Considering a visit to Nicaragua? You might be wondering which of its two coasts you ought to explore. Of course, no matter which coast you land on, there are many things you can do in Nicaragua to make your trip special. Still, it makes sense to compare what the Caribbean vs. Pacific coast of Nicaragua has to offer before you start planning your itinerary. Read on as we share the best beaches you can find on both coasts of Nicaragua.
What Makes Nicaragua So Special?
Nicaragua attracts travelers worldwide with its breathtakingly beautiful nature and a boatload of activities for all types of travelers. Its turbulent history has kept it out of sight of tourists worldwide despite its amazing coastline and inviting culture. And this is what makes Nicaragua so attractive: it has all the features of a tropical haven, but without the overwhelming crowds of tourists.
The Caribbean vs. Pacific Coast of Nicaragua
While most travelers actually prefer to vacation on the Pacific coast, the Caribbean coast also has its fair share of amazing spots and fun events.
The Caribbean coast of Nicaragua is known for its laid-back vibes and Creole culture. Great seafood and tropical islands are trademark features, and its variety of beaches offer different kinds of summer activities. This means you have family-friendly beaches where people come to sunbathe, swim and chill.
On the other hand, the Pacific coast of Nicaragua is famous for its volcanic black sand beaches and strong waves. As a popular surfer destination, some of its beaches are primarily visited by advanced surfers from all over the world!
Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast
The Caribbean coast is more remote in comparison to the Pacific coast. Thanks to this, the Spanish never colonized this area, and as a result, Nicaragua’s population consists of descendants of Nicaraguan indigenous tribes. With descendants of the people of West Indian and African origins forming the English-speaking Creole community, the Caribbean coast is famous for its unique cultural and ethnic diversity.
The Caribbean Festivals
There are several exciting local festivals that take place on the Caribbean coast that display the Nicaraguan culture. The most well-known is the month-long Palo de Mayo festival in Bluefields, an explosive Creole festival initially brought to Nicaragua by European settlers. If the month of May does not work for you, you can attend the equally thrilling Garifuna festival in November.
The Corn Islands
The Corn Islands are the most famous tourist destination on the Caribbean coast. Big Corn, the larger of the Corn Islands, is home to a Creole community that lives in distinctive, multi-colored homes. There are also many jungle trails for hiking on this island.
Little Corn actually used to be a pirate haven. Little Corn is also unique because there are no cars on the island! This means you can enjoy the undiluted sounds of summer waves and swinging palms without being disturbed by any sign of civilization during your stay. Note that this island is excellent for snorkeling fans - you can see various tropical fish species, reef sharks, and rays.
The Pacific Coast of Nicaragua
San Juan del Sur
This city is located on the Pacific Coast in the southern part of Nicaragua. It takes only two hours to reach it from Managua, the country’s capital. The area is extremely popular with ex-pats from the US, Canada, and Europe. However, if you are considering relocating to Nicaragua from the US, you may want to hire a moving crew based in the US. International relocations can be tricky to handle due to international laws and regulations as well as the language barrier.
San Jual del Sur used to be famous for fishing. In the last two decades, the city has established itself as the tourist capital of the country. It is located in a crescent-shaped bay and has many beaches that are great for surfing. In fact, San Jan del Sur has affirmed itself as a top surfing destination, with many surfing competitions taking place here in recent years. Interestingly enough, this is also where you can find one of the tallest statues of Jesus in the world, Christ of the Mercy (around 440 feet!), in the northern part of the bay.
You can easily find your fair share of exquisite tourist amenities such as boutiques, cafes, and restaurants in this city. Of course, there are also amazing clubs and beachfront bars in San Juan del Sur for those who want to experience authentic Nicaraguan nightlife.
The Wildlife Reserve La Flor is located on the Pacific coast, only around 20 miles south of San Juan del Sur. Each year, La Flor is famous for massive arrivals and hatching of Olive Ridley Sea turtles. Other wild animals such as iguanas, migratory birds, and possums inhabit the area as well.
As you can imagine, this curious natural phenomenon counts as one of the top experiences Nicaragua has to offer. If you plan to come to Nicaragua between August and November, you can see thousands of baby turtles hatching and running for their lives and into the sea. Please note that you have to pay an admission fee to camp near the site where the sea turtles hatch, and you have to bring your own food and drinks, since there are no resorts, shops, or restaurants in the nearby area.
The best surfing spots in Nicaragua are the beaches located north of Popoyo town. To be precise, El Gigante Beach has a lot of surfing schools, making it one of the best places in the world to learn how to surf. South of the city, the water is much calmer, which is why families traveling with children usually spend their day on the southern beaches.
Whether you opt for the Caribbean or the Pacific coast of Nicaragua for your upcoming travels, remember it’s highly unlikely that you’ll go wrong with either! You’ll be in the largest country in Central America, indulging in some of the best culture and experiences it has to offer. There is no wrong decision!