If your idea of roughing it is staying at a hotel without laundry service or Wi-Fi then scratch Nicaragua off your list of must-see places. This is NOT a country for the faint of heart. Yes, it has sun, surf and sand – the holy trinity of most dream vacations - but generally its hotels provide only the bare basics to its guests – a bed, lamp, fan, cold water showers and an air conditioner if you’re willing to pay extra.
Still, Nicaragua is increasingly becoming a hot spot for tourists because of its tropical climate and its abundance of biologically significant and unique ecosystems. In fact, it was named one of the top 10 places to go in the world in 2010. According to a recent article I read in the Globe and Mail, travelers like that it is not as well trodden and cheaper than its popular neighbor to the south, Costa Rica, yet offers similar biodiversity.
As tourists, we have seen the many faces of Nicaragua, from extreme destitution to extraordinary opulence, from barefoot children begging for a few Cordobas to multi-million dollar island homes that have sailboats tethered to their docks and monkeys chained to their trees as symbols of wealth.
Nicaragua’s economic progress has been slowed by a civil war, U.S. trade embargo and natural disasters (including extensive damage from Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and Hurricane Felix in 2007). More than half the population is either underemployed or unemployed. About 40 per cent of the Nicaraguans who are working are employed in agriculture and sector exports are the main contributor to its economy.
Nicaragua is a representative democratic republic and the largest country in Central America with an area of 130,000 square kilometers, although only 20 per cent of the land is suitable for cultivation. Nearly 60 per cent of Nicaragua’s 5.8 million inhabitants are Roman Catholic. Spanish is the predominant language.
Would I recommend Nicaragua as a holiday destination? Yes, just remember that it’s an impoverished paradise. Your accommodations might not be luxurious but the people are friendly and there are plenty of incredible things to see and do. Plus, the beer’s not bad. The tortillas are tasty. And Nicaraguan rum rivals Cuba’s.