What To Do in Nicaragua: DesignLoveFest Trip

Trying to figure out what to do in Nicaragua? 

Read on to learn what we planned for four best friends who needed a serious tropical escape.

This article was originally published on DesignLoveFest and based off an El Camino Travel experience we organized for them. To have a similar experience, book our Nicaragua trip.


wow, i am still coming down from this vacation high. i went with three of my best friends, jen jesse and cammy, to nicaragua with the el camino travel girls. we had the BEST time. click through to see where we stayed, what we did, and where we ate…definitely recommend all these places! sorry i posted SO many photos, i couldn’t help it.

i also made a fun home video using my phone if you want to check it out after the jump!

a lot of people warned me that nicaragua wasn’t very safe, so i had no idea what to expect. i can honestly say that i felt safe the whole time and it seemed like everyone was very welcoming. it’s true that there is a lot of poverty in nicaragua, but i really found the people to be generally happy, friendly and inviting. also, there is clearly a big movement towards great design, food and flourishing communities that is worth noticing. i would add it to your bucket list and read this article if you are interested in it!

i made sure to take tons of footage on the trip so i could make one of these videos. i am always SO happy when i remember to do this and absolutely love watching these little videos years later. you can watch if you’d like below

first thing, i have to tell you about el camino travel. i would seriously recommend you trying them out. i was hesitant at first because i am so used to planning all of my trips myself, so i didn’t know what it would be like to go on someone else’s itinerary. but they did such a wonderful job and made us feel safe, taken care of, and showed us some amazing spots. it was so nice to not have to worry what we were going to do next! and every night they send you a link with 20-30 highlight photos for you to use on social media if you want to. every night we would gather at the dinner table and look through the photos from the day and tell funny stories. it was incredible, really. they planned the trip with thenicaragua tourism board and we flew on avianca airlines. it was the most convenient and laid back experience i’ve had.

after a two hour car ride, we got to san juan del sur in the afternoon and went directly to the pool at the hulakai hotel to swim and watch the beautiful sunset view. what a welcome. this place feels like you are in the jungle and so secluded (in a good way)

this spot was just a short walk from our hotel, the maderas village. we loved where we were staying so much! cute huts, family style dinners with big platters and delicious food, welcoming people we became friends with. it’s known as a bohemian utopia for doers, makers, and dreamers, which i found completely accurate.

this place is not a place where you go to just sit on the beach and drink piña coladas; it’s a place where you go to think through an idea that’s been on your mind, find your breath through yoga or meditation (we did kundalini yoga!), and banter each night over rums with the characters sitting around one of the communal tables….i want to go back!

the next morning we walked to the beach from maderas, had beers on the beach, played in the ocean, and just relaxed. that night after dinner a bunch of us went back to the beach for a bonfire where we spent the night laughing and laying in the sand.

on saturday we spent the afternoon aboard a 38 foot catamaran with nica sail and surf, sailing the epic coastline of southern pacific nicaragua. we enjoyed a spacious boat, endless mai-tais (heeeey flor de caña!), and bottomless pico de gallo, guacamole, and their world famous ceviche. we sailed for about an hour or two to the private playa blanca beach, jumped off the boat and swam around. the ride over there was warm and i was so at ease.

i’m not completely over my fear of the ocean, but i just decided to go for it. i don’t know how to fully get over that scary feeling of not knowing what’s under me, but i still had a good time. and the jumping was fun!

who knows what kind of weird stretches we were doing. #tipsay

sunday we all hopped in a van and drove to the colorful city of granada. it’s full of culture and amazing colonial architecture. the colors reminded me a lot of my stay in new orleans!

we stayed at the tribal hotel and OH MY GOD. i never wanted to leave this little oasis. only 7 rooms, each with their own balcony and amazing design. the pool area is quaint and perfect. (their cocktails were A+) we only stayed there one night, but i was already planning in my head when i could go back. each inch was well thought out.

we went out on the town to explore and have some lunch. highly recommend espressonista for food. each dish was full of flavor and love. and get the coffee!! one of the best iced coffees i’ve ever had.

our last night was pretty epic. we boarded a tiny boat on the freshwater lake nicaragua (which was massive!) and arrived to a tiny little island called isleta el espino with a 3 room hotel and restaurant. we came at sunset and admired the dormant volcano views and listened to all the singing birds. you gotta check this place out if you go! the chef makes a special menu that uses the best locally-produced foods, many from the island.

our last day before we headed to the airport we made two stops. one to the masaya market, full of leather goods, blankets, woven baskets and tons more.

and we also went to tio antonio’s hammock store. the man who owns it gives jobs to deaf and mute kids, in an effort to prove they are just as capable of working. it was such a special place that touched my heart. i ordered quite a few custom hammocks to bring home with me!

i am so grateful for this trip and these friends. we will remember this forever. xo

Katalina Mayorga2 Comments