The most popular destination in Nicaragua is, I think, the beach. Any beach, in fact. San Juan del Sur is especially popular with the surfing community. I've heard that it's overrated, though, and depending on where you are, the beach is rocky, and full of litter. Friends who came to visit spent one day there before blowing town and heading to Corn Island instead. Other friends felt like they were in San Diego or some other US surf town...full of English-speaking surfer dudes (or as my friend Stefano likes to call them, "dreadlocks"). I suppose it all comes down to what you can put up with....if you want to have a really low-budget weekend at a hostel, you can't expect too much. Other friends rented a nice house and loved it.
At any rate, I knew I wanted to take the Parental Menaces to the beach while they were here. I hadn't been to the beach yet, but the Mini Menace had and loved it. My family are not really beach-going people--I think the last time I was at the beach was 2nd grade when we visited relatives in Florida--but since this vacation was all about new experiences, I thought I'd drag them along Hell, after ziplining, I figured they'd be pretty happy to sit around and relax. I'd heard great things about Los Cardones, an eco-friendly surf lodge about 90 minutes from Managua, so off we went....
Los Cardones is definitely one of the most environmentally-conscious places I've seen in a country that has a terrible problem with litter. Honestly, there is trash EVERYWHERE and people think nothing of just throwing garbage out the bus window, etc. It's a shame, because the county has amazing natural resources and stunning beauty. So I thought we'd support a business that is trying to minimize it's negative impact on the environment. No electricity, solar power only, use well water, compost toilets, and the buildings use local materials and methods, and are designed to blend in to the surrounding vegetation. We stayed in a gorgeous wooden lodge on stilts, with a thatched roof, a spacious deck, bunk beds, and hammocks. Meals and drinks are included, and one thing that I really liked was that dinner--for the whole lodge--was served at the same time. Guests placed their orders earlier in the day, and at 7:00, we all showed up, had a few drinks, and sat down for dinner together....it was a great opportunity to meet the other guests. They also had several shelves of books, games, a basketball hope and--to the Mini-Menace's delight--a ping-pong table. We pretty much sat around, ate, drank, walked on the beach, went swimming, napped in hammocks, and played a lot of ping-pong.
You are roughing it, though, so at night, there are no fans, no electricity, just you, the sound of the waves, and if you're lucky, a breeze to cool things off. My parents were real troopers, though, and had a great attitude, despite the heat.