Tucked between Costa Rica’s mammoth ecotourism scene and Honduras’ dazzling displays of indigenous history, Nicaragua is all too often ignored by travelers. Their loss. The warm, inclusive pride of the Nicaraguan people suffuses the country with an intoxicating energy that captivates. For the cognoscenti, Nicaragua is inspiring landscapes, colonial beauty, weeklong parties, stunning wildlife, beautiful beaches, rollicking reggae and long nights spent with friends in the plaza-all rolled up in a neat little package that carries a discount price tag.

June to March, to avoid the dusty end of the dry season-or in the 13 th century, before the Aztecs arrived

Watching the moon rise over the cathedral in colonial Granada Climbing the volcanoes on lsla de Ometepe and cooling off by swimming in the Lago de Nicaraua Kicking back in a beach hummock in San Juan del Sur Spotting a quetzal at the Reserva Natural Miraflor Buying handicrafts at Masaya’s Mercado Viejo Enjoying perfect snorkeling off Little Corn lsland

Read Ruben Dario’s Stories and Poems-masterpieces by the founder of Spanish modernism; Salman Rushdie’s The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey-revealing personal experiences of a visit

Listen to Duo Guardabaranco’s Antologia of collected pop works; Los Mejia Godoy’s Loving in Times of War-legendary Nicaraguan brothers sing folk

Watch Nicaragua Was Our Home-a documentary about Miskito lndians and Sandinistas that purportedly influenced Reagan’s foreign policy; Alsino and the Condor-a boy’s struggle to escape the realities of his war-torn homeland

Eat baho-beet, yucca, plaintains and vegetables slowly simmered; sopa de albondiga-cornmeal-ball soup

Drink Flor de Cana rum; pinolio-dissolved ground corn (add sugar!)

Va pue’! (all right!)

Contras and Sandinistas; dusty farms and towns; rickety buses with chikens; earthquakes and hurricanes; US intervention in politics

Amazing biodiversity, there are no ruins, the unique, the Caribbean culture on the Atantic coast, the friendliest people in Central America

l’d spent my days being lectured by former Sandinista rebels and meeting three-year-old orphans, my nights getting loaded Flor de Cana rum and dancing with gorgeous

Nicaraguan men. lt was an overly romantic 23-year-old leftist’s dream come true.

-‘How l Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Nicaragua’, On the Road, www.

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