe, on foot, raft, and motorized boat. One of the historical highlights of the area is the remnants of the old Spanish fort of El Castillo. Originally built in 1602, the turbulent colonial history of Nicaragua often started and ended with conflicts at El Castillo. We will balance our visit with a jungle trek into the nearby Indio-Maiz Biological Reserve, a 640,000-acre wilderness with an amazing collection of plant and animal life (600 bird species and 200 species of mammals!).
Day 7 : Río San Juan
We will have a number of different activity options today. After a full day in the rainforest we’ll have an optional trip to spot caimans at night near the lodge.
Day 8 : Return to Managua
Optional birding walk in the morning, then transfer to San Carlos for our flight to Managua. Upon arrival in Managua, we will check into our hotel and have the option of visiting some of Managua’s impressive museums and art galleries. Our local conservation partners from Fundacion Cocibolca will join us for our farewell dinner.
Day 9 : Departure
Transfer to the airport and depart on homeward-bound flights.
DATES: Best time to go: January - February, September - December Departures: Dec 20 - 28, 2014 Feb 7 - 15, 2015 Mar 14 - 22, 2015 Aug 8 - 16, 2015 Dec 19 - 27, 2015
$3,395 (6 - 12 members)
Hotel Los Robles
Situated in Granada, Hotel Plaza Colon is in the historical district and close to Granada Cathedral, Parque Central, and Mi Museo Granada Collection. Also nearby are Church of Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes and Church of Xalteva.
This romantic hotel features two restaurants. Complimentary wireless Internet access is available in public areas. Additional amenities include an outdoor pool, laundry facilities, and a safe deposit box at the front desk.
Apoyo ResortLaguna de Apoyo
Apoyo Resort comprises 60 villas & 8 apartments situated on a hillside adjacent to a nature reserve offering accommodation, meals, and access to a swimming beach. The resort has been designed to blend into the environment, and take advantage of crater, lake and mountain views. The Villas have 1, 2, or 3 bedrooms with a/c . These villas are made with mainly natural materials and allow you to feel the nature around you. Internet access and phone is available at the reception desk. Access to villas is by safari car from the main reception area.
The Laguna de Apoyo ecosystem is one of Central America’s most unique environments, and an ecosystem unto itself. It is truly exotic and one of a kind. Within the lake and amongst the forested hillside on which the property sits can be found: 200 species of birds (65 migratory) – including toucans, hummingbirds, oropendulas, parrots, and falcons; 220 butterfly species; Howler and white-face monkeys; 500 species of plants and tropical dry trees – including mahogany, black rosewood, and orchids. Also fish species found nowhere else in the world
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.
Mark Willuhn has been leading tours in Mesoamerica since 1996, and his enthusiasm for ancient Maya culture and tropical ecosystems has taken him through southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Mark is passionate about sharing his knowledge of the region, and believes the best way to understand its culture and natural wonders is firsthand, by hiking, kayaking, and snorkeling. His dedication to the area's rich natural and cultural heritage means he works with local guides, operators and conservation organizations. Mark has an undergraduate degree in forestry from Colorado State University and an MBA from San Francisco State University. He has guest lectured at the graduate level at Colorado State University, participated and presented at numerous workshops relating to micro-enterprise development and sustainable tourism, and facilitated numerous planning workshops. Mark's vast knowledge and knack for storytelling makes this area's culture and history come alive.