Jinotega is in Nicaragua.
The Jinotega region was perhaps the most war-torn region in the Nation's Century. Its remote location provided a haven for rebellious forces throughout the last two previous centuries. It's safe now, in fact you can visit the countryside without a problem if you wish, just find a guide. This will bring you to a corner of the world english speakers seldom see.
When To Visit
Certainly the most adventurous time to visit is during the coffee season - December through February. You'll see trucks barelling in and out of the city on the north side, men hauling coffee in on their backs in a frantic scurry. Compared to cities such as Managua and Chinandega, which can be exceedingly hot all year round, Jinotega's climate is relatively pleasant due to its higher elevation.
From Managua there are direct buses several times a day. If taking a taxi, ask for bus terminal Mayoreo or simply for the terminal from where the Jinotega buses leave. Fare is 70 Cordobas, or about $4. At the Mayoreo terminal there is a counter where you can purchase your tickets to Jinotega. The expressos are nice because they make fewer stops and you don't have to change busses in Matagalpa.
Also you can arive from other towns in the north such as Matagalpa or Esteli (via Matagalpa or via a northern route).
Taxis are prevelent and cost 6 Cordobas ($0.35) per person anywhere in town. Fares are around 10 at night.
From within Jinotega you can see Peña de La Cruz, a hill with a cross at the top. The location provides splendid views of the Jinotega valley and surrounding mountains. At the base of Peña de La Cruz within Jinotega there is a cemetery. Cross through the cemetery, stopping to ask where the "sendero" or trail to the cross is located. The journey to the top is steep at times, taking about 30-60 minutes. At the top there is a cool, refreshing breeze.
Of course you can hike to the famous cross, or there are trails in the hills oposite the cross. Many locals go swimming in lake Apanas or its sorounding creeks, but the water isn't the cleanest. You can join the locals and play a game of soccer or baseball. There are several sites around town if you just want to walk around. Also check out some of the restaurants listed here, whoever wrote that section did a good job.
In general Jinotega has a small town feel with not alot of things to do. The people are friendly but more reserved then you will find in the bigger cities of Nicaragua.
If you need something, first check the Everything for $1 (More or Less) store north of the cathederal a couple blocks. They have tools, shampoo, candles, mugs, etc. If they don't have it, try the more expensive stores like Tienda Rossy, south of the cathederal, or, Almacen Gloria, at the north-west corner of the Union Park. There are a million other little stores too. Just walk around and ask until you find what you need. Pali is going to be your closest thing to a supermarket here.
La Perrera, 3km outside of town on the Matagalpa highway, is by far the best. Expect to pay C$50-140 for good food, some of which is Italian. The taco salad is excellent (and cheap!) if you're sick of iceberg lettuce--they grow their own with good varieties brought from the States. Catch any bus before 6:00 there for C$5 and ask them when you can catch a bus back to town. Walking down is dangerous, I've been told, but it's also beautiful when the stars are out!
Also quite good is Roca Rancho, which looks like it would be a crazy cabana bar, but is quite tame (read: dead) most nights of the week. Decent live music and cheap Victorias can be had on Thursday nights starting about 7:30pm. The Diablito is a nice appetizer experience and I've enjoyed their fajita chicken and bocitos de pollo.
I didn't like Restaurante el Cony when I first tried their fish soup (it was a fish in a la soup), but their chuleta de pollo a la plancha wasn't bad and they have some neat historical photos of Jinotega. From the rotary, head west, through the narrow alley that runs on the north side of the river, and then keep going west.
Everyone talks about Soda El Tico, but I don't see what all the fuss is about. They have decent breakfasts and I go there when I want to enjoy a cheeseburger. Ask them to give you more than three french fries. The vaca negra is a cool way to end the meal.
Similarly, La Colmena is supposed to be the nicest restaurant in town, but it's gone downhill I've been told. If you're going for expensive, heavy meats, I prefer Restaurante El Tico. The fillet mignon there was quite good. It came with four french fries. Father and son own Soda and Restaurante, but I forget which is which.
I haven't tried Hotel Cafe, but looking at the menu it seems overpriced and very ordinary.
For quick lunches, I like the tacos at Cafeteria Trebol, on the north side of the central park, with orange-carrot refresco and fruit salad afterwards. Across the street from Soda el Tico is Buffet el Buen Sazon, which is typical but very good. They have a nice salad selection. The pico de gallo and tortilla chips are a treat! There's also Comedor Chavarra near Soppexcca, a block west and a couple south. Same food as you get cheaper in the market, but you can eat it without smoke inhalation.
For a cheap afternoon snack, Pizza Movil Express in the central park is better than Chaba's Pizza and at C$10 a slice, much cheaper too. They're open roughly 3-9.
For a good burger and beer in town (La Pererra has excelent ones), Country Burger, a few blocks north of Esso Central, gives you one with lots of veggies and decent (non-limp) fries.
The pharmacy south of the cathederal has Cadbury chocolate. For the same price you can pick some up at Castillo de Cacao in Matagalpa. The Eskimo parlor is nice when you want an ice cream cone. There's a newer, cheaper, and friendlier one just south of Punto Moda.
Roca Rancho has C$12 Victorias and live music on Thursday nights starting at 8pm.
Hotels run from $4 to $100 a night and are easy to come by. If you brought more collared shirts than non-, stay at Hotel Café. If you have a beard, Chacos, and a ten-year-old Arc'teryx backpack, stay at Hotel Central.
Of all of the places in Nicaragua to do volunteer work, Jinotega is perhaps the most worthy. Due to its problematic history Jinotega has suffered through a serious decline in infrastructure. Jinotega is a place largly forgotten by the outside world.