I have a bit of an obsession with travel. Funny considering I haven’t really DONE much traveling, at least not outside of the States. But my soul has always craved it.
I suppose it’s the minimalist in me –>Wanting to have experiences over material possessions. Also the introvert in me; craving the time alone to reflect on life, while meeting new people of different cultures all around the world, learning everything there is to learn about the incredible places they call “home.” And then the mother in me, hoping my children grow up to learn philanthropy and kindness, as opposed to work obsession and greed.
When my husband told me to block out the last week of June for a trip to Nicaragua . . . well, I think I may have cried. Or peed my pants. Or both. Mind you, this was my very first trip out of the country (USA.) I feel grateful to have traveled to a place that my family is very familiar with (my husband was born and raised there,) but it was still an exciting, new experience for me!
So off we went.
The first stop? Our hotel! I am OBSESSED with the simplicity of it. So chic. It’s nothing like anywhere I have stayed in the states. Each room is like a mini condo with the bedroom separate of the living area. We stayed at the Hotel Cacique Adiact.
This hotel is so on trend with my brand. Hahaha, but seriously. Your key contains a piece that you slip into a slot in the wall that turns everything on. The hotel is solar paneled so when you remove the key and leave the room, everything shuts off.
Surrounding the entire hotel was beautiful, lush greenery. Each room contains a hammock which is where you could find me every single morning from about 6am to 9am, reading books and listening to podcasts. Our room was situated directly in front of the pool which was fantastic! Every morning the kids would eat breakfast, throw on their suits, and dive in!
The buildings in Leon are exactly what I would expect them to be – full of life and color! I find the whole building concept fascinating. All houses and businesses are connected. One door might open up to a business while the next is someone’s home.
Definitely don’t judge a book by its cover here! Many of the houses look dingy, small, and underwhelming, but when you open the door you may just walk into a large, extravagant home. We have family renovating a house in town and from the outside it looks like nothing special. The inside, however, is stunning and very spacious!
Now let’s talk my favorite topic, shall we? Food!
So much food!
You can’t walk anywhere without passing food. Food in restaurants, food in street carts (fritangas,) markets, random set ups on the sidewalks all throughout town… I actually don’t think I’ve ever seen so much food! You take two steps before hearing “TORTILLAASSSSSS,” followed by an individual carrying tortillas on their head.
It’s my favorite thing.
You’ll find that food from place to place is very different. If I had to suggest a place I’d say DEFINITELY hit up the local market. The food at the market taste the most authentically Nicaraguan. Although keep in mind, food in Nicaragua is not like food in the states. No matter where you go the food is fresh, so expect a bit of a wait, but also expect the food to be incredibly delicious! I can’t say enough good things about the food. And the MANGO! Oh-em-gee the mango! GUYS! I’m not a huge mango fan. I have no problem with it, it’s just never been a fruit I purchase and eat. But mango is everywhere in Nicaraguan and it is the absolute most amazing thing you will ever taste in your life! To die for.
My husband thinks I have a problem.
Also worth noting, food and drinks are most always served in bags or banana leaves. Want fresh juice? Grab a bag, grab a straw, and get to sipping!
FYI, Nicaraguan meals are mostly meat based. Eating a plant based diet was tough at times. I survived off of a lot of hotel pesto after some long days, but you can find fruit, tortillas, rice, beans, yuca, and plantain all over the city with no problem.
We actually took a cooking tour with Maribios Tours and the woman who guided us through the market asked if anyone in our group was vegan (insert me raising my hand.) That meal was HANDS DOWN the best meal I had the entire trip and there was no meat involved. So now ya know!
Most days we would hop on over to the central park of Leon, located near Basilica Catedral de le Asuncion which is Central America’s largest and one of the most impressive cathedrals. The park is busy at all times, day and night. Kids running around playing, parents relaxing at the restaurants, parades celebrating Saints . . it’s a must see and my favorite part of Leon!
We went on a guided tour of Leon and one of the stops was the cathedral. For a small fee you can climb to the roof. It is easily one of the most stunning views I have ever seen. I couldn’t stop taking photos. The artistry is out of this world. There is maintenance almost always and painting constantly so it’s always kept looking pristine and cared for. If you want to get a true feel for Leon, spend a lot of time here.
A few days into our trip we packed into a car and headed out to Poneloyo Beach. The beaches in Nicaragua are everything! Whichever way you look you are greeted by dramatic skies and beautiful scenery. This particular beach had a club up the shore so the kids were able to enjoy both the beach and the pool while we devoured some tasty food.
A few days later we headed out to Surfing Turtle Lodge. We had plans to take surfing lessons this day but the waves were too intense (but magnificent!) Instead we spent the day enjoying each other, playing volleyball, balancing on ropes, getting destroyed by waves, eating good food, and riding horses because why not?
Life’s a beach, right?
This place is pretty incredible. It’s a hostel that offers up a variety of activities. In addition they grow much of their own food, organically. They also host yoga classes, and they built a hatchery to help protect endangered sea turtles.
If you are looking for a Beach to waste away your day, this is the one!
While the beaches are nice, I’m not one to lay out in the sun and relax. I want to learn about the culture. You know, dive in deep and get a better understanding of what makes Nicaraguans who they are. So the next stop was perfect!
I won’t get too into detail because I’m just going off of what our tour guide told us, but at one point during the Nicaraguan Revolution these bunkers were used by snipers who protected the Cathedral (pictured above.) It was also used as a place to keep individuals who were captured, tortured, and killed. Nicaraguans are traditionally very spiritual beings so don’t expect them to hang around these parts for too long. I have never spent time in a place where so many people were tortured and killed and I personally found it to be very eerie and uncomfortable. That being said, I enjoyed learning about the history of war in the country and it sparked a desire to learn more.
So far we’ve experienced food, beaches, and history . . so, what’s missing?
Extreme adventure. Duh.
It wouldn’t be a Creel family vacation without doing something I wish we wouldn’t have had to do. Okay, I’m only partly kidding but if I haven’t had a borderline panic attack on a trip, it wasn’t a good trip . . . or so says the husband.
So listen; I don’t have actual photographic evidence, so you’re just going to have to believe me on this one (video proof to come!)
Basically we climbed to the very tippity top of Cerra Negro which is one of the regions most active volcanoes with the highest point being 2,388 feet tall. Once we got to the top, we all hopped on boards and went volcano sledding back down (I was amazed by my fearless children who at the time were 4 and 6 years old.)
I would do this 8 million times over if it were just me. But on this day the winds were very strong and I was an anxious mess thinking about the kids falling down the side of the volcano. The anxiety took away from the experience, but if you are not responsible for a small human it’s really not that bad. My mother in law is not one to ever participate in these kinds of things and even she did it (despite her strong desire not to.)
So there’s that.
Now I can tell people that I slid down the side of an active volcano. Cool.
. . . and then there’s this. Don’t flip, it’s not me!
My dear husband decided that our vacation would be a nice time to get a new tattoo and touch up another. I can’t blame him. He spent 5 hours in the chair and spent a total of $140 (that included a tattoo for his aunt as well.)
As silly as it may sound, this was quite the experience. Tattoo shops in the states tend to have a lot of guidelines to follow. Shops in Leon are equally as strict regarding cleanliness and procedure, but much more relaxed in other regards. My husband was sipping on an ice cold beer while 3 thousands members of our family were running around and carrying on (kids included.) Interesting.
And that’s pretty much it for the trip. I made it a point to really relax and enjoy the experience. The people of Leon lead such a simple life. They work to live, as opposed to living to work like so many people in the states do. You feel a strong sense of gratitude and humbleness from everyone you meet. And it’s very clear that the citizens are full of pride for their great city.
The only thing that I struggled with was running into so many animals in distress. You could find me feeding stray dogs about 90% of the time. Many animals were underfed and seemingly overworked. During one part of our trip we passed a herd of cattle and the horse was branded several times. From what I understand this is typical in many countries, but it was hard for me to experience as an animal lover. It did, however, give me a deeper understanding of my husband. While he adores our dogs, to him they are just that . . dogs. He is definitely not the person you will find cuddling up next to them at all times (unlike myself.) But it makes sense to me now. Growing up in a place where there are stray dogs every few blocks, could you imagine becoming connected to them? You would constantly walk around heartbroken (as I did the two weeks we were there.)
Other than that, I enjoyed every single moment of our trip. Now that we have returned home I am craving the next one! Post travel depression is real ya’ll.
This trip was the first of many.
I could spend a lifetime telling you about our trip, and I probably will, but I just wanted to share some of the photos of our trip. I highly recommend it. A must-see!
Now I’ve got to get to editing the video diary because I’m so excited to share it with you through my eyes.
Talk soon! tara