Spend a Week Near the Beach in Rustic Jiquilillo, Nicaragua
If you are going to be in Chinandega, Nicaragua and are thinking of spending some time near the beach in a backpacker hostel, consider a visit to Rancho Esperanza. Rancho Esperanza was started by Nate Yue, who went to Nicaragua around the time I originally did five years ago. Rancho Esperanza is still going strong, and Nate is even planning for further expansion.
I visited Rancho Esperanza a few times, the last time over two years ago, but I've kept in touch with Nate, and enjoyed looking at his photo albums of his project: http://www.flickr.com/photos/13202128@N08/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/13510316@N02/.
Visitors to Rancho Esperanza in Jiquilillo, Nicaragua can spend their time lounging in hammocks, wantering on the beach, swimming/surfing, or (sometimes) going on local tours or volunteering with the community "kids club" started by Nate.
I know Nate invested his own money in the project, and it is great to see his ongoing success. I know it's a challenge to do business in Nicaragua, and it is a testament to his character that he is successful there.
Of course, in order for him to pay for his buildings and employees, he does have to charge the guests! Be prepared to pay slightly more for your lodging, water and meals than you would in a dive in Chinandega. But it's worth it. Where in Chinandega does the owner do fire dancing?
Visit Nate's website and put it on your plans for your next trip to Nicaragua: http://www.rancho.esperanza.bvg3.com/.
After leaving the Rancho, if you are headed to Esteli/Contega, the standard route is to go all the way back to Leon. But if you are interested in a mountain adventure, follow the route I once took: take the bus from Chinandega that goes the back way, near the Honduran border, to San Fransisco. Then the next day continue on the next bus to Contega.