About This Trip
Note: Due to the ongoing political crisis in Nicaragua, our Nicaragua expeditions have been canceled until further notice. As an alternative, we are now offering an exciting 9-day trip to Costa Rica's beautiful and biodiverse Pacific Coast.
- Explore the wild and beautiful Pacific coast of Nicaragua, from expansive sandy beaches to mangrove estuaries and dry forest.
- Our trip is timed to coincide with peak nesting of olive ridley sea turtles, with a chance to see an “arribada” mass nesting event.
- Visit charming colonial towns, geothermal lakes, and active volcanoes.
Nicaragua has been gaining international acclaim as an “undiscovered” natural and cultural destination in recent years, and this trip will show you why. Our itinerary takes you along the Pacific coast from Juan Venado Nature Reserve and Padre Ramos Estuary in the north to San Juan del Sur and La Flor Wildlife Refuge in the south. These areas provide important habitat for four sea turtle species, and our trip is timed to coincide with the peak nesting of olive ridley turtles, plus the chance to encounter hawksbill turtles in the water. We’ll have the chance to see both nesting adults and hatching babies, and with luck may see the mass nesting “arribada” of olive ridley turtles.
We’ll also visit the colonial towns of Granada and Leon, enjoy a swim or paddle in a geothermal lake, and visit the smoldering Masaya volcano on our adventure.
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Founded in 1969, Oceanic Society is America’s oldest 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to ocean conservation. As pioneers of “eco travel,” our expeditions have been designed to directly support our mission. They not only positively impact our travelers, but also the people, places, and wildlife we go to see. Your expedition costs include fees that support conservation and promote sustainable livelihoods in the communities we visit, and Oceanic Society's earnings are invested back into our global research and conservation programs. In 2019, we also established our Expedition Impact Fund (EIF) as a way to grow our impact. The fund is seeded annually with money earned from our expeditions, and supplemented by donations from Oceanic Society travelers. Through the EIF, we award grants to our partners for their on-the-ground efforts to protect ocean habitats and the wildlife and human communities that depend on them.
Dates & Prices
Day 1: Arrival to Managua - León
Upon your arrival into Managua you will be met and transferred to the charming colonial city of León, approximately 2 hours away. Our hotel is located in the central historic area, near the main plaza and the León Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy an orientation dinner, and overnight at Hotel El Convento. (D)
Day 2: León - Juan Venado Nature Reserve
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast and city tour of the town of León, rich with history and colonial intrigue. We'll then continue west to Isla Juan Venado on the Pacific coast. A boat tour through the mangroves is followed by a short hike through the dry forest to the sea turtle hatchery. We'll relax on the isolated beach and hope to see baby sea turtles hatch before heading on to our hotel. Overnight at Marina Puesta del Sol in Chinandega. (B/L/D)
Day 3: Padre Ramos Estuary
After an optional early morning nature walk around our hotel grounds, we'll explore the mangrove forests of Padre Ramos estuary by kayak, quietly paddling while looking for herons, ospreys, flying fish, and surfacing sea turtles. Enjoy a delicious lunch on the beach. (B/L/D)
Padre Ramos is a mangrove estuary and an area of intense natural beauty that has been protected as a nature reserve since 1983. The reserve consists of more than 28,000 hectares of mangrove, beaches, coral reefs, and coastal areas. It is also home to one of the two most important nesting beaches for the eastern Pacific population of hawksbill turtles, which are critically endangered. This area was only recently discovered by scientists (in 2009) and hosts almost half of all known hawksbill nesting in the region. We will join a local biologist on a motorboat ride through the estuary to look for adult hawksbill turtles, which will be captured, measured, and released as part of ongoing research.
The turtle eggs are protected through an innovative program that pays local residents to collect the eggs and bring them to a protected hatchery. To finish the day, we will participate on a long-term study of the hawksbill nesting population led by the project's biologists. Overnight at Marina Puesta del Sol. (B/L/D)
Day 4: Pueblos Blancos & Laguna de Apoyo
Today we’ll head south along the coast and to the spectacular caldera lake of Apoyo Lagoon, where we'll spend the night. On our way, we'll visit one of the nearby towns that are collectively known as the Pueblos Blancos ("White Towns") for the traditional whitewash that was used on buildings. Today these small towns are full of art, colorful flowers, and outstanding views. After lunch we will continue to the Apoyo Lagoon, a paradise for those who love swimming in natural environments. This is a geothermal heated caldera lake that maintains a perfect swimming temperature. Enjoy swimming, kayaking, or paddle boarding from our hotel, Apoyo Resort. (B/L/D)
Day 5: San Juan del Sur & La Flor Wildlife Refuge
After breakfast we head back to the coast to the charming beach town of San Juan del Sur (~2 hours). We then continue to our beachfront cabañas located near La Flor Wildlife Refuge and check in. Around sunset we will head to the beach to look for nesting olive ridley sea turtles with the hope to witness an "arribada" or mass nesting event—one of nature's greatest spectacles. La Flor is one of only seven beaches worldwide that hosts arribadas, and as many as 5,000 turtles can come ashore to nest here in one night! Although we cannot guarantee that a mass nesting event will occur during our trip (their timing remains one of nature's great mysteries), we have timed our program to increase our chances. We are very likely to see sea turtles nesting, as well as hatching baby turtles making their way to sea. A once in a life-time experience! Overnight at Parque Maritimo El Coco. (B/L/D)
Day 6: La Flor Wildlife Refuge
Today we have a full day to explore the coast and dry forest surrounding La Flor Wildlife Refuge. Enjoy a kayaking excursion along the dramatic coast followed by lunch on the beach. In the afternoon, you'll have the chance to snorkel in an area where sea turtles are often found. Tonight we'll head to the beach to again look for nesting sea turtles. (B/L/D)
Day 7: Granada & Masaya Volcano
This morning we leave the coast and transfer to the renowned colonial city of Granada. Here we will hear the “other side of the story” – meaning the colonial history of this rival to León. We will also visit the smoldering, active volcano of Masaya. Granada is known for its many fine restaurants and we will end the day with a farewell dinner in one of them. Overnight at Hotel Colonial, or equivalent, in Granada. (B/L/D)
Day 8: Managua, departure
After breakfast, transfer to the airport in Managua (approx. 45 minutes away). (B)
Note: Activities and accommodations described in the itinerary are subject to change based on availability, weather conditions, and other factors.
Throughout our program we will stay in double-occupancy rooms at comfortable and convenient hotels. These may include:
- Hotel El Convento, Leon
- Marina Puesta del Sol, Chinandega
- Apoyo Resort, Masaya
- Parque Maritimo El Coco, La Flor
- Hotel Colonial, Granada