The news from Nicaragua’s Morgan’s Rock (http://www.morgansrock.com/), the pioneering upscale ecolodge, is that “Nicaragua is peaceful, considered one of the safest countries for travelers in the Americas, and its life-loving people warmly welcome visitors from the U.S.,” says Bismar Lopez, head naturalist guide for this sustainable, eco-certified property located on the country’s southwest Pacific coast.
Lopez should know. He has spent his life exploring Nicaragua’s natural wonders, surprises he now brings to guests at Morgan’s Rock on daily tours and excursions on and off property afoot, on horseback, kayak and by 4-wheel drive.
Such opportunities for adventure and spontaneous discovery in a country that has taken awhile to shake its history, though peace has reigned for over 20 years, is what brings guests to this 15-bungalow hideaway, set on a private beach and surrounded by 4,000 acres of protected forest.
Lopez says that his country is fast becoming one of the “go-to” destinations for eco-tourism today. And one visit reveals a multitude of surprises for new-to-the-country visitors.
Following are six uniquely Nicaraguan surprises that visitors may enjoy:
- Two kinds of surfing: traditional long and short board surfing on near-perfect breaks without crowds at Playa Maderas, 20 minutes away from Morgan’s Rock, near San Juan del Sur, the most legendary of all Nicaragua surf spots. True adrenaline freaks can try volcano surfing! Also known as ash boarding, it calls for protective gear and a metal board and a trip to the slopes of Cerro Negro Volcano (the youngest volcano in Central America). Here advanced riders can hit 60 km per hour while kicking up a cloud of cinders and ash.
- Hug a Güegüense, one of 14 colorful costumed figurines displayed throughout Morgan’s Rock and offered for purchase at handicraft markets throughout the country (most popular is in Masaya). They represent characters in a folkloric masterpiece performed annually in January – the satirical drama El Güegüense, the first literary work of post-Columbian Nicaragua, regarded as one of Latin America’s most distinctive folkloric masterpieces and among the oldest, indigenous theatrical/dance works of the Western Hemisphere.
- Get lost in a low-stress local market and come away with a keepsake at a surprising cost! Markets and small shops abound throughout Nicaragua with honest deals and bargain pricing. Be prepared to do a little bartering but the haggling is minimal since sellers are refreshingly honest and trustworthy. U.S. citizens can use dollars side-by-side with national currency (although change is always in Nicaraguan Cordobas). Top markets are found in Masaya, Rivas, San Juan del Oriente and Granada.
- Throw a pot during an escorted Morgan’s Rock excursion to the nearby native pottery center of San Juan de Oriente where nearly everything centers on the art of ceramics. The artisans’ expert handiwork is gaining international recognition for design and quality. Here things are still quite undeveloped and it is common to see ox carts laden with burlap bags of clay carrying supplies from fields to town. Demonstrations and classes are easily arranged for independent travelers.
- Walk on the wild side. Nearly one-fifth of Nicaragua is protected as national parks or nature reserves so it is still easy to find roadless wilderness. Morgan´s Rock is part of a 1,000-hectare reforestation project and 800 hectare private nature reserve that represents one of the last large natural sanctuaries’ along the Paciﬁc Coast of Central America. More than 1.5 million hardwood and fruit trees have been planted during the past eight years in order to speed the return of the land to its natural state as an ecosystem. The reforested lands, together with the nature reserve and the estuary, attract a variety of forest animals from howler and spider monkeys and sloth, to white tipped deer, to most of the birds native to the subtropical region. The beach is a nesting ground for endangered green sea turtles. It’s not uncommon to have monkeys pay a visit to a guest cottage.
- Fresh, local food at bargain prices best describes the cuisine experience found throughout Nicaragua. At Morgan’s Rock and elsewhere there is a movement to fresh and predominately organic produce delivered farm-to-table. Tropical fruits, seafood from two seas and Central America’s largest freshwater lake, small-farm raised beef, poultry and pork along with the traditional yucca, plantain, cabbage and ever-present “gallo pinto” grace the menus at most lodges and restaurants. The strength of foreign currency makes eating out a deal! A three-lobster-tail dinner with all the fixings can be purchased at a beachfront bar in San Juan del Sur for $12.
Image courtesy Widness & Wiggins