Population 29,500. Most visitors swing by Ocotal on their way to the Honduran border at
Las Manos, not realizing that it is a city rich with history. On July 1st 1927, Augusto Cesar Sandino gathered forces at the nearby San Albino gold mine and prepared to invade the U.S. marine garrison located where the mayorâ€™s office currently sits. Sandino warned U.S. commander Captain Gilbert D. Hatfield of his planned attack, signing his telegraph message, "I remain your most obedient servant, who ardently desires to put you in a handsome tomb with beautiful bouquets of flowers." At 1 am on the 16th, the revolutionaries advanced on the town, beginning the battle by opening fire from the nearby church bell tower. With a Sandinista victory seeming imminent, U.S. planes loaded with bombs flew in from Managua, carrying out the worldâ€™s first ever air raid. Sandino was defeated. The only evidence of this historic battle is a plaque that can be found in the courtyard of the mayorâ€™s office.
Ocotal is named after a type of pine, as logging used to be the cityâ€™s major industry. The result, however, has been severe deforestation, so currently Ocotalâ€™s wood comes from either Dipilto or Jalapa. To get a taste of what Ocotal looked like before North American logging companies deforested the area, visit Dipilito.
While the town is pleasant enough to kick around in for a day, there is little to occupy the tourist for too long. The impeccably groomed central park, with a shady gazebo is a nice place to relax with a book. There are also a couple of churches. Should one decide to hunker down for the night in Ocotal, there are plenty of reasonably priced hotels, and even one fancy one with a pool. The food scene may not be exotic but it is nonetheless satisfying.