I lived here for a year and there are so many great things about the city. May be a good place as a “home base,” there aren’t as many draws here for tourism in terms of active things to do but things are nearby, lots of restaurants/bars and clubs to go to though!
Taxi Rides: Are safe, just makes sure you know where you want to go and that it is a marked taxi. Rides during the day in town are normally 10-15 cordobas per person…20-30 later at night. Here’s the number to a taxi driver we trust (he can also take you to the airport for $30): Oscar 89973967 or Bosco 89973967 (Bosco does tours and if you aren’t up for taking the bus he can take you places, he’s kind of weird and can be off putting at times, he will tell you things you don’t want to hear about his life but makes for a great tour guide apparently.) Don’t take Managua taxis they are unnecessarily expensive and I have heard some scary stories, too, in general try not to be in Managua at night.
Buses: Can seem like a crazy idea but are actually pretty efficient in terms of getting place to place. They are usually packed (that is an understatement) but cheapest transportation. They are guys that collect your money at some point during the trip and if you are unsure of how much it cost, just ask.
Exchange rate: $1 USD is about 25 Cordobas and is constantly changing; this makes for things to be cheap for us.
Café de los Sueños: Great foods like crepes, salads, soups, omelet’s, fruit salads, baked goods etc., a little more pricey but cheap in terms of the USD. Located at the end of La Calzada.
Don Luca: The best pizza you get in Granada…Mona Lisa is good, too. Both on La Calzada.
Floresta: AMAZING fresh smoothies…also may be a great hostel option, great environment and nice staff. On Calle Real Xalteva.
Claudias: The best place to get traditional types of Nicaraguan food, cheapest lunch, great refrescos (fruit juices). You can get lunch for like $2 and it’s a lot of food and Claudia and her husband are the sweetest. On Calle Ganado.
Pandería nueva estrella: Also great traditional food as well as a bakery. This is located on Avenida Barricada.
Reilly’s: Good food, great bar to hang out at. One of my friends Mads from Denmark works there…although he may be gone by the time you get there; he’s super fun though! Located on Calle el Cisne.
Camello: Awesome Mediterranean food/ Middle Eastern…you can’t really go wrong with this place…the owner is pretty quirky and uncomfortable but always fun to go to. On Calle Caimito.
El Garaje: More “American” style foods, like pastas, quesadillas, salads, sandwiches that you won’t find elsewhere in Nica. Place is great and is run by a married couple, food is super fresh! Located on Calle Corrales.
La Hacienda: Also American food, cheap and good! On Calle Corrales as well.
Comida Chino (Food Stand in front): A MUST eat here…for really Nicaraguan food. Get a fritanga mixto with your choice of chicken, beef, pork or fried cheese you get tajadas, maduras (Plantains) and ensalada. So much food and so good. Located on Calle Martirio.
You can get groceries at the local market, Palí, La union and La colonia (last two are more “American”)
Dancing: Kelly’s Bar near La Calzada, Encuentros is right across the street and is a bit more upscale. Then there is The Weekend which is located on the lake…usually there is a shuttle but if not, Taxis will take you…If you go to the lake TAKE A TAXI THERE AND BACK, don’t take your chances, I have heard awful things happen to tourist that try and walk back from the lake late at night. There are other places on the lake to go to but we always liked The Weekend (Saturdays are better). There is also BE. A karaoke bar and café nuit, more like salsa, bachata dancing.
Las Isletas fun if you can get a tour that drops you off at one of the islands to hang out for a bit, I wouldn’t say it’s totally worth it but cool to see the “365 islands” and the island with all the monkeys!
Volcan Masaya, apparently really cool at night tour.
Mombacho, the huge volcano right near town. Definitely worth it on a clear day. You can hike around the top called the “puma” but you have to hire a guide. Also offers canopy tours which are lots of fun!
La Merced Church, great spot to be during sunset on Calle Real Xalteva.
Hotel Spa Granada and Hotel Granada both offer all day entry to their pools for $5-$7…worth it if your hostel doesn’t have a pool.
I don’t know of many since I lived there but I’ve heard a lot of people go to the Bearded Monkey, La Floresta and there is another nice one near the Bearded Monkey that is newer but I don’t remember the name. Home stays are also an option if you guys are interested…would be like $5-$7/night I know a woman who has lots of room and Internet (it is a hostel type place) in the barrio I lived in. Let me know if you are and I can get you connected with the family.
Do not go to a place called the Tree House also known as Poste Roja…I never went but the people who go there/work there are severely messed up…lots of drugs etc. I don’t advise you to make the trip out there.
Places to GO!
1) Estelí: Northern Nica known for cool weather, coffee and cheese…never went but sounds so great.
2) Matagalpa/Jinotega: Also N. Nica lots of hiking, coffee plantations, waterfalls, river rafting and windy roads…SUCH a beautiful place. Best/cheapest place to stay is La Buena Onda for $7/night.
3) Managua: The capitol of Nica. No real reason to stay here except to pass through to get to other places via bus. Avoid taxi’s they are stupid expensive in Managua and because you are from the U.S. they will charge you even more even if you speak perfect Spanish. Important bus stops in Managua:
a) La UCA: goes to Granada & Masaya…kind of the central bus station.
b) Mercado Mayoreo: Buses go north bound to Matagalpa/Estelí/León/Rama (goes to Bluefields) If you are at the UCA then take the #110 (if you are facing the road at the UCA station you need to cross the road and to catch the right bus)
4) Bluefields (then to Big Corn Island or Little Corn Island): A great place to stay if you want to go to Big Corn or Little Corn. Bluefields is WAY different than other parts of Nica, more of a harbor town, poorer than say, Granada, more Caribbean influence, some English speakers, kind of a Creole dialect. To get here from Managua take a bus to Mercado Mayoreo then to Rama (6 hours), once you get to Rama you take a Panga (speed boat) (2 hours) to Bluefields. I think the Bus/boat combo is like 250 cords so $15 one-way. Then once you get to Bluefields there are boats to Big Corn and then you take another boat to Little Corn. The boat schedule is weird though, only like Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays or something like that, so plan wisely! Places to stay: Little Corn Island, 3 Brothers (only place with kitchen) Bluefields: La Isleña (cheapest 250 cords/night) You can also take a plane to Little and Big Corn Island from the Managua airport if you want to skip out on the epic traveling via bus and panga!
5) San Juan del Sur: Beaches on the Pacific ocean/surfing/snorkeling/turtles etc. Bus to Rivas to San Juan del Sur. Places to stay: La Terraza Guest House is the only place I’ve stayed and it was wonderful. But that’s right in town. There are lots of tours places that can take you to other beaches like Playa Madera I think like $5 round trip and there are surf rentals, too. I know that there is a place called Las Flores that has lots of turtles…never went but something to check out!
6) Ometepe: A MUST GO TO! I love this Island, it’s in the middle of Lake Nicaragua and has so much to offer. You can go to the beaches, to a natural spring called Ojo del Agua, hike up La Concepción (active) or Maderas (inactive) volcanoes both of which you should hire a guide, very dangerous otherwise (get up early to do them they are long hikes!) To get there take a bus to Rivas then a short taxi to San Jorge (this should be no more than 30-40 cords/person) Then hop on the ferry to the Island. We stayed at a place called Little Morgans, was a cool setting, nice dorm style option but is normally more of a party hostel, no one was really there when we went but is known for that scene…there were some strange people there. But anyways, there are LOTS of different options for hostels all in beautiful locations. There is a “finca” nearby Little Morgan’s that is supposed to be great and have delicious pizza on Mondays. To get to these hostels and to hike Maderas you take a bus right when you get off the ferry to Moyogalpa get of there and then we hitch hiked (I swear it’s safe!) But I think there is a bus that goes through there and you can take a taxi but it will be expensive. If you plan on hiking Concepción stay in a hostel in the main center.
7) Laguna de Apoyo: Great place to chill for a day or stay a night. If in Granada you can take a bus to Masaya or to Managua, doesn’t matter and ask the money collecting guy to “dejame por la laguna de apoyo” From there you cross the highway and you then you have 3 options, taxi, hitch hike or walk (about 1 ½ hours). We always hitch hiked. There is an entrance fee to the laguna I think like 20 cords (can’t remember) The best place to go is the Monkey Hut which is a hostel, you can stay there for the night or just for $5 you can use their facility all day including their kayaks. They have a kitchen you can use or you can order food. There are also some ventas down the road where you can buy food supplies and litros of beer or rum!
8) León: Never went but apparently is like a larger Granada, has beautiful beaches nearby! Bus from Mercado Mayoreo to León.
Have fun! And if you have any questions you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org