Let the Good Times Roll!

Let the Good Times Roll!Today In Nica Now is launching a very special initiative called, “Let the Good Times Roll!”

Has the information you’ve found on In Nica Now been helpful? Have you finally found answers to your questions? 

Say “gracias” by treating us to a couple of frosty Toñas, dinner for two or a night on the town. It’s as easy as 1 , 2, 3!  

Just click  on the “DONATE ” button you see below…

…and we’ll show our appreciation by keeping the good times rolling and the information flowing.

Let the Good Times Roll!

Muchísimas gracias!

Ometepe Island Getaway

Why is it that the attractions closest to our homes somehow seem less exciting and adventurous than those further a field?

Isla de Ometepe is promoted as one of the premiere travel destinations in Nicaragua. It is an island created from two volcanoes (Concepción and Maderas) that rose from the depths of Lake Nicaragua. One of the volcanoes is still quite active. Ometepe boasts some of the most lush jungles and diverse ecosystems in the country. The ferry terminal is only 30 minutes from our house so of course we had never been there. 

Our friends Harry and Keeley really wanted to go so we decided to join them. 

We took our friend Irish John’s advice and parked our truck in the secure lot at the ferry terminal. Many of the ferries are not large enough to transport vehicles and those that can are often full and relatively expensive. It was a good thing that we decided to leave the truck because the large ferry broke down and we had to take one of the small foot passenger ferries anyway.

Ometepe Island Getaway

– Boarding the ferry in San Jorge

Ometepe Island Getaway

The ferry ride to Ometepe was relatively smooth and we enjoyed increasingly better views as we neared the island. We were excited to start our adventure.

Ometepe Island Getaway

– Almost there!

Many travelers to Ometepe go from the ferry terminal directly to rustic, secluded accommodations set deep in the jungle or choose similar accommodations on the most popular but secluded beaches of Santa Domingo. We are not at all into seclusion so we stayed in the port town of Moyagalpa.

Moyagalpa is a small city and has plenty of great little restaurants. We tried and would recommend the Cornerhouse for breakfast or lunch, Buon Appetito for wood oven pizza and La Galeria for some choices unique to Nicaragua including gnocchi.

We stayed at a new hotel – Nicaraus – on the edge of town with a pool that our miniature schnauzer loved. 

Ometepe Island Getaway

- Keeley & Harry at Hotel Nicaraus

Ometepe Island Getaway

Hotel Nicaruas offered clean and spacious rooms with breakfast included for just $35 USD per night

We rented an old jeep from the hotel and toured around the Island trying to visit as many of the hot spots as possible. 

Ometepe Island Getaway

- Daily rate for the jeep rental was $45 USD

Charco Verde nature reserve offered a short trail walk that was mildly interesting at best.  It quickly became time to move on.

Ometepe Island Getaway

Ometepe Island Getaway

- An easy 30 minute hike took us to this look out

Ometepe Island Getaway

- A family photo on our way out of Charco Verde

Altagracia is the second largest city on the island and seemed far less interesting than Moyagalpa. To be fair we only stayed long enough have doughnuts, a litre of Tona and a walk around the central park area.

Ometepe Island Getaway

- Parque Central in Altragracia

Ometepe Island Getaway

We moved on to the Santo Domingo beach to find a spot with a breeze and good lunch menu. The first place that we stopped at was a tourist trap charging North American prices. In our experience the higher priced food in Nicaragua is not indicative of higher quality food. It usually is basic Nica fare served in a more North American setting.

Ometepe Island Getaway

- The beaches of Ometepe

We walked down the beach to a Vegetarian/Indian restaurant and while looking at the menu noticed a troop of Capuchin monkeys across the road. They are most likely always there as the restaurant owners feed them regularity. The menu looked very unique for Nicaragua so we decided to give it a try. An hour later we were still waiting for lunch to arrive and were hungry enough that anything would have tasted delicious. Well anything but what we ended up being served. Unfortunately it was barely edible.

Ometepe Island Getaway

- Lunch Companions

Our next stop was the famed Ojo de Agua. It is a natural spring in the jungle which sounded perfect and we really needed something good to happen today. The huge, full parking lot didn’t bode well for our visit. Ojo de Agua is a large cement and rock pool. Neither completely natural nor comfortable and modern. The pool was filled with screaming children which did not fulfill the serene soaking experience that I envisions but the water is rumored to add ten years to your life so we jumped in. 

Ometepe Island Getaway

- Sunday Funday?

Oddly enough for the first time ever our pup Maggie didn’t even want to swim here. We wanted to swim in a calm area and have a few Tona and we know exactly where to go. Back to our hotel of course. The pool and Tona cleansed our negative attitude both inside and out and we were ready for one more shot at redemption. Our host advised us to go to Punta Jesus Maria for sunset.

Punta Jesus Maria is a sand bar located on the west side of the island where the two volcanoes meet. It stretches straight out into the lake like a 400 meter long finger. It is truly amazing to see and a perfect spot to watch the sunset. This was easily the coolest thing that we experienced on the island and we would go back just for this one place.

Photo Credit to Chad Kruckeberg

Many of our friends absolutely love Ometepe island and go there any chance they get. We didn’t have the best experience and when we go back we will try a kayak tour through the jungle and revisit Punta Jesus Maria. The restaurants in Moyagalpa are as good as anything that we have tried in Nicaragua and worth visiting even for a day trip. 

If you have been to Ometepe Island and to there is a must do experience that we missed leave us a comment for our next visit.

(To view full size images click on any thumbnail)

Photo Journalism Friday: We ❤︎ Lola!

Photo Journalism Friday: Lola

– Lola is our “go-to-gal” at the central market here in San Juan del Sur. Shopping from Lola guarantees going home with fresh produce that’s fairly priced…always!

One Month of Living Expenses 2014: San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

With nearly 19 000 people to date viewing our cost of living posts we thought it was time to provide an updated detailed monthly budget summary.

Our targeted monthly budget is $1400 USD.  Total US dollars spent in January 2014 was $1656.

Over the course of the month we attended 2 professional baseball games in Rivas. We ate “Pizza in the Jungle” twice and we spent 3 days and 2 nights on Ometepe Island, so it’s not surprising we were over budget by more than $200.

Below is a summary by category that shows where our cash went. For a larger view just click on the image.

One Month of Living Expenses 2014: San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Budget Summary

For even more detail click on the link to view our daily spending.

Some things to keep in mind with our spending this month:

  • We don’t have medical coverage. Aside from high end private clinics in Managua health care is free and readily accessible.  
  • Car insurance cost us only $55 per year. A very low price to pay, but with the minimal coverage have we are getting exactly what we pay for.
  • Our fuel cost was low this month because we filled our tank last month and rarely drove this month. In San Juan del Sur walking is the most common and practical means of travel.
  • Cell service is very inexpensive. We average about $15 per month for two phones.
  • We had many friends in town this month so we ate out, drank out and stayed out more often than usual.
  • Houses in our price range (and even lower) are commonplace. Long term affordable rentals are in high demand are rarely advertised or vacant for long. 

Other posts you may find interesting include: 

One Month’s Living Expenses: Leon
One Month’s Living Expenses: Granada
One Month’s Living Expenses: San Juan del Sur

 

Funding Your Life and Living the Dream in Nicaragua

Our most recent International Living article features our friend and cowgirl Blue. A fellow Canadian, Blue has found a recipe for success to running a business (see Rancho Chilamate: Horseback Adventures) in Nicaragua.

To check out the article just click anywhere on the image below.

Riding a Different Kind of Wave in Nicaragua

What I Ate Today: Tostones con Queso

An appetizer that you’ll find on the menu at almost every Nicaraguan restaurant is tostones con queso.

What I Ate Today: Tostones con Queso

This simple snack of fried plantains topped with a cube of deep fried cheese is often served with chilero (a mixture of pickled onions, carrots and hot peppers). Although tostones con queso is popular with locals, travelers and expats alike, I’m really not a fan. Typically I’d take ceviche over tostones con queso any day, however I did quite enjoy this particular version of the dish at O’Shea’s here in San Juan del Sur. The salty cheese was a nice compliment to the frosty Toñas we were enjoying poolside.

“Elisha MacKay, vacation concierge at your service!”

After two years of retirement I’ve officially re-joined the work force. Well…sort of.

When our friends Suze and Doug aren’t in Nicaragua enjoying a cold Tona or a smooth Flor de Caña at their vacation home – Casa Culebra – they delight in sharing it with tourists, travellers, wanna-be-expats and adventure seekers like you.

Something that’s very unique about Suze and Doug’s vacation home is the complimentary concierge service they provide for their guests.

This is where I come in.

As vacation concierge it is my responsibility to ensure guests of Casa Culebra have the best Nicaraguan vacation experience possible.

A couple of weeks before guests arrive in town I send them an introductory email letting them know I will be available before and during their stay to assist with all of their vacation needs.

I help with airport transfers, rental car reservations and grocery shopping. I provide recommendations on where to eat and drink. I also assist with activity planning and reservations for excursions.

You name it, I’m on it!

"Elisha MacKay, vacation concierge at your service!"

– This well-equipped tastefully decorated vacation home is the perfect place to unplug, relax and enjoy the beauty of Nicaragua

Perched high on the hill in the jungle, with a view of the ocean, just minutes from three beautiful beaches Suze and Doug’s home is really quite spectacular. 

With two king size master suites it is ideal for honeymooners, one or two couples or a family of four. 

Casa Culebra is located just 20 minutes outside of San Juan del Sur in the development of Balcones de Majagual. Balcones de Majagual was designed by the British architect Matthew Falkiner. Matthew also designed the very exclusive eco-lodgeMorgan’s Rock - which is located just around the corner on a neighbouring hillside.

Just down the hill from Casa Culebra you’ll find the stunning and pristine beach of Majagual. 

"Elisha MacKay, Vacation Concierge at your service!"

- Balcones de Majagual private rancho on the beach

And just around the corner is the ever popular surf beach of Playa Maderas. 

"Elisha MacKay, vacation concierge at your service!"

– Playa Maderas looking onto Playa Majagual

It’s often difficult to leave the tranquility of Suze and Doug’s luxury jungle home, only to return to my “Nica-chic” casa where the dogs and the roosters roam, but unfortunately staying overnight with the guests doesn’t fall under the category of “other duties as required”. 

"Elisha MacKay, vacation concierge at your service!"

– Sunset at Playa Maderas

Casa Culebra is a beautiful home located in one of the most beautiful areas in Nicaragua. 

If you want to experience an absolutely amazing, stress free Nicaraguan vacation choose Casa Culebra. Tell Suze I sent you. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

To check availability and make a reservation follow this link to the Casa Culebra listing on VRBO.

Mercado Monday: Aguacate (Avocado)

Mercado Monday: Aguacate (Avocado)

– Thanks to www.foodrepublic.com for the photo

An avocado a day keeps the cardiologist at bay.

Buying Guide:
There are literally dozens of avocado varieties to choose from, many of which can be found in Nicaragua. Choosing a ripe avocado is easy. Don’t be too preoccupied with the colour. Some avocados are ripe when they are dark green, others need to be slightly black and one variety even turns dark purple when it is ripe. The key to choosing the right avocado is how it feels. Gently squeeze one in your hand. Avoid using your fingertips, so you don’t bruise it. The perfect avocado should give just a little when you squeeze it.

How to Eat It:
Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. You can then cut the fruit into slices or simply scoop it out from the skin. The most popular way to eat avocado is in guacamole. I actually like my avocado served with a little lime juice, salt and pepper. Avocado is delicious in salads.  You also can spread it on burgers and sandwiches. For added nutrition try adding a slice or two of avocado to your next smoothie. With avocado the opportunities are endless.

Mercado Monday: Aguacate (Avocado)

– Our friend Cory showing off his avocado

Flavour:
Avocado has a mild, yet very unique flavour. The texture is creamy and melts in your mouth. In my opinion avocado makes almost everything taste better.

Harvesting Season:
Avocados grow on trees. Each variety has a different harvest season. We can almost always find avocado at our local market, but price and variety vary according to the season.  Depending on the size we typically pay between $1 -$2 USD per avocado.

Nutrition: 
Some people regard avocados as a superfood.

  • They contain 18 essential amino acids that form a complete protein that your body can readily absorb.
  • The Omega-3 fatty acids in avocado are similar to olive oil. These fats help boost your healthy HDL cholesterol levels and keep your heart healthy.
  • High levels of carotenoids like beta-carotene deliver Vitamin A to your body for eye and reproductive health.
  • Avocados have 50% more potassium than a banana.
  • A healthy dose of Vitamin C, E, selenium, zinc, magnesium, folate and soluble fibre are an added bonus.

Interesting Fact:
Elisha and I were in Cuba staying with a good friend of ours when he held up a piece of fruit as large as his head and asked me if I liked aguacate. I told him that I had never tried it. Later that night as I was scarfing down a huge bowl of avocado garnished with lime, oil and salt I told my friend that avocado is one of my favourite foods. He looked very puzzled. I explained to him that even though his “aguacate” was the same shape and colour as an “avocado”, I didn’t make the correlation earlier because in Canada avocados are the size of an apple, not my cranium.

Photo Journalism Friday: Nature’s Gatorade

Photo Journalism Friday: Nature's Gatorade

Fresh Agua de Coco (coconut water) is often sold by street vendors here in San Juan del Sur and other parts of Nicaragua. Low in calories, naturally fat and cholesterol free, more potassium than four bananas and super hydrating are just a few of the many benefits ascribed to this refreshing drink that can be purchased for just C$10 ($0.40 USD).

Mercado Monday: Chia Seeds (Cha Cha Cha Chia)

The infamous Chia Pet that magically grows green fur in a matter of days might be the first thing you think of when hear the word chia, but these tiny seeds are actually full of nutrients.

And the good news is you don’t actually need to sprout chia seeds on a silly little terracotta tchotchke to enjoy their health benefits. Chia seeds are similar to the more nutritionally famous flax seed, but are superior in many ways.

Buying Guide:
Chia seeds can be found in every Nicaraguan market and are not considered a trendy health food product, rather just a normal Nica staple. One pound of chia seeds – which is enough to last me six months – cost just $7 USD at the local market.

Chia seeds are very similar to flax seeds in a number of ways – but unlike the flax seed – chia is so rich in antioxidants that the seeds don’t deteriorate, which means they can be stored for long periods of time without becoming rancid.

Chia Seeds

– Chia seeds from our local market

How to Eat It:
There are three ways to eat chia – dry seeds, sprout it or make a chia gel.

The dry seeds are crunchy and slightly nutty. They are good in cereal, oatmeal, smoothies, salads or just about anything you want to add a slight crunch to.

To sprout chia follow the basic steps on the video. The use of a Chia Pet is not required, but does add to the fun factor.

Chia gel is made by stirring about 3 tablespoons of seeds into a cup of water. 30 minutes later you have a gel that will last up to a week in the fridge. Chia gel can be substituted for half of the butter in baking recipes. Ground seeds can be used to thicken soups and sauces. Chia has many uses…these are just a few to ignite your imagination.

Nicaragua Health Food

– Getting ready to make some chia gel

Chia Gel Nicaragua

– 30 minutes later and voila! The magic has happened.

Flavour:
When eaten on their own chia seeds have a slightly nutty flavour, but when combined with other foods they are virtually flavourless.

Nutrition: 
Eating chia is an easy way to inject a little extra nutrition into your diet without even noticing.

  • Chia seeds are rich in polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids. Your heart will thank you for eating them.
  • A 1-ounce shot glass of chia seeds contains a third of your daily recommended fibre intake. That same shot glass holds between 20% and 50% of your daily recommended dose of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and manganese.
  • Antioxidants are so high in chia seeds that they have a shelf life of two years. Imagine what it does for your body?
  • Chia seeds also pretty good at making you feel full. Once you’ve tried putting a few tablespoons in a cup of water you won’t have to ask why. 
Chia gel for baking

– Chia Gel

Interesting Fact:
No matter how many times I watch the Duck Dynasty Chia Pet video I laugh out loud.

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