Costa Rica & Nicaragua
Price starts at $650 Land per person, per day, double occupancy.
Day 1: Managua / Apoyo Lagoon, Nicaragua
Welcome to Nicaragua. Upon arrival in Managua, you proceed through Immigration and Customs, and claim your luggage. Outside the Customs Hall, a representative from Big Five will be waiting to greet you and transfer you in a private car to your hotel, about a 45-minute drive to Apoyo Lagoon.
The beautiful Laguna de Apoyo is located between Granada and Masaya, and is the result of a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. In 1991, the lagoon was declared as a natural reserve. Laguna de Apoyo is said to have the cleanest water of all fresh-water lakes in Nicaragua. The lake is easily accessible by car and with its warm water and beautiful surroundings, it attracts many visitors, international as well as domestic, but the lake still manages to avoid overcrowding. Nature-based activities include shoreline or forest walks where you may encounter monkeys, hummingbirds, toucans and much more. The flora and fauna in this region are incredible diverse. Take a swim, kayak, scuba dive or try your hand at paragliding.
Situated at the rim of the Laguna de Apoyo Crater, Pacaya Lodge offers a boutique, luxury experience. Each of the 26 rooms offers stunning views over the jungle canopy and the crater lake, with Granada and Lake Nicaragua just visible in the distance. The lodge and guest rooms feature furniture, art and decor created by local artists and artisans, blending a distinctly local feel with the lodge’s warm, contemporary design. With ingredients fresh from the organic garden or sourced from local farmers, Pacaya offers a culinary experience inspired by traditional Nicaraguan favorites with a menu featuring a modern take on local dishes. The on-site spa offers a range of massage, facial and body treatments. Other amenities include a yoga deck, a floating deck and paddleboards, an infinity pool, wireless internet and private balcony with hammocks. Pacaya Lodge and Spa – Double Room King
Day 2: Apoyo Lagoon
This morning, you are transferred to Granada where to enjoy a guided tour of the city. No visit to Granada is complete without an exploration of the historic center. Founded by the Spanish in 1524, Granada is one of the oldest colonial cities in the Americas. Discover the city both on foot and by traditional horse-drawn carriage. Visit San Francisco Church and adjacent San Francisco Convent, built in 1529, and the Merced Church, where you have an opportunity to climb the bell tower for spectacular views over the city, Lake Nicaragua, and Mombacho Volcano.
Then, you explore a colorful artisan market at Masaya, where you can browse quality Nicaraguan handicrafts. The attractive booths, large breezy walkways and high quality handicrafts make this market Nicaragua’s most famous. Some of the more standout pieces found at National Artisan Market in Masaya are hammocks, hammock chair, baskets, primitive art, pottery, wooden bowls – all locally made. Savor lunch overlooking the Apoyo Lagoon before you visit San Juan de Oriente. This is one of the White Villages, noted for the white colonial-style churches and the other buildings. Here you can met and talk to some of the local craftsmen who produce fine clay ceramics.
This evening, you visit Volcano Masaya National Park, when wildlife is active – the diurnal animals are looking for a place to sleep and the nocturnal creatures are waking up. You may spot green parakeets returning to their nests inside the crater. The Masaya is very active currently, and for those who have always wanted to see an active volcano, now you have the opportunity to see the boiling lava inside the crater. Because of the volcanic activity it is possible that circumstances do not allow you up the volcano and that the park is temporarily closed down. Pacaya Lodge and Spa – Double Room King (B)
Day 3: Apoyo Lagoon
Today, you enjoy a very special encounter at the Centro Social Tio Antonio. In 2012, a Spanish man named Antonio decided to invest in Nicaraguan youth who are disabled. Originally, he imagined supporting an already existing effort, but soon discovered there were no such organizations providing job skills to blind, deaf, hard of hearing and young people with limited abilities. He launched Centro Social Tio Antonio, a hammock workshop, and Cafe de las Sonrisas in Granada to help address the problem. While there, students are able to help make hammocks. You will meet a young blind man who made a hammock for Pope Francis; and a man who is fluent in English, Spanish and Nicaraguan sign language. The language has a lot in common with American Sign Language (ASL) but is its own unique language.
If you like, you can see and buy hammocks in several sizes in support of this project. One of the activities here is turning discarded plastic bags into an “endless hammock.” The bags are tied together and woven to create a hammock that will continue to grow. No end date has been set for the effort that is cleaning up plastic by repurposing it. Pacaya Lodge and Spa – Double Room King (B)
Day 4: Apoyo Lagoon / Leon
This morning, you set out on a three-hour drive to Leon, a cultural and historic city with an authentic atmosphere where visitors can easily connect with the locals. Begin exploring on foot one of Nicaragua’s oldest and most influential cities. It is considered Nicaragua´s historical, cultural, educational and religious capital. Leon was dismantled, moved, and rebuilt due to volcanic activities. It was ransacked by pirates, and reconstructed, and has battled back and forth with Managua to be the most important city in Nicaragua. During your guided walking tour, visit revolutionary murals, baroque and neoclassical churches and an art museum displaying works by internationally renowned artists. A local market, colonial buildings, including Nicaragua´s first university, will also be explored. In addition, you will climb to the rooftop of Central America´s largest cathedral, registered on UNESCO´s list of World Heritage, to enjoy the astonishing views over the city and surrounding Maribios Volcanic Chain.
The city comes to life at night due to the large student population, and you can enjoy live music, folkloric performances and much more. Other options include a visit to the nearby beaches of Poneloya and Las Peñitas or culture buffs may want to visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of León Viejo, where the city was originally founded in 1524 by the Spanish conquistadors. This was the original location of León and is now home to the town of Puerto Momotombo. In the evenings, you can take in live music, folkloric performances and much more. Your hotel is one of León’s most elegant. It was rebuilt on the grounds of the old San Francisco Convent, using the same Spanish-colonial style, including a magnificent inner courtyard garden and views of the San Francisco Church, which dates back to 1639. El Convento – Double Room Standard (B)
Day 5: Leon
This morning, you set out on a special excursion to Cerro Negro. Only formed in 1850, it is the youngest volcano in Central America as well as one of the most active. Its last eruption was in 1999. It is only about 712 meters/2336 feet above sea level, but the ascent is steep and tough. You should be in generally good physical condition as the loose rocks, steep inclination, and heavy boards make the hike a challenge, though there are frequent stops to inform you about the history of the volcano and point out features such as the craters and lava fields. Before heading to the steeper and outer rim for the real point of descent, you can do a short test run inside the crater. After some orientation, you don the protective equipment and get ready for the ride of your life! You then ash board all the way down to the base of Cerro Negro. El Convento – Double Room Standard (B)
Day 6: Leon / Matagalpa
Today, you are transferred in a private car on a three and a half-hour drive to Matagalpa located in northern Nicaragua. It has been referred to as ‘the pearl of the North” with its fresh climate. It sits in a valley, surrounded by a mountains. Matagalpa is the center of Nicaragua’s coffee production. The city center has many hotels and restaurants as well as museums. The area nearby is home to coffee farms, small villages and the waterfalls of the Santa Emilia River. The Apante Hill Nature Reserve is a great place to hike.
You arrive at the largest and highest coffee plantation of Nicaragua, La Cumplida. The ranch house was used as offices, lodging for technicians and some executive staff for some 20 years but has recently been renovated. With just five rooms, it hosts guest scientists, visitors and students through agreements with universities. The plantation covers an area of 1421 hectares/3511 acres, of which 642 hectares/1586 acres have are devoted to coffee production. Established in 1992, the plantation has a goal of becoming a leader in coffee production and export while utilizing manufacturing excellence, modern agricultural techniques, social responsibility and respect for the environment to help transform the area.
This afternoon, you learn about the coffee production. A network of forest plantations shades the coffee, helps to diversify and protect ecosystems and water sources. In the last five years, the plantation has employed scientific research to create varieties of hybrid coffees that guarantee excellent quality as well as resistance to diseases. Their commitment to the positive environment practices has improved water recirculation systems. After your exploration of coffee, continue on with a visit of local school, where you will interact with children and learn how the local communities, are benefitting from the thriving coffee and cacao cooperative. La Cumplida Coffee Finca (B,L,D)
Day 7: Matagalpa / San Juan del Sur
This morning, you are taken to the airstrip for your flight to San Juan Del Sur, one of the most popular destinations in Nicaragua. Once a quiet fishing village, San Juan del Sur has emerged into one of the country´s major beach destinations. Fortunately, the town has maintained its charm and laid back atmosphere. It has a number of hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs that offer a vibrant nightlife. The beaches are great for surfing almost year round as well as snorkeling, diving, sailing and whale watching. You can do a canopy tour just outside of town. The protected La Flor Beach and Wildlife Reserve shelters marine turtles.
Twenty minutes north of San Juan del Sur, Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge sits on a hidden bay within a nature reserve with an estuary leading into the rainforest. You cross a suspension bridge over a canyon to get to the rustic, wood and stone bungalows overlooking miles of private beach. Each is open to ocean breezes on three sides. As part of its eco mission, Morgan s Rock has its own farm for a genuine Nicaraguan breakfast experience. You are invited to help milk the cows and collect eggs for your meal. The property is just the place to enjoy a touch of luxury in tropical, Pacific beach surroundings. All bungalows face west to allow for maximum ocean viewing. All access to bungalows requires stair and path walking as bungalows are connected to the main lodge by an amazing suspension bridge crossing a forested canyon. Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge (B,D)
Days 8 & 9: San Juan del Sur
You are free to enjoy the activities offered by the lodge or simply chill out on the beach. You can chose one excursion per day. Get involved with your breakfast! The unusual Breakfast at the Farm program has you collecting eggs from the chicken coup, milking cows, and pounding corn to make fresh, homemade tortillas. The hard yet enjoyable work culminates in a family-style Nicaraguan breakfast at the farm house. Breakfast is a hearty affair of gallo pinto (Nicaraguan rice and beans), eggs, milk, hot coffee and freshly pressed juice and of course those delicious handmade corn tortillas that you learned how to prepare. What better way to start your day than with a fulfilling, organic breakfast which you’ve helped to create from scratch. Truly a “farm to table” experience. The two-hour Jungle Walk takes you into the forest to learn about indigenous species and wildlife with possible sightings including howler monkeys, white face monkeys, spider monkeys, the two and three toed sloth, coatis (Brazilian aardvark), opossums, agouti, gorgeous tropical birds and reptiles in many shapes and colors. The Property Tour explores the vast 1,619-hectare/4,000-acre property in search of the abundant wildlife and to learn about the conservation initiatives such as our reforestation projects and sustainable tree farm, where trees are planted and harvested for commercial use to lessen the strain on Nicaragua’s valuable forests. You also visit the organic farm and stables. If you love to ride, set out on discover virgin forest on horseback. On this guided trek, you may come across monkeys, sloths and a variety of tropical birds in their natural habitats. When you leave the forest you come to a coastal hill that offers views of the entire property and beyond to San Juan del Sur. End the tour with a ride on the hacienda’s secluded beach and gallop across a mile-long stretch of white sand and surf. On the Sunset Tour, you go for a short walk that begins at the private beach and leads to a lovely setting on a hill overlooking the ocean. On the Night Walk, you have the chance to discover nocturnal creatures and experience a unique after-dark trek with expert local guides and a good flashlight in hand ensure your safety as well as an awesome, educational, and fun adventure. Some animals you may expect to see along the way include opossums, bats, owls, skunks, porcupines, deer, and even sleeping birds. Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge (B,L,D)
Day 10: San Juan del Sur / Managua / Depart
This morning, you are transferred to Managua Airport during a three and a half-hour in time to meet your onward flight home. (B)
Land price, per person, double occupancy: From $650 per person, per day.