After decades of political turbulence, Nicaragua is finally safe and open for business. Filled with undisturbed beaches, sleepy surf towns, and eco-conscious hotels, the country has invested in travel-friendly infrastructure while keeping its local charm intact. Getting there is easier than ever—Delta is offering a new direct flight from Los Angeles (the first on the west coast), and American Airlines has added a direct route from Dallas (a first for the town). Nicaragua’s first private airport will open at the end of the year.
1. There are more than 50 volcanoes in Nicaragua. Thrill seekers can visit the 2,400-foot-high Cerro Negro in the Cordillera Los Maribios mountain range, where ash boarding was invented in 2006. The sport consists of sliding down black rubble on thin wood or metal boards, reaching the bottom in a mere 10 minutes. U.S.-based Austin Adventures includes ash boarding on a number of its trips. From $2,498 per person; austinadventures.com
2. “Nicaragua is what Costa Rica was 20 years ago: beautiful, affordable, and relatively unexplored,” says New York City restaurateur Jean-Marc Houmard, who with Yvan Cussigh opened the Tribal Hotel in Granada in 2013. The two have years of hospitality experience—Houmard owns Manhattan’s Indochine and Cussigh ran the rooftop bar at Sixty SoHo—and have filled the new space with locally made furniture and textiles. From $125 per night; tribal-hotel.com
3. The Inn at Rancho Santana, two hours outside Managua, rests along two miles of glistening shoreline. The hotel, which opened in March 2015, resembles an old hacienda—the spacious rooms open onto a charming central courtyard. The property also has stables housing horses that guests can ride on private beaches. La Finca y el Mar, the hotel’s restaurant, serves fresh produce from the property’s organic farm. From $249 per night; ranchosantana.com
4. Nicaragua is the No. 1 producer of premium cigars in the Americas, and in January craft producer Mombacho Cigars set up shop in one of Granada’s famous historic buildings, the Casa Favilli. Visitors can watch as cigar makers such as Claudio Sgroi roll them by hand. “I take notes on the aromas, tastes, and strength of the leaves. A cigar has to have a perfect balance between strength of aromas and strength of nicotine, so that when you finish it, that pleasurable taste lingers a bit,” Sgroi says. From $7.95 to $9.95 apiece
5. Nicaragua’s first five-star hotel, Mukul Resort, opened outside the city of Rivas on the Pacific side in early 2014. Highlights include an ocean-to-table restaurant and complimentary rum tastings. The 37 guest rooms have panoramic views of the ocean. There’s yoga instruction, surf lessons, and golfing on a David McLay Kidd-designed course. From $500 per night; mukulresort.com
UPDATE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported Delta and American’s new flight routes as originating in Miami. In addition, Mukul Resort’s opening date and starting rate have been corrected.