Leon Eateries You Need to Try

Planning a day trip to Leon during your stay at Jicaro? There’s no shortage of things to do in the bustling college town. But, a full day spent exploring the city’s museums, historical sites, art galleries, and markets can leave one feeling pretty famished. Luckily, Leon is full of cosmopolitan eateries that serve up breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert! So stop, rest your feet, and treat yourself to one of Leon’s finest feasts! Here are the eateries you have to try.

Pan Y Paz

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Attention gluten lovers! If you’re looking for somewhere to stop for a loaf a fluffy french bread, an eclair stuffed with fresh cream, or a buttery croissant, look no further. Pan Y Paz is your one stop shop for all the authentic french “pattiseries” your heart desires. The quaint little bakery is run by European couple Christian and Miranda who fell in love with Leon on vacation in 2008. Shortly after their trip, they decided to open a bakery just a few blocks from Leon’s Cathedral and bring the people of Nicaragua a taste of Europe. This may not be your authentic Nicaraguan eatery but it is definitely worth a stop!

Cocinarte

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You know that vegetarian friend who is always forcing you to accompany them to every hippy-dippy restaurant they come across? Well you’ll thank them for dragging you to this meat-free eatery. Cocinarte’s menu features vegetarian options from around the world like falafel, spicy Indian curry, and veggie fajitas all bursting with spice and flavour. The ingredients are fresh, cooked to order, and served in heaps big enough to fill any belly. The restaurant itself is tucked away in Leon’s historic Laborío neighborhood in a beautiful  colonial house- the perfect place to enjoy a veggie-filled feast.

Cafe La Nicaraguita

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Punctuate your day with a quick stop at Cafe La Nicaraguita where you’ll find everything from Nicaraguan small plates, to fruit smoothies, to good old fashioned burgers. The atmosphere is funky with local art lining the brightly painted walls and framed chalk boards spelling out the day’s specials.

Stop by any of these Leon eateries? Post a picture of your meal on our Facebook page!

Our Little Chunk of Volcano: How Jicaro Was Formed

It’s not everyday you get to sleep on a chunk of volcano…Unless you’re sleeping at Jicaro, which is located on one of the tiny islands dotting the waters of Lake Nicaragua known as the Granada Islets. Central America’s largest lake, Lake Nicaragua contains 365 islets that are home to over 1200 people. Were you to travel back in time several thousand years however, these isletas would be conspicuously absent.

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It wasn’t until a particularly violent explosion of Mombacho Volcano nearly 20 thousand years ago that Lake Nicaragua’s silky surface was pocked with the hundreds of rocky landmasses that make up the Granada Isletas.

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The volcano exploded with enough force to send much of its cone spewing into the lake. These chunks of volcanic rock formed the isletas, which range in size from 100 square feet  to 100 square acres.

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Over time the islands populated with eco lodges, communities of fishermen, and wealthy Nicaraguans. Some, however, remain uninhabited and teem with lush flora that provides shelter to several of  Nicaragua’s native monkeys and bird species. Kayak the shallow channels of water between the isletas and you will see their large hanging nests swinging from the trees. Paddle to Monkey Island and you will be greeted by a colony of monkeys that were rescued and relocated there by a veterinarian.

Eager to explore the isletas? Ask us about our boat tour!

Eat Like a Local! Traditional Nicaraguan Bites to Try

Nicaragua’s culinary history is as rich as the country’s itself, dating all the way back to pre columbian times. Their was transformed by colonization and is a delightful fusion of Nicaraguan and Spanish flavors unlike anything else in the world. This unique marriage of the two cultures’ ingredients and spices is known in Spanish as “criollio.”

Here are a few plates you have to try.

Sopa de Mondongo

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This souppopular in the region of Masayais made from the slow-cooked intestines of a cow, but don’t be alarmed. It’s actually quite delicious! Plus, according to Nicaraguan folklore, it has healing powers.

To prepare this soups, intestines are soaked in bicarbonate, orange and lemon then cut into small pieces and cooked with vegetables. The vegetables and spices used vary from region to region. The soup is thickened with ground rice and often served with avocado and tortillas.

Nacatamal

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Nacatamals are essentially the Nicaraguan version of mexican tamales. They are made from dough prepared with a special type of corn flour known as “masas de harina”which can be found in Nicaraguan marketsand butter. The dough is stuffed full of sliced chicken, rice, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and onions then wrapped in plantain leaves. The whole thing is then tied shut and boiled for several hours until it reaches toasty perfection.

The Quesillo

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More cheese please! If Nacatamals are the Nicaraguan version of tamales, then quesillos are the Nicaraguan version of grilled cheese. And oh boy are they ever delicious! The main two ingredients in a quesillo are warm corn tortillas and cheese. The cheese is layered on top of the tortilla then topped with onions, vinegar, and sour cream. You can find these scrumptious bites at stands all over the country. They are especially popular in Leon.

Try any of these dishes on your travels through Nicaragua? Post a picture on our Facebook page!

Jicaro Island Gift Guide

Scrambling to find a gift to bring back for your bestie? You boss? Your mother in law? Never fear! You can find cool local crafts right here on our private island. Jicaro is a proud supporter of Nicaragua’s local artisans and our boutique is brimming with colourful goodies you can buy for your friends. But be warned: you just might want to keep them for yourself. Here are our favorite items.

Hand-Painted Vases

These gorgeous hand painted vases are made by local craftsmen and women from Nicaragua’s white towns. Found in the area around Granada and Masaya, white towns like Nindiri, Diria, and Diriomo earned their nickname thanks to the the traditional whitewash used on the houses. Each white town produces its own unique art, several  specializing in ceramics and pottery. Visit a white town during your stay and you can watch these local artisans at work!

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Macen Bags

Here at Jicaro we love anything recycled and planet friendly, which is why we absolutely adore these bright macen bags made in Matagalpa. Macen is a coarse material made of recycled plastic that is used by Nicaraguans to make everything from hammocks to hats. As well as with being pretty to look at, macen is waterproof and extremely durable which makes for one long lasting bag.

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Granada Salt Shakers

These shiny coconut shaped shakers are made right in Granada by young craftsmen and women. They money they earn selling their art helps to support their families.

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What cool local art did you find on your trip to Nicaragua? Post a picture of it on our Facebook Page!

What the Heck is a Cloud Forest Ecosystem?

What the heck is a cloud forest?! Sounds like something straight off of Lord of the Rings doesn’t it? A mythical place where trees talk and ferries roam? Nicaragua’s cloud forest ecosystems aren’t quite this cool but they’re pretty darn close.rainforest

A cloud rainforest is an extremely rare ecosystem usually found around 1000 meters or more above sea level. At this elevation, the ecosystems are shrouded in a layer of clouds earning them the name cloud forests. One of the world’s most rare climate conditions, cloud forest ecosystems are home to a plethora plants and creatures you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

Located on the the inactive Mombacho Volcano (just a short trip from the ecolodge) is one of the world’s few cloud forest ecosystems. Mombacho’s pristine 2,500 acre cloud forest is a spectacle of nature speckled with brightly coloured orchids and meandering bromeliads.

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Hundreds of animal species linger within Mombacho’s trees but the two most spectacular are the Mombacho salamander and Mombacho butterly, two creatures found nowhere else in the world. With over 700 different plant species, Mombacho also has its fair share of unique flora and fauna—perhaps the most beautiful being the hundreds of orchid species that range in colour from a spunky orange to soft creamy white.

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Just below the cloud forest several  organic coffee farms sprawl across the slope of Mombacho sprouting some of the world’s best beans. The high elevation and cool climate allow for optimal growing temperatures and conservation groups have worked hard to ensure all farms practice sustainable agroforestry methods.

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Reach the top of Mombach, and the clouds will clear offering a spectacular view of Lake Nicaragua and the city of Granada that is guaranteed to be the cherry on top of your trip to Nicaragua. Don’t miss this ecosystem of a lifetime!

Interested in exploring the Mombacho cloud forest? Ask us about our volcano tours!

 

Come Fly With Us! History of the Zip Line

There are plenty of ways to see Nicaraguaby boat, plane, paddle board, by foot (to name a few.) But the best way is by zip line. Skimming over the trees, while a warm breeze fills your lungs with tropical air,  zip lining lets you experience your surroundings in a completely new way. As you slice through the air, you’ll feel not unlike one of Nicaragua’s broad winged hawks. Once you land you’re going to want to do it again. So how did this miraculous adventure activity come to be?NIC_131213_00009

Legend has it zip lines date all the way back to ancient times when people living in mountain regions like the Himalayas and the Alps used them to get around the country. In the 1900s mountaineers brought zip lining into the mainstream, using it as a way to shuttle across crevasses, chasms, and canyons. Zip lining above forest canopies like we do here at Jicaro, however, was popularized much later by wildlife biologists who needed a way to study leafy forest canopies from above and explore untouched terrain.

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The eco tourism industry now uses zip line tours as a way to teach adventure seekers about the importance of biological zones like Nicaragua’s Canopy Miravalles. Zip lining is one of the fastest growing eco tourism activities in the world and, once you try it, it is easy to see why. There is truly no experience more surreal or more exhilarating.

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Come fly with us! Ask us about our zip line tours.

 

 

Cool off with Our Favorite Cocktail

As a sustainable eco lodge, we’re all about sourcing local. We eat local fruit, hire local staff, decorate our casitas with local art. The list goes on! Nicaragua is a country full of tropical treasures and practically everything we need here at the lodge can be found nearby, including local liquor!

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Jicor is a Nicaraguan liqueur distilled from the pulp of jicaro fruit—a hard woody fruit that grows on Nicaragua’s jicaro trees—mixed with sugar and water. The perfect cocktail component, jicor’s flavor is bold and its alcohol content even bolder…NIC_131213_00042-Edit

Enjoy its unique taste in this cool cocktail, which is best paired with a deck chair, a good book, and one of our beautiful lake views.

The El Jicaro

Ingredients

3 oz jicor liqueur

1oz sugar syrup

2 oz lemon juice

3 oz iced tea

1 oz club soda

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Preparation

1. In a cocktail shaker, mix the jicor, iced tea, sugar syrup, and lemon juice.

2. Add a scoop of ice and shake for 10 seconds. Mix with club soda and garnish with a lemon or lime.

**If you happen to have a jicaro nut lying around, use that as a glass!

3. Kick back, relax, and enjoy!

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Did you make this at home? Show-us! Post your own El Jicaro on our Facebook Page OR Know a foodie who would love this? Share it with a friend!

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Your Taco Tuesday Survival Guide

Here at Jicaro we love our tacos. We love them so much, you might even say Taco Tuesday is our favourite day of the week! If you’ve visited Jicaro and experienced the magic of our  chef’s chicken, fish, or shrimp tacos first hand you know what where talking about…

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In honor of Taco Tuesdays everywhere here is our extra special taco recipefrom our kitchen to yours.

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Ingredients

1 oz minced garlic                                                

½ oz vegetable oil

7 oz fish, chicken, or Shrimp

1 oz mayonnaise

½  a lemon, grated

¼ oz  water

½  oz lemon juice

2  Corn tortillas

1 side portion pico de gallo (chopped salad)

1 side portion cabbage salad

2 oz refried beans

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Preparation

1. Mix the mayonnaise, grated lemon, water, and lemon juice, to make a dressing.

2. Fry the protein together with the garlic, salt, and pepper, on both sides.

3. Heat the tortillas, place them on the serving dish, then place the beans, fish, and pico de gallo on top. Accompany with a cabbage salad, and small dish of dressing.

Happy taco eating everyone!

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Did you make this at home? Show-us! Post your own Jicaro Tacos on our Facebook Page OR Know a foodie who would love this? Share it with a friend!

If You Like Bread You’ll Love this Nicaraguan Fruit

Carb lovers rejoice, we’re here to tell you you can have your bread and eat your fruit too. How? Breadfruit—or Fruta de Pan as the locals call it. This large oval shaped fruit grows year round along Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast and can taste and look just like bread if you prepare it right.

Remove its spiky green peel and you’ll find soft, seedless white flesh full of carbohydrates, vitamin A, calcium, and vitamin B that can be cooked, fried, or even baked. Like bread, its flavour is bland and its texture starchy making it the perfect alternative to other carbohydrate rich foods like rice or potatoes. And, that’s not even the best part! Breadfruit also helps combat hunger in tropical parts of the world.

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Because they’re easy grow and a breeze to maintain, breadfruit trees make for an extremely sustainable crop. With every mature tree producing almost half a ton of nutrient dense fruit each year, breadfruit is a practical solution to food security in many regions. Did we mention they’re also drought resistant? Now that’s what we like to call a super fruit!

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Breadfruit can be enjoyed at just about every stage of ripeness. When still firm, it makes for delicious breadfruit fries and when overripe, it tastes delightful in pies, cakes, and other desserts. Naturally gluten free, breadfruit can also be ground into flour to fulfill all your gluten-free baking needs.

All the Cool Ecolodges are Doing It: How Jicaro Keeps Cool without A/C

“No air conditioning? In Nicaragua? Won’t we melt?!”  Is something we hear a lot of from first time guests booking a stay at Jicaro. Luckily, their fears of melting in their sleep are qualmed the moment they step foot into our casitas. Despite having no A/C, Jicaro’s jungle treehouses stay surprisingly cool. How do we do it?

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Cross Ventilation

Each casita is meticulously designed to optimize air flow. Windows and vents on opposite sides of your casita provide cool breezes with a natural pathway through each room. Consider it nature’s air conditioning.

Ceiling Fans

For when nature’s breezes fail, each casita is equipped with DIY breeze-makers (A.K.A. ceiling fans) that get air flowing through your tree-house hut. Combine these fans with our cross ventilation systems and you’ll be cool as a clam.

Trees Wonderful Trees

Not a single tree was cut down to build Jicaro and, as a result, your casita is NIC_131215_01443sheltered from the hot Nicaraguan sun by a canopy of leafy greens. The shade provided by the area’s flaura and fauna helps keep inside temperatures low.

Elevated Tree Houses

All our casitas are raised up off the ground allowing cool lake winds to whistle above, beside, through, AND under your private tree house.

Curious about our other sustainability initiatives? Read about them here.

Book your casita now!