In the winter of 2003, intimidated by George II's eagerness to appease anti-Castro radicals in Miami by harassing travelers, we reluctantly skipped our usual cycling trip in Cuba. We went to Nicaragua instead.

       On the advice of several veteran Central America travelers, we left our bikes at home, and it was the right decision. Nicaragua isn't a good place for bicycle touring. The traffic on Nicaragua's few paved roads is heavier than in Cuba.

       On a positive note, there seem to be millions of miles of rough dirt roads in Nicaragua that would be ideal for mountain biking, as opposed to touring. We found fabulous beaches — some even more beautiful than ones we love in Cuba! The food was often better and more plentiful than in Cuba, for tourists at least and prices were lower.

       Nicaragua is a rewarding destination for the curious traveler; and like Cuba, Nicaragua can be an eye-opening experience for us Americans. Therefore we will introduce you to some of our favorite places. If you aren't prepared to go cycling in Cuba, consider exploring Nicaragua — but do so by bus or rented car, rather than by bike!

We spent a few nights in Costa Rica on our way to Nicaragua. Our very first stop was El Colibrí, the home of Jan and Ili Boer, a delightful couple. Jan is Dutch and Ili is Costa Rican. Their home is about 25 minutes by car from Costa Rica's main international airport.


They have built a small, two-unit accommodation near their house, just below the swimming pool. It is comfortable and immaculately clean. Jan or Ili pick up guests at the airport and drop them off upon their departure — a wonderful convenience for tired travelers.
One more point about our few days in Costa Rica: On the way north to the Nicaraguan border, we stopped for a night in La Cruz, at a remarkable hotel. The Amalia Inn was slightly run down when we were there, with few guests, and the dining room was closed — but what a beautiful old building! All it needs is more patronage to bring it back to life.
And what a setting! Amalia Inn sits at the edge of an escarpment with an extraordinary view of the Pacific. If you're traveling in the north of Costa Rica, give it a try.

On to Nicaragua!


Nicaragua's most-visited town is probably Granada. Spending your first few days in Granada certainly makes for a "soft landing." There is good accommodation, an excellent selection of cheap restaurants, and the water is even safe to drink thanks to a modern treatment plant.

The main plaza in Granada is splendid for hanging out, enjoying cold fruit drinks and light meals. Our favorite lunch was vigaron, a combination of shredded cabbage and onions, spicy sauce, and chicharonnes - fried pork rinds - all served on a banana leaf. Sounds weird, but it's delicious.
We loved staying at "Another Night in Paradise," despite its name. Owner Donna Tabor came to Nicaragua with the Peace Corps, and she has stayed on to continue managing a project that helps street boys.
Rooms at Another Night in Paradise are simply furnished, clean, and comfortable, and there is a pleasant second-floor verandah for relaxing with a view of the local volcano.
This was the tiny, gated patio outside our first-floor room.
While in Granada, we tried to improve our Spanish at one of the many language schools in town. Wally liked his instructors. This school was One-on-One Tutoring, possibly the best of the bunch. They're on the web at

Granada, like much of Nicaragua, can be very hot. If it were not for the constant breezes off Lac Cocibolca (Lake Nicaragua), people might melt into the pavement. From Granada we traveled to the Island of Ometepe, a volcanic island in the lake.

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