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Saddled between Costa Rica to the south and Honduras to the north, Nicaragua is a Central American country blessed with coastlines along the calm Caribbean Sea and the big waves of the Pacific Ocean. Few capitals are as picturesque as Managua. Situated in and around six lagoons, Managua recently celebrated 150 years of modern history. When flying to Nicaragua, Managua is your point of entry. With twenty-seven percent of Nicaragua's population living in and around the city, the rest of the country is less people and more open land.

Because of the country's mountains and valleys, Nicaragua can be visited all year round. Summer temperatures vary from hot and humid along the Caribbean coast to wet and cool in the interior rain forests. In the winter, temperatures can level off to cooler nights and hot, sun-filled days. In reaction to Costa Rica's tourism boom and full beaches, Nicaragua has become a draw for Central American and international surfers looking for quieter, less crowded places to surf. In addition to surfing and beach life, Nicaragua is a major draw for eco-tourists, bird watchers, and tourists interested in making the trek down the San Juan River, an old Nicaraguan trade route filled with small river towns and Spanish ruins. Almost 20 percent of Nicaragua's overall landmass is protected as wildlife and nature reserves.

Intratours (tel. 800/334-8069; www.intratours.com) has specials on flights into Nicaragua. Summer fares lasting till August 21, 2006 for round-trips into Managua start at only $389 out of Miami, $426 out of Washington D.C., $480 out of New York, $492 out of San Francisco, and $505 out of Philadelphia. In the fall, airfare prices decrease to $369 from Miami and from $520 to $443 from Atlanta. These fares are for mid-week departures with a maximum stay of 30 to 90 days and a Saturday night stay.

For land-only packages to Nicaragua, CentralAmerica.com (tel. 800/353-7948; www.centralamerica.com) has a wide menu of beach, adventure and eco-travel packages. A three day, two night guided adventure tour of the San Juan River costs $407 per person for two people or $312 per person if you book for four people. Highlights of the trip include a 400 year-old Spanish fort and the small frontier towns you'll visit on the way. Most of this trip takes place walking through lush rain forests and floating peacefully down-river in a quiet canoe, perfect for enjoying the area's famous bird watching. The tour includes transportation from Managua, two nights' accommodations in the El Castillo Refuge, five full meals, sightseeing excursions and a local guide. Extra excursions can be added such as a fishing trip for $90.

CentralAmerica.com also has a six day, five night tour of the inland city of Granada and the town of San Juan del Sur, an area known for its sixteen beaches along Nicaragua's Pacific Coast. Highlights of this trip include a visit to Lake Nicaragua and the Mombacho Volcano. The last two days of this package include a stay at the Morgan's Rock Hacienda and Eco-Lodge (tel. 011 506/232-6449; www.morgansrock.com), located within the grounds of a huge reforestation project and nature reserve along the Pacific Ocean. The hip, surfing town of San Juan del Sur is a short distance from the hotel. Cost of the trip comes to $755 per person until October 31, 2006. Meals are included during your stay at the Morgan's Rock. The Morgan's Rock also has packages of its own, including a five day, four night double for $770 through October 31, 2006.

For eco-tourists, the MesoAmerican Ecotourism Alliance (tel. 800/682-0584; www.travelwithmea.com) has a nine day tour focusing on the volcanoes, lakes and rainforests of Nicaragua. Costing $2,690, this land-only package departs on several from Managua on several dates in 2007 including January 20, February 3, and October 6. The trip includes a hike through forests as high up as the clouds on the Mombacho Volcano, kayaking through the islands on Lake Nicaragua and eyeing the monkeys, scarlets and green macaws in the Nicaraguan jungle. This trip is labeled as "easy," with three days of light hiking and three days of light lake kayaking. Most meals are included in the price of the tour. Accommodations are at authentic lodges and beach resorts with comfortable, sometimes luxurious, sleeping chambers.

For a quick air-inclusive trip to Nicaragua out of Miami, Go Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.go-today.com) has a four night "Discovering Nicaragua" package starting at $1,329 in the month of August and $1,269 for September. You need to book travel by August 17, 2006. The trip includes airfare to and from Nicaragua, transportation from location to location, two nights' accommodations in Granada, two nights in the Ometepe Islands, nine meals, entrance fees to the national parks, the employ of a tour guide and all local hotel taxes and airline fuel charges. Airport departure fees and security taxes are not included in the price of this package.

See what fellow travelers have to say about their trips to Nicaragua at the Frommers.com Nicaragua Message Boards.