Spending: Nicaragua's beaches and volcanoes for the budget-conscious traveler

Tourists flock to Costa Rica for its wildlife, lush rainforest, volcanoes and surfing beaches. But it's no bargain, with prices similar to what you'll find in the typical U.S. beach city.

If you're looking for a less expensive vacation with similar attractions to Costa Rica, consider its northern neighbor: Nicaragua.

People have been more hesitant to visit Nicaragua. The civil war of the 1980s is long over (remember the Iran-Contra scandal?), and the country's infrastructure, while still developing, has improved in recent years. And although the travel experience is not as cushy as in Costa Rica, you'll pay about one-third the price, says Tim Leffel, author of The World's...