Esteli was one of the cities at the forefront of the Sandinista revolution of 1979 and remains a stronghold for the Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional (FSLN, Sandinista National Liberation Front). The city is very much a cultural city, with many fascinating murals, poetry recitals and other cultural artforms.
Just outside of the city is the amazing natural beauty of Miraflor Nature Reserve, where you can stay with a local host family and explore the wonders of the cloud forest.
Getting to Esteli: The easiest way is to catch a bus from Managua. The express buses cost (as of June 2015) roughly C$80 - about US$3 for the 2 and a half hour journey. Buses can also be caught from Leon or Matagalpa.
Getting around: Esteli is a small city and it is possible to walk to where you need to be during the day. If you're feeling less energetic, or once it gets dark, then a taxi can be caught at the roadside. Don't expect to be alone and do expect the driver to make other stops before yours. A taxi from the bus station to the cathedral is roughly C$15, though you will probably be charged more if you're seen as a gringo.
There are a variety of options in Esteli. Most backpackers choose to stay at Luna International Hostel (1 block north from the back of the cathedral), which has free wifi, free teas and coffees for guests at the neighbouring café and a very chilled, relaxed vibe. As of June 2015, a dorm bed costs US$9 per night and private suits are from US$30. The hostel is a social enterprise and profits and used to support local developmental projects such as a library bus, organic gardens and home building for the impoverished.
As always, there are other options. US$9 seems to be the minimum you should expect to pay for a hostel in Esteli.
A wide range of tastes are catered for in Esteli. If you're on a budget, check out El Quesito (3 blocks south from La Colonia supermarket). It offers a selection of breakfasts, lunches and dinners of local food for between C$30 upto around C$150 (US$1-US$5). Dinners are in the C$50-70 range.
If, by the time you arrive in Esteli, you're a bit fed up with Nica cuisine then you can try Café Luz (1 block east from Del Meson). They offer a selection of western-style foods for the weary traveller.
There are numerous cyber cafés and restaurants/bars that offer free wifi. Finding a way to get online shouldn't be an issue here.
Locals often busk by just turning up to restaurants and beginning to play.
There are quite a few things to see and do in Esteli, whether in the wet (May-Oct) or the dry (Nov-Apr) season. These include tours of the murals, the Somoto Canyon day trip and homestays in Miraflor Nature Reserve. Esteli is also home to some of the best cigars outside of Cuba. See the TreeHuggers tourism office for more about these options.