Any place that can tempt me to keep it a secret must be extraordinary— and Nicaragua is just that, as I discovered over three visits in three years. Beautiful, welcoming and resilient, the country of six million people, roughly the size of New York State, hosted 931,904 foreign tourists in 2009. It’s no longer absurd to speak of it as a destination where delighted tourists will find market stalls stocked with bright hammocks, or go boating on Lake Nicaragua, or surf Pacific waves.


© Ellen Barone.

While Nicaragua may not have the infrastructure and services comparable to its better-known and more trampled neighbor, Costa Rica – it offers some of the greatest natural gems in all of Central America:  the largest area of primary-growth rain forest north of the Amazon, mist-shrouded cloud forests, and steamy jungles, more than 600 species of birds, as well as jaguars, sloths, monkeys, toucans, manatees, crocodiles, and the world’s only freshwater sharks. 


© Ellen Barone.

Luckily, while the hardship inflicted by decades of dictatorship, treachery and revolution is certainly evident, an alegría de vivir (“joy of life”) appears to win out. The country pulses with optimism about its future. Fresh coats of brightly- colored paint adorn old facades. New houses and improved roads announce the presence of a burgeoning class of returning Nicaraguans and foreign expats. 


© Ellen Barone.

To learn more Nicaragua and to find out if a visit there is right for you, read my feature article, Nicaragua: Can You Keep A Secret?, now online at our sister site,

Or, for complete tourism information, go to



Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the travel blog and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".