If you arrive in Granada post the liveliness of Leon you could be forgiven for feeling a little disappointed. A walk along the previously touristic, but now abandoned river, feels a little post-apocalyptic. Empty hostels and restaurants line the water, coupled with tour guides desperate to sell you boat trips to the nearby Isletas. But don’t be too disappointed, because once you scratch the surface you’ll find there’s plenty to keep you entertained during your stay. From bubbling volcanoes to a behind-the-scenes look at one of the world’s best cigar brands here’s my definitive guide to 10 awesome things to do in Granada Nicaragua.
1. Take A Day Trip From Granada To Masaya Volcano
Masaya volcano near Granada Nicaragua is one one the worlds most active volcanoes. And is definitely one of the best things to do around Granada Nicaragua. Every day, tourists flock to make the ascent to the peak of the crater and watch the liquid hot magma bubble away. Most tour operators in Granada will charge you about $20 – $25 US. But if you’re keen to DIY and save some money check out my guide on how to get to Masaya Volcano from Granada for less than $7. Whether you pay top dollar or DIY, this is one of the best day trips from Granada Nicaragua.
Quick Facts: Cost: $14 – $25USD | Time needed: 3 hours | Verdict: This is an absolute must see in Granada Nicaragua.
2. Eat Lunch At Garden Cafe
While the delicious Garden Cafe will set you back a few dimes it’s somewhere to head when you’ve had enough of rice and beans. And trust me, after 2-3 weeks in Nicaragua, you will have. The huge fresh salads, sandwiches and wraps will keep you full until well past dinner and are the perfect taste of home. This is definitely one of the best restaurants in Granada Nicaragua.
Quick Facts: Cost: $6-$10 | Time needed: As long as you like | Verdict: Must-do. It’s one of the best places to eat in Granada Nicaragua.
3. Hire Bikes And Ride Around The Town
When wondering what to see in Granada Nicaragua, hiring bikes should be first on your list. The town is quite spread out and combined with the numerous hills and intense heat, it makes for an exhausting walk. Luckily Granada’s paved roads are perfect for riding. After some haggling, you should be able to rent a bike for $5 USD p/d. And from here you can cycle to the Isletas, the Mombacho Cigar Factory, around the park and just generally take in the cute painted houses and all the best things see near Granada Nicaragua.
Quick Facts: Cost: $5 for the day | Time needed: Half-day | Verdict: Bike rental in Granada Nicaragua is a must do for getting around town.
4. Snap A Pic In The Colourful Streets
I’m pleased to say one of my favourite things to do in Granada Nicaragua was absolutely 100% free. And that was wandering around just admiring the city. The houses in Granada are extremely colourful. We spent an hour or so finding the perfect spot for our next Facebook profile pic.
Quick Facts: Cost: Free | Time needed: 20 minutes | Verdict: This is one of the top free things to do in Granada Nicaragua.
5. Visit The Mombacho Cigar Factory
When researching the best things to do in Granada Nicaragua. I was surprised to see the Mombacho Cigar Factory tour come up again and again. However, Nicaragua is one of the planet’s largest producers of cigars and Mombacho (named after a nearby volcano) has garnered some of the world’s highest awards for quality. All of the cigars are handmade with numerous quality checks. The tour ($4USD) takes you through each stage of the process and you can even roll and smoke your own cigar for another $6USD. As a complete non-smoker the attention to detail that goes into every cigar was really interesting. After a spot of shopping in Granada Nicaragua? The Mombacho Cigar Factory is the place.
Quick Facts: Cost: $4 USD+ | Time needed: 1 hour | Verdict: This was one of my favourite activities in Granada Nicaragua. However, if you’ve already been to Cuba, you can give this one a miss.
6. Try Vigorón
Vigorón, pictured above, is a typical Nicaraguan dish comprised of slow-cooked pork, yuka, fermented cabbage and a mouthwatering spicy sauce. You can grab this version at El Gordito, one of the most authentic restaurants in Granada Nicaragua. It’s is the best I’ve tried so far. El Gordito is located in Parque Central, which is also one of the nicest places to visit in Granada Nicaragua. So sit and chat with the locals while you enjoy this filling dish.
Quick Facts: Cost: $3.5 | Time needed: 1 hour | Verdict: This is one of the fun things to do in Granada, however, if you don’t have time, don’t worry. You can always try Vigorón somewhere else in Nicaragua.
7. Climb The Cathedral
Unlike the cathedral in Leon, we were able to climb this one without any issues. It’s almost like they wanted to take our money?! Weird. The climb takes about 3 minutes and will set you back $1USD. Head up here for 360-degree views of the city and some cool photo ops in the circular windows of the church. Climbing up the narrow staircase and snapping a bunch of pics was definitely one of my favourite activities in Granada Nicaragua.
Quick Facts: Cost: $1 | Time needed: 30 mins | Verdict: It’s one of the best places to visit in Granada Nicaragua. Even if it’s just to get a pic in the circular window like the one above.
8. Eat Street Food In Parque Central
If you’re wondering what to do in Granada Nicaragua at night. Head on down to Parque Central. Post 6pm it becomes a favourite amongst locals to chill and take advantage of the free wifi. There are a number of street-food vendors located around the park selling items from hot dogs to papusas. And while they’re not your traditional Nicaraguan fare they’re tasty and will fill you up for about $1. If you’re wondering where to eat in Granada Nicaragua, el Parque Central needs to be on your list.
Quick Facts: Cost: $1+ | Time needed: an hour | Verdict: It’s definitely worth stopping in for an hour or so on your way out for the evening. Just to sample a few of the Granada restaurants in Nicaragua.
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9. Take A Day Trip To Laguna De Opoyo
The Lonely Planet dubs this as the best swimming spot in all of Nicaragua and one of the best things to do around Granada Nicaragua. For Nicaragua’s sake, I hope this isn’t true. While the lake is huge and quite pretty, formed in the crater of an ex-volcano. The ‘beach’ is rocky and uncomfortable. Add this to the music blaring out of the nearby restaurants and you don’t have a very pleasant atmosphere. There is the option to head to one of the nearby beach clubs and rent a bed for $6USD which includes the use of the facilities including kayaks. Which is probably recommend doing if you’re not on a scrimp day. I also met a couple who had stayed in one of the hotels on the lake. They absolutely loved it. So maybe I was just having a bad day.
Quick Facts: Cost: $3 for transport | Time needed: Half day | Verdict: While it’s pretty much one of the only beaches in Granada Nicaragua, I would give it a miss if you’re heading to San Juan Del Sur.
10. Don’t Take A Tour Of Las Isletas
Another one of the top Granada Nicaragua activities according to the Lonely Planet Granada Nicaragua travel guide. However, this definitely isn’t one of the things to see in Granada Nicaragua. What was promised to be a delightful morning checking out the local wildlife and stunning views via boat ended up being a tour of rich people’s houses. If you are really keen to check this out for yourself, head down to the lake (maybe take those bikes I mentioned earlier – they’ll let you take them on the boat ) and you’ll be approached by heaps of guides. Don’t pay any more than $5 USD for an hour. And don’t bother with the two-hour tour (they just drive the boat at half the speed).
Quick Facts: Cost: $5 for transport | Time needed: 2-hours | Verdict: Skip it for one of the more fun things to do in Granada Nicaragua.
Where To Stay In Granada Nicaragua
From budget hostels to palatial colonial style hotels there are so many great options for accommodation in Granada Nicaragua. Here are my picks for the best places to stay in Granada Nicaragua.
Hotel Colonial Granada
Hotel Plaza Colon
Hostel De Boca en Boca
How To Get To Granada Nicaragua
Granada is definitely one of the easier cities to get to in Nicaragua as it’s only an hour’s drive to the capital Managua (which is where all public transport transfers through). Whether arriving by shuttle or bus here are all the instructions you need.
Getting To Granada Nicaragua Via Shuttle
How To Get To To Granada Nicaragua Via Public Bus
Managua to Granada by Public bus: The best way to get to Granada from Managua is to take one of the Micro Buses the bus station opposite the UCA (pronounced ‘Ooka’), University de Centroamerica. If you’re arriving in Managua via plane catch one of the taxis out the front of the terminal by telling them in Spanish to take you to the terminal “enfrente de UCA, Estación de Autobus a Leon”. This should set you back $10 USD – $15 USD. Once there, you can take the direct micro-bus for around $2 USD per person. These vans leave every 15 – 20 minutes, seat about 15 passengers and take around an hour.
Leon to Granada by Public bus: There should be a direct micro bus (Leon > Managaua > Granada) that leaves from the main bus station in Leon numerous times a day. However if you can’t find that it’s just as easy to catch the micro bus from the main station and then swap in Managua to another micro bus as per the instructions above.
San Juan Del Sur to Granada Nicaragua by public bus: This journey is a little more difficult, so it may be worth taking a shuttle. From San Juan Del Sur you need to take the bus to Rivas. The bus from Rivas will drop you at Mercado Huembes Bus station, so you need to take a taxi to the bus station opposite the UCA, University de Centroamerica. Getting off the bus in Managua and finding a cab can be a pretty harrowing experience. And they will all try and rip you off. By haggling, you should be able to get the price down to 80C$ – 100C$ ($3-4 USD). Once you arrive at the UCA bus station. Just follow the above instructions on how to get to Granada from Managua.
Granada Nicaragua Daily Budget
Like most places in Nicaragua, Granda is a super cheap spot to stay for a few days. I was able to scrimp most of the time I was here. As luckily most of the best things to do in Granada Nicaragua are pretty cheap. I would say allow for $25 – $35 USD per day, and then you should be covered. That’s around $10 USD for accommodation, $10 USD for food and then $5 – $15 USD left for activities.