Written by Alex Applegate
All we wanted was the beach. We had been abroad for seven months now in hot, sweaty countries but had yet to see a beach. We were even on an island for three months in the Philippines and never once touched sand or the ocean. So, in Nicaragua, we were determined.
We had a whole weekend off so we packed our backpacks and got up before the sun to wait for a bus on the corner. None of us expected the 5 a.m. bus to be so packed but we smashed ourselves into the only available standing room at the very back, wearing our backpacks on our fronts. From Palacaguina to Estelí, we listened to people try to sell us things in Spanish. There was even a blind man with an accordion who played his heart out for everyone.
After an hour and a half of passing through small cities and winding mountain roads, we arrived in the bustling city of Estelí- the only city for miles to have a mall and a Burger King. However, today we were only passing through. We grabbed some Cokes and waited for a bus heading to León.
While we were waiting, a driver was calling out that he was taking a van to León. With my decent-but-not-fluent Spanish, we established that this van was actually going to León, would be leaving soon, and cost less than the bus. We piled in and waited for the van to fill up.
When the bus was almost full, a man jumped in and was holding a cage with a bird in it. He sat right next to one of the girls on my team and I. The bird was a cute little parakeet that I found hilarious. My teammate did not.
After two and a half hours of trying to read Spanish signs, listening to old music on my phone, arguing with the lady in front of me to open the window when it got too hot in the van, and being alert when the bird’s owner opened his cage, we finally arrived in León.
León is a tourist city. Surfers and travelers gather in León for the incredibly tall Pacific Ocean waves and the probably dormant volcanos. The bus station was bustling and we struggled to find a cab that would fit all of us.
We piled in to make a quick stop at our hostel to drop off our stuff and change into bathing suits. Back into the taxi for a half an hour ride to the coast. We were told that a boat would be waiting for us to take us to our hostel’s beach.
Sure enough, a few minutes of questioning my translating abilities, a small motor boat pulled up to the dock and called us over, saying they were with our hostel. We all hopped in and that motor boat took us across a small bay and dropped us on an island with nothing but trees and water around us. But we saw a sign that told us to keep walking and we’d find the beach we were looking for.
We walked through forest and foothills for twenty minutes. Then, we saw the beach. And it was glorious.
The huge, blue waves crashed onto the beach and the wind kept us cool under the hot Nicaraguan sun. The sand was soft and perfect to lounge in when we took breaks from braving the salty ocean. We watched the sun set over the Pacific and it was every bit as beautiful as you would expect it to be. We lounged in hammocks until the unhindered stars came out so we could see every last one.
It took us several hours and several modes of transport but the Nicaraguan beach was worth every bit.