An Embarrassment of Natural Resources
Long overlooked by leisure travelers, the second-poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere is on the brink of a tourism boom. Its attractions are massive: volcanoes, surfing, centuries-old colonial architecture and a warm-hearted people; but don’t think of Nicaragua as the new Costa Rica, think of it as the new Nicaragua.
In just eight days of crisscrossing that Central American nation, I had to decide whether to sail across open seas in a speedboat, utterly drenched, to reach Little Corn Island in the Caribbean; to zip-line down a 45-degree-angle cable through a monkey-thick forest and land on a tiny platform 50-feet high; and to trek among the sweltering hillsides of Mombacho Volcano in search of a rare orchid that blooms once for only 24 hours. After all that, sand boarding down a volcano was a no-brainer.
On my flight to Managua, I sat next a local banking consultant. “The tourism potential is huge,” he said. “People call it the next Costa Rica. They know about volcano trekking and the lakes and the surfing. On the other hand, it’s the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. And I’m not sure whether the government’s socialist leaders will be able to attract international investors, because of the bureaucracy.”
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