I absolutely loved my time in Granada, Nicaragua, so much so that I ended up extending for even longer than planned. The city is packed with sustainability initiatives, socially-responsible businesses, and SO much to do!
These are my top recommendations for tours and activities that aren’t usually found on those “Best Things to Do in Granada, Nicaragua” bucket lists!
1. Colonial Homes Tour
I loved this tour, led by Granada expat Helen. Having lived in the community for years, she was full of knowledge and advice.
The home tour explored 3 very different private homes. All 3 were unique and beautiful (and boasted their own pools), with 2 of the homes available for rent.
I felt like I was on a private episode of Nicaragua House Hunters, and enjoyed being able to take a peek into what goes on behind the high walls. You’d never imagine the beauty of the houses that exist behind unassuming gates!
Colonial Homes Tour
Cost: $15, all proceeds go to Puedo Leer Foundation
Time: Tuesdays at 10am in front of Ole Boutique
2. Shop at co-ops and fair trade artisan stores
I’m not a big shopper at all, but the one thing that will always get me is fair trade and artisan stores. Granada had SO many. I couldn’t stop myself from grabbing gifts for as many people as possible.
One of my favorite shops was Thousand Cranes, which offered a variety of price points, with everything being handmade and all sales benefitting local artisans and nonprofit organizations.
Sample priced included hand-dyed makeup bags for $8, natural soap for $4.50, handmade shoes for $18, ceramic ornaments for $2, fair trade chocolate for $4, earrings for $13, and incense for $1.
3. Visit the local market
A visit to the Mercado Municipal is an absolute must. You’ll find mostly food, including unique local fruits and vegetables and spices.
I’d definitely recommend going earlier in the day, before it gets too hot and humid, because the market itself gets pretty stuffy.
*Please note: many of the vendors do not want their photo taken, so (as always) ask first.
If you’re nervous to go on your own or your Spanish is sketchy or you’re just looking to learn more, I highly recommend going with La Tortilla. Their highly-trained, multilingual guide will also tell you when is/isn’t appropriate for photos. It’s the perfect activity for the first full day of your visit, so that you can learn where to buy things. You will learn more about local life in Granada, get to try samples, and go deeper than if you’d be visiting alone.
Market Tour with La Tortilla
Cost: 450 cordobas
Time: 1.5 hours of walking, starting at 8:30AM (cooking classes are also available)
4. Tour with Hotel Con Corazon
Hotel Con Corazon is among the world’s first nonprofit hotels. Aside from being a cute little boutique hotel (with great breakfast and a gorgeous pool), the initiative also offers great day tours.
One of their tours brought me to Cafe de Sonrisas and the hammock factory, both of which employ people with differing abilities that industries in Nicaragua normally leave out.
Check with the Hotel for its latest tour offerings, times, and prices.
5. Learn about Cigars
Cigar-smoking is not my thing, but my husband has always been big on it, so I stopped by Mombacho Cigars to pick him up a few.
I ended up going on a tour with Brian as my guide. It was incredibly interesting to see the entire hand-made process, even if you’re not into cigars (like me). Mombacho is built into a beautiful old colonial-style home, and boasts the best view of the entire city from the roof.
The story of Nicaraguan cigars is fascinating as well, as Nicaraguan cigars come from Cuban tobacco seeds grown in rich Nicaraguan soil.
Mombacho Cigar Tour
Cost: 150 cordobas
Time: Stop in to see when a tour is available and sign up (at the time of my visit, there were tours available at 9:15, 10, 11, 1130, and from 1-3:30). The tour lasts 45 minutes
The cigars themselves are much cheaper than in the US but much pricier than in Cuba when purchased direct from the farmer. I paid a little under $100USD for a 12 pack of “fino” cigars and a 5-pack sampler set from Mombacho.
6. Apoyo Lagoon
The daytrip to Apoyo Lagoon was one of the most relaxing experiences of my entire trip to Nicaragua. I wish I would have gone right after my arrival to Granada (rather than my last day), as I would have planned enough time to go twice.
It was so peaceful and rejuvenating. For me, the Apoyo Lagoon was the perfect day of nothing. I sat in a hammock and read my book, interspersing naps and reading with dips in the lake.
Apoyo Lagoon Trip Booked Through Shuttle Company on Calle Le Calzada
Cost: $15 including roundtrip transportation from my hotel and entrance to the Lagoon
Bring: Water (I used a refillable water bottle and my SteriPen throughout my Nicaragua trip), small snack (food at the Lagoon is available but incredibly overpriced), swimsuit and a towel, ecological sunscreen, ecological bugspray (there were a bunch of little bugs), a book, and cash. If you want to get some work done, bring a laptop, as there was (surprisingly!) wifi available.
7. Climb the Merced Bell Tower
Is there a more stereotypical and overdone suggestion for Granada than this one? Probably not.
Still, it’s a must-do and I’ve got something to add. While most people suggested to climb the bell tower at sunset, that’s not really possible most times of year. The current closing hour is now supposedly 5pm, so you need to have entered at least 15 minutes before that (though you can stay a bit after 5pm).
Regardless of whether you’re there for sunset, if you arrive at 4:45 (like I’d suggest), you’ll be there around golden hour, which is magical. The tower catches a great breeze, and offers a phenomenal view.
Just try to avoid getting knocked off by the horde of selfie-takers 🙂
Cost: 50 cordobas to climb the tower, but to enter the church is free
Time: Before 5pm
I don’t know why Nicaragua gets so much shade for its cuisine. I had so many good meals in Granada (check out my top restaurant recommendations – all vegetarian-friendly! – here), and one of my favorite activities was just sitting and enjoying a cold water or juice and a delicious meal.
It’s the simple things, right?
9. San Francisco Convent
Catholic attractions aren’t really my thing, partly because I got more than my fair share of the church in the first two decades of my life and now try to avoid it.
That being said, the Convent was “nice” to visit. Most of the exhibits were religiously related, but when I visited there was also a more modern exhibition room with some cool and interesting sculptures (like the bird mobile in the photo above).
Cost: 150 cordobas
Do More in Granada, Nicaragua (that I didn’t!)
10. Granada Cemetary
I try to visit cemeteries when I’m traveling (including the beautiful La Paz cemetery, pictured above), but missed out on the one in Granada.
Granada’s cemetery is actually the oldest in Central America, and French in style (interestingly), so if you go I would love to hear about your experience!
11. Volcano hike
If I would have had better shoes and more time, I definitely would have hiked up one of the volcanoes in the area. I’ve heard from multiple visitors, post-hike, that it was the perfect way to see the volcano up close.
Make sure you’re up to the challenge, though. Mombacho Volcano especially requires a high level of fitness (it’s also said to be the more interesting of the volcano hikes in the area), so be sure to pack hiking shoes if you’re considering it. If Mombacho isn’t your thing, Masaya Volcano also has hike options.
12. Choco Spa and Choco Museum
I love me some chocolate! The Choco Museum is a user-friendly place to learn more about chocolate, and offers inexpensive and high-quality chocolate-related souvenirs (their cacao husk tea is incredible!).
This particular Choco Museum location has tours as well as some affordable chocolate-based spa treatments, which I can imagine would be heaven for chocolate lovers!
13. Yoga in Granada
I missed out on yoga in Granada (but I made up for it in San Juan del Sur). These are the most recommended yoga studios in Granada, Nicaragua (along with class times and prices):
Cocoberry: 6pm; $6 per class or $30 for an 8-class pack; website
Chocolate: 9am, 5pm; $6 per class or $54 for a 10-class pack; website
Pure: 8am, 6pm; $6 per class or $44 for a 10-class pack; website
Please check their websites for the most up-to-date information.
*Selina Hostel is also offering yoga, but check with them directly regarding times and prices.
DITCH These 3 Overrated Activities in Granada, Nicaragua
1. Masaya Market
You can visit the Masaya Market yourself (independently), or with a tour, or added onto the Volcano Tour.
Personally, I found the visit pointless. It was very touristy and the wares sold were often foreign-made and incredibly overpriced ($10 for a magnet marked made in China). I also found the vendors to be quite pushy.
This is one of those cases where I should have believed all the negatives reviews I read online, though I wanted to see for myself. It was just as bad as I’d feared and a total waste of time. The dining options are also pricey and low-quality (this was where I had my worst meal in Granada – a tortilla espanola – for 250 cordobas including a glass of water, pictured above).
Instead: Shop the artisan markets in town.
2. Masaya Volcano Night Tour
This tour was sold to me on the premise of seeing the sunset. The tour group definitely did not arrive in time to see the sunset, though I’m not sure if it would have mattered or not, as it was pretty smokey around the volcano.
Of the 5-7:30pm (2 and a half hour) night tour, only about 10 minutes of it were actually spent at the volcano. The rest is in the car, stuck in gridlock traffic or waiting to get up to see the volcano.
Instead: Find another tour (I especially like Viator because their customer service is great: these could be options). I’ve heard that some tours go through the lava flows and bat caves and make the experience more worth your while.
3. Las Isletas
While I love any time spent on a boat in the water, I ended up passing on the Las Isletas tour (which is supposedly especially magical at sunset). When I heard that one of the routine stops on the tour is to an island with captive monkeys that you’re encouraged to feed, I knew I couldn’t support that. The monkeys are trapped on the island for tourists’s pleasure. Not cool.
Instead: I only found out after leaving Granada that you could do a private tour of Las Isletas and opt out of the monkey island. That’s what I’d recommend.
Pin it for Later! 13 Alternative Best Things to Do in Granada, Nicaragua