Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America, located between Costa Rica and Honduras, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. It has extensive Atlantic coastal plains rising to central interior mountains, and a narrow Pacific coastal plain interrupted by volcanoes. (See Wikipedia List of volcanoes in Nicaragua.) Lago de Nicaragua (aka “Cocibolca”) is the largest freshwater body in Central America. Environmental issues include deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution.

The Bosawás Biosphere Reserve in the northern part of Nicaragua is a hilly tropical forest of approximately 2 million hectares in size, making it the second largest rainforest in the Western Hemisphere (after the Amazon in Brazil), and which forms part of the heart of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. Nicaragua’s first and largest national park is Masaya Volcano National Park, 20 km south of the capital, Managua. Zapatera is a volcanic island in the Lake Nicaragua, and constitutes one of 78 protected areas of Nicaragua (Zapatera Archipelago National Park). Called “the gem of Central American nature reserves”, Indio Maíz Biological Reserve measures about 4,500 square kilometers in the southeastern corner of Nicaragua bordering the San Juan River. (See Wikipedia Protected areas of Nicaragua.) FADCANIC (Fundación para la Autonomía y el Desarrollo de la Costa Atlántica) works with sustainable tourism practices in the communities of the Pearl Lagoon region for forest conservation. Tortugas Nicas is a national initiative working with sustainable tourism practices in the conservation of sea turtles. The local development NGO Asociación Tecuilcan (aka “Tecuilcan Tours“) is developing the Programa de Desarrollo de Turismo Sostenible (PRODETS).

Morgan’s Rock Hacienda & Ecolodge, near the resort town of San Juan del Sur on the Pacific coast, is perhaps the most well known Nicaraguan ecolodge. Just south of San Juan del Sur is the natural beach resort of “Parque Marítimo el Coco” (Playa El Coco), offering access to the turtle reserve, Reserva Vida Silvestre La Flor. Located on the westrern shore of Lake Nicaragua, Domitila is a private nature reserve and ecolodge. Selva Negra is an ecolodge, organic farm, and bird-friendly coffee estate in the highlands of northern Nicaragua. Tours Nicaragua is a reputable agency based in the capital Managua, offering plenty of organized nature tours all over the country.

Biosphere reserves:

  • Bosawas 1997
  • Río San Juan 2003
  • Ometepe Island, 2010

IUCN members:


The Pacific Coast of Nicaragua was settled as a Spanish colony from Panama in the early 16th century. Independence from Spain was declared in 1821 and the country became an independent republic in 1838. Britain occupied the Caribbean Coast in the first half of the 19th century, but gradually ceded control of the region in subsequent decades. Violent opposition to governmental manipulation and corruption spread to all classes by 1978 and resulted in a short-lived civil war that brought the Marxist Sandinista guerrillas to power in 1979. Nicaraguan aid to leftist rebels in El Salvador caused the US to sponsor anti-Sandinista contra guerrillas through much of the 1980s. (See Wikipedia Nicaraguan Revolution.) Free elections in 1990, 1996, and again in 2001 saw the Sandinistas defeated. The country has slowly rebuilt its economy during the 1990s, but was hard hit by Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

The Nicaraguan online rural tourism portal Guia Turismo Rural was developed by the NGO Fundación Luciérnaga. CECOCAFEN (Central de Cooperativas Cafetaleras del Norte) is an organization of coffee cooperatives in Northern Nicaragua that manage a rural and community-based tourism project. Alianza de Solentiname is another good example of community based tourism development in Nicaragua. ECODETUR (Empresa Comunitaria de Turismo Rural) is a community tour operator, formed by a group of entrepreneurs and service providers in the communities of the Peninsula of Cosigüina. Grupo Fenix is an NGO working with renewable energy technologies in rural communities, and provides opportunities for volunteers. Witness for Peace organizes annual “reality tours” of Nicaragua. So-called “twinning” or sister cities programs are a good way to find grassroots exchanges; a good example of this in Nicaragua is the award winning Sister Communities of San Ramón initiative.

World heritage:

  • Ruins of León Viejo
  • León Cathedral

No ICCROM members


  • Cruise Tourism, Power and Development In San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua by T Lennartz, 2012
  • Local community participation in ecotourism and conservation issues in two nature reserves in Nicaragua by M de los Angeles Somarriba-Chang & Y Gunnarsdotter, 2012
  • Sustainability in Tourism Development Case Study: Nicaragua by R Yavich, 2012
  • The influence of tourism on the livelihood of street vendors in Granada, Nicaragua by RJ Oppers, 2012
  • Can community-based tourism contribute to development and poverty alleviation? Lessons from Nicaragua by MJ Zapata, CM Hall & P Lindo, 2011
  • Missing the Forest for the Trees?: Incongruous Local Perspectives on Ecotourism in Nicaragua Converge on Ethical Issues by CA Hunt & AL Stronza, 2011
  • Passport to Development? Local Perceptions of the Outcomes of Post-Socialist Tourism Policy and Growth in Nicaragua by C Hunt, 2011
  • Testing ecotourism principles in Nicaragua by M Somarriba-Chang, 2010
  • ‘We Are Even Poorer, But There Is More Work’ An Ethnographic Analysis of Ecotourism in Nicaragua by CA Hunt, 2010
  • Development of ecotourism and curriculum development in Miraflor, Nicaragua by J Hunt & L Lanuza, 2009
  • ‘No Hay Guerra y No Hay Dinero’ There is No War, and There is No Money: A Case Study of the Organic Coffee and Ecotourism Programs of UCA Miraflor, Nicaragua by JA Gutierrez, 2009
  • Socio-economic development of rural areas based on community tourism. A Nicaragua case study by TJ López-Guzmán, 2009
  • Sociocultural sustainability of rural community-based tourism: case study of local participation in fair trade coffee trail, Nicaragua by E Höckert, 2009
  • Ecotourism in Nicaragua: Impacts on the vegetation diversity in natural reserve Datanlí-El Diablo by T Fransson, 2007
  • The Impacts of Tourism and Development in Nicaragua: A Grassroots Approach to Sustainable Development by JA Burney, 2007
  • Tourism, economic expansion and poverty in Nicaragua: investigating cointegration and causal relations by M Vanegas Sr & R Croes, 2007
  • Rural development through forest management and ecotourism: a case study in San José de Cusmapa, Nicaragua by M Paniagua & K Marinacci, 2006
  • Are NGOs the answer? Two cases of ecotourism development in Nicaragua by L Hillel, 1998
  • Conservation status of marine biodiversity and tourism in the coastal zones of Nicaragua by P Moreno, 1998

Nicaragua Data