It’s morning in Nicaragua and I am staying at the Mango Rosa Hotel with my Under30Experiences group trip. Our hotel is a collection of modern cabanas surrounded by jungle and apparent nothingness as far as the eye can see. The open space, the silence interrupted only by birds or monkeys, the heat that hugs you like a warm embrace; it’s a far cry from New York City.

To be honest, I hadn’t thought much about visiting Nicaragua. On my long list of countries to one day see, Nicaragua was somewhere in the bottom–namely because I knew little about the country and hadn’t given it much thought. When my plane touched down on the tarmac in Managua, I had zero expectations for my upcoming trip beyond sun, sand and beach. Over the next few days, I would realize how rich and vibrant Nicaragua is; how friendly the locals are, how stunning the scenery can be, how remarkably beautiful yet underrated it all was. I’d quickly see how Nicaragua is like the overlooked cousin to Costa Rica; how it’s a country that is just as lush and magical sans the fanny pack toting tourist crowd. In short, I’d realize that Nicaragua’s days of flying under the radar are surely numbered. Here’s why.

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