Managua is the capital of Nicaragua and the city you are most likely to fly into. Most tourists prefers to leave Managua as quickly as possible. The city is large and spread out without any real center. It can be rather crowded and there is not much to do in the city. The city offers a lot of nice chain hotels that primarily cater to business travelers. Travelers that have to be in Managua. They also host a lot of tourists that just arrived in Nicaragua or that is about to leave Nicaragua. Most tourists goes to Granada, Leon, Esteli or San Juan del Sur as fast as possible.
Managua has not always been the capital of Managua. The two cities of Granada and Leon used to compete for this honor. They did however eventually decide to locate the capital to what was to become Managua, Halfway between Leon and Granada. Managua is now the biggest city in the country but was an unimportant community when they decided to turn it into the new capital.
The center of Managua was largely destroyed in an earthquake in 1972. This has had a large impact on the city to this day. The area that used to be the city center is largely unused and the city has instead grown up around what used to be the city center. The city no longer has a city center. The city is instead divided into a number of smaller centers. Many of them with a mall as a center. It can often be far between to different destinations in Managua.
Getting to Managua
Getting to Managua is very easy. There are numerous flights from the US, Mexico, Costa Rica and El Salvador each day. If you travel from the US East cost then it is usually best to travel through Miami / Fort Lauderdale or Houston. Both cities have a large number of direct flights each day. On you live on the west coast then it can often be easier to fly through Mexico city.
Visitors from Europe are often best of flying through Miami since it easy to find cheap flights to Miami.
Living in Managua
Managua is home to a large number of hotels. You should be able to find a hotel that suits you and your budget. Two good options near the airport are:
- Best Western Las Mercedes. This hotel is a little on the expensive side charging close to USD 100 a night for simple rooms. They do however have a unbeatable location. They are right across the road from the Airport. You do not have to worry about finding a taxi or other transportation to get you to the hotel. You can simply walk out of the airport, across a small parking lot with security and across the road. The hotel is right on the other side of the road.
- HEX (Hotel Express). This hotel is a business hotel with small and simple rooms. The rooms are kept clean. The hotel is cheaper than best western. The charge USD 71 a night and they offer an airport shuttle to and from the airport which makes it easy to get to and from the hotel. The hotel is located next to the Las Americas mall which offers a movie theatre, a casino, lots of shopping and a large food court. Perfect if you are tired and want a quick bite to eat after a long flight. Pro tip: ask for a room with lake view on floor 4 or above. That way you will have a stunning view of lake Managua instead of one overlooking the parking lot and mall.
If you are willing to live further from the airport then there are a large number of other good hotels such as the Hyatt Place and the Holiday Inn Express.
Managua offers a very large selection of restaurants in all price brackets. Here you will find a large number of international chain restaurants as well as many local restaurants. Expect to pay USD 10 or more for a meal including beverages.
Some of the food courts, especially the one behind Galleria, offer surprisingly good food and surprisingly nice restaurants.
Most of Nicaragua is very safe and you can feel safe walking alone in the middle of the night. This is true regardless of whether you are a man or woman. This is however not the case in Managua. There are many areas in Managua where you should not walk after dark and there are some areas that you are recommended to avoid during daytime as well. This is one of the reasons why most tourists chose to leave Managua direct from the airport or spend a maximum of one night in the city.
Things to do?
Managua offers surprisingly little to most tourist. De city offer some noteworthy buildings, some museums, and a small botanical garden etc. Other areas of Nicaragua have more to offer in a more beautiful and safer surrounding.