If you go

THE BEST WAY TO MANAGUA, NICARAGUA

From LAX, connecting service (change of planes) is offered on United, Delta, Avianca, Copa and American. Restricted round-trip airfares begin at $579, including all taxes and fees.

TELEPHONES

To call the numbers below from the U.S., dial 011 (the international dialing code), 505 (country code for Nicaragua) and the local number.

GETTING AROUND

Independent travelers can rent from Hertz, Budget, Dollar or a handful of other well-known international companies, or take a shuttle bus between cities from companies such as Nica Express, 2552-8461, http://www.nica-adventures.com. Individual guided tours are inexpensive, costing as little as $60 a day for a car, driver, guide and gasoline.

Grayline Tours, 2552-2827, http://www.graylinenicaragua.com. From $65 to $100 a day, depending on destination, for private tours with minivan, guide and driver.

WHERE TO STAY

La Gran Francia, Esquina Sureste del Parque Central, Granada; 2552-6002, http://www.lagranfrancia.com. Colonial-style hotel south of the main square. Captures the color and history of the city. Comfortable, large rooms, helpful staff. Doubles from $92 per night.

Pelican Eyes Resort & Spa, De la Parroquia, San Juan del Sur; 2563-7000, http://www.pelicaneyesresort.com. One of Nicaragua's first upscale resorts, on a hillside overlooking the popular beachside town. Doubles from $220 per night.

Mukul Beach Golf & Spa, Carretera Tola-Las Salinas, Rivas; (800) 390-8844, http://www.mukulresort.com. High-end resort opened last year on an undeveloped stretch of private beach. Hillside casitas with pools, restaurants and golf course. Doubles from $550.

Jicaro Island Ecolodge, Granada Isletas; 2558-7702, http://www.jicarolodge.com. Island retreat in Lake Nicaragua features two-story private casitas, pool, open kitchen, restaurant and bar. Waterfront views of Mombacho volcano. No air conditioning. Doubles from $390.

WHERE TO EAT

El Zaguan Restaurant, Calle El Arsenal, Granada; 2552-2522. This open-air restaurant and exhibition kitchen is considered Granada's best traditional churrasco-style steakhouse. Entrees $10-$17.

Vintage Restaurant, Victoriano Hotel, Boulevard de la Mar, San Juan del Sur; 2568-2005, http://www.hotelvictoriano.com. Excellent beef and seafood at the oceanfront hotel restaurant. Entrees $8-$22.

Restaurante Bucanero, Masaya, Nindiri; 522-7550, http://www.restauranteelbucanero.com. Open-air family restaurant about 20 minutes from Granada overlooks the Masaya volcano lagoon. Seafood, live music, mariachis. Entrees start at $6.

TO LEARN MORE

Nicaraguan Tourism Board, (202) 939-6570, http://www.visitnicaragua.us