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25 Awesome Things to do in Granada, Nicaragua

25 Awesome Things to do in Granada, Nicaragua

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Granada is an absolute must-see destination during your travels in Nicaragua. As the oldest colonial city in the Americas, Granada is brimming with rich cultural history, natural beauty, and a ton of fun and interesting things to see and do!

With stunning architecture, cobblestone streets, authentic cuisine, looming volcanoes, a pristine lagoon, and a freshwater lake complete with tropical islands there really are activities for everyone who makes the journey to this incredible place in Central America!

And lucky for you, in this blog, I’ll tell you about all of the best things to do in Granada, Nicaragua. From sightseeing to adventure, I cover it all so that you’ll be able to plan the best trip possible!

Getting to Granada

From Managua, Nicaragua

A majority of travelers who are visiting Granada will be coming from Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, where the main international airport is.

Getting from Managua to Granada is quite simple and the journey by road is only 45 minutes long.

The best way is to have your hotel arrange for a driver to come to pick you up from the airport. They will wait in arrivals for you with a sign. This typically costs around $40 USD.

If you want to reserve online in advance you can book this minivan shuttle to take you to your Granada hotel for around $35-40 USD.

Your last option is to hop on a chicken bus. This will not be the smoothest or most comfortable ride but it is definitely the cheapest! You aren’t likely to pay more than a few dollars but will probably need to pay in córdoba.

If you are planning on driving around Nicaragua then you can rent a car from the airport.

From neighboring countries

From countries like Costa Rica, El Salvador, or Honduras there are different bus companies that will travel to Granada. You can search for routes here.

25 BEST Things to do in Granada, Nicaragua

1. Masaya Volcano night tour

the magma in the masaya volcano, Nicaragua at night
Staring into the Masaya Volcano!

I had to start this blog off with a bang – and that is of course Masaya Volcano! As the most popular thing to do in Granada, visiting this epic volcano is something I encourage everyone to add to their Granada “to do” list!

I mean, who doesn’t want to see magma inside a volcano with their own eyes?!

Well on a night tour to Masaya Volcano, you will see just that. With the right weather and magma levels, you’ll be able to peer down into the volcano and see the lava for yourself. I have to admit, this is one really unique attraction and I personally loved it!

Masaya Volcano is located just on the outskirts of the small village of Masaya around a 40-minute drive from Granada. To get there, you can either take a chicken bus and then walk the 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) road up to the volcano’s crater where the magma is, or jump on an organized tour.

This exact Night Tour to Masaya Volcano not only transports you to the edge of the crater but the guide who brings you also shares lots of interesting information about the volcano.

With tour prices being really reasonable (around $80 USD), this is the route I went and what I recommend. This way, you don’t have to worry about catching local transport and walking in the dark – it’s just easier and safer!

2. Masaya Artisan Market

A stall at Mercado de Artisinal, Masaya, Nicaragua
A stall at Mercado de Artisinal, Masaya, Nicaragua

If you’re into small villages and markets then taking a 25-minute drive to the Masaya Artisan Market from Granada is for you! This market is truly authentic and a great experience for anybody who wants to experience a real Nicaraguan market.

At the Masaya Artisan Market, you’ll find everything from handmade leather shoes to woven goods, to food, and more! Try some new fruit, buy a unique souvenir (different than the ones you’ll find in all of the touristy stores), and have a few interactions with the locals.

You can either catch a local chicken bus to Masaya from Granada or hire a taxi. If you go later in the afternoon then you could combine the visit to the markets with a visit to the volcano. Just hang around Masaya village until dark and then check out the magma!

3. Visit Apoyo Lagoon

Hanging out at Apoyo Lake, Nicaragua
Hanging out at Apoyo Lake, Nicaragua

Next to visiting Masaya Volcano, a trip to Apoyo Lagoon (Laguna de Apoyo) is a famous activity in Granada. This large lake is actually located in the center of a dormant volcano – how cool is that! Here you can swim, hike, relax with the views, or even go out on the lake on a kayak or paddleboard.

We decided to visit Laguna de Apoyo on a day trip from Granada. We caught a taxi from the bus station in town for 20 Cordobas ($0.50 USD). This taxi only took to the turn off to the lake. From here, we could either get another taxi (who was willing to drive the dirt road) or walk the 5 kilometers (3.1 miles). We decided to take a taxi, which dropped us pretty much at the lake’s edge for another 90 Cordobas ($2.50 USD).

Of course, if you don’t want to make the journey yourself, you can always book a guided day tour from Granada.

You can choose to combine the Masaya Volcano and the lagoon in this tour for $120 USD or if you’ve already seen the volcano you can just book the Apoyo Lagoon Hiking Tour for just $45 USD where you’ll trek through the vegetation and likely spot monkeys, birds, and sloths. Then, take a dip in Central America’s clearest water!

Although the lake was a nice day trip, if I were to go back to Granada I would probably opt to spend one or two nights there. Paradiso Hostel is super popular among travelers offering a range of activities daily, a relaxed and social atmosphere, great communal dinners, and of course, drinks and fun in the evenings. It is one of the highest-rated hostels in Nicaragua and to me, staying there is an experience in itself.

If you are not a backpacker, you can still stay at Paradiso Hostel in one of their private rooms. Or, Laguna Beach Club is another great option, just more luxurious!

Regardless of how you choose to visit Laguna de Apoyo, it is a nice place to explore and well worth the short drive from Granada city.

4. Take a yoga class

Yoga isn’t just for beachside destinations like San Juan del Sur and you can enjoy an amazing yoga class right in Granada!

Established in 2005, Pure is Granada’s beloved yoga studio, fitness gym, and health cafe. Not your typical gym, Pure was born inside the walls of an old colonial building complete with a checkered tile floor and a spacious open-air garden area complete with a trickling water feature – it’s gorgeous!

The gym unites both locals, ex-pats, and tourists who seek health and fitness in a loving and positive community space. Pure also has a cafe complete with vegetarian and vegan options as well as gluten-free home-baked bread and kombucha!

A wide range of wellness services are offered daily such as massage, Latin dance lessons (salsa, bachata), personal training sessions, self-defense classes, meditation, and daily guided yoga in Pure’s private yoga studio. Be sure to check out Pure’s website for the updated weekly yoga schedule to know what yoga styles are being offered and what times to attend.

5. Enjoy breakfast at the famous Garden Café

a papaya smoothie bowl from the Garden Cafe in Granada, Nicaragua
One of the yummy smoothie bowls at the Garden Café!
Photo courtesy of the Garden Café.

Let’s face it, no blog about the best things to do in a city can be complete without a stellar local café recommendation. Well in Granada, The Garden Cafe is just that and the best part is that it’s a place about so much more than just tasty coffee and food!

The Garden Cafe can be felt as the heart of Granada and is so much more than just a restaurant available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is a cafe with a strong mission to “inspire customers, staff, and the community by creating nourishing food, relationships, and creative spaces.”

The Garden Cafe is committed to providing wholesome foods, high-quality ingredients, and sustainability both through the restaurant environment and by empowering the local community. Among many other sustainable initiatives the cafe launched a “skip the straw” campaign, provides eco-food containers, only uses paper bags for to-go food and purchases, and offers filtered drinking water versus bottled water.

The cafes’ tables are seated around a vibrant open-air courtyard where one can easily spend hours with a book in hand while enjoying a freshly brewed espresso or even a specialty turmeric or matcha latte (not easily found elsewhere in the country.)

6. Tour around the 365 Islets of Lake Nicaragua

365 Islets of Lake Nicaragua
365 Islets of Lake Nicaragua

By far, one of the best things to do in Granada, Nicaragua is to explore the 365 islands on Lake Nicaragua!

The islands were created after Mombacho Volcano erupted thousands of years ago, spattering varying-sized rock formations or islets and islands across the shores of the lake. Some of the islands are completely uninhabited with only palm trees and the occasional birds, some are inhabited by local fishermen and their families, there are some with restaurants serving local food, others with upper-scale eco-hotels, and even some islands complete with impressive and private luxury homes owned by the rich and famous.

Whether touring around the islands by boat, kayak, or on a stand-up paddleboard, it’s a completely unique experience not to be missed. Choose a kayak tour or SUP board for a more active experience, or opt for a boat for hours of leisure, sightseeing, and “island-hopping” entertainment.

Boatmen for hire can be found at both the wharf as well as at the docks at Port Asese.

Touring around midday is suggested so that you can take in the scenic views and witness the setting sun from the water before heading back to shore for the evening.

If you want, you can book this sunset islet tour here that spends around 2 hours on the water. It costs $40 USD per person and includes hotel pick up and drop off.

7. Bicycle along the Malecon 

The Malecon on Lake Nicaragua in Granada

Bicycling along the Malecon in Granada is a popular way for tourists to take in the views from the water’s edge.

I personally recommend renting a bicycle a day early so that you have the bike first thing in the morning to make your way down Calle Calzada just after dawn to enjoy the sunrise, scenic views, and tranquil ambiance of the lake. At this time of day, the city is just beginning to come alive and the temperature is still relatively fresh.

Bike up and down the Malecon along the water’s edge and then take advantage of the bicycle rental for the rest of the day to make your way around Granada to the different churches, cathedrals, and other city sights to see. 

There are lots of different bike rental shops around Granada. We personally rented from Maximus Rentals and had a great experience with this company.

8. Enjoy lunch at El Garaje

After a busy morning of cycling or exploring the city you’re going to want to find somewhere extra delicious for lunch. I recommend El Garaje!

A must-visit lunch spot while visiting Granada, this small restaurant is open for lunch Monday to Friday from 11:30 am – 3:30 pm. This hidden gem has become extremely well-known among locals, and for good reason! This restaurant offers arguably some of the best cuisines you will find in Nicaragua right now!

As one Trip Advisor reviewer perfectly describes the food, “gourmet flavors on a low-cost budget.” Expect nothing less than fresh flavorful cuisine.

The two-person operation is run by a talented and humble Canadian couple. Heather works calmly in the open-concept kitchen to meticulously bring the dishes to life, while Paul waits on customers in front of the house. It’s obvious that the couple has an eye for detail and effortlessly instills love and care into everything they do – it sure shows in the food.

The cuisine is farm-to-table fresh straight from their farm complete with organic vegetables, smoked meats, baked bread, sourdough, and select dairy. The menu changes weekly with various specials and a rotation of select sandwiches, burritos, salads, and dessert options and always with vegetarian and vegan options accommodated. 

El Garaje is located just down the street from Pure yoga studio and makes for the perfect lunch stop after a morning yoga session. You might want to use Google Maps to find it though, as it is tucked away in a colonial building that you could easily walk right by.

9. Shop artisan leather goods at Soy Nica

A collection of leather wallets made in Nicaragua
You’ll have lots of choices!

This little tienda located on Calle Calzada displays handcrafted high-quality leather products sourced from free-range cows. The company follows fair trade practices and principles and has respect for old traditions while implementing modern Scandinavian design.

Imagine, custom pieces such as purses, handbags, backpacks, briefcases, and other accessories in both natural and colored hues and simplistic styles. It’s a great place to grab a souvenir or two!

10. Visit Parque Central and stroll down La Calzada

La Calzada at night
La Calzada at night

La Calzada is connected to Parque Central and is ideal for a midday or sunset stroll followed by happy hour. Vehicles are not permitted on the Calzada which makes it the perfect place to casually walk and take your time deciding which pub, restaurant, or shop you’d like to stop at first.

In the evening once the sun goes down and the temperature drops (slightly), the nightlife really comes alive and it’s normal to see different street performers showcasing their talents and vendors selling goods and local handicrafts here. This is a must-do activity in Granada for sure!

11. Take advantage of Hotel SelvAzul’s day pass

Hotel SelvAzul offers day visitors a refreshing reprieve from the heat. This hotel is a beachfront property located at La Laguna which is only around a 30-minute drive from Granada’s city center. Here you can take advantage of the hotel’s location even if you aren’t staying here.

A day pass only costs $4 USD per person and you get access to the outdoor pool, restaurant, pizzeria, bar, and beach access. You can even rent paddleboards or kayaks for just an additional $2 USD.

While Hotel SelvAzul is open for day visitors, it’s also a great affordable place to stay to relax outside of the city! They offer comfortable, clean, and modern rooms!

You can book Hotel Selv Azul on Booking.com where they have a low price guarantee!

12. Dine at El Zaguan for dinner

Try El Zaguan if you’re looking to spend a special occasion or a romantic evening dining. This beautiful restaurant offers upscale authentic Nicaraguan cuisine at reasonable prices.

Aside from being known as an incredible steakhouse (beef is one of Nicaragua’s biggest exports for good reason), there is also a wide variety of fresh entrees to choose from and often accompanied with live music and, of course, paired with quality cocktails. 

13. Visit the Mombacho Volcano Cloud Forest

Mombacho Volcano Cloud Forest
Mombacho Volcano Cloud Forest

Mombacho Volcano looms over Granada and is a great way to escape the heat and enjoy a cooler climate in the cloud forest. There are four different craters with hikes varying in difficulty complete with scenic views of Laguna de Apoyo (known as the jewel of Nicaragua,) the 365 islands, Granada, and Lake Nicaragua.

It is recommended to take the army-style trucks from the base of the volcano up to the top of the volcano as the road can prove to be incredibly steep for a regular vehicle. The truck is $2 USD per person and you can find scheduled weekly times online. The truck stops halfway up the volcano to allow passengers to take in the sights of a coffee plantation; allowing for enough time to have a look around and enjoy a coffee sample.

Once at the top of the volcano, there is a tourist center complete with information in regard to local flora and fauna inhabiting the cloud forest. Be sure to dress appropriately for the occasion as the climate at the top of the volcano is surprisingly cool, windy, humid, and often misty later in the day. Visibility at times can be difficult.

There are three different trails at the top of the volcano varying in length and difficulty. The Puma Trail is highly recommended if you have four hours to spare. However, the trail cannot be completed without a local guide that you’ll have to book at the center.

If you have more time there is also a Canopy Zip-Line Tour available on the volcano!

You can also book a guided tour to Mombacho from Granada that includes a guide, transport, and entrance fees for $60 USD. This way, all you have to do is enjoy your day without any planning!

This other tour option is very similar to the first one but it also includes the canopy course for $159 USD.

14. Enjoy rooftop views from the Iglesia La Merced

Rooftop views from the Iglesia La Merced
Rooftop views from the Iglesia La Merced

There are many churches worth visiting in Granada, but what makes the Iglesia La Merced the most memorable is the narrow spiral staircase leading to a bell tower which offers 360-degree views of the colonial city, surrounding volcano Mombacho, and Lake Nicaragua in the distance. Climbing these stairs and enjoying the view is definitely one of the most popular things to do in Granada, Nicaragua.

Located only a few blocks from Granada’s Parque Central, the church is open to the public and for only $ 1 USD. Guests can climb the tower to take in unparalleled views and snap memorable photos. 

15. See how cigars are made at Favilli (formerly Mombacho Cigars)

Arrange a visit to Casa Favilli to witness how local Nicaraguan cigars are made. The mustard and brown-colored colonial mansion is the headquarters and home of Favilli Cigars, known for its boutique handmade cigars. It is here you can see each step of the process from filling to the binding to the rolling of the cigar is made entirely by hand or otherwise known as “totalmente a mano.”

Voted the best cigar company in all of Nicaragua by Cigar Lover Magazine and Members of the Nicaragua Cigar Association, Favilli Cigars adhere to strict quality standards and is an authentic quality souvenir to pick up as a tourist while visiting Granada, Nicaragua. 

16. Go kayaking 

With water everywhere, of course, kayaking is one of the best things to do in Granada, Nicaragua! From Granada, there are a few different places you can choose to go kayaking. The first is, of course, Apoyo Lagoon!

However, this isn’t your only choice for getting out in the water in Granada. Lake Nicaragua is another good option and it is right in Granada! This Lake Nicaragua kayaking tour is three hours long and comes highly recommended.

 17. PARTY!

Bailey drinking a tona beer in Nicaragua
Tona is one of the most popular local beers in Nicaragua!

Granada is a lively city with lively nightlife! Travelers from all over the world come to Granada and their adventures definitely don’t end when the sun goes down.

In fact, when we were in Granada we went out to have drinks with other travelers on a couple of occasions. The most popular spot, and where we enjoyed the most, was the Selina Hostel. They always had a lively atmosphere and at times special events including DJs.

18. Visit the markets 

The markets in Granada, Nicaragua
The markets in Granada, Nicaragua

While staying in Granada, you can’t miss the central markets! Here, you find everything from touristy souvenirs to clothing to fruit and vegetables. We actually found a massive avocado for only 10 Cordobas (about $0.35 USD!)

If you want to try some fresh Nicaraguan fruit, this is the place to do so. Also, clothes shopping is really good too and you can find lots of neat little trinkets to bring back home as well.

19. Day trip to Ometepe Island 

Bailey relaxing at Totoco Eco lodge on Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua
Me enjoying a drink with the volcano view on Ometepe Island.

Ometepe Island is one of my personal favorite places to visit in all of Nicaragua! This island sits in the middle of a huge lake and is made of not one, but two volcanos!

There are actually a ton of fun things to do in Ometepe. So many that it will be hard to choose which activities to prioritize if you’re just visiting on a day trip. For that reason along with the fact that there are some options for places to stay on Ometepe, I recommend spending a night or two there if you have time.

Although, I know not everybody has time to spend a couple of nights in Ometepe, and if that’s the case for you then don’t worry! You can also easily visit Ometepe on a day trip from Granada!

This particular guided tour costs $210 USD and includes all of the transport (vehicles and ferry) as well as some awesome activities! Enjoy swimming at the Ojo de Agua swimming hole, stop by El Ceibo Museum to learn about the Ometepe culture, and if you’re lucky spot howler monkeys and butterflies at Charco Verde Nature Reserve.

20. Learn all about chocolate (make your some!)

Making chocolate at Choco Museo
Roasting the beans!

Did you know that some of the world’s finest chocolate originated in Nicaragua?! That’s right, Nicaragua’s climate makes for the ideal place to grow cocoa beans, the main ingredient in chocolate.

In Granada, you can actually book a tour to a chocolate factory for $40 USD and learn all about the entire chocolate-making process (while sampling lots of chocolate of course!) You’ll actually make your own chocolate bar to take home with you too – what a cool souvenir!

This is one highly-rated activity in Granada, and one not to miss if you’ve never made chocolate before!

21. Enjoy the best pizza in Granada at Monna Lisa

Dan and I love trying new pizza places. We love Italian food and when we travel we often miss it, so finding an awesome Italian restaurant is always a big deal for us!

In Granada, Monna Lisa is an amazing place to eat. You can enjoy their outdoor seating area and watch people on the calzada while eating authentic Italian cuisine, wine, and either brick oven pizza or homemade pasta dish (or maybe both!)

Based on my “expert” opinion, Monna Lisa may just have the best thin-crust pizza in all of Nicaragua! I challenge you to try it for yourself and then let me know what you thought!

22. Day trip to go sandboarding in Leon

bailey volcano boarding in Leon, Nicaragua
That’s me!

The truth is that you really need to do the volcano boarding trip from Leon. It’s really that fun! No matter if you’re a thrill-seeker or not, this is a fun activity where you can actually control your own speed as you slide down the side of a volcano on a sandboard.

To do this activity, you’re going to need to book this day full-day tour from Granada. You’ll drive about for about 3 hours in the early morning before reaching the base of Cerro Nego (the volcano you’ll be sliding down!)

From the base, you’ll need to hike to the top of the 2,382-foot (726-meter) high Cerro Negro. In all honesty, it isn’t a difficult hike by any means and we took plenty of breaks for photos. Our group completed the trail in about an hour and although it was very hot (bring water), it was well worth it!

At the top, I looked over the edge where we would be sandboarding down, and was terrified! It looked way steeper than it did from the bottom and it didn’t help that we had to listen to all of the safety advice from our guide, “don’t do this, or you could break this.”

After gearing up, I conquered my fear and went for it. It wasn’t scary at all, really fun actually! I had complete control over my speed (your guide will teach you how to do this) and when it was over I wished I could go again – faster!

23. See the city by horse and carriage

If you want a break from walking everywhere then maybe you should go for a ride around Granada by horse and carriage. This tour will feel like an authentic experience and you will get to navigate the tight roads of the city much easier than by car or foot!

Your driver will take you past many of the city’s most notable landmarks.

There are around 30 carriages in Granada so you won’t be able to miss finding them near Parque Central. You can book a 30-minute or 60-minute ride in person for either $5 USD or $10 USD.

24. Discover the colorful doors

The city of Granada is often referred to as “The City of Doors” because all around this colonial city you will find grand doorways with intricate designs, patterns, and their most obvious feature – bright, bold colors!

If you want to take some cool images these doors will be the perfect backdrop! Bring your camera and spend some time walking around the city’s streets and see how many unique doors you can find.

Seeing the Granada doors is definitely one of the best free things to do in Granada.

25. San Francisco Convent Museum Granada

This 16th-century building was once a convent and church but is now a museum. The Convento y Museo San Francisco (San Francisco Convent Museum) is located just a few blocks northeast of Granada’s Parque Central.

To some the $5 USD entry fee may not be worth it but if you like history or art this museum is well worth a visit.

The exhibitions here are quite broad in their initial appearance of technique and art style but most things have a connection to Granada in some way.

You can learn about their culture’s religious customs, see all kinds of paintings from around Nicaragua, find Meso-American sculptures and artifacts in the outdoor section, and more!

Where to Stay in Granada, Nicaragua

There are tons of great options when it comes to choosing a place to stay in Granada, Nicaragua. To help make your decision easier, I’ve listed a couple of the best options including budget, moderate, and luxury options.

Budget Backpackers – Hostel Oasis Granada

We stayed at Hotel Oasis in Granada and loved our stay! Not only is this hostel one of the very few that actually has a pool, but it is clean, comfortable, and offers a delicious breakfast with lots of different options. They have both dorm beds and budget private rooms available. It is a spacious property and a great place to socialize with other travelers however there is still an 11 pm quiet time policy so we weren’t disturbed.

You can book Hostel Oasis Granada on either Hostelworld or Booking.com.

Moderate Budget – Hotel Casa del Consulado

This former colonial-style mansion is now running as a hotel just a few hundred feet from the central park in Granada. All of the rooms in Hotel Casa del Consulado are massive and have high ceilings, air conditioning, a desk, and a wardrobe. The courtyard pool is nice to cool off in and catches a lot of direct sun in the early part of the day. A private king room averages $63 USD.

Luxury Hotel – Hotel Plaza Colon

The elegant Hotel Plaza Colon comes highly recommended as it is located in central Granada and has – you guessed it – a pool! The rooms are large and clean and complete with air conditioning, bath robes, and toiletries. The price is very affordable as well considering all of the inclusions! A queen room averages around $100 USD.

You can book Hotel Plaza Colon on Booking.com.

Thanks for reading!

Bailey and Daniel take a photo together at their hotel on Ometepe, Nicaragua
Thanks for reading!

I hope this blog has helped you plan out your time in Granada, Nicaragua! There really are lots of fun things to do in Granada, and I hope you enjoy all of the activities as much as we did!

Be sure to check out our complete Nicaragua travel guide or all of our other Nicaragua blogs for more info on traveling to this amazing country! Or, check out some related blogs below:

Things to do in Leon, Nicaragua (other than just volcano boarding)

Guide to Surfing in San Juan del Sur

Nicaragua to El Salvador Border Crossing Guide

Lowell Smith

Saturday 1st of July 2023

Enjoyed your pictures and how things look since I was last there 7 years ago!

Gisselle

Friday 23rd of September 2022

Thanks Baily and Dan!

I loved your blog!! I was born in Nicaragua and love to come back and visit Granada, San Juan del Sur, Masaya, Leon, etc!!

Salud!

Jason

Thursday 25th of March 2021

Great guide for Granada. You are spot on about everything.

I just enjoyed my best meal, since arriving in Nicaragua over three weeks ago, at El Garaje

An alternative to Backpacker Oasis hostel is EL Caite Hostel. It also has a very clean pool and a made to order breakfast.