The National Parks of Nicaragua

Dotted with over seventy protected areas and still unknown to most travelers, the national parks of Nicaragua may be the best Central American destinations for wildlife observation.

Over 18% of the country’s total territory is protected, sheltering remarkable biodiversity. Species found in Nicaragua’s national parks include:

  • Almost 700 birds
  • Over 250 Mammals
  • More Than 230 Species of Reptiles and Amphibians

Many of these protected areas surround volcanoes, whose rich soils support cloud forest ecosystems.

Two hikers hiking the area around Momotombo Volcano in Nicaragua, near Managua

Mombacho Volcano Reserve and Masaya National Park

The Mombacho Volcano Natural Reserve, just a few miles from Granada, is home to an impressive array.

Visitors to Mombacho can observe:

  • White-Faced Monkeys
  • Howler Monkeys
  • Endemic Salamanders
  • Over 175 Avian Species

Masaya Volcano National Park, is located within day-trip range of both Managua and Granada.

Notably, Masaya National Park is home to a peculiar variety of green parakeet that’s adapted to life within the fuming Santiago Crater.

ellow volkswagen van flying the blue and white striped Nicaraguan flag on its roof in front of an intricate stone arch

Visitors to the Masaya Volcano can drive to a parking lot at the craters edge, where signs recommend nose-out parking, in the event that a hasty retreat is required.

In the 16th century, Father Francisco Bobadilla placed a cross here to keep the devil at bay.

While the cross has since been upgraded, lava continues to glow in the crater below.

Miraflor Nature Reserve

The Miraflor Nature Reserve is located 19 miles from Estelí in Nicaragua’s hilly north.

Steam rising from the Crater of the Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua, photographed on a hiking tour in the National Park

The cloud forest at Miraflor is home to:

  • Quetzals
  • Toucans
  • Sloths
  • Howler Monkeys
  • Over 300 Species of Orchid

Forest trails lead to waterfalls, scenic viewpoints and natural pools.

Other activities available in this area include horseback riding and coffee plantation tours.

El Chocoyero-El Brujo

The biologically rich El Chocoyero-El Brujo reserve, twenty miles south of Managua, is one of the nation’s smallest protected areas—a mere 455 acres.

Close up of a Green Plumed Basilisk, photographed on a wildlife expedition of the national parks of Nicaragua

Incredibly, the lush forest habitat of El Chocoyero-El Brujo supports:

  • Over 100 Bird Species
  • White-Faced Monkeys
  • Howler Monkeys
  • Several Small feline species

El Chocoyero-El Brujo also features well-marked trails leading to two thundering waterfalls.

Bosawas Biosphere Reserve

Nicaragua’s largest protected area—indeed, the largest in Central America—is the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve.


World-Class Wildlife Watching at Bosawas

With an area of 1.8 million acres, Bosawas comprises approximately 15% of Nicaragua’s territory.

This Caribbean Coast rain forest reserve is still very wild, and largely unmapped.

Bosawas is home to:

  • Jaguars
  • Harpy Eagles
  • Quetzals
  • Tapirs

Multi-day trekking tours, including visits to indigenous Sumo and Miskito communities, can be arranged.

Turtle Watching at La Flor Wildlife Refuge

On the Pacific Coast near San Juan del Sur, the La Flor Wildlife Refuge is an important nesting ground for Olive Ridley (Paslama) sea turtles.

Closeup of the ash-colored face of a Harpy eagle, with two distinct black feathers rising from the crown of its head

From July – February, tens of thousands of nesting females arrive en-masse, each laying approximately 100 eggs.

After around 50 days, hatchlings emerge from the sand and dash for the water.

Juan Venado and Padre Ramos

Other Pacific habitats include Isla Juan Venado (twelve miles southwest of Leon) and the Padre Ramos Wetlands (about forty miles north of Juan Venado).

These coastal reserves are home to over 100 colorful bird species, as well as crocodiles and sea turtles.


Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve

One more area deserving of a mention is the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Nestled between Masaya and Granada on the Pacific coast, Laguna de Apoyo is rich with flora and fauna.

Formed by a volcanic explosion around 23,000 years ago, the forest surrounding the lagoon is home to howler monkeys, giant anteaters, and White-headed Capuchins.

Other notable residents of Laguna de Apoyo include Green Iguanas and some 65 species of migratory bird.

LANDED arranges privately guided excursions to national parks and wildlife sanctuaries throughout Nicaragua. Speak with a travel planner today at 801.582.2100. We’ll take care of the details.

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