Since I had to go to Chin for work, I wanted to explore the rest of the department. While flipping through my Moon guidebook, I stumbled upon a section on the Padre Ramos reserve near Jiquilillo, Chinandega. I saw a picture of someone going horseback riding through an estuary, and thought that I wanted to do the same.
The week before my trip, my friend Hana and I booked dorm beds at Rancho Esperanza, a beachside hostel and guesthouse in Jiquilillo. We met up in the city of Chinandega and took the 10 am bus to Jiquilillo. Here's a list of reasons why you shouldn't let the heat stop you from visiting this little gem on the coast!
10. The bus ride into Jiquilillo: The bus from Chinandega City to Jiquilillo costs less than a dollar and takes about an hour and a half. The actual distance between the two isn't too far, but the bus makes frequent stops in the towns in between. I suggest getting on the bus early so that you won't have to stand during the scenic trip. As you pull into Jiquilillo, you'll be welcomed by a gorgeous view of the ocean and its waves pounding against the rocks right next to you. If you're really lucky, the bus might play some soothing jazz music as you pull in. That's when I knew I'd come to the right place to unwind.
9. You'll feel like you're on a tropical island: As Hana and I walked along the beach, we couldn't believe how so few people have talked about this place. It was the cleanest beach I've seen here, and the most deserted. There were coconuts everywhere. Colorful fishing boats dotted the shoreline. The water was the bluest ocean water I've seen here. The quiet town and even slower pace of life than I'm used to made me feel so deliciously removed from everything.
8. Pan de Coco (Coconut Bread): This is a delicious treat that I thought you could only find on the Atlantic Coast. While we went for a walk, I saw a sign that advertised this bread. I didn't have my glasses on, so I thought I wasn't seeing the sign properly, but we began chatting with Wilson, the man who sells rare goodies like Pan de Coco and coconut oil. He invited us to chat with him on his deck. He's lived in the states, Panama, and Costa Rica, but of all the places, he preferred Jiquilillo because it's safe and quiet.
His wife, Carolina, sold us the last of her coconut bread (about 55 cents each). Her mother, Lola, chatted with us about where we were from and what we were doing here. Wilson also catches fish and can make meals to order, so be sure to check them out when you're here! Just ask around since there are no formal directions. It's a small town-you'll find them!
7. Crabs: The crustaceans. They are everywhere! When I went running on the beach, I ran into at least three fiddler crabs. While laying in our hammocks, one crab came up to Hanna's sandals and started fidgeting with it. It probably wanted to take them home. Watch your step when you're here!
6. Rancho Esperanza: Speaking of crabs, a "crab hunting class" is just one of the quirky classes that this hostel and guesthouse offers. A dorm bed costs about $8.50. Peace Corps volunteers get around a 10% discount. If you're looking to get away from the drunken beach party scene, this place is for you. There are cabins all around the lot, where chickens roam free. They also sell delicious homemade brownies for $1.50.
5. Beachside Hammocking: If "Hammocking" isn't a verb yet, then I declare it to be a verb. There are also hammocks in a shaded area right before you step onto the beach at Rancho Esperanza. That's where Hana and I sipped on our rum and cokes, giggling to ourselves as we'd realized what a little slice of heaven we'd discovered. I couldn't believe that several of the volunteers who lived in Chin had never even been here before.
4. Kayaking: I read in my guidebook that you could go kayaking past mangroves, which reminded me of a dream I'd had in high school. I had dreamt that I was kayaking through clear, pristine, turquoise water. There were mangroves all around me. I wasn't sure where I was or where I was going, but all I could do was enjoy the beauty of it. That's the only dream I've had that I knew I needed to make a reality.
Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to go kayaking this time. Staying at Rancho Esperanza was just too relaxing for me to even think about going off and doing anything else. I was only staying for one night, and I'd have to leave at 6 AM for work, so I just let myself soak in the glory of doing nothing. I'll go kayaking next time I stay there.
3. Seashell collecting: The seashells here come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. I found two HUGE red conch shells and I wasn't even looking too hard for them.
2. Paying for Internet: What's that you say? Why would that be a good thing? Because it makes you realize how little you need Internet. There's no wi-fi, just a little booth where you can connect to the Internet for a small cost. Since I didn't have a pressing reason to pay for Internet that day, I didn't log on at all. Instead, I was able to enjoy the gorgeous sea breeze and pan de coco without the distractions of looking at red velvet cupcakes on Pinterest.
1. The Beach: You can make the beach your own. In my case, I tried boogie boarding, but the waves weren't strong enough, so I swam for a bit until it began raining. I decided to go for a run along the beach in the rain, and it was an unforgettable experience. I remember it so vividly not only because I was afraid of stepping on an angry crab, but because of the smell of the wet Earth. After my short run, I just laid down face up on the beach and enjoyed the cool rain falling on me. I hope the rainy season lasts as long as possible here.