We first heard about Jiquilillo from a backpacker in Granada who, after spending a week there, seemed a little shell-shocked at being back in the ‘city’. She spoke of lazy days in hammocks on the beach, a palm-fringed bay of coffee-coloured sand and the type of remote beach isolation we were craving.
With its rustic and unkempt charm, Jiquilillo is the very definition of a sleepy fishing village. A place for relaxation and contemplation.
We spent three months travelling around Nicaragua and managed to make this our final stop in the country.
This area of the country is Nicaragua’s hottest. The kind of heat that can feel suffocating and keeps you in a perennial state of dampness.
In this small village with just a smattering of shacks and small houses along the waterfront, fishing is still the main economy. At dusk men gather on the sand to roll their large boats into the waves where they will spend the rest of the evening. Come sunrise the beach transforms into the fish market where every local shopkeeper and family barters for the catch and the rest is taken away in crates to Chinandega.
At low tide, the wide arch of caramel sand becomes the main thoroughfare for everything on two wheels and two feet and as the stifling heat of the day begins to recede the water becomes the place to mingle.
In the distance the long line of palm trees is shrouded in a salty mist and the outline of a stunted volcano marks the gateway to El Salvador.
Jiquilillo is a place free of wifi. A chance to switch off completely and disconnect.
Our days are spent dragging our toes through the sand and idly swaying in hammocks overlooking the water, drifting between long siestas in the shade and turning the pages of our books. Time here is governed only by the rumble in our bellies and the sinking of the sun.
In the evening, fellow travellers gather on the dune overlooking the beach, a cold beer in hand, to watch the colours of the sky redden. We sit in silence to see in the final moments of daylight before melting away, one by one, back home along the dark and dusty road.
A picture-perfect ‘Corona’ moment.
Jiquilillo may not have the crystalline waters or powdery white sand of other beach destinations, but for us it was the perfect paradise to finish up our time in Nicaragua.
If a remote palm-fringed beach on a solitary dusty road is calling your name, then this tiny village may just be perfect for you too and we have everything you need to know when you arrive.
With its crisp shell and slightly gooey centre oozing with the lush scent of coconut, we could have eaten the stuff all day.
Mr Coconut Bread has a loyal following though, so when he comes trundling up the beach with his cart, normally around sunset, be the first one in line because these buns sell out fast!
When the sweltering heat dissipates, the beach beckons. Dotted with pansy shells, smiling locals on their bicycles and the odd traveller lost in yoga postures, the long stretch of sand is the perfect place to stretch your legs after a full day of being horizontal in a hammock or eating your fill of coconut bread (aka doing absolutely bloody nothing, which is what lazy beach days are all about right?).
When we arrived there were reports of a tourist being robbed at the far end of the beach when walking alone in the evening. Although we always felt completely safe here, it is advised to walk at least in pairs and always go empty handed.
Considering the temperatures here push into the high 30s, the four-hour hike to the rim of Cosiqüina’s crater is a guaranteed to get you blood boiling. In the midst of drought, the trail was merely a dusty track between dry stunted trees, but the views from the top were spectacular.
Taking in the volcanic peaks of El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, this is a sight you won’t want to skip.
As part of the largest mangrove forest left in Central America, Padre Ramos is a little-visited place where bird life abounds and sea turtles come to nest during the summer months.
Explore the coast by foot or horseback and take to the water in a kayak to discover the depths of the estuary.
With Jiquilillo’s prominent fishing culture, you can be assured that everything you eat is fresh off the boat and completely delicious. The few comedores in town offer a traditional whole fried fish with a cabbage salad on the side. Depending on size, a full meal generally costs around 100 cordobas ($3.50).
It’s not a real trip to the beach in Nicaragua unless you’ve spent all day in the hammock, a warm breeze on your face as you slip in and out of slumber.
Surely lazy days are the main reason you came here anyway.
In case we haven’t made it clear yet, this place is bloody hot and you’ll want to spend just about all your time drifting between your hammock and the water.
The onshore winds mean the surf isn’t as consistent as elsewhere in the country, but in this heat, just splashing around will be antidote enough.
Hostels rent surfboard at a daily and half-daily rate and beware the dry sand – in the middle of the day it can be scaldingly hot.
In a village with no wifi and limited electricity, entertainment comes in the form of painted skies and blushing seas.
People flock to the sand to sit and watch as the day fades away. Sunset here is something you won’t want to miss.
While surf camps are beginning to pop up along this largely undeveloped stretch of coast, there are just two main hostels for travellers. We stayed at Rancho Esperanza which is the very definition of rustic, laid-back, beach hut.
Dorm rooms and private cabins are available and a selection of surfboards and a well-stocked library are on offer. Surf and yoga classes, massage and various activities and tours with local guides also make this an excellent choice for your stay in Jiquilillo. There is no kitchen but the restaurant serves meals ‘family style’ throughout the day.
There is a limited supply of restaurants in the village but the comedor just next door to Esperanza serves up tasty meals of fish or chicken. Otherwise families around town take turns hosting a ‘pizza night’. It’s not the most memorable pizza but watching it being cooked in a barbecue over the course of several hours is all part of the experience.
Chicken buses to Jiquilillo leave just five times a day from Chinandega and take about an hour and a half. Ask to be dropped directly at your hostel.
A word of advice: arrive early to get a seat as these buses fill up fast and choose the side of the bus wisely as the sun is strong and you do not want to be stuck sitting in the blazing heat for the better part of two hours.