This is my 2nd trip to Nica. I was here 6 years ago & fell in love with the country. Especially Granada. Apparently quite a few other "gringos" have discovered it as well.
Spain has funded the restoration of "The Calzada" & it is nearly complete down to the waterfront. It is a wonderful street to wander & shop or just relax outdoors at one of the numerous bars (O'Sheas was a favourite of ours). People watching can be very entertaining. Street dancers, musicians, etc are everywhere in the early evening.
I like adventure & there is no shortage of it to be had. 6 years ago I hired a guide by the name of Favio. Since then Favio has bought his own home, 4 or 5 cars & hired numerous drivers to work for him. A fellow by the name of Carlos did a wonderful job of escorting us on all the tours we were interested in. I strongly recommend Favio & his crew. The only thing I asked Carlos before we arrived was that he try & be prompt. When we arrived at the airport the first driver we spotted on our exit was Carlos holding up a sign with our name on it. He was never late for the next 10 days of tours. We had personal tours of The Isletas, The White towns (pottery making, basket weaving, & beautiful furniture making), Catalina, Mombacho Zip-line, Masaya Market/Volcano & the night tour of the glorious sunset/bat caves. Carlos would stop whenever I asked him to take pictures of a wedding procession, a 15 year old girl's "coming out party", etc. The total cost of all these tours & transfers was much less than the cost of a rental car in CR several years ago. Like hiring your own chauffer for pennies on the dollar. I even took a small cooler in my luggage so I could carry several cold "cervesas & bottled water" along for the ride.
We also took a 3 day tour of the Rio San Juan. We landed in San Carlos via a new "puddle jumper". I had come to catch one of those mighty Tarpon & I wasn't disappointed. It was an awesome trip to experience life on the water. Nearly everything you can think of & everyone is transported by "water taxis" of all shapes & sizes. Dugout canoes with fishermen flinging their nets by hand, farm wives doing their wash while standing kneedeep on the edge of the river, children playing with a swing rope from a dock...........it seemed like I stepped back hundreds of years. Life is so simple for these people (except for the cellphones). I shall report later on the fishing.
My favourite restaurant is "El Zaguan". Las Colinas also has one of the best fish dinners I have found anywhere called "Guapote". Don't let the neighbourhood or the dirt floor sway you, it's delicious & the service was excellent. I even ate the cheeks. They will also pick you up at your hotel as they are located on the edge of town. We stayed at "Miss Margrits" & found out why it is rated #1. Compared to North American prices, these places are a steal. So far Nica is still the cheapest place to visit in Central America. I have visited Guatemala, CR (3 times), Panama & Mexico (twice) & have to admit that Nica is still my fav.
The biggest difference that I noticed was that some of the locals have unfortunately learned how to "stiff" a gringo. I can think of at least 4 times when I did not receive the proper change. Those are only the ones I noticed. Using a moneychanger on the streetcorner is widely accepted & convenient. However, the last one I used was not forthcoming with the last 10 Cordobas we had agreed upon. Some of the dinner receipts do not make it clear whether the tip is included or not. If your waiter doesn not speak English to explain "la cuenta", you may end up tipping twice.
It has only been a few days & I miss it already as I look outside my window while seated at my computer staring at a blustery snow storm.
Like Schwarznegger so famously quoted "I'll be back".