I just had one of the best trips of my entire life to a place you may have never heard about- San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. My sister and her husband are avid surfers and knew they wanted a destination wedding. When a friend suggested the small surf town on the west coast of this stunning Central American developing country they agreed that it was just what they were looking for. They ended up getting nearly 60 friends and family members to come out and celebrate with them! I stayed for about a week and I want to break this up into a few posts starting with this one with tips and tricks. Here’s a photo of the dreamy couple:
Before You Go to Nicaragua
It’s a great idea to visit a travel clinic and make sure you’re up to date on vaccines. You can find the CDC recommendations for Nicaragua here. I already had my tDAP which lasts 10 years. I got a Hep A vaccine (shot) and took a Typhoid vaccine (daily tablets for 4 days). I did not get sick at all on my trip 🙂
Money in Nicaragua
The money used in Nicaraguan dollar is called a Cordoba and the exchange rate is roughly 30 cordobas = $1 USD. Before my trip to Spain and France I found that ordering foreign currency from Bank of America (my bank) in advance gave me the best rate with the lowest fee so I got $100 USD (+a $7 fee) exchanged for $2800 cordobas.
I would say that exchanging money is unnecessary as you can pay for most things in Nicaragua with American dollars and you’ll typically get Cordobas back for your change. The only place that refused my American dollars was when I went to the Jesus statue in San Juan Del Sur and luckily I had enough Cordobas to get in. Many places also took credit cards with no problems, but because Nicaragua frequently loses power you want to bring at least some cash. Depending on how you travel I’d bring about $300-400 USD per week which will be more than enough.
What to Pack for Nicaragua
Bathing suits!!! I wore my bathing suit every single day in Nicaragua. It is incredibly hot and humid there plus all of the walking and yoga meant wearing my swimsuit underneath workout type clothes or a cute cover-up was a perfect combo. It’s a surf town which means the waves are good and it also means the water is a little more rough so bring a suit that will stay on if you know what I mean. Luckily the water is at least warm!
Bug spray with DEET. There is a higher risk for Zika in Nicaragua so you want to protect yourself from mosquitos. This is also why I preferred to wear leggings at night to keep my legs protected from any bugs. There are a lot of bugs in Nicaragua. Like an insane amount.
My sunglasses are BP 55mm Metal Rim Cat Eye Sunglasses in Black ($12!) these are super sturdy and have been my go to pair still!
Sunscreen. I’m crazy about sun protection and loved having my swim shirt which I wore every time I was in the pool or ocean despite it making me look like a ginger kid on vacation from England. The swim shirt is also a rash guard which is a necessity if you’re going to try surfing. You’re also going to need some good hats and sunscreen. I use Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Ultra-Sheer Daily Defense in SPF 30 with Antioxidants for my face and Banana Boat Sunscreen Sport Performance Cool Zone SPF 30 on my body.
Hats. Again, protecting your precious face from the sun is not optional ladies and gentleman! I wore this cute Nordstrom C’est La Vie Floppy Straw Hat by BP ($28). I got my black on black LA Dodgers hat on Ebay, but Nordstrom sells white writing on a black LA hat ($25).
Sturdy sandals/tennis shoes/water shoes. Most roads are not paved in Nicaragua and there are huge rocky hills to climb up and down so a thin little flip flop isn’t really going to cut it. I was super happy to have my water shoes that I had bought for canoeing last summer as I could go from the beach to the streets and walk long distances in them without getting uncomfortable.
Dramamine/motion sickness medication. The roads are bumpy and rides in cars and vans can be long so if you’ve ever been car sick or seasick even once in your life I highly recommend bringing some just in case. Most of the girls in our group grew up in Florida on boats and half of us got incredibly seasick when we went on a catamaran ride one of the days.
A waterproof watch. This one is optional, but I found my FitBit-esque Garmin Vivofit 2 Activity Tracker very handy in Nicaragua. It’s water (and sweat) resistant and helped me figure out how far away places were since we did a lot of walking.
A small waterproof speaker or a cable converter if you have an iPhone 7. I love my MagicBox II Bluetooth Portable Wireless Speaker. Again this is optional, but who doesn’t like listening to music when you’re in the pool? Speaking of, my brother made some amazing playlists on Spotify for the wedding- Clean Party Playlist and Dirty Party Playlist.
Casual clothes. This is a beach town so casual dresses with sandals are going to work even at the fanciest restaurants.
Visiting Granada, Nicaragua
Check out the blog I Draw Maps by Nate Padavick to see more incredible maps like this one of Granada, Nicaragua.
We went to Granada on a whim with a suggestion from our driver that had picked us up from the airport and it was awesome! Granada is super colorful colonial town with beautiful old churches, lovely parks, and access to Lake Nicaragua. We spent about an hour total there because we were all jet lagged, but in that hour we got to see two amazing churches.
Me and my sister in front of the Granada Cathedral in Granada aka Catedral de Granada , Nicaragua
Churches in Granada, Nicaragua
We got to quickly snap some photos at the Granada Cathedral aka Catedral de Granada (the huge yellow one in the center of town by Parque Central) and Guadalupe Church aka Iglesia de Guadalupe. I would have liked to have seen Iglesia de La Merced too since it’s one of the oldest churches in all of Central America.
PS This is the best pose ever when you’re in the same clothes from the day before and look haggard from the plane 😂. Here’s my sister and her husband in Granada, Nicaragua:
Parque Central aka Central Parque in Granada Nicaragua
Parque Central in Granada, Nicaragua
In Parque Central in Granada there is a lively atmosphere with lots of street vendors selling souvenirs. It sounded like some guy was screaming “PICKLES” maybe to sell? I didn’t look too closely at the different carts because I wasn’t in the market for a souvenir at that point.
#tbt to #granadanicaragua some travel photography tips: ✨This is a great pose when you’ve just arrived on a red eye and haven’t changed your clothes or fixed your face. ✨Always say yes when someone asks if you want to check out a new location when you’re traveling, you never know if the weather/schedule/circumstances will happen, so do it in case you don’t get the chance again. As soon as our driver asked if we wanted to make a pit stop in multi colored beautiful colonial #Granada I immediately squealed “yes!!” And I’m so glad I did 🤗 ✨Always travel with your amazingly talented photographer sister 📷@hannah_claire_photography 😉
We got some great (and much needed after a red eye) iced lattes at a little cafe called Cafe Las Flores.
The groom and bride enjoying Granada, Nicaragua at Cafe Las Flores.
From the patio we could see the rainbow of horse drawn carriages ready to give visitors tours of Granada.
That was the end of our short little stop in Granada, Nicaragua! Keep an eye out for my San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua posts coming soon!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Read more about what that means and how it works on my Disclosure page.