The educational opportunities in Nicaragua fall into a variety of categories. The ones listed here are just a start, but should give you – or your potential students – a starting point for planning educational travel to Nicaragua. Here are some of the educational travel opportunities there:
Students can “live” Spanish in Nicaragua a number of ways: By attending a school and living in a dormitory or in the home of a Nicaraguan family, by joining a volunteer program to help a Nicaraguan community, or through private lessons with a native speaker. There are programs specifically geared toward students eager to brush up on their Spanish, students who do business with Spanish-speaking people, or students who just want to learn one of the world’s most beautiful languages.
Learning to cook “Nica style” is easy if you are living with a Nicaraguan family while studying Spanish. You can also learn in an educational program that is not just focused on the country’s language, but also on its culture. Or, for a short-term learning experience, students can head to Nicaragua and take one-day or one-week cooking classes from a local chef while there.
A good way to learn Spanish, and give back, is to spend time in a volunteer program in Nicaragua. You will find volunteerism programs that match your talents and interests. Among them:
• Teaching English
• Tutoring elementary and secondary students
• Volunteering at the National Zoo or at animal shelters
• Working with groups dedicated to women’s empowerment
• Mentoring youth: There are many educational and vocational programs for needy youths that would cherish your help. Volunteers can get involved in a variety of tasks including sports, arts, music/drama, computer education, English instruction and meal preparation
• Working on sea turtle conservation projects
• Working with special needs children
• Aiding in a hospital or clinic
• Helping with medical / physical and occupational therapy
• Assisting with agricultural education at a cooperative farm
• Organic farming: (28-day program) (www.blueridgeproject.com)
• Building homes and community buildings
• Working in day-care centers teaching English, leading dance/art/sports activities, tutoring and mentoring
• Working on projects with Nicaragua’s indigenous people
With its vast expanses of pristine rainforest, cloud forest and tropical coastal forest, Nicaragua is a perfect “laboratory” for students of nature. The can become involved in educational projects that involve:
• Organic coffee farming
• Agri-tourism – re-planted almost 100,000 native hardwood trees to reforest the area and operate a dairy and butterfly farm (Morgans Rock)
• Sea turtle conservation
• Rainforest conservation
• Wildlife research/monitoring (zoo at Montelimar Beach) (Corn Islands – Howler Monkeys)
• Bosawas Biosphere Reserve – a vast, protected rainforest located in the northeast of Nicaragua and the southern part of Honduras. The million-acre reserve is composed of thousands of animal species and plants
Students fascinated with history will find a variety of places within the country that still echo with the past:
Granada – the longest continually inhabited city on mainland Central America, with Spanish Colonial, colorful cobbled streets and beautiful haciendas that are now hotels for visitors.
Managua – the capital city of Nicaragua has stood for decades through of war, fire, earthquakes and hurricanes. Explore crumbling churches, monuments to leaders of the past and museums and reportedly the world’s oldest human footprints.
Ometepe Island – anchored by two volcanoes, one live and one inactive, this lush, remote island in Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America, has petroglyphs that reveal the secrets of ancient civilizations that once occupied it.
San Juan del Sur – a fishing village that was once known as a departure point for 49ers who had traveled from the Caribbean coast, up the Rio San Juan and across Lake Nicaragua, and boarded Clipper ships bound for San Francisco and the California Gold Rush. Today San Juan del Sur is a stopping point for cruise ships and a haven for surfers, who surf the magnificent beaches north and south of town, returning in the evening to party in the restaurants and clubs that border San Juan del Sur’s perfect bay.
Corn Islands – these remote islands off the Caribbean coast offer some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world, along with a unique culture that harkens back to its beginnings as a haven for ex-slaves from the British Caribbean islands.
Leon – once the main political, cultural and religious center of Nicaragua and one of the oldest colonial cities in Central America. Leon was destroyed in 1609 by an earthquake and volcano eruption. The inhabitants rebuilt the city further away from the volcano. It is home to the National University and many striking buildings, such as the Leon. Cathedral, with its collection of statuettes tracing religious art since the 1700s. You can visit the ruins of Old Leon, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Rio San Juan – Columbus traveled this river on his voyage of discovery; Henry Morgan used it to sack Granada; Horatio Nelson and Napoleon fought the Spanish for the river; and Mark Twain wrote of its beauty and wildlife during the U.S. gold rush.
El Castillo – the ruins of an old Spanish fortress that was built overlooking the Rio San Juan, to protect the country from invaders and pirates.
Students coming to Nicaragua to learn Spanish can also learn sports that take advantage of the country’s beautiful beaches and pristine nature. Even if you don’t want to learn Spanish, you can learn these sports:
Surfing – Thanks to the winds that blow west from Lake Nicaragua to the Pacific, Nicaragua is blessed with consistent waves and warm water year-round. You will never find crowded beaches. You will find many surf camps and resorts where you can learn to surf. (wannasurf.com)
• Surf Tours: Nicasurf International Surf Tours; La Barra Surf Camp – Central Nicaragua (wannasurf.com)
• Surf with Amigas – Holly Beck’s women’s-only surf camps
• Many others
PADI SCUBA certification – Beginning Scuba divers are drawn to the inexpensive PADI Scuba diving courses in Nicaragua, and the chance to behold National Geographic-worthy sights on one’s very first dive. Attractions include:
• Laguna de Apoyo
• Lago Colcibolca
• The Corn Islands
• San Juan del Sur
Sandboarding – In Nicaragua, you can enjoy the exciting sport of sandboarding down the volcanic-ash slopes of Cerro Negro, one of the country’s active volcanoes. Don’t worry: it will give plenty of warning if it is going to erupt!
Ziplining – You can zip-line over forest and coffee farms in Nicaragua
Canopy Adventure in Granada. At aracnerappel.com/ you hike up a cliff, visit the ruins of an old fort, then rappel down the cliff and jump into the ocean!
Canoeing and Kayaking – There are many spots to learn this relaxing sport, from Lake Nicaragua and San Juan del Sur to the Rio San Juan
• Half-day, full-day, 3-day and week tours (with lessons)
Yoga retreats – Yoga is an emerging activity in Nicaragua, in part because the surroundings are so serene. Many resorts offer yoga classes and programs, and there are yoga studios in Granada that welcome students.
• Nica Yoga is located in Nicaragua’s first and only yoga community, El Camino del Sol, located in hills outside of San Juan del Sure
• Aqua Nicaragua’s yoga platform
Hiking – With all its volcanoes, Nicaragua is an ideal destination for hikers. You will need a guide to take you to the top of the volcano on Ometepe Island, but there are many spots where well-marked trails make it easy for hikers to enjoy the lush forests of Nicaragua.
• Organized hiking tours that explore the countryside of Nicaragua and stop in at local farms and ranches
Fishing – Nicaragua offers some of the world’s best fishing thanks to the fact that it boasts two ocean coastlines, the largest lake in Central America and a river known as the “Amazon of Central America.” Some excellent fishing locales include:
• Rivas (between Pacific Ocean & Lake Nicaragua)
• Rio San Juan
• Pacific coast
• Caribbean coast