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Planning a trip - Southern Nicaragua

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Planning a trip - Southern Nicaragua

We are planning a six day trip to Southern Nicaragua this winter and mostly want to hike and see as much of nature as we can. We want to mostly go on our own…not in a guided tour. We are not backpackers, so want a base or bases to operate from with a reasonable amount of comfort. We see several possibilities in the Granada area…Mombacho Lodge, Jicaro Lodge, Morgans Rock, plus some places up on the Laguna de Apoyo. We assume the other eco hotels in Granada are just named that and in the city. Thoughts?

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1. Re: Planning a trip - Southern Nicaragua

Hi Kathleen

Around Granada there are 3 good spots for do some hiking Mombacho, Laguna de Apoyo and Vulcan Masaya..If you like to used is as base i would suggest look for something in the Laguna de Apoyo (you can find pretty nice accomodation between USD 50 and USD 100) as it is between Mombacho and Vulcan Masaya. Jicaro Island means you have to organize every day travel from and to the Island and its very expensive...in High season you pay probably over USD 500 per night.

Morgans Rock is slightly cheaper around 350 to 400 USD in they have a huge property where they have some trails...but there is no other nature reserve nearby for hiking of course you can hike all the beaches...south and north of Morgans Rock..

Enjoy your trip to Nicaragua


Managua, Nicaragua
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2. Re: Planning a trip - Southern Nicaragua

most of the places you mention arent really places that people go when they want to do it themselves kinda trip. Those are the top of the line luxury resorts, that are more inclusive.

The streets of granada are filled with tour guides, and businesses/locations designed to take care of your plans for you. Its a touristy town. Most of the places around there (the isletas, which require you renting a boat with a guide to see, unless you have connections to your own private boat) (volcan mombacho which is a private volcano, in which the trail at the top claims it requires a guide to hike, and you need to hire private transportation to get up, complete with their driver as a guide, etc)

I would recommend checking out another area of the country if you are more into the doing things yourself scene. Maybe a town like Esteli in the north, which still has decent accomodations above the backpackers hostel stuff. Its in the mountains which gives great scenery, and you are near a number of reserves for hiking and nature.

Maybe a town like Leon, which is similar to Granada, but slightly less touristy. But you are in the middle of a handful of volcanos that you can hike on your own, and near to the beach, etc.

If you are really into the hiking yourselves and being surrounded by nothing but nature, maybe check out the Rio San Juan / San Carlos area. Im not sure what they have for more upscale lodging, but there is no shortage of nature in that area.

Granada Nicaragua
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3. Re: Planning a trip - Southern Nicaragua

Not all the things tossed out above are accurate. Some downright wrong....so if you are basing your trip on that here are some facts you really need.

A few things are correct...Jicaro is nice but surely not a hiking lodge...on a small island and you have to get a boat to even get to a trail....Morgans rock will have nice trails and is in a stunning locale...a bit down from Granada and both are in the premium price category...like $300 or more a night. Those are the only "all inclusive" places you mention...the others are not and are reasonably priced.The hotels with the eco tacked on are.....well hard to say why, except it is a good draw and perhaps they think some of the recycling stuff make them "eco"...to me it is misleading. I see an eco lodge as a place in tune with and accessible to "nature". Morgans's rock and Mombacho are....i am not sure which at the Laguna qualify.

You did say southern Nicaragua...which has been neglected in some of the advice above, which talks about the North...and going up there adds little, in spite of the fact that you have to change your basic itinerary.

For what you say...the absolute best base for hiking is Mombacho Lodge. Right in the middle of the forest...trials all over the place...easy access to the top, the zip lines, the coffee finca. You come back and have a hot shower and a great meal.

To break the hiking routine and see more of the area than you see from the trails....You can get a ride to Granada for a day trip and a tour of the isleteas...about 20 minutes away. The Laguna is great and you can go there for a day trip and swim as well..30 minutes. If you want to see the Masaya volcano (more of a lava show than a hiking place, that is very doable as well.

Actually for what you have planned could do the whole thing from there or maybe go to the Laguna for a night or two. Hiking over there as well and you have the lake to swim in

The last thing you need to do is throw yourself on the hands of a tour group by walking down the Calzada. Yep there are tours...but you said you wanted to hike and most of those "tours" are not built around hikes. They are built around the tour groups schedule...some of those things you may want to do and they can help. But you can get your own tour of the islets without them as well as zip line....stay out of the herd....most of whom do not want to really hike.

The volcanos up north are nothing like Mombacho for hiking (not to mention the fact that you said you wanted to be in the South). At Mombacho you have ready access to miles of trails and can easily get to the cloud forest on the top...many of the the ones up north are tougher to get trail access to and not as well "trailed'...and a couple are just black cinder so not much hiking fun. Not as well organized for a relatively short trip.

You do not need a guide to hike the top of Mombacho, but on the longer hikes which are available a guide is a good idea and a good one can add to the pleasure by providing info on the environment and the nature part. You can drive or walk to the top on your own...or you can pay and take a truck proved by the park. There is an access fee, but it is not too much. At he lodge you have access to over a hundred miles of trails fro free...not as high up but in the heart of nature.

Edited: 06 August 2014, 04:01
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4. Re: Planning a trip - Southern Nicaragua

Get nice hotels rated here and get a guide book has foddors. frommers, footrings or lonely planet and do your own things. Because Mombacho is not a private Volcano you have 4 schedules per day and can do the trail on your own the other ones which are harder you have to get a park ranger, the isletas you can go at the end of La Calzada Street and turn right walk 1 mile and get a boat for US$ 10 or US$ 15 dollars and go one to two hours on your own only with a boat driver.

BTW the Volcanoes in Leon are not to do it your self has all of them require 4X4 and there are not trails and at Esteli there so many Cooperatives and so many walking trails that you can end up in Honduras., so Bad that people is trowing so many bad ideas on such as respectful place like this.

Has i told you if you want to stay out of the tour guides as i told you before which so many of them just talk Cra.p and some others can make your holiday get good places rated on the books or here and follow the book guides listed before

Managua, Nicaragua
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5. Re: Planning a trip - Southern Nicaragua

The top trails through the cloud forest of Mombacho is also currently closed and has been for the last couple of months. So continuing to recommend it as a hike isnt good.

Normally i would agree, Mombacho is the best hike, as the sendero el puma is amazing. Unfortunately, the top is, and has been closed for some time. I had some friends up there less than 2 weeks ago, who were told both the el puma, and the el tigrillo trails were closed and so the only trail open was the short one to the overlook, which is still an amazing view, but for the entry fee, and the fee to get carted up the mountain, all for a 15-20 minute walk and view, they felt is was not worth it at all.

I dont know about the trails from the lodge, but i do know they also require a guided tour if you do the evening/night hikes that they recommend, or on certain trails.

Its also true you dont NEED a guide for mombacho, but all the guidebooks that are being recommended say you do, and all the signs on the volcano itself say the trail at the top require you to have a private guide.

Also, you can only drive to the top in an approved 4x4, and you technically cant drive yourself even if you bring your own vehicle. Once you hit the coffee plantation you have to pay a worker to drive the vehicle up for you for "safety reasons". So you are essentially paying for a guide anyway.

Mombacho itself isnt all privately owned. But the transportation is privately owned. The lodges and the coffee farms are privately owned. and much of the land off the main road has signs saying "private property" and is only available for private paying guests. There are many stories/posts about tourists being not allowed to hike up the volcano from the bottom by foot because they were told they had to pay for the private transportation/driver, and/or people being told they were not allowed to hike the trails without paying for a guide. (ive personally done it on my own, but not without major hassles and people trying to stop me to require payment for some sort of services beyond the entrance fee to the park)

My point was that, while most of the other volcanos, in my personal experience, are possible and relatively easy to do it on your own (yes you could get a guide, and yes, maybe its better to get a guide for them....its still possible to just start hiking and do it all yourself without a tour guide), Mombacho is probably the hardest to just show up and do some unguided open nature hiking. Which seemed to be what the original poster wanted, hence my suggestions.

I realize that going up north would require an itinerary change, but the original poster asked for suggestions and said they wanted to do a lot of nature/hiking that didnt include getting guided tours. The south of Nicaragua is mostly dry forest and i personally feel it lacks a lot of nature that the rest of Nicaragua has (with the exceptions of a few specific spots), so i offered my suggestions. I also feel its far more touristy and most of the nature spots are less open for free hiking through nature and instead are more guided, private excursions.

Maybe its not what the original poster wants, and thats cool, thats why there are different voices and different suggestions on this board.

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6. Re: Planning a trip - Southern Nicaragua

am, today

Hi Kathleen - I am Cynthia and I own Mombacho Lodge. Thanks for considering us. Mombacho Lodge is half way up Mombacho Volcano in the protected area of a National Reserve. It is only 10 miles from Granada and the road does not require a 4x4 (unless you want to drive to the top of the volcano). I am pleased to be included in a list of hotels such as Morgan's Rock and Jicaro as both are supposed to be excellent, albeit as stated here on the expensive side. I have a family coming here from Morgan's Rock next week.

Mombacho Lodge is an eco-lodge in the true sense and we have trails and wildlife including howler monkeys, butterflies, etc. right here. You can see them from your cabin porch. You can have breakfast, lunch and a soup to nuts dinner here - box lunch to take hiking if you prefer- for $35 per person.

From here you can walk up to the top or walk up or down about 2 km for transportation to the top and to zip line. Las Flores Cafe and Merivale are privately owned companies that take tourists to the top and also both have Canopy tours. The Cocibolca Foundation operates two large trucks as well from the Reserve Reception office. It is part of the National Park program and its employees are government workers. All of the trails at the top are currently open. The long 2 hour trail does require a guide for reasons of safety, but well worth if for the information provided.

I encourage you to read the reviews about Mombacho Lodge on Trip Advisor where real people that stayed here talk about using it as a base camp to get to Granada, the Isletas, the Laguna de Apoya, Masaya Artisan Market and the Masaya Volcano. All found it much more refreshing (about 10 degrees cooler up here) and tranquil. Please visit our website as well.

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7. Re: Planning a trip - Southern Nicaragua

likeeveryoneelse......You continue to pile bad information on top of bad information.....mainly in defense of the original post that was replete with errors.

Write what you really know about.....here are a few examples...

1. You could hike the trail on Mombacho outside the top cloud forest for days and never cross the same trail......it may be dry tropical forest, but it is glorious now that the rains have come.

2. And as people who are on the mountain have said the trails at the top are open and even if not the short trail at the top suffices for most to show off the cloud forest.

3. have hiked 100 times and never been denied access...in fact very (almost none) of the "private property" signs you talk about exist.

4. The problem with SOME people at the volcano office telling visitors they cannot go, etc, has been largely dealt with....might still be the occasion where one deals with a jerk or a newbie who doesn't know the policy, but if you ask for the Jefe, that gets fixed really quickly. Yeah...if you have a car that looks like it will not make it they will not let you go. That seems like common sense to me.

5. You feel Mombacho, Laguna de Apoyo and Ometepe lack a lot of nature...you should get out more. Foe=rger about mombach...where in Nicaragua is there a place like the Laguna?

6. As far as touristy....you can hike all day on Mombacho and not see a soul..just monkeys. You have an anti "touristy" bug, but the tourist infrastructure is what provides the ability to have a base to hike from and enjoy yourself after the hike.

7. There is not doubt you can go up North and have a great hiking experience.....but it is apples and oranges and these folks wanted apples so we are telling them where to find the best ones. And you offered not one speck of specific advice about what to do or where to go...

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8. Re: Planning a trip - Southern Nicaragua

We found the trail around Crater 1 on Mombacho to be well worth the effort to get up there. Mombacho isn't the most spectacular cloud forest site in Central America, but it's a good experience nonetheless.

For much better value than Jicaro in Granada itself, check out Los Patios (especially if you're into modern design).

Managua, Nicaragua
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9. Re: Planning a trip - Southern Nicaragua

im not anti mombacho (i think its provides tourists the best hikes, and opportunities of all the volcanos in nicaragua), nor am i completely anti-touristy (ometepe is very touristy and one of the top tourist destinations in the country, yet it remains one of my favorite places in the entire country).

As i mentioned before my suggestions were based on what i read in the original post as i stated. the original poster wrote they wanted to go on their own, away from guides and tours. So i was trying to give information to that degree. It was not my purpose to steer the original poster away from certain tourist activities or tour guides, rather, from my reading their post it seemed that is what they wanted themselves. Its quite possible i misunderstood the purpose of the original post, and i apologize if i did.

You said, "write what you know about". i also was writing what i know about both from personally hiking the mountain myself, as well as bringing friends, and having first hand accounts of friends who went very recently. Everyone, including myself was told the top trails were closed, from months ago, up until as recently as 2 weeks ago. Because of that information i wasnt going to recommend it. However, now that someone from on the mountain has confirmed that the trails are open now, i would definitely recommend it, as its the nicest, most accessible, and one of the most beautiful hikes in the entire country.

im not really sure why you think my first post in here was "replete with errors". The only things i said, is that you need a driver to take you up the mountain if you have your own approved 4x4 vehicle. That is true if you are going to the top as confirmed by the person who runs the lodge on the mountain.

If you dont have your own vehicle you pay for transportation in their trucks with a driver, which is true and confirmed by multiple posts in the thread.

It is stated you need a guide for the trails at the top. That is also true, and confirmed by the post of the person who operates the lodge on there.

I only said 2 sentences about the volcano in the first post. not sure why you are so up in arms about it being full of errors.

The only things that obviously ended up being false, the trucks that run you up and down mombacho i was told personally by the driver that they were operated by cafe las flores, and thats who he worked for. That is apparently wrong as the poster from the volcano stated they were operated by the park. Not sure why i was told that, maybe they just had a temporary driver filling in for the day? i apologize for the wrong information.

The other being that i said the trail was closed, which to the best of my knowledge and personal experience, was for months until recently, but im glad to be proven wrong on that.

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10. Re: Planning a trip - Southern Nicaragua

Might anyone have another suggestion for a volcano hike?

I don't know what is causing the difference in information, but my family was at Volcano Mombacho earlier this week. We were told that the trails at the top were not open to the public at this time, but we would be able to hike one trail called The Crater.

They wanted to charge us $15 per person for a truck up the mountain (6 people in our family), so we didn't feel as if it would be worth it.

I have read that the trails at Masaya are not as good. Is this true? If so, are there other recommendations for the area?