The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

- Robert Frost

the 1 less traveled by

A move to Nicaragua

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Mombacho Bridge

6 Day Southern Nicaraguan Itinerary

I’m not travel agent, but after 2 years of living in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua I’ve had my fair share of friends and family come visit. My husband and I blundered the itineraries of the first couple visitors by planning extraordinary adventures for them to conquer while on their 1 week vacation away from grind of North America. Turns out, people go on vacation to mostly relax! Lesson learned, we now have perfected the best course of action to crush Nicaragua from an San Juan del Sur base.

Day 1: Take in paradise

Playa HermosaWe’ve learned that when coming to San Juan del Sur, what everyone really wants to see is a beautiful beach. The most beautiful beach, maybe in all of Nicaragua is arguably, Playa Hermosa. For a $3 entrance fee, this beach comes with palapas equipped with hammocks and tables & chairs, bathrooms, fresh water showers, surfboard or boogie board rentals, spa services, horseback riding, and of course a restaurant and bar. It’s easy to spend the day on this massive white sandy beach and soak in the tranquility you came for.

For Dinner we usually opt for something more lively and take our visitors to the only brewery in town, Cerveceria. Here you can sip on strong beer, order from a American-Style menu, and listen to live music.

Day 2: Enjoy town

San Juan del Sur has a lot of offer and it’s nice to devote a whole day to enjoying downtown. For Breakfast we like to take our friends to our favorite spot, El Gato Negro. The house roasted Nicaraguan coffee always hits the spot. It’s easy to get lost in the mouth watering food descriptions, but you really can’t go wrong with what you order.

Villas de PalermoAfter breakfast a stroll on the bay or walk around the shops is a good way to work off your meal. This day is all about leisure and spontaneity, so do what you want. If shopping is what you crave, do it! If having a cocktail excites you, go for it!

We love Villas de Palermo pool & restaurant, so if our visitors are not staying someplace with a pool or feel like going out, then this is the first place we suggest. The food is good, so it’s a great place to soak up some sun and enjoy some lunch with an ocean view.

Happy Hour is a big part of our life and our new favorite spot is The Beach House. Sunsets are always spectacular in San Juan del Sur and this nautical-inspired restaurant is the perfect place to end the day.

Day 3: Get some culture – Granada

Quesillo placeStart your day early and grab a quesillo for breakfast on the way, just outside of Catrina. Quesillos are a corn tortilla wrapped around a soft white cheese with cream. If you want, they will add an onion & vinegar based chili. You eat them by ripping a hole in the plastic sandwich bag and chewing pieces out of it, so it’s a great food for on-the-go.

IsletasFirst stop is Isletas de Granada. Drive East through town until you reach the lake, then South until you come to where all the boat tours leave from. There’s a restaurant connected to the boat dock, so if you’re interested in a full meal or a drink before or after your ride, they’ve got you covered.  An hour boat ride through the Islets should be no more than $20 for the whole boat. They take you around the small, individually owned islands while you admire the homes. Last stop before you return is Monkey Island where they feed a few bananas to the inhabitants and then you weave your way through the other side of the islands. There’s longer tours where you stop at an island restaurant, but I’ve only done the hour long.

Depending on your mood, Granada has a lot to offer. Horse & buggy tour around the town, tour of the cathedral, Chocolate Museum, A butterfly sanctuary, hanging in the park, or just leisurely strolling through town, stopping in on whatever you fancy.

Our favorite place for lunch The Garden Cafe, not only because it has delicious food, but because they devote 2 whole rooms to the workmanship of local craftspeople and non profits.

We usually head home before dinner because we don’t enjoy driving at night out of town. If you do stay for dinner, Restaurante El Zaguan is a great choice. If you’re too tired to go out or cook, Don Monchis Pizzeria delivers all over San Juan del Sur.

Day 4: Action thriller

Parque AdventuraStart with a delicious culture experience at the Mercado in town. There are 4 different restaurants to choose from. All are good, so choose the one that has seats available.

Zip Lining, or Canopy Tour as they call it in Central America, if fun and relatively cheap in Nicaragua. Parque de Adventura is our favorite to take visitors because the Polaris ride up the narrow trail is an experience of its own. Once at the top there is a huge platform where you can buy a sandwich and drinks and take in the massive views. There is also a little park for the kids and an iguana sanctuary.

El TimonFor happy hour, get to the beach between 4pm & 6pm and go to El Timon for $1 appetizers. This place gets over priced outside of happy hour, so walk over to G&G Gourmet for an outstanding meal at affordable prices.

Day 5: Volcano Day

Mombacho ViewGet a breakfast bagel to-go from Dale Pues and start at Mombacho Volcano where you can take a tour to the top and walk the perimeter or do the coffee tour. The views from here are out of a fairyland, so prepare yourself to be astonished.

Laguna de ApoyoGet to Laguna de Apoyo no later than lunch time. All the resorts there charge about $6 to use their facility for the day. They seem to all have kayaks, floating docks, SUP boards, and restaurant with servers. We usually go to Laguna Beach Club, but we hear Monkey Hut and Paradiso Hostel are great as well. Relax, swim, and enjoy the spectacular view of an imploded volcano.  

Masaya Volcano 5Give yourself at least an hour travel time to get to Volcano Masaya by 5pm. There might be a wait, but you’ll be one of first groups for the night tour and be able to watch the sunset over the active, glowing volcano.

Day 6: Hermosa again

It’s your last day before back to the grind, so why not enjoy a relaxing day on the beach again. Start with a smoothie, or maybe a piña colada and chill. For dinner, the new mediterranean restaurant, Jicaro Garden is a great way to end your vacation. Leave full, happy, and relaxed.

There’s so much to do in Nicaragua beyond what is reachable in a few hours from San Juan del Sur, but most of our friends & family don’t have the ability to take more than a week away. You are still able to get a taste of what Nicaragua has to offer without having to explore the whole country. This itinerary has been tried and true with just enough relaxation, culture, and action to keep you talking about Nicaragua for years to come.

Went to see the active Volcano Masaya last night.

A Trip to Masaya Volcano

About a month ago we heard that the Masaya Volcano was not only active as we had seen before, but now bubbling lava. We visit Masaya Volcano regularly when friends come into town because unlike anything in the States, you can actually drive up to the lip of this active volcano. It is part of our “Volcano Day” when we take our guests to see an active and the imploded volcano of Laguana de Apoyo.  When we heard that it was now flowing lava we knew it was a bucket list moment we could not miss.

We were told to get there at 5pm because 300 people were showing up each night, but time only allowed for about 100 to view. We made the turn off the main road at 5:02pm and there were parked cars already filling the front area before the gate. A lot of people were out of their cars and waiting at the gate, so I got out of the car to investigate.

Cars all waiting for the gates at Masaya Volcano to open.
Cars all waiting for the gates at Masaya Volcano to open.

Turns out it was mostly Nicaraguans who were mad that the park had temporarily closed the gate until 5:30pm at which time they would begin charging the Night Tour fee of $10 per person (fee for kids 4 and under). This may not sound like a lot to you, but the average daily income in Nicaragua is about $6, so this was a lot of money. It was also significantly more than the C$30 (about $1) that Nicaraguans usually pay before 5:30pm.

Filling time waiting for the big event
Filling time waiting for the big event

It appeared that the angry mob had convinced the park attendants that they should be allowed to go up for the lesser price because suddenly there was a stampede of people rushing for their cars & motorcycles. I had to pick up Azalea to make sure she didn’t get trampled over. Once our car finally made its way to the gate we told the attendant that we wanted to do the Night Tour and would wait until 5:30pm to pay our $10 each. The attendant had been shouting something about being allowed 5 minutes at the top and after our 2 hour drive, I wanted to spend more time than that. I also assumed by the word “tour” it meant that we would get a bit more hand holding once at the top.

It wasn’t until 6:30pm that we were able to pay and proceed up the mountain. We think the staff needed the people who paid the lesser fee to leave before we could be allowed to enter, but we are not really sure why the long wait. Finally at the top, we were met with an immense red glow coming out of the cavern like a large witches brew. Instantly, it was worth the wait. The parking attendant had us park backwards in case there was an eruption and we needed to escape quickly.

It was pretty amazing to see the lava bubbling far below. It turned black at the top and then back to fire orange with each bubble. Azalea zoomed around in the dark too close the edge of the crater and so I held tight to her shirt so she couldn’t accidentally hurl herself over the edge. The park only lets a set number of cars up at a time, but it was still pretty busy with everyone trying to capture a photo that did the scene justice.

I'm Hidden

It is very hard to get a good picture or video of the lava. Not only is at night, so everything around it is dark, but the movement of the lava called for a steady hand and a fast shutter speed. I forgot to take my good camera, so we had to make do with my phone camera. I have included in this post some pictures and video off the internet so you can better see what we were looking at.

I'm Hidden

We left Titus with Juanita for the night because we knew he would be unimpressed with the lava we would be getting home late. It was a great little night excursion for us. We left the volcano at around 7:20pm and had a nice dinner before driving home.

Monday Photo Dump – Taking Advantage of Nicaragua has to offer

I'm Hidden

Azalea & I enoying the view from the top of Fortaleza De Coyotepe

Things to do in Masaya

Day Trip to Masaya

My husband, Kharron, works for an American company, which means he gets American holidays off work. We try to use these days to our advantage and spend the day sight seeing parts of Nicaragua.

I purchased a Lonely Planet’s guide to Central America and referenced for ideas on what we should see in Masaya. I had only 3 things on my list because we are learning that in Nicaragua you don’t want to plan too much or you end up disappointed or driving home after dark, which is never recommended.

One of the lookout towers of the fortress
View of one of the lookout towers of the fort

First stop was the Fortaleza De Coyotepe. This fortress was constructed in 1893 by president Zelaya. Built so his troops could easily see enemies approaching and to protect Masaya from the US Marines. During the Somoza family regime, a dungeon was constructed underground below the fortress. The dungeon was used as a political prison and torture chamber. The prisons were very dark and sometimes held more than 800 people. The Sandinistas also used the fortress as a prison before giving it to the Boy Scouts who opened it to visitors.

Kharron & the kids inside a lookout tower.
Kharron & the kids inside a lookout tower.

For $2 per adult, you can walk around the top and get a great view of Masaya and tour the dungeons. There is also a small museum. I hear there are tours, but we were not offered so we did not get one.





IMG_1244Next stop was to see the active volcano at Parque Nacional Volcan Masaya. Named by the Spaniards as the gates to hell, this is the most heavily venting volcano in Nicaragua. For some reason you are allowed to drive right up to it, which also makes it the most accessible.

IMG_1246For $4 you can spend a few minutes at the rim of the volcano, named Plaza de Oviedo, after the 16th-century Spanish monk who descended into the crater to collect lava which he suspected was liquid gold, and came back alive. For between C$10 and C$20 more, you can take a guided walking tour along the trails that lead to some other great views, other craters, and to the Tzinaconostoc Cave where hundreds of bats live. There are horse tours offered for an additional $4 as well. IMG_1248







Last stop was to see the Masaya Artisan Market. IMG_1241We weren’t too impressed with the crafts there, seemed like a lot of the same thing, but worth a trip. We had lunch at one of the restaurants.





On our way home we went by the Masatepe to see the wood furniture stores. We thought we needed to go into town to see all of them, but really they are all off the main road on the way into town. The furniture is really beautiful and a lot of choices of type of wood and styles. Great place to go if you’re furnishing a house here in Nicaragua and are interested in shipping large items back to your home country.