Friday, August 26, 2016

The Uncharted Beach Town of Astillero, Nicaragua

astillero, nicaragua
El Astillero is a quiet small fishing village located as far north as you can go on the Pacific Ocean in the province of Rivas, Nicaragua.  It has the same layout and is similar in size than San Juan Del Sur but with a lot less going on. The roads are compacted gravel in great condition, and within the small town, you will find a tourist information office, restaurants with fresh seafood, a hostel, small stores, and a lot of panga boats.

The main source of income for people living in Astillero is fishing.  Many people also work at nearby resorts, or as surf instructors.  El Astillero is not on most peoples radars and is more of a last minute day adventure.  However with more and more people coming to Astillero to surf, take in the amazing scenery or dock their boats, the town is starting to grow.   More restaurants are opening, along with a beach resort under construction on the northern part of town.  The prices for land and labor are very inexpensive, and with the prices increasing in San Juan Del Sur and Popoyo, more and more people are thinking about Astillero.

El Astillero is only located 8km north of Guasacate (Popoyo), and 20km from the new Costa Esmeralda Airport which currently has direct flights from Managua and Costa Rica.  In the next few years, they are expanding the runway to receive direct international flights from Miami.  Once this happens, Astillero will no longer be a quite fishing village.

astillero, nicaragua

The Surf Ranch Hotel & Resort is also under construction, just south of Astillero, and in between Guasacate, which is set to be one of the largest resorts in the country. 

astillero, nicaragua

Some of the best surf in Nicaragua is located North of Astillero and only accessible by boat, they are called Playgrounds and Lance's Left.  There is also great surf on the Astillero river mouth.  You can see the details and photos of each of the waves below.

Astillero River Mouth
surfing astillero rivermouth nicaragua

The Astillero river mouth is at the end of the road that goes through the town.  The waves here are hollow and best to surf at mid tides when there is swell. The rights here are better than the lefts.  You will find expats and locals surfing this wave.

Lance's Left
surfing lance's left nicaraguaThis wave is named after the famous boat captain who kept this spot secret for years.  It is a long left hand point break that is suitable for all skill levels.  On the best days, it can offer long rides of over 450 meters.  To get to this spot, it's better by boat than to walk.  If you walk, make sure to have someone guarding your car from petty theft as it's somewhat of a long hot walk from Astillero.

surfing playgrounds nicaragua
This wave is only accessible by boat, located north of Astillero.  It's a reef break and the left is longer than the right.  It's fun on short boards and long boards.  Many people can enjoy this wave.  The wave starts at chest high and holds up to double-overhead.  This wave is usually better in the morning with light winds and remember to watch out for the rocks, do not put your foot down.

Another popular thing to do is to sign up at any of the nearby hotels to view the Olive Ridley Turtles who come in the thousands to lay their eggs on the beach.  The season is from July to December.

astillero, nicaragua

Visit El Astillero while it is still a quite beach town, as this will not be the case for much longer.  Every time I take people to Astillero, coming around the bend, the first thing you see is a huge curved white sand beach with no one on it, then as you look past the beach you see endless waves and cliffs going down this emerald coast past the town.  The first impression is always "Wow", then the second thought is "Why is this town so untouched"?

Astillero is a beach town forgotten and lost in time, but it has now been found.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Top 7 Smartphone Apps for Tourists in Nicaragua

Your smartphone is probably already filled up with apps that you use on a daily basis such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc... which are great when traveling to Nicaragua as you can come across new ideas and places to visit, however we have listed below the top 7 must have apps that you should download before your trip to Nicaragua, and the reason why.

1.  Waze
This app is important if you are renting or driving your own car.  You will need an internet signal while on the road, which Movistar or Claro offers this service.  Once you get 3G or LTE on your phone, using Waze while driving will not only show you where you are going in real time, but will also show all of the upcoming police stops and other various disturbances ahead.  It is great to know where the traffic police are at all times.  If you pass police that are not marked on Waze, you can add it to receive points and help fellow Waze travelers.  The Waze app is big from Managua to San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua and almost all of the police stops are accurate.  No more getting pulled over and getting traffic tickets for crossing someone on a solid line :)

2. Duolingo
This app is probably the fastest and easiest way to learn Spanish.  It is free to use, and starts off with the basics.  It has a crazy algorithm that remembers the words or phrases you get wrong and introduces them to you with other words or phrases until you understand 100%.  You can learn any language easily, so do not stop at Spanish, try to learn French, German or any of the 23 languages set up on Duolingo.

3. WhatsApp
This app, you already most likely have.  If not, download it, it's great to text or call people over the internet, so you do not have to pay absurd long distance rates.  If you meet someone, you can get their local phone number into your phone, then simply talk to them through Whats App instead of sending them text messages which also cost money.

4. Google Translate
The Google Translate App is great to look up words you hear or see or even during conversations.  You can type in the word and it translates it for you, or even speaks it out load.  Another cool thing is that it has a built in visual translation function, which means that you can point your camera at a sign for example and it will translate the sign for you, try it out!

5. XE Currency
This app is great when you want to convert the dollar from your home currency to the Nicaraguan Cordoba or vice versa.  Simply pick your currency units.  For example, if you are at a restaurant and the bill comes to 950 cordobas, and you need to quickly see how much that is in US dollars, simply type it in and it will show you that it equals $33.36 USD.  However the restaurant you are at will most likely have a different exchange rate, but it will give you a ballpark figure.

6. Google Maps

Google Maps is great if you are in Managua and need to find directions to an address.  Simply type it in, and it will show you the location, as well as your current location if you are connected to the internet and GPS.  It can also give you the directions to get to your destination, however it's easier just to drive towards your destination as you can see your location in real time, as well as your destination.

7. Prey
This is a must have app if you care about your Smartphone.  You can also install it on your computer.  How it works is that if you lose or someone steals your phone,  once they connect it to the internet, you will get alerts, such as their exact location, and photos of them taken from your Smartphone.  You will have to login to your account on another persons phone, but you can track down their location, once you are in the proximity, you can signal an alarm, which your phone that was lost or stolen will start beeping and you can see where it is.

So if you are traveling to Nicaragua, download all of these above apps to make your life easier.

If we are missing any apps, please add them in the comments below:

Friday, June 17, 2016

12 Non Stop Direct Flights to Nicaragua

When planning your trip to Nicaragua, you usually want to take the fastest or cheapest flights.  The easiest way is of course taking a direct flight, so you do not have to do more security checks or layovers.  By taking a direct flight, you will be in Nicaragua in a few hours, which gives you more time to enjoy your vacation.  You will be flying into the Managua International Airport (MGA). Below we have made it easy for you and listed the top 12 direct flights to Nicaragua, including the airlines, flight time and schedule.

1. Los Angeles, California (LAX)
Flight Time - 5 Hours, 30 Minutes

Airlines - Delta

Schedule - 1 Flight per week

2. Dallas, Texas (DFW)

Flight Time - 3 Hours, 50 Minutes

Airlines - American

Schedule - 4 Flights per week

3. Fort Lauderdale, Florida (FLL)

Flight Time - 2 Hours, 30 Minutes

Airlines - Spirit

Schedule - 4 Flights per week

4. Havana, Cuba (HAV)

Flight Time - 3 Hours, 20 Minutes

Airlines - Cubana

Schedule - 2 Flights per week

5. Houston, Texas (IAH)
Flight Time - 3 Hours, 15 Minutes

Airlines - United, Spirit

Schedule - 2+ Flights per day

6. Guatemala City, Guatemala (GUA)
Flight Time - 1 Hour, 35 Minutes

Airlines - Copa, Avianca El Salvador

Schedule - 2 Flights per day

7. Atlanta, Georgia (ATL)

Flight Time - 3 Hours, 50 Minutes

Airlines - Delta

Schedule - 1 Flight per day

8. Mexico City (MEX)

Flight Time - 2 Hours, 45 Minutes

Airlines - Aeromexico

Schedule - 1 Flight per day

9. Miami, Florida (MIA)

Flight Time - 2 Hours, 35 Minutes

Airlines - American, Avianca El Salvador

Schedule - 4+ Flights per day

10. Panama City, Panama (PTY)

Flight Time - 1 Hour, 45 Minutes

Airlines - Copa

Schedule - 3 Flights per day

11. San Jose, Costa Rica - (SJO)

Flight Time - 1 Hour, 5 Minutes

Airlines - Nature Air, Copa, Lacsa

Schedule - 5 Flights per day

12.  San Salvador, El Salvador (SAL)

Flight Time - 1 Hour

Airlines - Avianca El Salvador, VECA

Schedule - 3 Flights per day

All of the 12 flights above fly directly into the Managua International Airport (MGA).  If you are flying from San Jose, Costa Rica, you can also fly into the new Costa Esmeralda Airport in Tola.  You can see the details below:

Fly from San Jose, Costa Rica to Costa Esmeralda, Nicaragua

How to get from the Managua International Airport to San Juan Del Sur 

Which direct flights do you usually take to get to Nicaragua?  Let us know in the comments below.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

9 Types of Expats You Will Find In Nicaragua

In every country around the world, you will find expats.  Expat is short for (Expatriate), which is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of their citizenship.  For the most part you will find similar expat types in each country, however below we have highlighted the top 9 types of expats that you will find in Nicaragua, more so in the town of San Juan Del Sur.

The expats range from families and partiers to hippies and retirees.  Check out the 9 types of expats that you will find in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua.  Which one would you be if you lived in Nicaragua?

1. The Family
family nicaragua
More and more families are making the move to Nicaragua, as it's affordable and they can still work from home, make US dollars, and purchase in Cordobas.  Most families send their children to a multicultural school that teaches English and Spanish, and hire a Nanny to take care of their children or help with house duties. 

2. The Surfer
surfer nicaraguaA lot of surfers travel the world looking for the perfect waves, which brings most to Nicaragua as it's a short flight away from North America, inexpensive to live and has a variety of surf beaches which you can surf almost year round.  Nicaragua has a certain aura that attracts and keeps surfers in the country.  There are a lot of expats that now call Nicaragua home because of the surf, and who have opened up surf shops, small hotels, and other various businesses.  

3. The Hippie
hippie nicaragua
Nicaragua, especially San Juan Del Sur attracts a lot of what you would call "Hippies" or people with free spirits. You will see many people walking around bare foot, tons of jewellery, shirtless and most the time selling bracelets, clothes or performing arts such as fire dancing, magic or circus acts.  The reason being is that the prices are still affordable, and Nicaragua offers a freedom of living how you want.

4. The Entrepreneur
entrepreneur nicaragua
Almost all expats living in Nicaragua are entrepreneurs as they have created a business to sustain themselves and to allow them to live in Nicaragua, with something to do, while making money.   It is fairly easy to open a business in Nicaragua, however still with the disorganization of the local city halls, they introduce rules as they go, making it sometimes frustrating, but this only makes it a little more challenging.  However, luckily these types of road blocks do not stop entrepreneurs from fulfilling what they came to Nicaragua to do, as Southern Nicaragua is growing at a rapid pace with expat businesses.

5. The International Local
nicaragua market
These expats are quick to pick up Spanish and immerse themselves in the local culture.  Usually marrying locally and raising a family in Nicaragua.  They have no intentions of moving back to where they came from and now call Nicaragua home.  Most usually have their residency and consider themselves Nicaraguan.

6. The Retiree
retiree nicaragua
Granada and San Juan Del Sur are popular destinations that retirees now call home.  There are many retired people, young and old.  The younger retired crowd are usually still working on some kind of business to keep busy, while the older retirees, you will find at certain bars throughout the day and night, usually gossiping about everyday things that go on in town.  They now call Nicaragua home and plan to spend the rest of their lives taking it easy.

7. The Globetrotter
globetrotter backpacker nicaragua
After traveling the world in search of happiness, they find themselves setting up base in Nicaragua for the same reasons that almost all expats who wound up in Nicaragua and now call it home.  They usually still take vacations from their vacation, traveling every 90 days when they need to do their visa renewal.

8. The Do - Gooder
volunteer nicaragua

You will find this type of expat volunteering constantly and striving to do things to better the community, usually teaching English, environmental cleaning or building houses for the less fortunate.  There are also many church or volunteer groups that have a few expats in each city trying to spread their message of being good, and helping out the local communities.

9.  The Partier
party nicaragua

We all party and celebrate on occasion, but this person takes it to the next level.  This person usually is out partying every night, either looking to be the center of attention or to just have a great time.  Usually spends the days hungover over and the nights partying, all week, month and year.  Every town has its partiers, however they can usually go for a few years max, until they venture off to the next destination, end up in rehab or go back home to work before saving up and doing it all over again.

So which Expat are you? or which Expat do you think you would be if you lived in Nicaragua?  Let us know in the comments below!

Monday, May 23, 2016

12 Months of Nicaragua & the Best Time to Visit

surfing nicaragua Photo by: Drink Tea Travel

When researching your upcoming trip to Nicaragua online, mostly everyone has the question, when is the best time to visit?  The answer is not that simple as each month offers something different. We have saved you the trouble and put together a description of what each month is like in Nicaragua.

Which month would you like to come visit Nicaragua?

1. January
surfing nicaragua

January tends to be the most popular travel month for tourists coming to Nicaragua. The reason is that it's after the holidays, beginning of a new year and everyone wants to travel.  Rain is very unlikely, the landscape is lush, and temperatures are very pleasant.  Due to a lot of tourists, the rates tend to be high for the first 2 weeks, then you will find discounts and happy hours for the rest of the month.

Surfing:  In January, the water gets the coldest, the wind gets the strongest, and the waves are the smallest.  Waves are great to learn how to surf.

2. February
kiteboarding nicaragua

February is a popular month to visit Nicaragua and is the last month of the windy season.  The surfing is not the best at this time, but the winds in Lake Nicaragua make it great for kite surfing.   In February, the weather is hot, but there are consistent winds to cool you off.    The landscape is hot and dry, so do not expect lush green trees.

Surfing:  The surf is the smallest this time of the year, which is great for beginners to learn.  The water is the coldest this time of the year, but it goes hand in hand with the hot weather.

3. March
semana santa, nicaragua

March is when the winds calm down and the surf gets better.  You will see many surfers starting to come down in March.  Also in March is Semana Santa (Easter / Holy Week ), so during this time, all hotel rates increase and the town fills up with tourists from Nicaragua and neighboring countries.  It is best to book way in advance if you are coming during Semana Santa which the dates vary, as even sometimes it takes place in April.  Semana Santa takes place from a Monday, lasts all week and over the weekend.

Surfing: Waves start to get better as the winds calm down, which creates a greater probability of a strong swell.  This month is when more advanced surfers start planning their surf trips.

4. April
san juan del sur, nicaragua
April is known as being the hottest month of the year.  Nothing but clear skies and less wind.   During this month, it's too hot to do a lot except to surf, drink, and cool off in the pool or ocean.  There are still a lot of tourists during this month and a great time to visit.  It usually rains at night during the last week of April, which starts to turn the landscape green.

Surfing: The winds calm down, which creates a greater probability for a strong swell.  A great time to surf.

5. May
san juan del sur, nicaragua
The month of May is when the first rains start to fall, transforming the dry barren landscape in weeks, to a lush green paradise.  The rains are usually at night, and the days are sunny with clouds.  The weather starts to cool off and there are barely any winds.  Tourism is steady, but not very busy, so there is still a lot of things going on, great surf, amazing weather and everything is green.

Surfing: Waves in May, when it is not raining, are pretty much perfect, and have consistent swell and gentle offshore winds.

6. June
surfing san juan del sur, nicaragua
June is part of the green season, so you may experience some light rains, but usually at night.  This keeps the landscape lush green.  The weather is hot and sunny with clouds.  The waves are perfect with consistent swell, the weather is nice and there are gentle offshore winds.

Surfing:  The waves are the best for intermediate to advanced surfers. June is a great time for surfing.

7. July
surfing nicaragua

In July, the surf is best for intermediate to advanced surfers.  It is green season, so everything is lush green, the weather is hot and sunny with clouds.  July is a great time to visit Nicaragua to surf, party, and see the country in it's pristine beauty.

Surfing: Waves are the best for more experienced surfers.  The sun shines and the swell is top notch.

8. August
san juan del sur, nicaragua
August has clear skies, green landscapes and hot weather with clouds.  It is the month before the rains start to come (if there is no El Niño), otherwise the rains don't end up coming at all.  Tourism is plentiful as people are traveling during their summer breaks from back home.

Surfing: Surfing is great during this month.  If it is not raining, the swell is the best.

9.  September
independance day, nicaragua
In September, 1821, Nicaragua declared Independence from Spain.  For around 4 - 5 days, during Independence Day in Nicaragua you will see many celebrations, street performances and marches as they celebrate their freedom.  It is a great time to visit as it is still green season.  The weather is hot with clouds.  Rains usually start to pick up during the second half of the month.

Surfing: Surfing is the best during the first half of September.  The second half, expect heavier rains and onshore wind. 

10. October
turtles nicaragua
October in Nicaragua is the wettest month of the year, except through El Niño, which there is barely any rain for a few years.  But when the year comes, it pours almost everyday.  Tourism slows down, but this means there are discounts on everything and a great time to travel as the country is lush green.  From July - December, you can also witness 1000's of Olive Ridley turtles lay their eggs just south of San Juan Del Sur.  An amazing thing to witness.

Surfing: Waves are the best for intermediate to advanced surfers. Bad weather this time of the year can set-in for up to two weeks. When the storms clear, the wind will shift back offshore immediately, and with plenty of energy in the ocean, the surf conditions improve overnight.

11. November
san juan del sur, nicaragua

The first two weeks of November is when the light rains stop, as the beginning of the dry season starts forming.  The last two weeks of November is when tourism picks back up again, prices go up, and the weather gets hot again as the winds slowly start coming.

Surfing: Surfing is great for the first two weeks of the month, then the last two weeks of the month, the winds start to pick up.

12. December 
new years party san juan del sur
December in Nicaragua is a busy month and best to book in advance if vacationing in San Juan Del Sur.  Rooms usually fill up 3 - 6 months in advance, especially for Dec 25th - Jan 1st, as many people from Managua, neighboring countries and everyone else come to celebrate the holidays for Christmas and New Years.  December is the beginning of the dry season, so for the first part their may be light rains, but every day is sunny and hot as the weather switches to the beginning of the dry season.

Surfing:  Offshore winds get strong. Surf hindering strong winds typically come in blasts of 3-5 days, but can last up to two weeks. The swell is least consistent during this time.

Which month is your favorite to visit Nicaragua? Let us know in the comments below.