Many Costa Rica expats on a tourist visa choose Nicaragua as a three day destination for visa renewal, and with good reason.
In the low tourist season, you can find outstanding deals on Hotels.com for beautiful colonial hotels with pools for $45. However, I prefer to stay at Hotel Bacona for $60, a beautiful mammoth of a hotel just a block from city center. The bathrooms are outside of the room, but you get your own bathroom with your own key. This was my room at Hotel Bacona the last time, and it featured air conditioning, and luxury bedding. Of course there is a pool on the premises, as well as a spa, and the ladies prepare a lovely breakfast of your choice in the morning.
Buses leave regularly from San Jose, with intermittent stops along the way. So, if you live in Jaco, as I do currently, you can take a taxi over to Barranca for C30,000, less than $60, and pick up the bus in Barranca instead of going all the way to San Jose by taxi or by bus, possibly staying the night in downtown San Jose, and then taking the bus to Nicaragua leaving San Jose at 6am. There is a bus ticket agent in the center of Jaco that can arrange your ticket.
You can leave by taxi from Jaco at 6am, and pick up the bus in Barranca at 7:30am, and be in Granada by 2pm. Don’t bother with the currency exchange hounds mobbing the bus, there are ATMs all over the place in Granada, and your bank will give you the best daily exchange rate for withdrawing Nicaraguan Cordobas.
If you are staying longer than three days, you might consider buying a SIM chip, and you can do that at a kiosk in the main park right in front of the church in the center of town. There you will find Claro and Movistar desks and personnel. Any unlocked GSM/UMTS phone that works in Costa Rica will work in Nicaragua, or any unlocked T-Mobile or AT&T phone from the United States. Both Claro and Movistar of Nicaragua use the universal GSM and 3G bands of 850 MHz and 1900 MHz. This is an excellent world travel companion for those seeking phone service in foreign countries. http://www.worldtimezone.com/gsm.html