Suggestions for weeklong vacation with three teenagers

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Hello! I’m exploring options for me to take my three nieces/nephew on vacation for about a week. Nicaragua is at the top of my list, having previously been to Costa Rica and Guatemala. Central America is so much fun. For the teenagers it will be their first trip out of the country (outside of the midwest USA, really). I’m looking for a fun, standard itinerary that perhaps will stoke a love of travel in them. All three kids are 14/15 years old, and I’m looking to travel in the dry season – maybe as early as this April. What are your thoughts on an itinerary? Some notes:

  • No party destinations
  • I’d like for them to see and learn about cultural differences and humanitarian issues
  • We’re from a flat area, so we definitely need to hike mountains. I’d categorize the three of them as all having a “medium” fitness level. Cerro Negro, Telica? Quetzeltrekkers?
  • Can we see lava anywhere in Nicaragua?
  • Waterfalls would be great
  • We’ll need some beach time. Preferably somewhere quiet where I’d rent a house and we can explore nearby on foot.
  • We should visit one of the colonial cities. Leon or Granada?
  • Ometepe looks really cool. The volcanoes there sound too difficult to hike for their skill level.

Thanks for your help. The Thorn Tree is a great community.


Response from elportonverde

mike_elportonverde ONLINE 23 days ago Greetings Doug: Yes you can see hot lava in Nicaragua at the Masaya Volcano during the night tour. What I would suggest is similar to likeeveryoneelse’s recommendations. I’d suggest the loop from Managua-Leon-Esteli (Somoto Canyon)-Matagalpa-Granada as a rough itinerary. In Leon you can get your beach day in at Las Peñitas, do the volcano boarding, see the town itself (go up to the top of the cathedral for photos), then get to Esteli (there’s a nice waterfall just before you get to the town), overnight in Esteli or Somoto, then the next morning do Somoto Canyon (your teens will love it!), there are other hikes in the area too. Next day go to Matagalpa (more nice hikes, coffee country), then get back to Granada for the last couple of days. Cheers, Mike @ El Portón Verde, Managua

Source: Suggestions for weeklong vacation with three teenagers

The Somoto Canyon in Northern Nicaragua Hobbitschuster

You say Cuba. I say Nicaragua. Let’s call the whole thing off | IOL

With the demand for Cuba extremely high at present, there are other alternatives to consider, writes Simon Calder.

 / 28 October 2016, 8:00pm
Jesus del gran poder

Penitents carry a statue of Jesus Christ during the ‘Jesus del gran poder’ procession in the colonial city of Granada, Nicaragua.

Question: We tried to book for Cuba for a week’s holiday post-Christmas, but the travel agent said it was full to bursting and suggested Nicaragua instead, flying in and out via Miami. Would you agree it’s a good alternative?

Name withheld


Answer: Demand for Cuba is extremely high at present, with such limited tourism infrastructure relative to demand, it’s not unreasonable to describe it as full – especially in the capital, Havana.

Nicaragua, the largest country in Central America, doesn’t do 1950s American cars and music in quite the same way as Cuba, but it is a superb destination in its own right. The scenery is dramatically volcanic; there are a couple of beautiful Spanish colonial cities in the shapes of Leon and Granada; and an indulgent Pacific beach resort, San Juan del Sur.

You might notice I have not mentioned the capital, Managua; that’s because it was flattened by an earthquake and resembles a scattering of scruffy suburbs rather than a proper city. There are, though, some colourful markets.

My one concern is the length of the journey. In the absence of direct flights from the UK to Nicaragua, the connections are gruelling – and involve the daunting prospect of US immigration.

With only a week, you might consider flying non-stop on to San Jose and driving up the Pan-American Highway from the Costa Rican capital.

Source: You say Cuba. I say Nicaragua. Let’s call the whole thing off | IOL

We get a lot of Canadian visitors to El Porton Verde, and when I mentioned something about how “Americans” from the USA can finally begin to travel to Cuba, I wondered out loud if that will affect the number of visitors from the USA. She said to me “Don’t worry, because more Americans in Cuba means more Canadians in Nicaragua!” 🙂

So yes, folks, if everything is booked in Cuba, take a look at coming to Nicaragua instead. You can always go to Cuba after the rush is over!

Easter Week Trip – Insight Please – Granada Forum – TripAdvisor

Easter Week Trip – Insight Please

Our family Spring Break falls the week leading up to Easter, which I learned is a big holiday in Nicaragua. We are staying in SJDS part of the time and I’m looking at staying in Granada. I understand large crowds fill the area, which is nice, but will we still gain the relaxing experience of Nic that we were hoping for? My boys are 9 & 11, will the crowds be “appropriate” for them? Should we reserve all our activities now so they don’t fill up? Is Granada as busy as SJDS? Should we stay close to the town or up near the volcanos? Any insight is GREATLY appreciated!!! A goal of this trip is for my boys to learn to be more humbled and increase their appreciation for what they have, by experience another culture as well as building great family memories. THANKS in advance for your insight!
Sunday Funday, Easter Week,

Family-friendly during Easter Week? Not at Sunday Funday!

7. Re: Easter Week Trip- Insight Please Feb 14, 2016, 4:29 PM

elportonverde Managua, Nicaragua Level Contributor 754 posts 22 reviews

Greetings TCUangelBuckeyeMom: If one of the goals for your family is to see what Nicaragua is about and how Nicaraguans live and work, then going to SJdS and Granada would be the places where IMO you are least likely to have that sort of experience as they are the most touristy destinations in Nicaragua. So if it’s not too late, I’d look to stay elsewhere frankly.

Normally both Granada and San Juand del Sur are perfectly fine places to visit, especially for first time visitors, but during this time of year it’s a different scene entirely. Especially SJdS is absolutely nuts during Easter week. Last year a pedestrian bridge fell with hundreds of people on it for example, plus yes your boys will get a real eyeful of mostly young adults doing things they probably wouldn’t do in their hometowns…think of a much younger Key West scene on a Pacific beach and you pretty much have the idea as to what SJdS is about.

Another place to look into if you decide to stay out of Granada, in Laguna de Apoyo instead, is San Simian; they have a great host and fantastic location/infrastructure. And as far as a beach place goes, your best bet to stay away from the crowds is a place not served by public bus. So for example, Punta Teonoste, Rancho Santana or Playa Iguana beaches near Tola instead of SJdS. They are private beaches that will not be terribly crowded.

Usually I would recommend Playa Gigante but that is served by public bus from Rivas so will get super crowded during Semana Santa. Some people go up to the mountains in the Matagalpa/Jinotega area to get away from both the heat and the crowds. That might be another option for your family as you are much more likely to have some real interaction with Nicaraguans. Cheers, Mike @ El Portón Verde, Managua

Source: Easter Week Trip- Insight Please – Granada Forum – TripAdvisor

Visiting Nicaragua during Easter Week can be really fun, but some spots will be very crowded with locals who go to the beaches and lakes and camp out for as many days during the week that they possibly can. In places like San Juan del Sur, this means the town is jammed with both national and international tourists partying their brains out basically.

The original poster of this question was planning a trip with her family during Easter Week with stops in San Juan del Sur and Granada, both of which will be full of people. My suggestion is to go to a beach that isn’t publically accessible and to stay outside of Granada in Laguna de Apoyo if they want to be in that area.

Retire Nicaragua: Where to Retire Overseas in 2016 – US News

Granada, Nicaragua. A Spanish-colonial city can be a great choice for retirement, and Granada is one of the best options. This city has a great variety of classic and charming Spanish-colonial homes with high ceilings, painted tiles and private courtyards that you can own for as little as $40,000. Granada is among the most carefully restored and preserved colonial cities in the Americas. This city of 120,000 has a sizeable expat community and attracts many international travelers with its upscale hotels, fine restaurants and well-kept buildings. Many parts of the city are walkable, and the nearby airport in Managua provides many connections to the United States. However, Granada maintains an authentically Nicaraguan feel. You will be able to sample local delicacies and pottery is made by hand. You may even see old oxcarts in the streets. The city is a blend of native Nicaraguan life with modern amenities. You can qualify for Nicaragua’s retiree residency visa program with as little as $600 per month of retirement income. But you’ll probably need a budget of at least $1,200 per month to live here comfortably.

Source: Where to Retire Overseas in 2016 – US News

International Living really does a proficient job in selling the dream of retiring overseas and this is a good “get” for them to be published in US News. However, they do omit lots of very important details but once you’ve sold up back home and plopped down in Granada, they don’t really care about what troubles and travails you will experience once you are actually living here! And yes, I am a wee bit jealous of their success! 🙂

Getting to Granada from El Porton Verde

It’s really easy to get to Granada, we’re on the way there from Managua.

Getting to Granada from Farmstay El Portón Verde is super easy! Here’s the general route. Notice it’s a straight shot on the highway leading directly from Managua to Granada, passing through the town of Masaya.

Map showing the simple route between El Portón Verde and the town of Granada

Map showing the simple route between El Portón Verde and the town of Granada

You can take a bus. The cost is less than one U.S. Dollar, They come by very frequently, I’d say every five to ten minutes. Look for the bus that says EXPRESO MANAGUA UCA GRANADA. It’s a nice mid-sized bus, definitely an upgrade over the standard “chicken bus”!

With the ride being a short 45 minutes in duration, the bus comes by the gas station at the intersection of our road with the highway to Masaya, drops you off at the Central Park or the public market. Note: You might have to walk around a bit to find your hotel if you take the bus.

If staying with us at FEPV, I can usually take you to the corner about 2 kms away (it’s the UNO gas station where you will catch your bus) or there are mototaxis, (which are like tuktuks used in Asia) that can take you to the bus stop after picking you up on the farm.

The other way would be for you to hire me or a taxi to take you to Granada. That costs around $30. With me you’d get a mini tour from me as we go through town looking for your hotel 🙂 and you’d be dropped off right there at your hotel. If you have a lot of luggage its usually easier to have me take you…

Or I could take you in our Mitsubishi truck...

Or, I could take you in our Mitsubishi truck…

In addition to just dropping you off and maybe do a quick tour of Granada, depending on my availability, we can tour something along the route. Options are:

Now, just as a reminder for folks reading this while making their plans to visit Nicaragua (especially for you first-time visitors), think about how we offer our “soft landing service” when we pick you up or drop you off at the Managua airport. Also, we help folks looking to relocate and retire to Nicaragua.

A while ago we did a head-to-head comparison of flying in late at night and heading directly to Granada vs. having us pick you up at the airport (for the famous soft landing service) and staying that first night in Granada. A big part of that exercise is that you can get to Granada for just under a buck, so you can save some money while having a very pleasant first night and morning in Nicaragua.

Retire to Nicaragua’s Crown Jewel – US News

Granada is built around a bustling town square anchored by a neoclassical cathedral.

Granada is built around a bustling town square anchored by a neoclassical cathedral.

Retire to Nicaragua’s Crown Jewel

Granada has charming Spanish-colonial homes selling for bargain prices. Granada is built around a bustling town square anchored by a neoclassical cathedral. By Kathleen Peddicord Oct. 20, 2015 | 9:45 a.m. EDT


Nicaragua offers one of the world’s largest lakes, pristine Caribbean beaches and islands, cool mountains and hundreds of miles of dramatically beautiful Pacific coastline. This country also boasts one of the world’s most affordable costs of living in retirement. A couple could retire comfortably here on as little as $1,200 per month. It’s easy to establish retiree residency in Nicaragua, which has a low minimum income threshold. Regardless of what you may have heard or read, Nicaragua is a safe and welcoming place. Every time I visit, I look forward to getting there and I’m sorry to leave.

Source: Retire to Nicaragua’s Crown Jewel – US News

You have to hand it to Kathleen Peddicord, she does have the ability to publish the same basic article seemingly about one hundred times and the US media keeps eating it up! Kathleen has been around Nicaragua for quite some time off and on, so it’s not like she doesn’t know of which she speaks, heaven forbid!

It is interesting that there is such a consistent push towards Granada from the likes of International Living Magazine and Live and Invest Overseas. While I personally like Granada quite a bit,I wouldn’t call it the “Crown Jewel of Nicaragua.” Being a tourist there is quite fun on occasion, and the town itself is lovely, but as the saying goes, “Its a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

The restaurants have a good variety, albeit are overpriced compared to local spots. The isletas are fun to visit too. It’s near Mombacho Volcano and Laguna de Apoyo, both beautiful spots.

For the casual reader interesting in relocating to Nicaragua, I recommend staying away from organizations that make most of their money selling the dream in the form of expensive conferences where experts will share their knowledge about how to make it abroad, especially from a financial perspective. The majority of so-called “experts” really are interested in selling you their overpriced real estate. Making money in real estate is not the typical scenario here.

In fact, I’m a proponent of taking a very cautious approach to living and investing overseas as there are downsides to living in Nicaragua or other overseas countries that publications and individuals which are mostly interested in selling you real estate naturally are unlikely to put in the forefront.

Not only do they want to sell you property at the “gringo price” but the “dumb money gringo price.” The lifestyle seminars won’t tell you about lots of important aspects of moving and living overseas. Pricing of real estate, for example, is not transparent, although there was recently published a price snapshot for Central American real estate.

People from the United States, Canada and Europe move to Nicaragua for a lot of different reasons. If you want to live in the largest expat community, join the clubs and legion halls like you did back home and be able to easily get along hardly speaking a word of Spanish, then Granada is the place for you. Just don’t think it’s the place to buy cheap real estate and live inexpensively. A similar house in a village about fifteen minutes away from Granada would cost about 1/3 less, for example.

Sure it might cost less to live in Granada than in a big city up north, but don’t go thinking you’ll be part of the greater Nicaraguan community or that you’ll really be challenged to learn the language. For example, if your goal is to integrate to a certain extent with the locals, I think there are better places to do that in Nicaragua. If your goal is to live cheaply, there are lots of places that fit the bill better. For example, a little house in the nearby “Pueblos Blancos” such as Niquonomo, Masatepe, Catarina, San Juan de Oriente, etc. might be the call. The weather is better there anyway as the elevation is higher.

I hope this gives you dear reader(s), a bit of perspective so when you read these articles you keep your mind on the realities, not just the dream, of living in Nicaragua. As always, feedback and comments are welcome!

33 Photos That Will Make You Want To Fly To Nicaragua Right Now

This Central American paradise is a land of natural beauty, friendly locals and a unique culture. Be sure to visit before it’s overrun by tourists.

Nicaragua is one of those destinations that steals your heart from the moment you arrive. And with expansive lakes, majestic volcanoes, verdant jungle and pristine beaches, it’s not difficult to figure out why. Not only is Nicaragua blessed with natural abundance and countless picture-perfect snapshots, the local Nicaraguans are some of the friendliest in all of Central America. Add to that world-renowned cigars, coffee and chocolate, and you have the makings of a truly fantastic vacation.
Nicaragua is only continuing to grow in popularity, with many travelers dubbing it “the new Costa Rica.” We’re hesitant to call it the new anything — Nicaragua is uniquely wonderful and boasts a culture that is quite different from what you’ll find south of the border.

Source: 33 Photos That Will Make You Want To Fly To Nicaragua Right Now

Nice post from Dan and Casey, aka A Cruising Couple, who look like they know how to have a good time! And thank you for pointing out the fallacy of the whole “new Costa Rica” meme–the culture in Nicaragua is much more vibrant than in Costa Rica–so good on ‘ya for acknowledging that fact.



Farmstay Reviews – Airbnb



Had a great time staying with Mike at his Farmstay – we were picked up at the airport after a late flight by Mike which made our landing in Nicaragua so easy ! We then awoke the next morning to a beautiful view of banana and mango trees, and birds chirping in the background. We had a delicious breakfast both days, then headed off in a tuk-tuk to explore Granada, the nearby Masaya volcano and chocoyero reserve. Was a wonderful holiday !

Source: Profile – Airbnb

This is the review from the couple who came in on the Spirit Air flight and had a great getaway weekend for a very inexpensive price. We are always grateful for kind reviews and strive to bring a lot of value for your hard-earned travel dollar, so when we have folks come down for only a two night stay, and they report back that they had a lovely but short visit, we feel like we are performing a good service for our visitors.

In their short visit they had some excellent adventure travel (hiking and birdwatching), saw some colonial architecture, and got a good taste of Nicaragua for such a short visit.

Julia took advantage of our “soft landing service” and they did their own self-guided tours to Chocoyero/El Brujo nature preserve, Masaya Volcano, and Granada. They hit the ground running and got the most out of every moment!

Granada Colonial Homes Tour | See behind all of those mysterious doors!

Tours meet every Tuesday at 10 am in the art center behind the Ole Boutique (side entrance):
1 block east of the Central Park down Calzada Blvd.   

Or, call in Nicaragua: 8457-8423, to arrange special tours

Behind Closed Doors……


Take a great tour of the insides of some of the finest homes in Granada, while benefitting a wonderful education project!

Take a great tour of the insides of some of the finest homes in Granada, while benefitting a wonderful education project!

If you’ve been lucky enough to have participated in one of the colonial house tours in cities such as San Miguel De Allende, Mexico, you know how amazing old colonial houses can be. Finally, Granada has begun tours of its magnificent beauties and all the proceeds benefit educational projects.

via Granada Colonial Homes Tour | See behind all of those mysterious doors!.

Friend of the Farmstay and social media guru, Eden Rudin posted this on Facebook, so in a spirit of helping out for this project, I repost here for our readers who may not be aware of this tour. Other colonial architecture cities and towns around the world like Antigua, Guatemala, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and others offer similar tours, so why not Granada too?

If you’ve ever been to Granada and wondered what is behind those lovely, massive colonial doors, and yearned for a peek into the interior spaces, this is your chance! A great added benefit is that this isn’t for anyone’s profit. The proceeds go to two different educational projects:

  • Library “Puedo Leer”, the first lending library in Granada, putting books in the hands of children and promoting reading through its many urban and rural projects.
  • Scholarships for poor children at the new Sacuanjoche Elementary School, probably the best private school in the city. 

So if you book a tour, tell them that you found out about this via Mike at Farmstay El Portón Verde, Managua.


Five Top Retirement Havens with the Lowest Cost of Living –

Nicaragua: Save on Property Costs

For house buyers or investors, Nicaragua offers the lowest cost of living and business opportunities. You could live here in a $2-million mansion with everything you would ever want in a home if you are willing to pay for it. But the great thing about this tropical paradise is that you don’t have to. You can still feel like you’re living the life of Reilly—on a very low budget.Granada-Nicaragua-578x298

The items you save on add up. Real estate taxes are low—you’ll pay around $150 a year for a $130,000 house. The cost of rentals are low, too. Friends of mine live in a modest three-bedroom home overlooking the bay of San Juan del Sur for just $200 a month. Electricity, water and WiFi are extra and cost an additional $100. Many one or two-bedroom rentals in town go for $250 to $400 a month, depending on amenities.

I spend about $25 a week for food. If I must have peanut butter, almond milk, gouda cheese, teriyaki sauce and cuts like filet mignon, my food budget goes way up. You can also save quite a bit of money enjoying your dinner at one of the many happy hours with $1 or $2 appetizers. And you can hire someone to clean your house for about $10.

Some things are more expensive in Nicaragua. Electronic items are double the price, for example. Gas hovers around $5.50 a gallon. New cars and trucks in Nicaragua have sticker prices of about a third to a half higher than the U.S. A large jar of Jiffy peanut butter can set you back $12. A small piece of cheddar cheese might cost over $5. You get the idea. If you are willing to live the good Nicaraguan life and forego some of those old necessities that aren’t really necessary, a single person can easily live on $1,000 or less a month and a couple can maintain a comfortable lifestyle for $1,200 and $1,400.—Bonnie Hayman

via Five Top Retirement Havens with the Lowest Cost of Living –.

This is International Living, a somewhat infamous “rose-colored glasses” type of media company, so take this report with the biggest grain of salt you can find…

However, that’s not to say that they are incorrect in what they tell you here, rather that an outfit like IL really does not address much of what really faces an expat. IL focuses on cost of living and lifestyle mostly, with not too much on such things as integrating into your new culture and country, how to be a productive member of your new community, or how to make local friends and become fluent in the native language.

IL really caters to the person who fits in quite well in the expat enclaves of Granada and San Juan del Sur; not so much Managua or Matagalpa and much less so Puerto Cabezas, Siuna or Bluefields. What I mean is that in most other areas of Nicaragua, the locals really don’t cater to you very much.

Sure, they might be neighborly and are certainly curious about expats, but mostly that is just a general human response to a new person moving into a neighborhood. Especially if they are different from the norm for that area, folks will take notice and most will wait to see what type of a person you are before taking the time to get to know you.

How that might express itself could vary of course, but as an example, in tourist and expat areas, learning English is clearly a good move for a Nicaraguan to want to make their living from tourism and providing services to expats. In other places, not so much. While most urban areas have some bilingual non-native English speakers, especially in the countryside you can basically forget about finding someone who speaks English.

So, as a potential expat, you need to ask yourself (among a multitude of questions), “do I want to learn Spanish or live where the locals will be learning English?” That will influence not only where you may choose to live, but how you will live too. Will you be living in an English-language bubble or not? As always, comments welcome!