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Granada  -  Leόn & Masaya (day trips)  -  Isla de Ometepe  -  San Juan del Sur           (see map below)


Granada - laid-back sophistication (not unlike Antigua, Guatemala maybe 15 years ago) with a charm of it's own and lots to do in and around; good as a "home base".





5.5 million


50,000 sq. miles   (slightly larger than New York)


Managua,  pop. 1.4 million  (25% of total population)




$90/month (stats vary depending on source, but it's one of the poorest nations in the western hemisphere)


coffee, beef, shrimp and lobster, tobacco, sugar


Cόrdoba   (US$ 1 = C 18.5)


28 volcanoes - several active, 8 crater lakes

Revolution (ended 1979), civil wars and general unrest off and on over many decades; 1987 Peace Accords settled things down in Nicaragua

PRESIDENT: Daniel Ortega  (2006-      ; 1985-1990)


WHAT IS  "típico "?

In Central America, típico is used to describe typical, or a characteristic, of a region, in particular, food.  A típico meal always includes, you guessed it - rice, beans, tortillas and usually fried plantains.  (For many families, all they can afford to eat are rice, beans and tortillas - every meal, every day.)  For breakfast, add eggs and a piece of white, tasteless cheese.  For lunch or dinner, add chicken, beef or pork and maybe a small lettuce salad.  Although we do eat típico occasionally (it's usually good and always a cheap eating option), fortunately breakfast americano is usually easily found!

Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America but the least densely populated - just the opposite of El Salvador.  It borders both the Pacific and Atlantic (Caribbean) Oceans.  Most of the population lives in the western part of the country, with the remote central and eastern areas being mountainous and sparsely populated, and therefore not as safe for traveling.  Many volcanoes, some which are active, dominate the northwestern landscape.  The swampy Caribbean coast is called the "Mosquito Coast".

Lake Nicaragua, located in the western part of the country, is one of the largest lakes in the world.  There are more than 500 small islands in the lake.  Isla de Ometepe, an island made up of 2 volcanoes (one erupted in 2005), is the 10th largest lake island in the world.  Lake Nicaragua is home to the world’s only freshwater shark.

Like El Salvador, Nicaragua has lost much of its tradition.  Nicaragua and El Salvador are tied together not only by their recent history of revolution, but also their tradition of poetry.  Nicaragua’s favorite son and Latin America’s most important poet, Ruben Dario, has been compared to Mozart (Dario was reading at age 3).  Many public buildings, theatres, etc. are named after him.  He died in 1916 at age 49, and his tomb is on one side of the altar in León's big cathedral.


For a hundred years, Nicaragua's politics were dominated by the Liberals, centered in Leόn, and by the Conservatives, centered in Granada.  In the early 1900's, the U.S. had marines in Nicaragua to support the Conservative government.  A guerrilla leader, Gen. Sandino, fought the U.S. troops who were dominating the politics and eventually drove them out of the country in 1933.  After Sandino's assassination, the Somoza dictatorial dynasty dominated for decades, making their collective families very wealthy, and the countrymen poorer.  After the December 23, 1972 earthquake destroyed much of Managua, unprecedented international aid was sent to Nicaragua - but Somoza diverted most of it to his family and cronies.  The country became ungovernable, and most countries - except the U.S. - cut ties with the Somoza regime.  The Sandinista guerrillas -  which started as a bunch of increasingly militant university students who eventually adopted the guerrilla leader's name - now a formidable power, forced Somoza to flee the country in 1979, ending the revolution.  The Sandinistas (FSLN party - Sandinista National Liberation Front), with Daniel Ortega as their leader, were now in charge. 

Enter the U.S. once again.  In 1981, President Reagan suspended the aid package to Nicaragua, and accused Nicaragua of supplying arms to the guerrillas in El Salvador with the aid of Cuba and the Soviet Union, which the Sandinistas denied.  The fear was that Nicaragua was headed down the path to communism.  Under Reagan, the U.S. trained and armed Nicaragua's former government's National Guard who became known as the Contras, whose mission was to overthrow the Sandinista-led Nicaraguan government.  Reagan constructed bases in Honduras and Costa Rica for the Contras, providing training and aid.  This would go on for a decade.

In 1984, Daniel Ortega, who was the Sandinista leader, won the apparently fair presidential election.  Civil war between the U.S. backed Contras and the Sandinista government forces intensified.  Then Costa Rica's President Arias spearheaded a treaty (aimed at stopping the civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala also) that was signed by all the Central American leaders in 1987 and called for suspension of aid by the U.S. and the Soviet Union.  What also helped was the diminishing support from the U.S. of the Contras (U.S. caught red-handed on the Iran-Contra Affair) and the Soviet Union of the Sandinista government (Soviet Union was about to collapse).  Although Arias was awarded the Nobel Peace prize, Reagan criticized the treaty as "deeply flawed".  By 1993, Central America was at peace for the first time in ages.

Segue to the Iran-Contra debacle.  In 1984, the U.S. Congress banned Reagan from financing the Contras in their quest to overthrow the Nicaraguan government.  A workaround surfaced whereby the U.S. sold arms to Iran in exchange for the release of seven American hostages held by Islamic Lebanese terrorists, with the sales proceeds diverted to finance the Contras.  The U.S. got busted in 1986 when a Contra supply plane from El Salvador with an American pilot was shot down by the Sandinistas; and six of the hostages were not released per "agreement".  "I cannot recall" became the catch phrase as denials and pardons ensued.

The Sandinistas ruled for 11 years until 1990 when anti-Sandinista Chamorro won the presidential election.  However, businesses were becoming dissatisfied over business reforms (companies were being nationalized), general populace disenchanted about governmental corruption, and the Sandinistas were unhappy about all their earlier achievements (lauded for literacy and health-care initiatives) being undermined which now led to unrest and threats of armed conflict once again.  Conservative candidate Alemán beat former Sandinista leader Ortega in the 1996 presidential election.  But then in 1998 hurricane Mitch killed 9,000 people, left 2 million homeless and caused $10 billion in damages.  Many people fled to the U.S. (under amnesty programs).  International aid poured in to Nicaragua.  Most of it, however, was siphoned off by Alemán, who had already embezzled $100 million out of government funds.  (Internationally, he has been voted one of the 10 most corrupt politicians.)  The successor Liberal president, Bolanos, sent Alemán to prison for 20 years in 2003, which boosted moral.  

In 2004, Nicaragua received an enormous show of support from the international community when the IMF and World Bank forgave $4.5 billion of Nicaragua's debt.  In 2006, a free-trade agreement with the U.S. (CAFTA) went into effect.  Although the former Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega ran for president a few more times, he wasn't reelected until 2006 with 38% of the vote.  With Ortega in office, fear is that international investments will now pull out of the country.  Ortega is politically aligned with Cuba's Castro, Venezuela's Chavez and Bolivia.  As noted in El Salvador's history, El Salvador who closely aligns itself with the U.S., now maintains a low-profile/non-committal relationship with Nicaragua.


Looking at the above map of Nicaragua, you can see that on it's southern border with Costa Rica, the San Juan River connects the Caribbean with Lake Nicaragua.  A narrow strip of land is all that then separates Lake Nicaragua from the Pacific.  The U.S. had approached Nicaragua in the 1890's about building the inter-ocean canal through Nicaragua, but it was rejected by General Zelaya.  After the U.S. began constructing the canal in Panama, the then politically weak Zelaya had a change of mind and tried to get Great Britain, Germany and Japan to back another canal.  In 1914 a Treaty was signed (and $3 million paid by the U.S. to Nicaragua) which gave the U.S. exclusive rights to a canal, plus naval bases, in Nicaragua.  Even though the intent to build was no longer there, it would stop any competitive canal from ever being built.  (The treaty was terminated in 1970.)

In late 2006, talk of building the Nicaragua inter-ocean canal resurfaced.  Even after the Panama Canal's expansion is complete by 2015, it still will not be able to accommodate the mega-ships.  Today there are 900 such mega-ships, estimated to increase to 3,000 by the year 2019.  To go from the U.S. east coast to Japan, mega-ships have to go around Cape Hope, Africa.  The great debate will be to "save the ecologically rich lake environment" versus "build the economically beneficial canal".  Since Costa Rica shares the border, they argue they should have a say in this matter.

-  -  -

We bussed in comfort from San Salvador (El Salvador) through a corner of Honduras at sunrise and in to Managua (Nicaragua).  These border crossings entail clearing out of immigration in El Salvador, clearing into and then out of Honduras, and finally clearing into Nicaragua.  Our passports are not stamped due to the CA-4 thing.  It only costs a few dollars, and although we're processed as a group, it still took us a couple of hours to finish.  It was apparent when we crossed the El Salvador border into Nicaragua (immigrations aside) as the roads once again became rough. 

-  -  -

Managua, the capital, is widely known for being an unsafe city, not to mention unattractive with not much of interest to see.  The city’s center, which was destroyed during the 1972 earthquake and further ruined by bombings during the wars, has never been rebuilt.  We had the occasion to travel through Managua and see the sights from our bullet-proof shuttle van (only kidding) on a day trip to Leόn, which was plenty enough. 

Literally within 2 minutes of getting off our international bus in Managua, we were in a taxi headed to Granada, an hour away.


Nicaragua is not able to generate enough electrical power for the country, therefore energy is rationed.  As a result, all cities, including Managua, Leόn and Granada, are systematically cut off from power each day (and sometimes not so systematically!).  Can you imagine Managua at rush hour without any stop lights!  Thankfully, Managua uses a lot of roundabouts in lieu of stop lights.  The lights-out schedule is made known at the beginning of the week and times are rotated around each week.  Hospitals and a few others are exempt. 

Publicly, it is said that the electric generators are not producing what they should be due to old, poorly maintained facilities.  Privately, blame is put on people easily stealing power and not paying their fair share.  One establishment told us they saw their electric bill increase by 400% over the last 2 years.  Some published statistics quote the daily need at 480 megawatts but that only 310 megawatts are being distributed daily.  They say the electrical issue will be remedied by the end of the year – which year we’re not sure.

.  .  .  AND THE WATER?

Without electricity, there is no water, either, as cities/towns and most individual consumers use electric water pumps.  Some individual places have reservoir water tanks on the roof that gravity feeds water when the power is off.  One day in Granada the water was off for 24 hours.  Yep, that means that in most places toilets won’t flush, faucets won’t run, etc.  Ok, it's not quite as gross as it sounds, as you then barrel-flush  -  public restrooms have barrels of water and a bucket outside, pouring the water in "flushes" everything through the pipes.  And, carry hand sanitizer with you. 

Since I'm on the subject, toilet paper is never flushed down the toilet anywhere in Central America.  A small waste basket is always provided next to the toilet.  Other than the plumbing not being able to handle paper in general, some reasons we've been given are: The antique plumbing is made out of tile which has shifted with the earthquakes, causing uneven edges for the paper to get caught on and build up; and the pipes are too small (guess people were smaller back then???).

-  -  -

Granada (pronounced like Ramada Inn) (pop. 90,000) is located on the western shore of Lake Nicaragua.  Founded in 1524, it is the oldest city on the continent that still sits on its original site, unlike many other cities that were relocated due to volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, etc.  Affluent Granada was a prime target for the Caribbean pirates in the 1600's, as it is accessible from the Caribbean by going up the Rio San Juan river, which flows along the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border, and into Lake Nicaragua.  This is also the same route the sharks used to get into the Lake.   (See box  FRESHWATER SHARKS below.)

Granada is what Antigua, Guatemala must have been like 15 or 20 years ago before the big influx of international tourists and corresponding onslaught of street vendors.  This colonial town, with its brightly painted adobe facades hiding courtyards and fountains, and colorful churches, has lots of great restaurants and bars to satisfy anybody.  And of course the weekend festivities and vendors in Central Park attract locals and tourists alike.  Granada is also the center of a lively expat scene.

We arrived on a Sunday which was the Parade of Horses through town – over and over again – about 400 horses and many drunks participated.  The town smelled like horse poop for several days afterwards until the nighttime rains finally washed it away.  The following Saturday night in the Central Park, we were pleasantly surprised by 2 hours of well-choreographed folkloric dance numbers complete with colorful, coordinated costumes, large sound system and a marimba band (remember, the electricity stays on on Saturdays).  Very well done.  After that, a dance band performed long into the night.

Decorated horse-drawn carriages grace the streets of Granada.  We made use of one to get us acclimated to the city.  Manuel, a nice young man with decent English and well-nourished horses was recommended to us.  He's saving his money so he can attend the university next year to study tourism. 


At Iglesia San Francisco (church) we met a very nice young man, Enoch, who works for the church (he works as interpreter among other things) and gave us a tour.  He took us to the Cathedral de Granada (the beautiful large mustard and brick colored cathedral pictured at the top of this section) where his best friend Santos took us to the bell tower where he did the 12:00 noon bell ringing.  Enoch speaks wonderful English and has a whole slew of American idioms and  colloquial speech in his repertoire.  We took him our American magazines as we finished them so he could practice – he was very inquisitive.

This was our introduction into Nicaragua’s energy rationing system (see box WHO TURNED OFF THE LIGHTS? above).  The week we were there, Granada was without power from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. except Saturdays (the next week it would be from 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.).  A few of the nicer hotels and restaurants have generators.  Restaurants cook with propane.  We walked around town with flashlights and ate dinner by candle light, which isn’t all bad.  Fortunately, it's quite safe walking the dark streets at night in Granada.  Our little hotel had a big water tank on the roof so we always had water. 

We checked out several museums, and had fun trying out all the recommended restaurants - by candlelight.  We used Granada as home base for exploring this region of Nicaragua. 


-  -  -

A day trip to Leόn, the "other" Nicaraguan tourist city, let us see the sights of Nicaragua’s second largest city (pop. 182,000).  It was also founded in 1524 as the country’s original capital.  Having been founded 2 months after Granada, these 2 cities have been arch-rivals throughout history.  When the Momotombo volcano erupted in 1610 destroying Leόn Pompeii-style, it was relocated to a new site.  To win the civil war with Granada, Leόn invited U.S. mercenary William Walker to fight.  But after he declared himself president, and was subsequently executed, both cities lost out when the capital was moved to Managua.  While Granada has always been considered conservative, Leόn prides itself on being liberal, progressive, a cultural center, and Sandinista stronghold.  The rivalry is still evident today.

Museum of Legend and Myth Mural at University


Leόn, some say, is a bigger Antigua, Guatemala - we just thought it bigger.  It has several very colorful, beautiful churches, and the Basilica de la Asuncion on the Central Park is the largest cathedral in Central America (see pictures below).  However, they all are in dire need of a good sprucing up with a power washer.  The highlight for us was the Museo de Arte Fundacion Ortiz-Guardian, considered probably the finest contemporary art museum in all of Central America.  The collection is so large that it is housed in 2 beautiful old homes.  (No pictures allowed.)  

Churches of Leόn

Basilica de la Asuncion - the largest cathedral in Central America

Iglesia El Calvario

Iglesia de la Recoleccion

Iglesia de la Merced


 The day we were there, Leόn was without power, and thus without water, from 6:00 a.m. to mid afternoon.

-  -  -

We did an organized night trip to the nearby Masaya Volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in the world and the most heavily venting volcano in Nicaragua.  In 2001 eruptions hurled massive rocks high into the air, now seen scattered around; on April 23, 2007, tremors shook for 2.5 minutes again causing cracks in its structure (see below).  Visiting this volcano is described as ‘adventure tourism’ - and you’d never see this stuff allowed in the U.S.   We started off visiting the informative museum.  Then we drove to the top of one of the crater’s rim – where a sign instructs vehicles to back into the parking area so a quick getaway can be made if necessary -  to peer way down into the bubbling crater from several vantage points.  The crater is very deep so you cannot see the bottom, and noxious gases are being emitted.  At sunset we saw hoards of parrots returning to the homes in the crater  - the only bird that can tolerate these gases.  We then, with natural light dimming and town lights glowing way below, we hiked up a narrow ridge to view another crater.  Next we head to the volcanically-formed underground caves, where bats live (again, they can tolerate the gases), with water seeping throughout.  We see large cracks that were formed in April 2007 from seismic tremors – and see big chunks of rock that have fallen from the ceiling.  (For our safety, we’re required to wear hardhats.  Yeah, like that’ll help in a big one.)   At what used to be the middle of the cave (now it’s the end of the cave since part of it collapsed  recently – hmmm,  memories of the recent Utah mine collapse are vividly stamped in my brain), we turn off our flashlights and focus on the complete and total blackness and the sounds of the bats.  Next, what should be the highlight  - teetering at the jagged edge of the active crater – in the dark with no railing of any sort, wearing a gas mask, we peer down into the crater to see the red lava flow.  Unfortunately, the winds were such that they kept the rising steam and gases in place obscuring our view of the lava.  Very scary for someone who’s afraid of heights!

-  -  -

Isla de Ometepe, one of the world’s largest lake islands, is on Lake Nicaragua.  The island is shaped like a barbell, made up of 2 volcanoes - the larger and active Concepciόn and the smaller inactive Madera -  connected by a small isthmus.  Concepciόn seems to rev up every couple of decades:  The last time fire and rock was ejected was in 1957, although there have been several incidents since then of it spewing ash, most recently in 2005. 

The island is about 16 miles from end to end, but 50 miles  of road (most of it awful) outlines the barbell shape.  Most of the island is green and lush, planted with coffee, banana, corn and other crops.  Lots of cattle, horses and pigs (which we haven’t seen much of so far in our travels) roam freely, all are model thin (i.e., hip bones poking out) except for the pigs.  On our abbreviated island tour we saw some interesting petroglyphs  - over 1,700 petroglyphs have been discovered all over the island, estimated to be between 800 and 2,000 years old.   A hike up to Mirador del Diablo (Devil's Lookout) provided not only good views of both volcanoes (when the clouds clear), but also great panoramic views around the lake.

Contrary to the rest of Nicaragua, the island does not have to ration it's electricity because it is able to provide enough power for the entire island.  The water that comes from the island is certified by Nicaragua as pure.

The water in Lake Nicaragua is considered quite clean.  But interestingly enough, the only water craft you see on the lake are public lanchas and ferries, and very small fishing boats.  There are no recreational watercraft at all.  The winds can really pick up on the lake, so seems like sailboats would be appropriate; there was talk of windsurfers being keen on the lake.  But, with pleasure craft come the need for marinas, haul out facilities, fuel docks, and repair and maintenance facilities.  Or maybe it has something to do with the bull sharks????  (See box FRESHWATER SHARKS below.)


                  FRESHWATER SHARKS 

Lake Nicaragua is home to the world's only freshwater shark, a bull shark.  It got there by swimming up the Rio San Juan from the Caribbean, just like the pirates did.  Although it's not huge, it's considered ferocious and strong with a hearty appetite.  It's adapted to the silty lake waters with small, useless eyes, great sense of smell, and a flattened tailfin which allowed it to meander up the shallow rapids of the Rio San Juan.  Additionally, the bull shark can urinate away the salts which allows it to find equilibrium in fresh water, unlike other sharks.

In the 1930's, the shark became a cash crop for Nicaragua, selling to Chinese and other buyers - fins for virility, liver rich in vitamins, the skin like leather, but the meat pretty much went to waste.  In 1969, the Somoza dictatorship-family seized the economic opportunity and built a shark processing plant that over a decade depleted the lake of an estimated 20,000 sharks.  Although the population has not recovered, the shark is still definitely alive and lurking around Lake Nicaragua. 

-  -  -


It's time to check out the Pacific coast.  San Juan del Sur, situated very near the Costa Rica border, is not only a big expat and gringo scene, but also a resort town where the wealthy Nicaraguans and Costa Ricans take holidays (vacations).  Based on recommendations from cruising friends, we stay at a brand new hotel owned by transplanted Texans.  Before we knew it, we were inundated with invites for gringo activities (e.g., poker night, pot luck dinner, water aerobics, shopping).  We did happy hour and dinner at the spectacular 5-star hotel and restaurant, Pelican Eyes, located way, way up on a hill overlooking all of San Juan del Sur and it's horseshoe-shaped bay.  This place merits at least a walk-through, uh, hike-up, for the views and grounds – we made out way all the way to the top swimming pools – this place makes La Casa del Mundo (Lake Atitlan, Guatemala) look like the bunny slope.  Besides Pelican Eyes, there are quite a few great restaurants that we really enjoyed.  We found the Nica Geeks solar powered internet for the afternoons when San Juan del Sur takes it's turn at power rationing (if it was raining, Deborah would cull through her multitude of digital photos).  It was basically a beach resort, albeit a bit gringo-ized, to hang around.

Nicaragua is, as is El Salvador and Costa Rica, a world-renowned surfing mecca for the Pacific breakers (bars show surfing videos during happy hour).  In Nicaragua, the surfing hub is centered around San Juan del Sur.  Supposedly, this is the 3rd best surfing spot after Australia and Hawaii (which is seasonal).  Nicaragua is so good because the winds blow east to west over nearby Lake Nicaragua offsetting the Pacific offshore breeze, as opposed to the usual onshore wind which churns and roughens waves.  (The north coast of Costa Rica benefits from this, too.)

There are surfing camps up and down the coast from San Juan del Sur.  Visualize the typical surfer, he (or she) is probably a backpacker, too, so these camps are typically pretty basic, and often remote (Nicaragua doesn't have much infrastructure off the main roads), so some of the surf locations are only accessible by boat.  We took a day trip to one of the best surfing beaches in Nicaragua - Bahia Majagual and Playa Madera - where we watched the surfers waiting for the big one.  Here the waves are consistently 3 - 6 feet and frequently 9 - 12 feet in season.  What is surprising is the number of rock outcroppings along the beach, so some of these areas are for advanced surfers only - as anything other than a successful ride could spell disaster.  Our day trip almost turned into an overnighter (we would have had to sleep in hammocks) when heavy rains made crossing the river road impossible, but subsided just before dark so the truck was able to get in and out.  Whew! 

The highlight of San Juan del Sur was a night trip to the beach at La Flor to see the Olive Ridley turtles lay her eggs.  It was almost a full moon which is not the best time to see them as the bright light inhibits them.  But we did see one come to shore, dig her nest about 18 inches deep, lay about 100 eggs while in a trance, cover the nest back up and wearily crawl back to the water and swim off.  (See box OLIVE RIDLEY TURTLE EGG LAYING below.)  For the second time in 2 days, we almost did another unexpected overnighter - in a truck in the river.  A safari truck took the group through cedar and eucalyptus scented night air to the beach, crossing several low water areas (one time the driver waded across to make sure the truck could make it.  But on the way back - at 11:00 at night - the river had risen (it is rainy season) and the truck stopped mid-river unable to get traction (or maybe it was starting to float?), water up to the chassis and headlights partially submerged.  We all climbed out and waded through the river (I tried not to think about what might be swimming in there) and up to the gooshy foot-deep muddy road.  After many attempts to shim the tires, the tour guide hiked a couple of miles back to find a phone and call for assistance (no cell phone signal where were we).  We arrived home at 2:00 a.m. - but at least had a bed to sleep in.


Five of the world's sea turtle species nest on the Pacific and Caribbean shores of Nicaragua (and El Salvador and Costa Rica).  The Olive Ridley is the most common of Pacific turtles, with as many as 3,000 invading the beach at the same time.  It is relatively small, measuring 2.5 - 3 feet long.  The female stores sperm (they do not mate for life) and fertilizes the eggs later.  She lays about 100 eggs, 2 or 3 times a year, always returning to her birth beach (unlike some other species that go elsewhere).  In fact, old females will keep "nesting" even when they no longer have eggs.  Gestation takes 45-60 days.  Hatchlings dig their way out of the nest as a team, usually just before sunrise, then crawl to the ocean.  If they wait too long, the hot sun will dehydrate them.  It is important to let the hatchlings crawl to the water unassisted, as this imprints them with their birth beach.  Only 1 out of 1,000 turtles will survive to sexual maturity, 7 to 15 years later, to propagate the species.  Typical life span is 70 - 100 years.  These turtles migrate to Chile and back, and can dive to depths of 1,200 feet!  (The gigantic leatherback turtle can dive to 4,800 feet and swims faster than a shark.)  Light (sunlight, moonlight, flashlights) are disorienting for both the adult female and hatchlings, so flashlights were only used when behind the female.


-  -  -

From San Juan del Sur on the southern Pacific coast of Nicaragua, we taxied to nearby Rivas and caught the international Tica Bus to San Jose, Costa Rica.  As we enter Costa Rica soil, the landscape becomes more verdant.  But, as if on queue, the rain meets us at the border .  .  .  it is the rainy season after all  .  .  .  as we enter Costa Rica    .    .    .

Also seeEl Salvador – Nicaragua – Costa Rica Trip Recommendations” with lodging, transportation and activity information including costs and trip tips.  Even the casual reader may enjoy looking at this to get more details and an additional feel for our travels that have not been included here.

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