DRIVING TIME: 3.27 hours
HWY: CA 1
The roads in Nicaragua are the worst of any in all of Central America. As mentioned above, it is difficult to get lost because CA 1 is the only major road running through the country. Follow the signs to Managua—if you find any.
Depending on how long the border entry and exit procedures take, you can make it through Nicaragua in one day. You will be given a transit visa for three days. My recommendation is to travel to San Juan del Sur, spend a day or two in this incredible town, and then cross the border into Costa Rica. San Juan del Sur is only 45 minutes from the Costa Rican border. It is truly a fantastic place.
Hotel & Eats
Managua has a lot of fusion dishes, so for those looking for authentic Nica food in Managua, you can find it in a restaurant behind Pharaoh’s Casino and a block away from the highway to Masaya. This authentic traditional Managua restaurant is La Cocina De Doña Haydee. They have awesome vegetarian options and typical but exquisite Nicaraguan food—even the common street food.
The officials at the border will ask you what your final destination is for the day. Then they will indicate it on your Tarjeta De Turismo. This is not your final destination for the trip through Nicaragua. It is your destination for the day that you enter Nicaragua.
Tell them Peñas Blancas at the Costa Rican border, regardless of where you are going. I told the Honduran/Nicaraguan border officer that I was traveling to Managua that day. Thus Managua was written as my final destination for the day of entry on my Tarjeta De Turismo. When I was stopped about one hour north of San Juan del Sur, the officer told me that I must go back to Managua and receive permission to travel past Managua that day. After some discussion and a small donation, I was allowed to proceed. Check your paperwork before leaving the Nicaraguan border, and make sure that the officer writes down the city you indicate.
Driving away from the Honduran border, you will encounter little civilization. There are few places to eat until you arrive in Managua. Grab something to eat near the border if you are hungry.
Next Section of Drive
Managua – San Juan del Sur