Backpacking Nicaragua

Week 10 – Leon to San Juan del Sur

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Another day another country. This time backpacking Nicaragua. The border crossing was something else. Probably the longest and toughest ones I have encountered to date. That was even with a company doing it for you. This was the only border where our bus was checked over plus we had to take our luggage inside for the scanners.

Border Crossing from Hell

The border crossing started with a dodgy Covid test. I think it was dodgy as we got the results back within 10 minutes. Therefore, this makes me think it’s not all above board. Anyway, we were nearly at the border after traveling 10 hours in a cramped mini-bus. We had set off early from Honduras to be able to make it to Leon, Nicaragua at midnight. It was well over the 12-hour time scale given but we arrived in one piece with negative covid tests. That is the main thing.

The Next Morning

Volcan Negro's Crater with vibrant green forest as the backdrop
Crater at Volcan Nergo

After hanging most of my clothes out to dry due to them getting wet on the roof of the mini-bus. We set off to explore the town of Leon. Then came the pouring rain. Well, due to it being the wet season it was to be expected. Leon was our first experience of the wet season, we knew it would rain for maybe a couple of hours in the afternoon however it rained all day long.

We were here in Leon to do one activity. The only thing I wanted to do was volcano boarding. Yep, sliding down the side of an active volcano on a wooden plank.

Me getting ready to sandboard down the side of a volcano
Volcano Boarding

Volcano Boarding

This activity is why everyone stops off here as well as the cathedral. However, as we set off to Volcan Negro the nerves started to set in. I am someone who gets a little nervous before trying something new. So, with the short hike to the top over with stunning views all around, it was time. Time to suit up and look like we have just escaped from prison and slide on down. It was so much fun and when the speed picked up even more fun. Well worth the experience.

Backpacking Nicaragua Some More

yellow circular sun over the shadow of Volcan Conception whilst backpacking Nicaragua
Sunset over Volcan Conception

Next on the list of places to go was Granada which was a cute town but again the rain was intense. So intense we couldn’t really explore and partake in the activities on offer. One was closed because of the landslide, the party was canceled and the clouds ruined the magma experience.

Therefore, we just went on our way as planned to Ometepe. An island in Lake Nicaragua made up of two volcanos. It was pretty impressive. Again, the hikes were closed and it rained non-stop whilst we were exploring the island by moped. However, there was one night when the sun was out and we watched it set behind Volcan Conception. It was a truly magical sunset.

Our Last Stop San Juan del Sur

The last stop was this unique, charming beach town. I really liked it despite it being the wet season here there were breaks in the rain. It looks a bit rough around the edges but I enjoyed it. Maybe because this is where I caught my first green wave and rode it all the way! What a feeling, these three days here really made me realise that I want to be able to surf. Therefore it has kicked started a new hobby. It was again nice to be somewhere for four days to relax. Finally, I was able to get some dairy-free ice cream again so I made the most of that.

Summary of Nicaragua

Backpacking Nicaragua was charming, you really get to see the day-to-day lives of the locals. I enjoyed this country for this reason despite the onslaught of rain, I was won over. I would definitely like to go back and experience more of this beautiful country.

Next week I move on to Costa Rica, a country that I’ve wanted to visit for a while. So I’m excited.

Scuba Diving in Honduras

Week 9 – Utila, Honduras

Week 9 turned into two weeks of scuba diving in Honduras on the island of Utila. With each diving company offering the same packages with varying prices it was hard to choose. Some had better living facilities than others. We ended up at Alton Diving School which had its negatives and positives.

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Choosing the Right Dive School

Altons dive shop building with the road
Alton’s Dive School

Once we were through the door it did feel like a cash grab from then on in. I completed my open water course and because of the experience, I had I opted not to go onto my advanced course as most people on the island do. The overall experience at Alton’s Dive School was average at best. The equipment looked better than its competitors and it also provided guests with a kitchen to use. (definitely not the cleanest or nicest). However, a great way to keep food costs down.

The rooms can have up to 4 people in and aren’t very big but they are basic and you get what you pay for. We managed to sneak the water from the college at was there but Alton’s does not provide fresh drinking water, this cost can add up. The experience is what you make it and for me, it was about taking a break from the open road.

Unfortunately, it’s a Negative Experience

Sunset at scuba diving in Honduras
Sunset at Alton’s Dive School

So far it’s been a negative review but there wasn’t that much to sing home about. It was basic. I had an instructor who cared more about his jokes than us, yet my friend had a great instructor and she enjoyed her time in the courses that she did. So, again whether or not you will enjoy the course depends on your instructor.

The location is good as it is at one end of the strip so away from the party scene so if you do fancy an early night it’s possible. As Utila is one main street it’s not far to go to the bars and restaurants. When you are here a day trip to Water Cay is worthwhile. The crystal blue waters and golden sand made for a perfect day. to catch a tan and snorkel.

The Real Downside

The real downside to scuba diving in Honduras is the diving itself. This is something that is beyond Alton’s control. There is the lack of sea life in the waters. The causes are overfishing, eating sharks, and the amount of rubbish swimming through the water. All in all a cheap place to get your certifications but not a great destination. I feel like I would love to spend a little more money and be able to enjoy the location as well as the diving. I feel like this island has seen its heyday for diving, unfortunately.

Next week we enter a new country and you can read about it here!

Caribbean Coast of Mexico

Week 4 – Cancun to Cozumel

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We Finally Made it to The Caribbean Coast of Mexico

A day later than planned but we were finally on the ferry over to Isla Mujeres. I was excited to see what all the fuss was about. So far on the Carribean coast of Mexico; we had been ripped off by the bus driver and the ferry sales lady sold us first-class tickets. Even though we didn’t ask for it. This was not a great start to this coastline after the turbulence 48 hours we just experienced. Oh well, we were at the beach again. My happy place.

First Was Making Sure We Still Had

a yellow and orange sunset over the clam sea on the Caribbean coast of Mexico
Sunset on Isla Mujeres

our hostel booking. We contacted them to move the booking and they kindly agreed. Maybe our luck was changing. Someone did something good for us finally. We enjoyed the grounds of the hostel while waiting for check-in. However, when check-in came. The problem started. They wouldn’t let us have the room. After, back and forth for 2 hours they finally agreed to honor it. It was a lot of unnecessary stress. We had to cancel our tour. Also, cancel, re-book then cancel another hostel. Mexico had been filled with these little hiccups. It was sucking the enjoyment out of travelling. Yet, I guess travelling has both good and bad experiences. So hopefully our luck will change soon.

Finally in Our Room

It was time for sunset. With a south-facing beach a short walk away, we headed there. A massive sand area that was all for free (for a change). There were no beach clubs. We found a spot to sit and finally relax on this beautiful Island. I can’t come to the beach without having a dip. The amazing crystal clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea were warm and welcoming. I automatically distressed and washed away the day we just had. The sunset also showed up for us. It was very impressive. A perfect end to a stressful day.

Exploring Cozumel

A view overlooking a seaweed filled beach
San Martin Beach in Cozumel

Next up, was the Island of Cozumel. I was here to see if scuba diving was something I could enjoy. I love marine life and want to be comfortable underwater. This is because I want to experience the underwater world. My instructor was great and put me at ease straight away. Overall, it was an enjoyable experience with Deep Blue Diving and I would recommend them. For all the stresses we’ve had on this trip, there have been some great experiences in between.

The Bike Ride From Hell

two bikes resting in the sand on the beach
The Bikes at the Beach

Now it was time to find a free beach. I am not a fan of beach clubs. Plus, as a budget traveller those places can eat into your budget drastically. So, we set off listening to the advice of the bike shop guy. This was to be our first mistake. He said ’45 minutes that way to a free beach’. This was not the case. At this point, we should have turned around. This was mistake number two. Also, we had applied no suncream, obviously, this was mistake number three.

It took three hours to reach a beach under the hot sun. That meant another three hours to home. We ended up cycling half the island. 47km. We were sore. Sometimes it is only you that can get the blame when something isn’t that great. This one was our mistake and I own that. However, it didn’t make it any less stressful.

The Caribbean Coast of Mexico

This coastline in my opinion is very very touristy. A very different vibe to coming through the centre of the country. It was all rush, rush, rush. The prices here charge top dollar for even the shortest taxi journey. I did feel more of an American tourist vibe rather than a backpacker vibe. I am looking forward to leaving Mexico and all the negativity it has brought us.

My other entries in my travel journal can be found here!

Visiting a Surf Town in Mexico

Week 2 – Puerto Escondido to San Cristobal

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This week I was on the road again visiting a beautiful surf town in Mexico. This was the perfect opportunity to get re-acquainted with night buses. This is a great way to travel as a budget traveller because you save money on a night of accommodation. However, at what cost to your sleep? Personally, I am used to broken-up sleep. Therefore, this was a small sacrifice for me. Yet, for those who may struggle to sleep in a moving vehicle, it can lead to the next day being a write-off.

This is the joy of travelling by road.

Oh, the joy is definitely sarcasm because this journey was anything but joyful. The trip was only meant to be a simple 10-hour overnight bus from Oaxaca City to Puerto Escondido.

What Happened When Visiting a Surf Town in Mexico?

AU second class bus at the bus terminal

Well. We got stuck at the side of the road. Stuck in a standstill traffic jam somewhere between Oaxaca City and Puerto Escondido. Why? A truck overturned and blocked the road in both directions. Road accidents happen, I understand that. However, I was not prepared for it. Really not prepared for a 10-hour night bus to turn into an 18-hour bus ride. Yes, the bus did not move for way over 5 hours.

Not only were we stuck at the side of the road, it was pitch black outside. This made the situation worse because of stories about buses getting held up at gunpoint in Mexico. I tried my best to sleep through it and just hoped we would be on the move soon.

However, during this time I run out of water and food. The journey become tedious wait once the sun came up. I felt safer being surrounded by daylight rather than the dark of night.

Due to the fact we were running this late the bus drivers looked to make up time. Therefore from the. moment we got on the move again it was a crazy ride from there on in. The speed we were going at to overtake was at some points terrifying. The only good thing was that they did allow a food stop which couldn’t have been a moment too soon. I needed water and snacks! And a toilet stop because the bus toilet was full and disgusting.

Arriving in the Rugged Puerto Escondido

Golden sand and the sea with a surfer standing watching the waves
Zicatela Beach, Puerto Escondido

We arrived very late but in one piece. I was so glad to be off that bus. I have done long bus rides before but this is definitely the worst. So, I am no stranger to being on the road for a long time. However, I have always prepared enough food and water. So, this one did feel like torture. I was excited to finally be out of the cities and explore the beaches. A shower and a hunt for food were very much welcomed.

The next day I explored the beaches along this Pacific coastline. I was happy to feel sand in my toes and the sea lapping over my feet. There is just something about the beach that makes me feel so grounded. The sun was out in full force with the temperature gauge hitting 39 degrees. It was crazy hot and humid. The humidity was very high, you even sweated when sitting still. I had never experienced anything like it.

So, in Puerto Escondido, I enjoyed beach days. I would bake in the sun and then cool off in the sea. You couldn’t do much else but that suited me perfectly after a jam-packed first week in Mexico. It was nice to catch up on sleep and relax. This is a piece of paradise in Mexico.


I Did Do One Activity Here

my turtle in a coconut ready for release when visiting a surf town in Mexico
Turtle Release in Puerto Escondido

The activity I chose to do was the turtle release. I had read good things about this company online so I thought I would check it out. In the evening everyone heads to the beach and pays to release one of these turtles. I got the feeling that money mattered more to them. One good thing is that they didn’t let you touch the turtles because this isn’t healthy for them. Also, there were no birds in the sky to sky-bomb the turtles. Therefore, my little turtle got a clean run to the ocean. Let’s hope he is the 1 in 100 that survives his journey.

After Relaxing and Sweating Non-Stop

Visiting a surf town in Mexico ended with one last morning walk along the main beach in Puerto Escondido. This walk was great at first but once leaving the beach a dog ran towards us. It jumped up at my friend and attempted to bite her. The dog left a mark and some bruises. Luckily, she got it off before it could puncture the skin. Another little thing going wrong. We left the beach by another night bus. We were heading to San Cristobal.

Now, the little things going wrong started to add up. Let’s see what else Mexico can throw at us.

Check out my travel journal entries here!

2-Week Adventure Backpacking in Nicaragua

Disclaimer: This blog contains affiliate links meaning I earn a small percentage of every purchase at no cost to you.

This blog is about my 2-week adventure backpacking in Nicaragua. Again, as always I choose my destinations based on my interests. And so should you. This country was beautiful, eye-opening, and magnificent all rolled into one. This country truly touched me. In my opinion, this blog covers the most beautiful places in Nicaragua.

Magnificent Leon – 2 Nights

So, our first stop in Nicaragua was the city of Leon. We arrived at midnight by shared tourist shuttle from Honduras. It just made the border crossing a little easier by having someone do it for you. This place you can just wander around and take in the culture. The best place to stop by is the Cathedral. Remember to go to the roof for the best view. It was too wet when we were there so we missed it.

Me getting ready to sandboard down the side of a volcano
Volcano Boarding

The main reason backpackers stop by here is for the volcano boarding. Yes, you slide down an active volcano (US$35) on a plank of wood. Yes, it does sound crazy but it sure as hell is fun. Don’t worry you can easily control your speed, not that you will want to!

Rough and Ready Managua – 1 night

This capital city is a little rough around the edges and I wouldn’t really recommend a stop here. Travelling around Nicaragua on the local buses is easy because vendors yell out their destinations. Yet, don’t expect a bus to leave straight away because they only leave when they are as full or near to full. Therefore, you need to allow extra travel time for this.

However, stopping in Managua is convenient if you need to get some shopping done. Also, the capital is the main hub for flights over to the Corn Islands. This is something we missed as the weather wasn’t going to be great. Although, after speaking to other travelers; they didn’t regret visiting these Caribbean Islands on the coast of Nicaragua. They do look pretty untouched and impressive.

Lively Granada – 3 Nights

A old dirty looking church
The Church in Granada

In the bustling, colourful streets of Granada, there were street markets, historic buildings, and Lake Nicaragua. Also, this town is a good hub for day trips. Unfortunately, with it being the green season and raining every day all day whilst I was there most of the activities were called off. Normally, you can go swimming in a crater lake, see magma from an active volcano, and party hard at the famous Treehouse Hostel.

Beautiful Ometepe – 3 Nights

yellow circular sun over the shadow of Volcan Conception during 2-week adventure backpacking Nicaragua
Sunset over Volcan Conception

This beautiful island is made up of two volcanoes; the main one is Volcan Conception. It is possible to hike both volcanoes however in the middle of the green season it is not recommended. We did hire a scooter for a day (US$18). A scooter is definitely needed to visit the key sites as places of interest are all spread out over the island.

There are plenty of places such as having a swim at Ojo de Agua, Hiking to San Ramon waterfall, and exploring nature at Charco Verde. Also, you can relax at El Pital which is known for its chocolate and great views of Volcan Conception. Lastly, you can chill at ‘the beach’ at Punta Jesus and watch the sun go down.


Laid-back San Juan del Sur – 4 Nights

San Juan del Sur is a place to chill out and take it easy for a few days. This is an ideal stop with great surf for you surfers out there. There is plenty of companies to choose from for surf lessons. I had some lessons at Alex’s Surf Shop. These were okay, helpful more for a private one. Also, after lesson they let you enjoy more waves or lounge in the sun for an hour.

I hope you enjoyed the highlights of my 2-week adventure backpacking in Nicaragua. Please click here for more adventures.