From Volcanoes to the Vacant Beaches of Nicaragua
What’s the best way to wind down after returning from volcano boarding down Cerro Negro and a two day volcano trek that blew your mind? Why not head to yet another professional Nicaraguan baseball game?
Two hours after returning from our two day trek, I had just enough time to shower and change before meeting up with Shelby, Brennan (Quetzaltrekker Guide), and Brennan’s friend Kendall (also a Quetzaltrekker Guide). We grabbed a quick bite to eat on the street before hailing a taxi and heading for the local baseball stadium in Leon. Tonight our home team Leon would be facing off against Managua. Long story short, it was a complete slugfest. Both teams must have went through their entire bullpens by the 7th inning. I headed home in the 8th and from what I heard the final score was Managua 24, Leon 11. Yes, 24-11.
On to Las Penitas
After arriving back at the hostel, I headed straight for bed. I woke up the next morning feeling fresh and ready to hit the road. Rob and I gathered up our belongings and walked 8 or 10 blocks to the bus station. Sweaty and flustered, we boarded the next bus to Las Penitas, a small beach town located on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. Coincidentally enough, Quetzaltrekkers has a hostel on the beach in Las Penitas so when we arrived in town we hopped straight off of the bus and through the gates of Quetzal Playa.
As we walked in we saw some familiar faces of some of the Quetzal staff along with a few fellow trekkers we had met in Leon so that was pretty refreshing. Our friend Manuel who broke his foot on our volcano boarding trip was posted up in my new dorm room for the night with a bright green cast on his leg. In case you don’t remember, Manuel was the one who decided to run down Cerro Negro as we sledded down and with one quick tweak of his ankle, he arrived at the bottom with a broken foot!
Once I settled into my new 5 bed dorm, I threw on my shorts and headed straight for the beach. Seriously, is there anything like walking across the sand towards the water looking left and then completely 180 degrees to the right only to find not a soul in sight? The freedom I felt in the moment motivated me to get moving and take advantage of this wide open beach that I had all to myself. I started to jog down to the North end of the beach and once I reached the rocks I turned around and headed back the other way past Quetzal Playa. Finally, after about a 25 minute barefoot run on the beach, I turned quickly and ran full speed into the ocean. The waves that crashed over me were at least 7-8 ft tall. I spent about an hour riding waves into shore before I called it a day.
Once the sun started to set I set up shop in a beach side hammock with some friends.
Here are some sunset shots that I think you’ll enjoy…
Pros and Cons
Settling in here at Quetzal Playa doesn’t seem too tough now, does it? Here’s what I liked about Las Penitas and Quetzal Playa…
- Beach side accommodations at $6/night (dorm), privates from $24/night
- Beautiful palm trees line the property with hammocks alongside the beach
- Really big waves but be careful of the riptide!
- You feel as if you’re the only one around for miles. Wait, you are the only one around for miles…
So, what isn’t there to like about this place? Well, a few things…
- Las Penitas as a whole is extremely undeveloped. Sure, some travelers live for these types of environments. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a secluded beach, a lesser known restaurant with no customers that serves the most incredible food, and streets in which you walk down and don’t pass by another soul but Las Penitas is a totally different story.
- Where’s the food at? There’s maybe two actual restaurants in town? One of which is pretty expensive in Nicaraguan terms. The rest are just shacks on the side of the road. As you know, I have no issue with eating at sketchy roadside establishments but I’m just giving you “restaurant only travelers” the heads up before you head out to Las Penitas.
- There is no ATM machine in or around Las Penitas. The closest ATM is a 30 minute bus ride back to Leon. Your money options for Las Penitas are to show up with a large sum of Cordobas strapped to your body or show up with just enough for a day or two of accommodation and food followed by a bus ride back and forth to Leon every couple of days to get more cash. My advice would be to make the cumbersome trip back and forth every couple of days as you should never carry more cash than you need for the next couple of days. As a safe bet, I wouldn’t ever be caught with more than 4 days worth of money and even that is probably too much.
- Quetzal Playa does not have lockers! This is pretty self explanatory and is part of the reason why I left after spending just one night here. How much time and money could it cost to build a few lockers? C’mon Quetzaltrekkers! A hostel that doesn’t have lockers in this day and age is like owning a gun but not having a safe to store it in. Something is bound to go terribly wrong one of these days. What do you know, something DID go terribly wrong! Just a few days after I left Quetzal Playa, everyone got their stuff robbed out of their open dorm room during a beach party. Surprisingly enough, nobody has written a TripAdvisor review of the incident as of yet? These types of incidents need to be out in the open in order for businesses to make the necessary changes that keep travelers valuables safe.
- Mi Casa es Su Casa? There’s a kitchen on-site at Quetzal Playa but the staff won’t let you use it. This is a huge disappointment considering myself and many other fellow travelers that I met enjoy cooking a meal or two ourselves from time to time.
- The hostel staff at Quetzal Playa isn’t the friendliest staff that I’ve met in Nicaragua. If you’re going to send volunteers down to the beach to work the hostel be sure to send someone who is social and smiles every so often.