Nicaragua is definitively the land of lakes and volcanoes, but it also hosts fantastic mineral watering holes, impressive rivers you can navigate by boat and infinite miles of coastal beaches along the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Unless we are visiting the higher altitudes of a volcano or mountain range, Nicaragua provides constant tropical weather that enables us to submerge in water year round on any given day.
Personally, we primarily recreate during the week in pools and in the healing waters of Laguna de Apoyo, an ancient crater lake 20 minutes out of Granada. But we also swim in the cleaner areas of Lake Cocibolca or in the Pacific Ocean at any number of beaches as far down as Guanacaste, Costa Rica. For all these activities, I have always had to proactively consider Aiden’s water safety because I can never be sure what safety gear will be available on site when we arrive.
Kayaking and swimming at Laguna de Apoyo make for a great family day out, but the lagoon has but a few feet of beach entry before it drops into the crater’s deep abyss, the depths of which no one seems to have calculated. This drop-off can catch anyone off guard that might otherwise have confidence that they were well situated on solid surface. As such, there are a few sad swimming accidents there each year, especially around the Semana Santa holiday (the same could be said all over Nicaragua, where swimming is not yet an ubiquitous skill passed down through the generations).
Private swim clubs at the Laguna de Apoyo like Laguna Beach Club or the Monkey Hut, offer life jackets but you never know if there are going to be enough life vests for kids (or adults) to go around (and there are never any for infants). Out on Lake Cocibolca there are always life vests for adults on boat trips to the isletas or on the day pleasure cruiser Bella del Mar, but they are not sized for kids six-and-under or for infants.
Now that Aiden is 11 and a fairly strong swimmer I don’t worry so much about swimming pools, but I certainly remember the years when I did have to think about making sure he had a life vest in the pool. However, I still need to consider water safety every time we head to natural waters that might host more unpredictable scenarios, and for that reason I am always going to take our own youth life vest every time we head out to swim or boat. I don’t want arrive to a destination and find that there is no safety gear available. I want us to be able to have fun and enjoy our lives on the water. I find it easier to just keep a youth vest in the back of the car so that I know that any last minute excursion will include water safety provisions.
Life vests are cheap in the US and Canada and the right vest will do the job without hardly taking up any space in your suitcase. A well-made life vest lasts for years, adjusting enough as your kids grow and accompanying them anywhere in the world you want to play in water. The same Overton’s youth nylon vest that Aiden uses here in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, spent 5 weeks travelling around Vietnam and Turkey a few years ago giving us extra confidence to swim and kayak in Halong Bay and the Mediterranean Sea.
If your kids are young, even the pool at the hotel or in your home rental can be infinitely more relaxing when you know your inexperienced swimmers have an extra layer of protection beyond just you. So if you are working on that packing list to head out to Nicaragua, pack for your children’s water safety now while it’s an easy purchase. Throw a life vest for each child in the suitcase and you will enjoy your travels into foreign waters with more peace of mind.