I have very mixed feelings towards Nicaragua. On one hand the roads have been the best I’ve ridden in Central America. It was the first country that I had a radar gun pointed at me since leaving the United States. However it is the poorest country in Central America and it reflects it everywhere you go. Even in the touristy town center of Granada, little kids would come up to you begging for food. “I’m hungry, I’m hungry.” may be the only English words they know and they would chase after you while pointing at your takeout/leftover.
Granada is blend of Colonial and Caribbean flavor. Colorful streets and houses resemble that of other Latin America countries but people seemed more laid back. Come evening time, people would sit outside of their front door in their rocking chairs compared to the locked gates in other countries I’ve passed through. No armed guards are to be seen anywhere even outside of banks and ATMs. Baseball is played everywhere and we even saw a motocross race in the park. USD is accepted everywhere but you will get your change in Córdobas, just don’t expect anyone to be able to break a $50.
We took a boat tour to Isletas de Granada for half a day as a relaxing activity off the bikes. It consists of a group of 365 islands in Lake Nicaragua formed from a volcanic eruption. Most of the islands are privately owned by wealthy Nicaraguans and foreigners with luxurious mansions.
One of the islands was occupied by spider monkeys. They swing from branch to branch and are curious about the tourists on the boats as much as the other way round.
Classic monkey pose
Beach time is never too far away in Central America. We met up with the German couple Adrian & Andrea, the Australian couple Paul & Maryna and Bas the Dutchman in the coastal town of San Juan Del Sur and enjoyed dinner and drinks on the beach. Much of the destruction from Hurricane Nate is still evident in the area.
Oh, the irony…
Exiting Nicaragua was a nightmare. This is the first border crossing where leaving the current country is more difficult than entering the next. The whole Nicaragua side of the border was a chaos of trucks, buses and lost souls in search of a way out. Costa Rica is also the first border that didn’t charge any BS fees other than the mandatory insurance.
- Stop at the first checkpoint in the left lane exiting Nicaragua and have passport checked
- Park at the Nicaragua immigration/customs building down the road on the right side
- Enter the building on the side closest to the road to have passport stamped out ($1 USD fee at the door and $2 USD payable to the immigration officer at the booth)
- Find a Aduana officer in the parking lot wearing light blue polo and have him sign the Departure Form and Vehicle Import Permit
- Find a police officer in the parking lot to inspect the bike and stamp both Departure Form & Vehicle Import Permit
- Stop at the last checkpoint exiting Nicaragua and hand in the Departure Form
Entering Costa Rica
- Park on right side of the road and stamp-in inside the immigration building on the left
- Go to customs across from the immigration building, prepare paperwork for Vehicle Import Permit and inspect VIN (Make photocopy of Passport, Entry Stamp, Driver’s License, Registration and Title next door)
- Go to Insurance building 250 m down the road, purchase 3-months vehicle insurance for $27 USD and apply for Vehicle Import Permit in the same building
Luckiest stray ever? We met a Swiss overlander at the Costa Rica border who rescued this dog in Mexico and made it his traveling companion after which they will return home together. 🙂
I have never failed to lead the group onto dirt roads and dead ends.
Despite the relative proximity of the Central America countries, each have subtle differences immediately after crossing the border. Costa Rica has more lush green forests with colorful plants and flowers everywhere compared to the previous countries traveled. There was no trash to be seen along the roadsides. However beauty has its price as everything was more expensive in Costa Rica. All grocery items were either on par or pricier than the US and dining out was no exception. We settled down in the touristy town of La Fortuna and went on a half day hike to a rainforest nature reserve the next day.
Photo credit: Joseph Savant
Just for reference on how big that pod-looking leaf is…
The Stahlratte team
More howler monkeys!
We even saw a toucan on the way back. (Photo credit: Christine Harel)
Christine and Jules made a delicious home cooked meal from scratch for the whole biker family. 😀
Another rain delayed morning departure as we head towards the coast.
Winding roads with perfect pavement around Lake Arenal was a real pleasure to ride.
200 miles and a free bike wash later, we’ve arrived in Hatillo along the Pacific coast. We were soaked and exhausted but another challenge was thrown at us. The B&B we booked was up on a very steep hill that’s one lane wide (but 2-way traffic) with switchbacks and covered with slick algae. A commitment has to be made at the bottom as there is no stopping or turning around. It was a nerve-racking experience trying to maintain the momentum into a blind corner. Fortunately we all made it to the entrance only to find out there was another 300 m of muddy track into the dark jungle. I almost wanted to head out back onto the main road and find another place instead but fearless Joe went to scout out the unknown and informed us there was actually a building there. The icing on the cake was that the B&B was out of power but the pool was working so we called it home for the night. The owners were from France and have traveled all over the world while searching for the ultimate place to live. They whipped up some delicious dinner and dessert for us using stuff grown on their property. A candlelight dinner followed by sometime in the infinity pool put a smile on everyone’s face. 🙂
We went out for a nature hike in the morning because that’s what you do in Costa Rica.
The roads up the mountain were seriously steep. I’m not looking forward to the ride back down.
There were a few vacant houses up the hill. The B&B owner told us they were built without a permit and abandoned afterwards. I called dibs on this one…
A reward is at the end of every challenge. In this case, an infinity pool overlooking the ocean with a side of French cuisine!