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Long known as the most wild and pristine of Nicaragua’s Pacific Estuaries, Reserva Natural Padre Ramos is just starting to come into its own as a tourist destination.

Most of the reserve’s 8,800 hectares are only accessible by boat, and local efforts have concentrated on establishing tours from some of the towns around the costal estuary.

The reserve’s various islands (including Isleta Champerico, where Padre Francisco Ramos was once exiled) contain habitat for a number of alligators, some 150 species of birds and three species of sea turtles.

Reserva Padre Ramos is accessible in a number of ways: you can find boats and information at the Padre Ramos ranger station or contact local guides such as Eddy Maradiaga (505-8-371-6761), who charges between US$60 and $250 for boat tours through the mangroves and out into the neighboring gulf. He also speaks a bit of English.

Contact Selva (505-8-884-9156, to arrange a visit or to volunteer during the sea turtles’ July to December egg laying season.

Just south of Padre Ramos is the tiny community of Jiquilillo, where the beaches are lined with vacation houses and rancheros. Jiquilillo has three surfer-friendly lodgings -- Hostel Rancho Esperanza, Rancho Tranquilo or Monty’s Surf Camp – that offer tours and boat rentals. As an upside, if you stay at one of their bamboo cabins, you won’t have to worry about catching the last bus to Chinandega at 3 p.m.

The most well-established of the three options is Hostel Rancho Esperanza (505-8-879-1795,,, a welcoming backpacker hostel with sandy floored cabins, an extensive library and a lofty dorm space. The prices range from $3 for a hammock, to $6 for a space in the dorm and $10 for a cabin. Owner Nathan Yue can arrange volunteer or work opportunities for guests who want to stay longer term and are looking for a room discount.

Rancho Tranquilo (505-8-968-2290, has better beach access, but is less developed than Rancho Esperanza. Guests eat meals family-style in the main barn building and can sleep in either a shared room ($5) or in bamboo cabins ($8 per person). As part of an ongoing development process, in spring 2009 owner Tina Morris was building two new cement-walled cabins and a bar with a view of the sea.

Monty’s Surf Camp (505-2-341-8721,, is the newest and most developed of the Jiquilillo trio. Less a camp than an all-inclusive getaway, Monty’s has a range of package deals (including the very handy transport from Managua’s airport) and typically operates through advance reservations. Unlike the others, Monty’s has a few cabins with private bathrooms. Such convenience comes with its own price tag, however, and the starting price for walk-in traffic (if there’s space, of course) is $25 per night.

All three hostels can provide their guests with boat tours through the estuary, kayak tours with a local wildlife biologist, surfing lessons and trips to either area volcanoes or the Golfo de Fonseca.

Monty’s also offers horseback riding ($5 per hour) and fishing ($35 per person for 6 hours) while you can get Spanish lessons for $5 per hour at Rancho Tranquilo.



Other places nearby Jiquilillo: Playa Jiquilillo, Padre Ramos Estuary & Nature Reserve, Potosi, Corinto, El Viejo, Playa Aserradores, Puerto Morazan and Chichigalpa.

By Rachael Hanley
A sometime newspaper journalist with a heavy side of wanderlust, Rachael moved to Quito in November to work on the V!VA staff. She is currently...
18 May 2009

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