BY MARK ROGERS
Mention Nicaragua to most Americans and chances are the country’s political strife of the ‘70s will pop up. Surprisingly, though. Nicaragua is now considered one of the safest places in the world. The United Nations ranks Nicaragua as the second safest country in all of Latin America (behind Uruguay). In 2001, the crime rate per 100,000 was 9,927 for England, 7,736 for Germany, 4.161 for the United States and 1.750 for Nicaragua, showing that its crime rate is less than half of the U.S.’ rate, according to Interpol.
“Nicaragua is an emerging destination in the Americas in the 21st century,” says Maria Rivas, Nicaragua’s Minister of Tourism. “It’s the ideal recommendation for the traveler looking for new destinations.” The country is beginning to track on travelers’ radar screens, especially those who are interested in adventure and eco-tourism.
In 2005, Nicaragua saw 700,000 visitors—a 16 percent increase. The greatest number of tourists (25 percent) are from the U.S. Rivas describes the typical visitor to Nicaragua as being older than 25, college educated and an experienced traveler; 60 percent are male. The average length of stay for visitors from the U.S. is 7.2 days. “Nicaragua is still a bargain—it offers good value,” says Rivas.
Rivas notes that the country has 5,000 rooms that meet international standards. “We anticipate 7,000 rooms by the end of 2007,” she says. Airlines flying to Nicaragua include American, Continental, Delta, United and ‘I ACA. Family-owned Casa Canada on Corn Island, on Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast, opened last January. The boutique property has oceanfront bungalows, an infinity pool, flat screen TVs and high-speed Internet access. Diving and snorkeling packages are available. Gary Kincaid heads up Casa Canada’s administrative office; travel agents can direct questions to him at
. He considers the rooms by the pool to have the best sea views.
The five-star Gran Pacifica Beach Resort Hotel, north of the beach town of Pochomil on Nicaragua’s west coast, recently broke ground. Still under wraps is the identity of the major international hotel brand that will launch the property, which is expected to open in December 2008. The 250-room hotel will have a 45-hole championship golf course, spa and casino.
Managua’s Hotel Princess has been re-named the Hotel Hilton Princess. The 104-roorn property has a business center, mooting rooms, in-room Internet, health club, pool and restaurant. The travel agent liaison is Marcos Romano, director of sales. He can be reached at 505-255-5771,
. Romano singles out the Junior Suites as having the best views—a combination of lake and Managua city views.
The recently opened Oasis Hotel and Casino is the largest property on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast. The 14-room hotel is in the city of Bluefields, which dates back to the year 1602, making it the oldest city on the Caribbean coast in Nicaragua. Mark McNight, director of sales for the Oasis, notes that the finest room in the hotel is the Presidential Suite, with two baths, two bedrooms, separate kitchen and dining areas and a sunken Jacuzzi tub. Of the remaining l3 rooms, the Junior Suites B-6, B-7 and B-8 offer the best views of Bluefields Bay, and also have semi-private terraces. The Oasis casino is open nightly, and features live entertainment. The hotel’s travel agent liaison is Jenna Aguilar, sales director. Contact her directly at 505-855-4744 or e-mail reservations@oasishotel casino.com.
Punta Teonoste Nature Lodges & Beach Spa is an eco-conscious property in the city of Rivas, two hours from Managua. The lodge has villas along the beach that include a private terrace, living room and bedroom. Popular activities include surfing, horseback riding, fishing, hiking and biking, Punta Teonoste has eight-night packages that begin at $561 per person double, Christian Garcia, the hotel’s marketing director is also the travel agent liaison. He can be reached at 505-841-6874 or
. Garcia notes that all of the rooms have oceanfront views, but that the Casino and Azahar villas feature the best oceanfront views at the property.