Nicaragua has a total area of 129,494 sq. km. and is thereby the largest of the Central American countries. It has coastlines on both the Caribbean Sea, in the east and the Pacific Ocean in the west. To the north it is bordered by Honduras, to the south by Costa Rica. A few islands are also part of Nicaragua, among these are Islas del Maiz (Corn Islands), situated in the Caribbean Sea, consisting of two islands: Isla del Maiz and Isla del Maiz Pequena. Nicaragua has a population of 5.6 million, and is the least densely populated country in Central America. The state capital is Managua with 1 million inhabitants.
Nicaragua has three distinct geographical regions: the Pacific Lowlands, the North-Central Mountains or the highlands and the Atlantic Lowlands. Extensive Atlantic coastal plains rises to the central interior mountains, the narrow Pacific coastal plain is interrupted by volcanoes making for some majestic landscapes. There are several lakes of volcanic origin, among these the largest in Central America, Lago Nicaragua, home to the only fresh water sharks in the world. The capital city, Managua, sits on the shores of the polluted Lago Managua. Rainforest in Nicaragua cover more than 2 million hectares, particular on the Atlantic lowlands.
Nicaragua is one of the least visited countries in Central America. This may soon change; tourism in Nicaragua has grown about 70% over the last 7 years, with rates of 10% to 16% annually. The main attractions for tourists are the beaches, the majority of them are on the Pacific Coast, scenic routes, the architecture of cities such as León and Granada and most recently ecotourism in Northern Nicaragua. In comparison with the Maya ruins of Guatemala or the national parks of Costa Rica, Nicaragua offers few traditional tourist attractions.
Managua is the cosmopolitan hotspot of the country. The city's many restaurants, shops, galleries, cultural performances and active nightlife make it an entertaining destination, although many tourists decide to sightsee elsewhere. The international airport in Managua is where you fly to when visiting Nicaragua, most likely with direct flights from Miami, Houston or Atlanta.
Nicaragua is rated the safest country in Central America by many sources, however, minor gang violence has been filtering into Nicaragua from Honduras and El Salvador. In Managua crime seams mainly to be limited to petty theft. Granada, the second largest city, is generally safe, but using common sense and always walking with someone else is recommended, like anywhere else in the world.
The climate is tropical in lowlands, cooler in highlands. The weather during dry months can be very hot in the Pacific lowlands. The Atlantic coast sees an occasional hurricane each season.