How to Spend 4 Days in Granada, Nicaragua
Granada is a great place to start your vacation in Nicaragua. It’s very tourist friendly with a great selection of restaurants and activities. The small city is only an hour from the airport in Managua and 30 minutes from the town of Masaya.
They definitely cater to tourists in the city and prices are a bit higher than elsewhere so if you’re looking for a more authentic, local experience you may want to bypass Granada. For me, it was the perfect place to relax and get over the travel nerves that hit me arriving in Managua.
Whether you like healthy eating, yoga, and boutique hotels, or hiking, swimming, and hostels, there’s something for you. You’ll never be left looking for things to do in Granada.
Here’s how I spent my four days in Granada, Nicaragua.
Laguna de Apoyo
Laguna de Apoyo is a crater lake 20 minutes drive from Granada. I booked a return shuttle for $10 from a tour company on Calle La Calzada. We were going to spend the day at Monkey Hut, a hostel on the lake that will give you access to their property (and water toys) for the day for $6. The water is warm and clear and probably the cleanest in Nicaragua. It’s a relaxing way to spend the day but be sure to keep yourself slathered in sunscreen. The rays reflecting off the water can be brutal.
Hike Around a Volcano
While I was there the Masaya volcano was “trying to make an eruption” so it was closed to the public, I was told. So instead I joined up on a guided tour of the Mombacho volcano. I booked my tour through Tierra Tours. You get some amazing views of Granada, Las Isletas, and Masaya as well as a crazy steep drive up the side of a volcano. Whee!
Visit the Markets in Masaya
There are two markets in Masaya: the Old Market and the Municipal Market. You can book a tour that will take you from Granada to the Old Market but it’s not really necessary. A taxi or a chicken bus will take you there just as well. It’s touristy but it’s airy and hassle-free. I, meanwhile, hired a drive with 3 other people and visited the Municipal Market first. It was crowded, cramped, and vendors were more aggressive but they have pretty much the same products as the Old Market for less. If you’re budget shopping, visit the Old Market first to find what you want and then have someone help you find it at the Municipal Market.
Climb the Bell Tower of Iglesia La Merced
If you’re looking for the best views of Granada, this is it. For just $1 you can climb the narrow, spiral staircase to the top of the bell tower of Iglesia La Merced. It’s a working bell town so if you’re up there when a worker comes up to ring the bells you’ll get a little show but cover your ears. That shit is loud! It’s open 11am-6pm but I recommend going around 4:40pm to catch golden hour and the sunset.
Boat Tour of Las Isletas
There is a group of 365 tiny islands just outside of Granada. Most of them are privately owned and have beautiful houses on them. In fact, I saw one of them on HGTV’s Island Hunters once. You can kayak or take a boat tour to see a selection of them.
As a solo traveller, it was really hard to book tours. It was low-season so there weren’t already groups I could join up with. So I booked this tour through my hotel, Los Patios. For $30 someone came to the hotel to pick me up and drive me to the docks, I got a private hour-long tour of the islands (my guide didn’t speak English and my Spanish is very limited so it was a quiet ride), and a ride back to Los Patios. You can definitely do this tour for cheaper but considering the 15-min taxi ride from my home to the airport at YYT is $25, I still considered this a decent price for a private boat tour.
They’ll ask you to buy some fruit for the monkeys before you take off. I didn’t because I thought it was just a tourist money trap and that we shouldn’t be feeding wild animals but I later learned that the monkeys on Monkey Island were abandoned there and have no other source of food than what humans bring them so I felt a bit bad afterwards. Use your own judgement.
Get a Massage at PURE
I was in full-on pampering mode when I arrived in Granada. So I decided to book myself an hour-long massage at PURE one afternoon. At home, this would cost me at least $80. In Granada, $26 including tip. The massage room even had AC so it was truly a relaxing treat.
For my first two nights in Granada, I was hosted at Los Patios, a 5-room boutique luxury hotel. My room had a king-sized bed, AC, hot water (trust me, that’s a luxury amenity), and a hair dryer. Each morning I was served a large and delicious breakfast that kept me going all morning. The small pool was the perfect place to cool off in the evenings.
The best part? Standard rooms are only $95 USD in the off-season and $120 in the high season. I would gladly pay to stay here again. It’s the epitome of what I look for in affordable luxury.
Hostal Entre Amigos
After Los Patios, I decided to cheap out a bit and booked a private room at Hostal Entre Amigos. There was a ceiling fan and a private bath, but no AC. It was only $18/night for one person so I wasn’t exactly complaining. The common area was pretty small but the location was good so overall I would recommend it.
Food & Drink
One of the many tourist restaurants on Calle La Calzada, Nectar had good selection and good prices. I ended up having dinner here twice. The fish burrito was tasty and filling. Dinner with a beer came to less than $10.
The Garden Cafe
This was another one of my two-stop restaurants. If you want lighter fare, sandwiches, salads, smoothies, The Garden Cafe is your spot. My hummus and avocado sandwich with a beer (sensing a pattern?) was about $8.50. This was one of my first meals in the country and I wasn’t sure if I should eat the potato salad or the spinach on my sandwich but I took a chance and all was fine.
You’re going to overpay for a beer here (C70 vs C30) but it’s something to hear Beatles tunes sung in Spanish by local musicians.
Other places I ate include: Comidas Tipicas y Mas, El Tercer Ojo, Kathy’s Wafflehouse, and Toritos.
All in all, I enjoyed my time in Granada and I’m glad that it was my first stop during my travels in Nicaragua.