We found a tiny beach town on the Pacific coast, El Gigante. It's smaller and less “lively” than the bigger and more popular town of San Juan del Sur, a few miles further south. It's also harder to get to – you can take a bus which drops you off 7km from the town and then hike the rest of the way, or you can do as we did and take a taxi from Rivas or the ferry port.
The scenery on the way there was very pretty – lots of trees and fields and roadside piggies. At first the road was paved but then we took a left, the driver mentioned something about “tierra” and we were on stony dirt track for the next 18km, which made for a fun bumpy ride with lots of tight corners and steep bits thrown in for good measure. We were OK but were also a bit concerned that the taxi might fall apart!
We had an uneventful few days there, apart from the excitement of a helicopter landing on the beach one day (it drew quite a crowd, just stopping to ask directions) and a power cut which lasted all afternoon and well into the evening (not an uncommon occurrence in Nicaragua).
Apart from that it was all very chilled. It's a bit of a surfing hotspot and is inhabited by quite a few American surfers with quite a lot of English spoken – we devised a little drinking game which helped us stay well hydrated, take a sip of water every time you hear the word “gnarly”.
El Gigante has about 6 or 7 restaurants, a handful of hotels and hostels and an internet cafe. It gets some pretty strong winds so walks on the beach were accompanied by a good sandblasting of the legs, and we were mostly coated in a thin layer of grime that week. The food was very nice, the coffee is OK (we've been told, to confirm our suspicions, that Nicaraguans export all the good stuff) and the sunsets are pretty awesome. There were lots of dogs and a couple of cats wandering around the town, scrounging for scraps at dinner time, and we also met a really tiny puppy. We did lots of reading in hammocks, went for a walk up the nearby lookout point of the Giant's foot, climbed on rocks and saw lots of crabs and spiky sea urchins, and watched brown pelicans diving all day.
After a few days, we were starting to feel the smallness of the town and keen to get out for some more food variety (we really do follow our stomachs) so we headed back out to civilization and down to the border.
I got a little bit fond of Nicaragua in the couple of weeks we spent there – prices are affordable, the locals are friendly and the hammocks were awesome. Admittedly, most of the food was nothing to write home about (even if we are) - when we got back from Thailand, we just wanted to eat Thai food, but you're not going to catch us trying to smuggle a suitcase full of plantains back to the UK.