The Pacific Coast of Nicaragua offers up some of country’s most memorable cities and panoramas. It’s where colonial architecture exists next to volcanic leviathans and lush rainforests, only to give way to romantic sandy beaches.

Managua, the country’s capital and largest city, is the industrial and cultural center of the country. Within this somewhat unrefined metropolis are the remnants of a half-century pattern of seismological activity, the last of which virtually destroyed the old downtown in 1972. Yet beyond the rubble are spectacular treasures such as the Rubén Darío National Theatre and Music Palace, monuments in honor of the great poet Rubén Darío, as well as the Tiscapa Lagoon Natural Reserve archaeological site and museum where Acahualina footprints more than 10,000 years of age are on display.

To the south of Managua is the famous city of Granada, the oldest colonial town on mainland America and considered one of the prettiest destinations in Latin America. Established in 1524 by the Spaniard Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba, the city is littered with colonial buildings and historical gems such as Xalteva Church, the site where the Spaniards first met the indigenous Xalteva population. Perhaps the most unique feature of this area is Las Isletas, 365 serene and rustic tiny islands on Lake Nicaragua formed 20,000 years ago by a massive volcanic explosion, which now serve as the local’s favorite vacation and fishing destination. Nearby, Nicaragua’s most prominent volcano, Mombacho, towers over the surrounding coffee plantations and cloud forests.