Tim Brauning

09 March 2022

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Visiting Nicaragua and Guatemala: Which One is Right for You?


When it comes to deciding where to travel in Central America, it can be tough to choose between visiting Nicaragua and Guatemala. In this blog post, we will compare the pros and cons of visiting Nicaragua vs. Guatemala and help you decide which one is right for you!


Nicaragua and Guatemala are both great choices for travelers looking to experience some of the best that Central America has to offer. They are both relatively safe places with a lot of natural beauty, interesting history, and friendly people. However, there are some key differences between the two countries that you should take into account when making your decision.



The Climate

white sand beach nicaraguaOne of the biggest differences between Nicaragua and Guatemala is the climate. Nicaragua is located in the tropics of Central America, so it is hot and humid all year round. Guatemala, on the other hand, has a more moderate climate with cooler temperatures at higher altitudes. This can be a big factor to consider depending on what kind of activities you want to do while you’re there and what kind of weather you prefer.



The Landscape


The landscape is another big difference between Nicaragua and Guatemala. Nicaragua is home to some of the most beautiful beaches, colonial cities, but also 19 volcanoes in Central America, while Guatemala has a more diverse landscape with mountains and rainforests.



The People

guatemala cultureThe people of Nicaragua and Guatemala are also quite different. The Nicaraguan culture is heavily influenced by Spanish colonialism, while the Guatemalan culture has a stronger indigenous influence. This means that you can expect to find different foods, music, and traditions in each country. If you’re looking for a more traditional experience in Central America, Guatemala is definitely the place to go.



The Culture


Along with the people, the culture in Nicaragua and Guatemala is also quite different. In Nicaragua, you’ll find a lot of Spanish colonial architecture and churches. The locals are generally friendly and welcoming, and there is a strong focus on family values. In contrast, Guatemala has a much more diverse culture with many different indigenous groups represented. There is an abundance of ancient Mayan ruins throughout the country, and the locals are known for being very passionate about their traditions.



The Language


In Nicaragua, Spanish is the official language, while in Guatemala, Spanish and Maya are both official languages. This can be a factor to consider if you’re looking to learn or practice your Spanish while you’re there.



The Cost

19 volcanoes in NicaraguaAnother big difference between Nicaragua and Guatemala is the cost. Nicaragua is typically cheaper than Guatemala, except when it comes to utilities and energies. That said, some places in Nicaragua are more expensive than in Guatemala, especially the tourist spots like San Juan del Sur, and Granada. 



The Food


When it comes to food, Nicaragua and Guatemala offer different experiences than the rest of Central America. In Nicaragua, you’ll find a lot of Spanish-influenced dishes like Gallo pinto (a rice and bean dish) and nacatamales (a type of tamale). The food is typically hearty and filling, with plenty of options for vegetarians.


Guatemalan cuisine, on the other hand, is more diverse due to the country’s indigenous influences. You’ll find a wide variety of stews, soups, and tacos filled with meats and vegetables.



The Entertainment

surfing in san juan del surIn Nicaragua, you’ll find a lot of nightclubs and bars catering to tourists, especially in San Juan del Sur and Managua. There is also a strong surf culture, so if you’re into surfing or want to learn, Nicaragua is the place to go. Guatemala doesn’t have as many nightlife options as Nicaragua, but it does have a lot of ancient Mayan ruins that are worth exploring.



The Flights


The final factor to consider when deciding between Nicaragua and Guatemala is the cost of flights. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of competition within the airline market in Central America, so that tickets can be quite expensive. However, if you’re lucky enough to find a good deal, Nicaragua and Guatemala are accessible from most major cities in the US and Canada.




guatemala volcanoFinally, it’s important to note that both Nicaragua and Guatemala are generally safe places to travel in. However, as with any destination, it’s always important to take precautions and be aware of your surroundings.

Note that Nicaragua is classified as safer than Guatemala.



Getting Around

Both Nicaragua and Guatemala are easily accessible by public buses. There are plenty of options for getting around, and the prices are relatively affordable. The main roads in Nicaragua are generally paved and good so many tourists choose to rent motorbikes or cars when they are visiting. Although there are many steep hills in Nicaragua so make sure your vehicle is equipped for the hike.


Guatemala’s roads are best traveled by private vehicle (private transfer, taxi, or rideshare) or tourist shuttle (minibus or coach). You can also take chicken buses or drive yourself—though we don’t recommend this option if you are not familiar with the Guatemalan roads.



The Currency


In Nicaragua, the official currency is the Cordoba, while in Guatemala, the official currency is the Quetzal. However, both countries accept US dollars as well.





Nicaragua and Guatemala offer a wide range of accommodation options, from budget-friendly hostels to luxurious villas. It’s important to research the options in advance and book early to get the best rates.


You can get a bed in an shared hostel dorms for $5-20 per night on average, and a private bedroom without AC for $20-70 per night on average. You can also rent luxury homes on the beach for $350-900/ night, or stay at La Santa Maria. Check our pricing!



Travel Tips


For Nicaragua:

  • Covid Testing Every tourist or local who wants to enter Nicaragua, whether arriving by air or overland, must present a negative Covid-19 test. RT – PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival.
  • Tourist Visa: When entering Nicaragua, you can purchase Nicaraguan tourist cards at the airport.

maya ruins guatemalaFor Guatemala:

  • Covid Testing: To enter Guatemala, those aged 12 and over must show proof of full vaccination. Those aged ten and over must show a negative PCR or antigen test conducted no more than 72 hours prior to travel. Expect movement restrictions, strict enforcement of mask-wearing, restrictions on social gatherings, and other sanitary measures in public spaces.
  • Tourist Visa: Without a visa, passport holders of these countries can remain in the country for a maximum period of 90 days within a period of 180 Days. Within this duration, travelers can visit any region of Guatemala without any restrictions.



Top Travel Destinations In Each Country


colonial city in nicaragua




  • San Juan Del Sur
  • Ometepe Island
  • Granada
  • Leon
  • Little Corn Island

Check 14 must see places in Nicaragua!




  • Antigua
  • Tikal
  • Guatemala City
  • Livingston
  • Lake Atitlan


Bottom Line


So, which one is right for you? If you’re looking for sun-soaked beaches, surfing all year round, Spanish colonial architecture, and friendly local culture, then Nicaragua is your best bet. If you’re interested in learning about ancient Mayan civilizations or want to experience a more diverse and traditional Latin American culture, then Guatemala is definitely worth checking out. Whichever country you choose, we guarantee that you’ll have an amazing time traveling to Central America.


Nicaragua and Guatemala both offer an incredible amount of natural beauty, history, and culture. It can be tough to decide which one is right for you but hopefully, this blog post will help make your decision a little bit easier.


Contact us if you are interested in investing in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua or would like to stay at La Santa Maria while discovering the beauty of Nicaragua!

Recent Comments

Gema Blandón
Gema Blandón
May 8, 2022.
Our days in the place were excellent, nice experience, Super recommended.
Idania Castillo
Idania Castillo
April 26, 2022.
Cause we got good attention and the place was good too
Julio Nunez
Julio Nunez
April 18, 2022.
If you want to have a relaxing vacation, this is the right place, can't wait for the next time...
Freddy Canales
Freddy Canales
April 18, 2022.
El servicio que brindan, la atención
Fidias Cuarezma
Fidias Cuarezma
March 5, 2022.
La Santa Maria Villa 1 is an amazing house . The view of the bay is breathtaking. The villa itself is very modern and extremely close the town. I highly recommend it.
Gissell Solis Solis
Gissell Solis Solis
February 11, 2022.
Best of the best!
Zeltia Muńoz cocińa
Zeltia Muńoz cocińa
January 30, 2022.
La santa Maria resort Top choice if u go to San Juan del Sur! since the very beginning we feel like at home. Our appartment has 2 big bedrooms and 2 toilets, with a great  kitchen fully equiped. The were taking care of us in every moment, specially Gaudi and Betsy, we're so pleased for all U've done for us. The bed was superconfortable (I've slept for 12 h) and all the appartment was great, very well decorated with spectacular views to San Juan. We've spend the most of the time in the infinity pool! It's amazing. We've been taking such a good pictures of the views, even at night time. The sunset from the pool is splendid! All the staff was superfriendly, they prepare great smoothies. We have to come back, for sure! Thanks a lot to La Santa Maria Resort!
Bernard R. Hoytink
Bernard R. Hoytink
January 7, 2022.
Stunning location, amazing view of San Juan del sur bay. No better place to celebrate your birthday with your loved ones!! Concierge where really helpful. Will definitely stay here again!
Camila Bernheim
Camila Bernheim
January 6, 2022.
Everything was perfect. The place was peaceful