Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why Nicaragua? And our first night in Managua...

To take advantage of the fact that my husband's company gives the entire week of July 4th off as a holiday (which we did not discover until the end of May!), we decided to head down to Nicaragua for 10 nights. When we told people we were headed down there, 95% of the reactions we got were either:
"Nicaragua? Really? Um....why?" or the similar but slightly more polite, "Oh. Hmmm. Well, that should be...fun."

Since the Iran-Contra affair, Sandanistas, and that wedding Melanie Griffith and Harrison Ford crash in "Working Girl"* are the only reference points many people have for the country, Bob and I were not particularly surprised by these responses.

*For those who have not seen this movie, the teary bride asks Melanie whether she loves or hates the tropical themed wedding. When Melanie says she loves it, the bride says "So do I! But Mark says it looks like Nicaragua and that we're making some kind of statement." Also, for those who have not seen this movie, I must insist you watch it--it's a classic!

But I digress...
So why did we choose Nicaragua, out of all the possible places to visit? There were a couple of reasons. First, we needed to find somewhere that was not too far to go for an 8-10 night trip. Also, we love Central America, and Nicaragua looked beautiful and interesting! But the deal-maker was that the flights were reasonably cheap (at least in comparison to anywhere else that we considered for this trip), and the country itself an inexpensive destination. What other reasons could we need?!

 Little Corn Island
Ometepe, Lake Nicaragua
In the end, we were very pleased with our choice--Nicaragua is a beautiful country with lovely people*, and we would go back in a heartbeat! *And monkeys!
Our itinerary:
1 night Managua - Camino Real
3 nights Little Corn Island- Little Corn Beach & Bungalow
1 night Big Corn Island - Casa Canada
2 nights Ometepe - La Omaja
3 nights Granada - Hotel Spa Granada

Delta offers non-stop flights from Atlanta to Managua, and we were pleased to discover the day before our trip that our complimentary Medallion upgrades had been confirmed, so we would be flying down there in (relative) style! The 3.5 hour flight landed in Managua around 7:45PM, and we were in our room at the Camino Real Managua by 9:00.

I'd chosen this hotel for its airport shuttle (since Managua can be dangerous and I wanted to avoid having to get a cab late at night and early in the morning) and proximity to the airport (the hotel is only about 5 minutes away). The reviews on Tripadvisor were a bit mixed, but since we were just going to be there for a quick overnight stay, I was not too concerned about anything other than safety, location, and having a reasonably comfortable room for the night.

Check in was quick and painless, and the room was pretty standard, but clean and certainly a good value at about $80. 
 After leaving our bags in the room, we headed for the bar, enjoyed a couple of drinks by the pool, and turned in for the night, since we had to get up at 4AM the next morning for our 6AM flight to Big Corn Island.

Technically, we were supposed to be at the airport to check in at 4:30, but the first shuttle from Camino Real to the airport leaves at 5AM and the front desk assured us it would not be a problem (which was true). Check out took awhile b/c of a huge group of missionaries also leaving that day, but no issues aside from that.
Overall, I would not hesitate to recommend the Camino Real to anyone spending a night in Managua (for those planning a longer stay in the city, I would look into some of the smaller - and likely more charming and authentic - boutique properties closer to town)!

Stay tuned for reviews from the next stop on our Nicaraguan adventure...Little Corn Island!

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