Explore the undiscovered gem of Central America. Who knew Nicaragua was home to Caribbean beaches, zip lines through a lush rainforest, and treks across volcanoes?
Anyone who flips through your camera roll after a semester here will fall in love with the brightly painted walls, Spanish inspired cathedrals, leafy jungles and high adventure … and the darling faces of the kids you’ll be teaching. Volunteer in Nicaragua and work directly with an after school program that supplies an English education (and a role model) to the neighborhood kids who need it most.
Calling all adventure buddies! Come explore the untouched beaches, pristine jungles, and volcanoes hiding in this country. Nicaragua is perfect for someone who wants to have lots of experiences on a low, in-country budget. Nica is everything Costa Rica was before all the tourists came along, so you’ll find high adventure with low prices. Go ziplining, white-water rafting, surfing, and whale-watching too, all for half the price than what you’d find in other countries. It’s our go-to Humanitarian semester for those working with a budget and anyone wanting to fall in love with all of the “under the radar” experiences.
Glimpse a day in Nicaragua
Alright, back to breakfast: you’ll be sharing meals with your group. Meals are provided by a cute cook who serves up classic Nicaraguan dishes. Not quite sure what that’s like? You can count on lots and lots of rice and beans at most meals (if not every meal), paired with fried plantains and fresh tortillas. Even the meals are a important part of your Nicaraguan experience. You’ll share big lunches (it’s the most important meal of the day) then joining all together for a smaller dinner. It’s just like how the locals eat. Along with the food, the people of Nicaragua lend so much to your experience. Nicaraguans are happy, so welcoming, and for most volunteers, are a huge part of their ILP experience in this country!
On your way to school, you pass happy neighbors and kids playing in the street who are waving and saying “hola!” as you pass. You’ll be doing a lot of walking during your semester. Plan on packing comfortable shoes for your walk to class and walks through the jungles and beaches. In Nicaragua, you’re living right in the middle of two worlds. On one hand, you’re just a short walk to the bright and colorful downtown, filled with cafes and restaurants, but walk to where you teach, and experience some of the poorest areas in the country. Tin roof homes, dirt roads scattered with wandering roosters, and donkeys pulling carts are common to see in this part of the country.
After teaching finishes up in the early afternoon, the rest of the day is yours! Some volunteers say it’s more free time than they anticipated, leaving you time for joining in on a neighborhood soccer game, playing group games with other ILP volunteers, or walking down to the colorful city center found in Granada. Your teaching days leave time to explore what Granada and nearby spots have to offer, but you’ll have lots and lots of places to choose from on the weekends and vacation days. Lucky for you, some of our favorite vacation spots are just a couple hours (or less!) from where you live. Take a trip to dip in a nearby lagoon, trek to the top of volcanoes, hang out on a string of beaches … all of this and more is so close to where you live. Think about all the adventures you can have every weekend if you wanted to!
For your vacation days, you’re also set. Easily, our favorite spot are the magically pretty Corn Islands, found on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast. Come for a beyond relaxing trip full of sugar-soft sands and sipping coconuts. It’s totally off the tourist map with travelers flocking to other islands, you’ll feel like you have the whole place to yourself. Want to put a few stamps in your passport too? Panama’s islands, Costa Rica’s adventures, and these rad secret swimming spots in Mexico are also options.
A difficult history has kept this adventurous country off the map for most tourists, but that’s slowly changing. We think you’ll love all the travel and adventure this country has to offer (without all the crowds and high prices you’ll find in other tourism-driven countries). Welcome to Nicaragua!
HELP CHILDREN IN NICARAGUA LEARN ENGLISH
Come make a difference by helping children learn English through our Humanitarian Program. No experience is needed, we provide training on our teaching method! Volunteers are only teaching part-time, up to 20 hours per week, and will be in the classroom with kids who are 5-12 years old.
Volunteering and Costs
You’ll be teaching English in an underprivileged neighborhood right outside the popular tourist spot, Granada. In a country so torn by poverty, what you’ll be doing gives you a chance to really connect with the kids in and outside of class. The kids you teach are here as an after-school program. It’s a resource that not only gives them an English education, but also is a way to help them spend time in a safe place, rather than on the streets. In any case, volunteers headed to Nicaragua should be ready to dive in and connect with these kids. Since you’re living close to the school in this neighborhood, you’ll often see the kids you teach after school playing soccer, who will want you to join in, of course. So far, the American teachers have quite the losing streak, but maybe that’ll change your semester!
Be ready to embrace the casual culture even when it comes to teaching. Sometimes you’ll be inside, sharing a big open space with all of your fellow teachers. In fact, on some days you’ll be teaching under the pavilion in the park! The culture here is laid-back and volunteers who do well just going with the flow are a great fit for this country. So many of our Nica volunteers come home and say the very best part about their semester was the people. Tthe kids you teach are a huge part of your semester, so if you’re looking for a humanitarian experience where you can have a direct impact, Nicaragua is the spot for you!
Why is the program fee higher here? Unlike the Exchange Program, the families of the children you work with will not be helping to subsidize your costs. All the children you are working with come from very limited means, and the service you provide is completely free for them. Thank you for wanting to provide the best care for these kids by volunteering in this humanitarian program!
Interested in other ways you’re needed? Compare ILP’s Humanitarian Programs here.
The colorful city of Granada, Nicaragua
—Spring: Depart middle January/early February – return late April/mid May
—Summer: Depart late April/mid May – return early/late August
—Fall: Depart early mid August/late September – return early/mid December, just in time for Christmas
—6-9 volunteers in a group
—Single males/females and married couples
—18-about 25ish years old
—US and Canadian volunteers
—No experience needed!
A QUICK NOTE ABOUT COVID-19
We paused our Nicaragua program at the start of the pandemic and are so excited to be back again (and have been here since Spring 2022)! So what’s life like in Nicaragua now? The center ILP volunteers teach at temporarily closed but has reopened. There are plenty of opportunities to travel around Nicaragua and nearby countries. In general, life is operating with some restrictions, such as mask requirements for some situations and locations. Volunteers going to Nicaragua must have their Covid-19 vaccine.
We are so happy to have volunteers in this location again!
EXPLORING CENTRAL AMERICA —
If you’re looking for things you can’t do or see anywhere else, come to Nicaragua. This is a country the typical tourists don’t know about yet. You get dreamy treetop walks, zip lining trips through the rain forest and pristine beaches, all to yourself. The colorful and bustling cities are worth seeing, but in Nicaragua, you can truly can step away from the crowds to explore some off the country’s most unique adventures. Things like sandboarding down a volcano, kayaking through craters, tropical islands as well as thrilling trips in the jungle are all waiting for you.
There’s more than enough to keep you busy exploring what Nicaragua has to offer, but you can also jump over to approved neighboring countries for vacation like Costa Rica, Panama, and Mexico.
Ometepe — Head to this island made up of two volcanoes! Paddle board and dive into crystal clear lagoons surrounded by lush jungles. Explore brightly colored fishing villages nearby. All in all, it’s pretty perfect.
Masaya Volcano — Head to the active volcano Masaya where you’ll be able to hike up to the rim and see (and hear) the active lava. It churns and pops, just like popcorn. It might be hot enough to roast up a couple of marshmallows so maybe toss a bag into your backpack!
Leon — A colonial city that’s bursting full of history, rad adventures, and fresh fruit smoothies … but that’s not all. Grab your camera and head to the rooftop of the Cathedral de Leon: Sitting on top of the rounded, stark white domes of this massive cathedral is one of the best kept secrets of this sprawling city. After you’ve gotten your fill of the city scene, head to Cerro Negro. It’s the only place to experience sandboarding down a volcano, famous worldwide.
San Juan del Sur — This is the place to be for all surfers and backpackers. Come (and stay) for the beautiful beaches but don’t leave without snapping a picture of the second-largest statue of Christ in the whole world. It’s second only to the World Wonder in Brazil.
El Hoyo — It’s one grueling hike, but worth the views. If you make it to the top you can see the sunrise over 8 of the country’s most famous volcanoes, all lined up in a row.
Miraflor’s Cloud Forest — Trek over rivers and through waterfalls, past local farms hidden in the thick greenery. See if you can spot monkeys, parrots and other animals on your hike. Plan on feeling like you have the whole rain forest all to yourself; this is one spectacular hidden gem.
Corn Islands — You’d never guess these views came from Nicaragua. (We told you it was a total hidden gem). Little Corn and Big Corn islands are made for the vacation life. Both will give you turquoise water, white sand, and palm fronds aplenty. Unless you’re not a fan of paradise, this place is for you.
Laguna de Apoya — What used to be an ancient volcano is now a dreamy natural pool. It’s perfect for a lazy afternoon of paddle boarding or kayaking. Thanks to its volcanic history, the water stays nice and warm … plus, you’ll be able to say you’ve swum in a volcano!
Somoto Canyon — See Nicaragua’s Grand Canyon for yourself. Here, narrow limestone cliffs are filled with clear turquoise water that make for gorgeous pictures. At some points, the water is deep enough for a little cliff jumping or some relaxation, like a float in the pools.
Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica — The beaches along this northern coast are all so good that we couldn’t pick just one! It’s probably one of the most traveled to destinations in Costa Rica for good reason. Spend a lazy day at the beach, practice your yoga, and sip on fresh fruit smoothies before you head out to explore nearby national parks.
Pacuare River, Costa Rica — Up for some of the best white water rafting in Central America? Head east of San Jose through the jungle to spend the day rafting through thick green canyons. You might be lucky enough to spot some local wildlife, like monkeys, toucans, and giant butterflies, too!
Bocas del Toro, Panama — Lastly, go island hopping, snorkeling, and hammock on the beach-ing in this incredible Panamanian getaway.
My kids taught me more than I taught them ...
“I’m at a loss of words it seems. I do not know what to say… Or where to even start. These 3 months have no doubt been the best months of my life. My kids taught me more than I taught them. Saying goodbye was the hardest thing I’ve ever done!
What I do know though:
-I love my kids
-They changed my life
-I love Nicas
-They will ALWAYS hold a special place in my heart!”