Tag Archives: Las Peñitas

Things to do in Las Peñitas: León’s Beach Getaway

Las Penitas, Nicaragua Bomalu Hotel Hammocks

Managua’s too dodgy, San Juan Del Sur’s too party, Granada’s too expensive, León’s too hot! Common gripes we’ve heard from fellow travel lovers in Nicaragua. Do not stress! We have your private paradise covered. It’s nestled away in a short but sweaty bus ride from León – welcome to Las Peñitas, Nicaragua!

Craig and I spent five weeks living in this paradise for free! By free I mean we offered our skills in exchange for our keep and one meal so I can say with confidence that here is a local’s guide to Nicaragua’s best-kept secret! Whether you are here for a day trip from León or taking a break from the backpacking trail, Las Peñitas has lots to offer.

Las Penitas, Nicaragua Sunset

Las Peñitas Beach

Las Peñitas is a playa, approximately 5 km of sand with lots of beachfront cafes and bars for you to enjoy the views of the lapping waves and incredible sunsets. The Marina is the best spot to catch the sunrise and the rocks, where the surfers in Nicaragua hangout, is the hotspot for the sunset.

Locals take over one side of the beach during the weekends and then leave for the city on Sundays. They tend to stay in the sheltered hammocks, away from tourist accommodation options. It is a real shame but you can expect a lot of trash left on the beach post weekends. Why not do a bit of a beach clean?

There is a small shop (pulperia) which sells candy, laundry powder and fruit until it sells out on the main road just before the beach.

Las Penitas, Nicaragua Beach

Las Peñitas Surf

Many surfers in Nicaragua head to Las Peñitas for a tranquilo surfing trip. The quality of the waves varies from day to day. Think you’re a good surfer? Watch out, the local kids will put your skills to shame! They are extremely talented.

The waves of Las Peñitas are wild. They make for a fun afternoon jumping in them, over them, and through them. Hold on to your bikini bottoms ladies, one swipe and the sea has claimed them!

  • Surfboard rental: $6 half day / $10 full day / Lesson: $20

Horse Riding in Paradise

There are many four legged friends in Las Peñitas, the street dogs are plentiful and like most Nicaraguan towns, pretty well looked after. The larger of the four-legged animal kingdom, horses, are available for rent. With a guide, horse riders will trot along the sandy shores with the wind in the hair.

  • Horse Riding: $14 approx.

Mangrove Trip

Fancy seeing cute turtles? This is often possible through a trip to the mangroves of Reserva Natural Isla Juan Venado!

  • Mangrove Trip: $12.50 (short) $25 (long) approx.

Marina and Fishing

Las Peñitas has a beautiful marina where you can watch the fishermen set up their boats at sunset and return with the catch of the day late morning. Travellers are also invited to take a fishing trip with the local fishermen!

  • Fishing: $40 per hour / three hours (1 – 4 people)

Las Penitas, Nicaragua Marina

Volcano Boarding in Nicaragua

The number one thing to do in Nicaragua is volcano boarding. This is when you hike up an active volcano and sledge down it. It’s thrilling and it happens close to Las Peñitas. Most visitors stay in the city of León and take a day trip to Cerro Negro volcano from there but if you would prefer to set up the seaside you can still take the bus into the city and catch a day tour like this one here.

Restaurants in Las Peñitas

So much choice to meet every budget!

Budget: Carmen’s Restaurant, which is actually Carmen’s house with tables and chair set up next to her sleeping husband in the hammock and the friendly parrot! Fish selected from the fridge or meat, rice, and salad for 80 ($2.82) – 100 cordobas.

Healthy: Simple Beach Lodge have kick-ass chefs who rustle up healthy wraps, baguettes (90 / $3.18 – 120 cordobas), a popular and pretty cheese board, as well as fruit smoothies. Breakfast (90 cordobas) of pancakes, eggs, fruit, or chocobanana (dessert for desayuno) is available from 07:30.

Nice environment: Bomalu is the perfect escape from the midday sun. Salad, sandwiches, and some specials including paella are available but the main attraction are the hammocks!

Burgers: Canadian run, The Lazy Turtle, offers a variety of burgers including a Canadian special (approx. 200 / $7.06 -300 cordobas)

Pizza: Keeping it Canadian, a very nice Canadian couple run Dulce Mareas which offers pizzas (approx. 100 / $3.53 – 200 cordobas) and specials throughout the week. They have a fancy coffee machine too. The brownie and ice cream is not to be missed.

Marina View: Barca de Oro aka ‘the French restaurant’ has strong WiFi as well as an incredible BBQ every Saturday. Nice view of the marina too.

Ambience: Sua Grill & Chill serves food, cocktails and live music on a Saturday night. Bliss!

Plus many more waiting for you discover them! Be wary of ‘Nicatime’ some restaurants have a ‘relaxed’ concept of time!

Las Penitas, Nicaragua Bomalu

Stop! Hammock time, Bomalu, Las Peñitas

Partying in Las Peñitas

Las Peñitas is more paradise than party but you won’t go without choice in regards to bars at the playa Las Peñitas.

  • Simple Beach Lodge, grab a Toñya (30/60 cordobas) and watch the sun lower then smash into lots of shades, smothering the sky.
  • Coco Surf, this simple beach hut bar is in stills so you can enjoy the sunset from up high and daiquiris are only 60 cordobas / $2.12, half the price of the popular Playa Roca!
  • Big Foot Hostel buses in city guests during the day to chill out by their seafront hostel and bar. Good tunes, nice backpackers.

Las Penitas, Nicaragua Coco Surf CocktailsCocktails at Coco Surf, Las Peñitas

How to Get to Las Peñitas

In Leon, head to the mercadito (just outside of central Leon) and queue for the chicken bus at the side of the market. The journey takes around thirty minutes and costs 14 cordobas / 49 cents. The bus will take you through Poneloya first of all and then down Las Peñitas. In order of hotels, cafes, and bars mentioned above from the start of Las Peñitas

  • Bomalu Las Peñitas
  • Playa Roca
  • Simple Beach Lodge (two surf shops next door)
  • Coco Surf (surf shop)
  • El Pirate
  • Carmen’s Restaurant
  • Dulce Mareas
  • The Lazy Turtle
  • Barca de Oro

A taxi from Leon to Las Peñitas should cost USD $10. Agree on this beforehand and make sure that it is for two people (or how many is in your group) and not just one. Find out the process in full here.

Las Peñitas Accommodation

There are hotels in Las Peñitas as well as hostels and private rentals. Many of the hotels also serve food so holidaymakers can pop in for meals without being paid guest or swing by for a swift drink (and use of WiFi!) I would highly recommend staying or dining at a hotel with hammocks. You really can’t beat swinging an afternoon away reading a book before the sun sets.

Las Peñitas hotels

  • Barca de Oro is located by the bus turning circle on the marina. It has private rooms and dorm beds, serves food – the weekly BBQ is popular.

»»» Private rooms for under $30, click here for rates and availability



  • Simple Beach Lodge is Playa Roca’s quieter neighbour. This clean and neat boutique hotel is one of the best-rated hotels in Las Peñitas on Booking.com.

»»» Private rooms for under $35, click here for rates and availability

Las Peñitas hostels

Mano a Mano is an eco-hostel made from recycled materials which is very in keeping with the Las Peñitas vibe.  The hostel offers four dorms, two for eight people or one for five, which is great for group travel. Rooms have fans and beds have much-needed mosquito nets. You can charge your devices in the lockers.

There is a communal kitchen with a fridge (do your shopping before you leave León). Cocktails are also served onsite.

»»» Dorms for under $15. Check availability and book here

Las Peñitas to Leon

Day-trippers should begin to leave around 4pm – 5pm, the chicken buses run every 30 – 40 minutes but at no set time, listen out for the horn tooting it’s way along the road. The bus turns and stops outside Barca de Oro at the marina so if you hear it toot as it heads towards the turning point you know you have a couple of minutes to run out to the bus stop on the opposite side of the road.

It’s not uncommon for passing locals to ask if you want a lift, they’ll tell you how much a taxi costs and then barter. We were ripped off and left stranded on the road to Leon when we refused the new amount, a passing taxi soon picked us up for 20 cordobas each!

Best Time to Visit Las Peñitas

Like most of Nicaragua, the dry season is a more appealing time to visit Las Peñitas. Weekends, especially Sundays, are busier as locals from Leon leave the hot city in search of nature’s air con at the beach. There are still stretches of untouched sand on Sundays, so don’t be put off if that is the only day you can visit.

Las Penitas, Nicaragua Sunrise

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Las Penitas, Nicaragua

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6 Cool Things To Do in Leon While Chasing the Shade

Colonial Leon Nicaragua

Leon in Nicaragua is hot! The second largest city in this Central American country can expect temperatures of 35 degrees in dry season (December – April). We spent much of our time crossing the road to the darker side of the street but with cool Things To Do in Leon and such variety of food to choose from it’s not difficult to lose a few days in hiding in colonial Leon.

6 Things To Do in Leon

1. León Cathedral

Don’t miss a visit to the top of the Cathedral of Leon aka Real Renowned Basilica Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For $3 USD, and the removal of your shoes, you can walk on the rooftop of God’s House which displays the best views of the city and its surrounding volcanoes.

We did this as part of Hokano Adventures Revolution Tour. This Cathedral was first built in 1747 and took over a century to complete. You can see today that a recent paint job on the go. Not the most exciting thing to do in León but does offer beautiful views.

Leon Cathedral I Things To Do in Leon Nicaragua

2. Hokano Adventures – Revolution Tour

After four trips to Leon (we were living thirty minutes away, by chicken bus timing, in the beach town of Las Peñitas), we were none the wiser about Leon’s past. Or who the handsome man on the monument was (Carlos Fonseca, teacher and founder of Sandinista Nation Liberation Front, FSLN). We had no facts about the street art story, which describes the passage of time, concluding in a utopian view of the city.

Personally, I think one of the most important things do in new cities is to stop wandering the streets not knowing what it stands for, so we attended the Revolution Tour, which lasted a little under four hours.

Time passed quickly as we took a rapid verbal and visual tour of Leon’s past and then, whilst walking the streets of Leon, discussed the county’s present and potential future.

Revolution Tour I Things To Do in Leon Nicaragua

It is not just Leon’s buildings that have taken a battering, the city and country has been crumbling at the hands of dictators controlled by both The United States and The Soviet Union (now Russia) beginning in the 1920s when Cesar Augusto-Sandino and his outnumbered army of farmers and workers overthrew American marines.

You will see Sandino’s black shadow outline all over Nicaragua, in particular in the north (Esteli). The national hero and was soon murdered at the hands of a friend and head of the National Guard, Anastacio Somoza García. You won’t be surprised to hear that Somoza García became the President in 1937, a strong alliance for the States.

The García Somoza legacy continued to reign Nicaragua until Carlos Fonseca brought the individual guerrilla armies together to form the Sandinista Nation Liberation Front (FSLN), which included resistors from farmers to students, including a man named Daniel Ortega.

The FSLN would then fight against this Somoza family, as a result of an arms ban by the USA, with the support of weapons bought from the Soviet. Sandinistas then walked into a post-revolution dictatorship, now with America’s enemy at the time – Russia.

From 1979 to 1990 change was made, illiteracy rates were reduced from 50.3% to 12.9%. In 1984, the FSLN leader, Daniel Ortega, took the presidency and although not a straight reign, and a quick fix of the constitution to permit power for two consecutive terms, continues to do so today. Supporters state that he has improved the economy, given grants to farmers, and injected money into health care. Opponents argue that he is too interested in making a small percentage of rich people wealthier. Sounds familiar…

Revolution Tour I Things To Do in Leon

Carlos, our tour guide, told us that Nicaraguans are tired. Tired of living with war. They want progress but not through the use of propaganda and a government run by one family.

Cultural Center I Things To Do in Leon Nicaragua

Carlos and his artwork at the Cultural Center, Granada

Website: Hokano Adventures
Address:  1ra calle NE 50 Mts Norte de la Segunda Avenida SE, León
Contact: 8839 4713
Cost: $25 / £18 per person

For Spanish speaking travellers and a less intimate tour, The Revolution Museum can be found next to the Cathedral.

3. Museum of Legends and Traditions

A very bizarre way to spend fifteen minutes out of the shade is attending Museo De Leyendas y Tradiciones. My favourite story was that of the young woman who forced men in the street to breastfeed using her ahem, you know how breastfeeding works. Probably the weirdest thing to do in Leon!

Museo de Leyendas y Tradiciones I Things To Do in Leon

4a Calle SO, frente Ruinas San Sebastián

4. Tattoos in León

Definitely, one of the top things to do in Leon for us was to get some ink done! Quite the unusual day out but Leon has two tattoo shops and they are so cheap! Craig and I splurged and treated ourselves to the most permanent souvenir – ink! $60 for five hours, you just can’t beat that price.

  • Where? White Devil
  • Who? By Andy, tell him Gemma from Two Scots Abroad said hiya

White Dragon Tattoo I Things To Do in Leon Nicaragua

Day Trips from León

5. Las Peñitas

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside! A great way to avoid the heat, check out the natural air con of Las Peñitas.

  • Chicken bus from Mercadito / 14 cordobas / 30 minutes

Read next – Somoto Canyon treks and tours


Las Penitas Near Leon I Things To Do in Leon

6. Volcano Boarding at Cerro Negro

One of the coolest things to do in Leon (or just outside it) is hike up an active volcano and sledge down it! Volcano boarding is one of the biggest pulls for Nicaragua and you can see why!

Leon Volcano Boarding Cerro Negro Nicaragua I Things To Do in Leon

Brave enough? Full low down and tips here!

Rico Restaurants in León

Rico (tasty) dining opportunities are not difficult to find in Leon. From local cuisine, street food, western fare – the city has it all. Here is some deep fat fried goodness from Tacos Marleen as a taster…

Tacos Marlene I Things To Do in Leon Nicaragua

León’s is more than a stopover for volcano boarding.

The university town is young, liberal, and full of cultural activity.

If you were considering learning Spanish in Central America, this would be a great city to do so in (as would the more European feeling Granada).

Hostels in León

We returned to the same hostel, La Gordita, each time we stayed in Leon because of its location, it was quiet and cool, and the other “bird” in Craig’s life lived there… a parrot called Chirpy.

La Gordita Chirpy I Things To Do in Leon

The large private rooms come with their own bathroom, fan, and a handy washing line. The shared also has a fan and shared ‘Jack and Jill’ bathroom, which is shared with the neighbouring room.

La Gordita offers complimentary breakfast and a kitchen, which is handy as it is situated next to the large supermarket, La Colonia. 

The owner, Monica, is super friendly and larger than life. She has lots of tips for touring Leon and even more tips on the best local restaurants. We ate well in Leon, so much so I’m dedicating a whole post to eating in Leon!

La Gordita Garden Area I Things To Do in Leon Nicaragua
Address:  1 &1/2 blocks west of the La Colonia Supermarket or La Salle School
Contact: 8857 3498
Cost: $15 – 20 / £10 – 14

Getting to León

From Managua take the microbus for 54 cordobas / £1.34. Full details on how the transport system works here.

Getting around León

Leon really is not that big and can be discovered by foot. Forget street names, locations are found via counting blocks. If you are lost, ask a local. If they don’t know they’ll holler at the next person walking by and they’ll work it out together.

Nicaraguans are very friendly. I felt safe day in this city, visiting the (air-conditioned) ATM with no hassle. The many churches make good reference points, starting with the stark white Cathedral in the central plaza.

Things I’d Still Like To Do in León

  • Old town – Leon-Viejo: Leon before the volcano eruption

Love for León

The main reason I like Leon is not because of the architecture, or the constant whiff of meat on the grill, but the fact that the city doesn’t give two hoots that you are a tourist. The taxis will give you two toots (constantly) and the boys will grow up to form a crook in their neck from the frequent gawking at you (girls) but that’s universal – it’s annoying, but happens to both natives and newbies.

Apart from that, vendors go on selling chicha in plastic bags, kids skip to school in their pristine uniforms, and the estimated seventeen Catholic church buildings of colonial Leon, continue to crack.

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Top things to do in Leon, Nicaragua including where to stay, eat, and what to do including free, cheap and backpacker friendly.

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Bus from Managua to Leon and Las Peñitas

Managua to Leon and Las Penitas Bus

Everyone gets mugged in Managua. Or so the story goes! Follow this simple step by step guide on how to take the bus from Managua to Leon and Las Peñitas and be safe in the knowledge that the next part of our adventure is a fun one!

1. Managua to UCA Bus Terminal

If you flew the red-eye Spirit Airlines flight to MGA it is likely that you stayed at one of the airport guesthouses such as Hostal Monte Cristi. From here, take a taxi to the UCA Bus Terminal (pronounced Ooka) (130 cordobas / £3.25). It should take approximately 25 minutes. Tell the driver you are going to Leon. There are signs on the buses and at the slots, the microbuses park up in. There’s always someone to ask on-site too if you need to know which bus to get.

2. Managua Centre to UCA Bus Terminal

Alternatively, if you braved the capital city, Managua, take a taxi to the UCA bus terminal to save sweat and time. This should cost 120 -140 cordobas / £3 – £3.50.

3. Microbus from Managua to Leon

Those brightly coloured buses are called chicken buses and to travel to Leon via chicken bus would take about four hours with four different stops! For less hassle, opt for the microbus to Leon. This is a small white van and costs 54 cordobas / £1.35 per person. It takes around an hour and a half (up to two and half if you travel late afternoon) to reach Leon. The journey is pleasant!
Managua to Leon and Las Penitas in Nicaragua Microbus

3. Picking a Seat on the Microbus

We prefer the front seats as it means you can have your luggage upfront with you. This may involve allowing people in front of you as the driver fills up the microbus but don’t worry, the buses work in a conveyor belt fashion! One leaves and another appears. Failing the front seats, go for the back or a position that you can see your luggage from.

4. Welcome to Leon

Nicaragua’s most liberal city awaits you. Don’t miss the sights of the city from the rooftop of the Cathedral or boarding down an active volcano at 55 MPH!

5. Leon to Las Peñitas

Be prepared, it’s pretty manic when you get off the microbus in Leon. Tuk and taxi drivers will shout for your custom and try to help you with your bags. Just say ‘no gracias’ and walk away from the hustle! Once composed, barter with a taxi driver until you agree on a price. We were advised $10 USD but ended up paying $15 after some confusion, mainly down to us being out of practice speaking Spanish. One driver rejected our offer and wanted $20. It’s OK to walk away, there are plenty of taxis! The journey will take approximately 20 minutes.

For the confident backpacker, take a taxi/walk to Mercadito, then the chicken bus to  Las Peñitas (14 cordobas / 34p). Although the distance is short, the journey takes 30 – 40 minutes depending on how many people (and parrots!) are on the bus. The bus will drive through Poneloya beach first of all and then Las Peñitas.

»»» Find out where to stay + what to do in Las Peñitas

Bus Managua to Leon and Las Penitas Nicaragua_

6. Las Peñitas

Welcome to paradise! Rolling waves, sandy beaches, bars that sell smoothies and litre sized bottles of the local beer, Toña for £1.50!
Bus Managua to Leon and Las Penitas in Nicaragua
Not to forget those sunsets…
Managua to Leon and Las Penitas in Nicaragua Sunset

Read next: our fave things to do in León

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Welcome to Nicaragua – Hostal Monte Cristi, Managua

Managua airport hotels

First impressions of Nicaragua? The people are so friendly! That can also be said about the Filipino couple, Calvin and Molly, who run Hostal Monte Cristi, Managua (Nicaragua’s capital)! This is our first stop in the Central American country and we quickly realised that we’ve made a great decision taking the dreaded red-eye flights from Orlando to Managua!

Molly and Calvin Hostal Monte Cristi, Managua

The Stress of Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines gets a bad rap; lost bags, delayed flights, hidden costs but in reality, their website is pretty transparent (and well designed) and they are cheap – so you pay for what you get. For $282 / £194 we flew from Orlando to Fort Lauderdale, Florida in a timely manner then Fort Lauderdale to Managua, Nicaragua. True to form this flight was delayed by two hours but the airline got us there in one piece and the steward staff were lovely. I really didn’t agree with this though –

Spirit Airlines Hostal Monte Cristi Nicaragua Managua

It’s not even a boarding pass, how can they charge us for not bringing the bit of paper that tells us that it’s not a boarding pass?!

Proof of Leaving Nicaragua

I’d read the frantic posts about Spirit Airlines (and other airlines) requesting onward transport out of Nicaragua. This ended up not being the case for us but I am way too much of a square to have risked it.

I found the following helpful information online and followed it. Pamela Rodriguez from Tica Bus replied quickly and we had tickets within a day.

  1. Send an email to [email protected] with the scanned passports of the passengers, the desired route, time and date of travel
  2. Once Pamela receives the email she will forward the information to the Credit Department. They will contact you with the Credit Card Authorization Form
  3. Complete and sign the form and send it back to them via email.
  4. The Credit Department will charge your credit card and send the tickets via email
  5. The Credit Department functions Monday – Friday from 7:00am to 4:00pm….processing of credit cards will happen during that schedule.

I randomly selected March 1st and although we don’t intend to take the Tica Bus on that date, we will use it at some point as we fly out of Costa Rica to Austin on March 13th. Pamela is going to change the date for us – excellent customer service.

Hostal Monte Cristi, Managua

We arrived at Augusto C. Sandino International Airport in Managua at 02:30, bleary-eyed and unaware of an entrance tax! The airport representative took $20 USD from me then $10 from Craig. We advised her that’s all we had, and she shrugged and accepted it. Once I’d woken up I thought ‘that was strange’ so asked a fellow traveller. She only paid $10. I marched back and demanded change – absolute chancer!

Yamir, Molly and Calvin’s uncle, collected us from the airport and drove the four-minute journey to the gated community where Hostal Monte Cristi is situated. Calvin greeted us, showed us where to get filtered water, and then to our rooms to get some sleep.

The ensuite room was clean, had two fans, towels, TV, wardrobe, and a comfy bed: just what we needed. We laughed at the welcome sign which said ‘enjoy but sleep with one eye open’ but were extra vigilant in locking up the MacBook and passports with the Pacsafe Bag Protector.

Hostal Monte Cristi Managua, Nicaragua Double Room

In the morning (OK, more like afternoon) we met Molly and Calvin in the outside social area, which has hammocks, tables, chairs, games, and a dog called Kiwi who likes to be stroked!

Managua Hostal Monte Cristi, Managua

We had cereal for breakfast whilst Calvin shared his tips on Nicaragua and answered our questions about their life. Hostal Monte Cristi has been open for one year. The couple moved from the Philippines to be closer to Calvin’s dad, who lives in Managua, which has given Calvin the chance to put his degree in marketing and Molly’s degree in international business to good use! They are the friendliest of hotel owners, fitting in well with our initial impressions of Nicaragua.

Hostal Monte Cristi, Managua Kitchen

Calvin then introduced us to the Nicaraguan chilled local beer, Toña, before we took a casual walk around the gated community, which has a shop, cafe, bakery (panadería) and randomly two hardware shops! Local kids giggled at us and the teenage boys!

Lucy's Bar Managua Hostal Monte Cristi, Managua

The afternoon was spent swinging on the hammocks before a dinner of pasta, which we prepared in the massive kitchen of Hostal Monte Cristi, no fighting over the pans in this hotel! Another bonus is that the hotel Wi-Fi is stronger than some of the places we’ve been to in North America, which meant I could catch up on some blogging.

Hostal Monte Cristi to UCA Bus Terminal

The trip into the UCA (pronounced OOCA) bus terminal took approximately 25 minutes and cost 130 córdobas /  £3.25.

Next StopLas Peñitas via Leon to spend two weeks staying/working at a beach lodge. A post on how to get the bus from Managua to Leon coming soon.

Website: Hostal Monte Cristi
Address: Caretera Norte, Managua 11057, Nicaragua
Contact: +505 8711 9069
Price: $33 USD / £22 / 926 córdobas
Notes: The complimentary airport shuttle runs from 05:00 – 23:00, there is a small charge for flights out with this time.

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Thank you to Calvin and Molly for their hospitality, we were honoured to review their new hotel, an honest review as always.