Planning to visit the charming colonial city of Granada? As a top destination for travelers adventuring through vibrant Nicaragua, it’s no wonder why. With countless amazing things to do (and eat) in Granada, you’re in for an unforgettable stay.
In Central America’s oldest colonial city, you’ll find decadent chocolate (cacao) drinks, plenty of delicious Nicaraguan food, colorful streets, an authentic local market, multiple grand churches, and of course, buzzing city squares and green parks. Not to mention, with the active Masaya Volcano, massive Lake Nicaragua, and the Apoyo Lagoon all nearby, outdoor adventures await!
Ready to explore Granada? Here’s your guide to the best things to do in Granada, Nicaragua! These 10 things to do, see, and eat are sure to put Granada straight to the top of your list of favorite cities.
Where to Stay in Granada, Nicaragua
Before we dive into the top 10 things to do in Granada, Nicaragua, let’s talk about where you should rest after your full days of exploring!
This colorful city has many hotels, hostels, and Airbnbs to choose from. And luckily, Granada lodgings cater to the backpacker, digital nomad, romantic getaway couple, and luxury traveler. No matter your price range, there’s something here for you.
Affordable Luxury Accommodation
If you’re looking for luxury, Granada hotels, then we’ve got you covered. Here are our top recommendations for luxury accommodation in Nicaragua (just, without the typical luxury price tag!).
- Hotel Plaza Colon: This boutique hotel is in front of the main plaza and boasts a huge blue tiled swimming pool, gorgeous verandas, and chic bar “El Bar”. Plus it is the only hotel certified in sustainable practices by the Rainforest Alliance in the region! Click here to book your stay at Hotel Plaza Colon.
- Hotel Dario: You can’t miss this iconic blue and white colonial building turned boutique hotel. The history of this Neoclassical architectural hotel makes it a heritage site to the city of Granada. You’ll not only appreciate the ambiance and central location of this 5-star hotel, but the great food at their El Travía restaurant, too. Click here to book your stay at Hotel Dario.
- Tribal Hotel: In the heart of Granada, you’ll find the definition of stylish indoor-outdoor living. Tribal Hotel’s tropical garden oasis and plush rooms are complete with cool textiles, earthy tones, and a touch of whimsical charm. On a balmy evening, there’s nothing better than lounging beside Tribal Hotel’s beautiful torch-lit pool and sipping a perfectly crafted cocktail from your private cabana. Chic, luxurious, and easily our favorite hotel in Granada.
Hostels and budget accommodation in Granada are aplenty, and we easily recommend:
- De Boca en Boca: Free breakfast & fabulous location right next to Iglesia de la Merced. This hostel also offers tons of fun activities and excursions. Click here to book your stay at De Boca en Boca.
- Treehouse: Come here for the jungle vibes and stay for the one of a kind sunsets. Never slept in a treehouse? Now is your chance! Click here to book your stay at Treehouse.
- Selina: Selina’s Granada location is front and center on Parque Central and is known for excellent internet and co-working spaces. Plus, free yoga! Click here to book your stay at Selina.
How to Get to Granada
Taxi or Shuttle
If you want to visit Granada, the oldest colonial city in Nicaragua, you’ll find it is a breeze! Augusto C. Sandino International Airport in Managua is the only airport with scheduled flight traffic in Nicaragua, and a short 47-minute drive from Granada makes travel easy. There are plenty of taxis to choose from when you exit the airport, and like most travel in Nicaragua, it is inexpensive.
Generally speaking, taxis and shuttles are super affordable throughout the country. If you’re traveling from elsewhere in Nicaragua, such as from San Juan del Sur, arranging a shuttle or taxi through your hotel is just as easy.
Rent a Car
If you’re feeling adventurous, then you may prefer to book a rental car so you can explore more of the country with ease – and maybe even drive down to Costa Rica. If that’s the case, Discover Cars is our go-to rental car company worldwide, but locally, Dollar Rent a Car Nicaragua is also a great, cheap option.
CLICK HERE to book your rental car now! Free cancellation is usually included, so lock it in.
Best 10 Things to See & Do in Granada, Nicaragua
Okay, let’s get into it! From visiting La Iglesia Merced and browsing the local market, to strolling down Calle La Calzada and eating at the Garden Cafe, here are our top picks for the best things to do in Granada, Nicaragua! Plus, a few hot tips along the way.
#1 Discover Las Isletas on a Boat Tour
Lake Nicaragua, or Lago Cocibolca, is the largest lake in Central America (but it looks more like an ocean!). Without a doubt, of all the things to do in Granada, Nicaragua, exploring this lake and its many islands is #1.
You won’t have a hard time booking a tour of the isletas, as it is the most popular excursion and offers a relaxed, fun way to explore the many mini islands (isletas) of the lake.
Simply catch a taxi to the Asese Port and ask around, click here to book a boat tour, or find a tour through your hotel… and hop aboard to explore Las Isletas on the edge of Granada! If you’re extra adventurous, you can book a kayaking tour. Or you can opt for a party catamaran (book through your hostel, this ends at famous “party island”).
Have fun swimming in the freshwater, feeding monkeys hanging off trees, and sipping a drink as you watch the sunset (the best time to do the Isleta Tour).
Las Isletas Tours:
#2 Afternoon Trip to Active Masaya Volcano
Unlike most active volcanoes in Central and South America, here in Nicaragua, you can get eerily close to the molten lava just about an hour from Granada! It’s easy to book a Masaya Volcano trip. You can either book it online, ask your hotel to help you, or speak to any of the city’s certified tour operators lining the Central Plaza.
We recommend doing an afternoon or “night tour”, this ensures you’ll see the red bubbling lava as the sky begins to darken. How captivating!
The fee for entering the Masaya Volcano National Park is $10 for the evening tours, so a bit steeper than the $2 daytime fee, but well worth it!
Masaya Volcano Tours:
#3 Day Trip to Laguna de Apoyo
Indisputably, the Laguna de Apoyo is one of the top things to do in Granada. (Okay, technically it’s not in Granada, but the municipal of Catarina in Masaya, Nicaragua.) Still, being just a quick 20-minute ride away, it’s a frequently booked day trip for visitors in Granada – and often a favorite day in Nicaragua!
The Laguna de Apoyo is a freshwater, mineral-rich crater lake formed by volcanic implosion 23,000 years ago. Epic, right? Many of the hotels around the laguna offer day passes to the city folk for a small fee.
We highly recommend Paradiso Hostel for those looking to have major fun in the sun and Casa Marimba if you want a more relaxing, tranquil jungle environment on the beach (with an amazing restaurant, too). Both places offer kayaks, inner tubes, food, drinks, and floating docks. Don’t skip this trip!
#4 Sunset at the Bell Tower of Iglesia de la Merced
It’s true that Iglesia la Merced is beautiful on the inside, but a $1 climb up the spiral staircase to the bell tower, especially at sunset, offers peak viewing pleasure!
This colonial church was built way back in 1534 and offers panoramic views of downtown Granada as well as the magnificent Mombacho Volcano.
Hot tip: If you’re a fan of meandering through colonial church halls, we recommend the two-kilometer walk down Calle La Libertad from Chapel Maria Auxiladora to Guadalupe Church.
You’ll pass Iglesia Xalteva, Iglesia la Merced, and the Cathedral of Granada on the way. What a lovely afternoon!
#5 Explore the Local Market
If authentic, local experiences draw you to travel, then you already know that the local mercado is a must!
Just a five-minute walk from the city center, down Calle el Comercio, you’ll run into the distinct sounds and scents of the local, open-air market of Granada. Here, you will find avocados the size of your head, freshly picked mangoes (or pitaya, depending on the season), huge blocks of fresh Nica cheese, and all kinds of exotic, organic fruits and vegetables.
Be sure to try some street food from the local market stands! We recommend tajadas (fried plantain chips) and vigaró, a traditional Nicaraguan dish that comes wrapped in a banana leaf. So authentic!
#6 Hop on a Horse Carriage City Tour
Perhaps the most romantic way to explore the city of Granada, Nicaragua, is to sit back and relax in one of the classic horse-drawn carriages. Let’s be honest, sometimes it’s just too hot out to enjoy a long walk, and why not kick up your feet for while? For a low cost of around $10 per hour, it’s hard to pass up!
Appreciating the colorful buildings and antique colonial houses surrounding the city streets is much easier while you let someone else take the reins (literally). The carriages are pulled by two horses and can comfortably fit a group of four for a city tour or quick ride to your isleta boat tour!
#7 Party at Treehouse Jungle Rave
If parties aren’t your thing, move down to our #8 on our list of the best things to do in Granada, Nicaragua. However, if you enjoy dancing late into the night surrounded by lush jungle, look no further than the classic Friday Night Treehouse Party at the Treehouse Hostel.
As you walk across the drawn bridge to Treehouse Hostel at sunset, you’ll begin to feel the palpable energy of the nature and the beat of the speakers. Get ready to get down!
The Townhouse Hostel offers shuttles from Granada to the Treehouse Hostel and back, including multiple nighttime return trips to the city. Why not celebrate? You’re in one of the coolest countries in Central and South America!
Hot tip: The Treehouse Hostel is one of our top budget accommodation recommendations in Granada! Why wouldn’t you want to stay in a treehouse in the jungle? (Hint: Choose the “Deluxe Double Room.”) Click here to book your stay at Treehouse.
#8 Eat a Tostone Burger at Tostometro
The perfect day-after food! Picture it, a big juicy burger sandwiched between two huge tostones, not buns. If you haven’t had a tostone before, don’t worry, you’ll fall in love with this local food (fried, smashed green plantains).
Tostometro is an adorable little local restaurant nestled between stalls at the beginning of the local market. Finding it is almost as exciting as taking your first bite!
Of course, they offer an exceptional veggie tostone burger too, for all of our plant-based friends!
And did we mention, Tostometro is a great location for people-watching, too?
#9 Learn All About Cacao (At ChocoMuseo)
The famous Chocolate Museum, ChocoMuseo, located just one block northwest of the Parque Central, is a quick and fun thing to do while in Granada, Nicaragua. The grand building of the museum also has a hotel and restaurant, with a beautiful foyer to enjoy your cacao drink and rich brownie.
We recommend checking out this interactive and informative museum while having a day exploring the city of Granada!
#10 Visit the Garden Cafe
This next spot is absolutely iconic. If you’ve heard of The Garden Café in Granada, Nicaragua, you probably know it as the spot where “influencers” love to take aesthetic photos – and for good reason! After all, this place was designed around a beautiful garden.
People rely on the Garden Cafe’s dishes to be healthy, local, and light on the stomach (okay, maybe not the calala cheesecake, but I digress). The staff always serves with a smile and enthusiasm, and we love that!
Frothy green matcha drinks photograph so well in the open-air dining area – where butterflies also love to mingle in the sun. The Garden Cafe also has an adorable gift shop with beautiful clothing, jewelry and leather works. If you’re not interested in buying new, definitely scope their excellent used book case. There are many gems!
Top 10 Things to Do in Granada, Nicaragua
Well, friends, there you have it. Those are the 10 best things to do in Granada, Nicaragua.
Granada is not only the oldest, but in our opinion, the most beautiful colonial city in Nicaragua.
It’s impossible not to appreciate Granada on a sunny afternoon as the sky clears over Mombacho Volcano. Or as you simply people-watch in Parque Central in front of the regal Granada Cathedral.
No matter what you choose to do, even crossing just one of our “to-dos” off your list will leave you with lasting memories of this unique place. Just don’t forget to take pictures! Granada is Nicaragua’s most popular city to visit for a reason!
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Granada, Nicaragua Travel FAQs
There are so many amazing reasons to visit Granada. A hidden gem, smack in the middle of Central America, Granada has it all: beautiful colonial buildings, stunning nature (like the Masaya Volcano, Lake Nicaragua, and the Apoyo Lagoon Nature Reserve), authentic culture, friendly locals, and delicious traditional food. With this list of the best things to do, see, and eat in Granada, you can’t go wrong.
When it comes to safety, Nicaragua doesn’t have the best reputation. However, when you arrive in Granada, we think you’ll be quite surprised by how safe you feel. People in Granada are warm, friendly, and welcoming – and there’s an obvious community of digital nomads and ex-pats living here too. Overall, Granada is safe enough, but as with anywhere else, you should be cautious and follow general safety guidelines. Like… Be aware of your surroundings and keep your wits about you. Don’t be flashy with your cash or other valuables. Use common sense. And remember, there’s always safety in numbers – especially at nighttime. It’s also worth noting that you should steer clear of any political events or protests in Nicaragua. If you can do those things, you should feel (and be) perfectly safe in Granada.
There are no ride-sharing apps in Granada. The city center is small, so you can easily get around on foot. Otherwise, taxis and tuk-tuks are at the ready! Feeling something a little extra? You can also opt for one of Granada’s iconic horse-drawn carriages.
Define “beach”! If you’re asking about ocean beach, the answer is no. But if you’re asking about lake beaches, then the answer is yes! There are beaches in Granada! This beautiful colonial city lines the shore of the largest lake in Central America, Lake Nicaragua (or Lago Cocibolca). In fact, one of most fun things to do in Nicaragua is taking a boat tour to the many mini islands (isletas) on the lake.
The beautiful Apoyo Lagoon (a freshwater, mineral-rich crater lake) is also nearby. Taking a day trip here is another one of the most popular things to do in Granada, Nicaragua.
Founded in 1524, Granada is the oldest colonial city in all of Central America (that still remains in the same place it was founded). Granada’s centuries-old, colorful buildings and cobblestone streets give the city its charm, while the surrounding volcanoes, lakes, lagoons, and rolling hills offer endless natural beauty. Not to mention, the city’s authentic culture, good food, museums,
There are so many incredible things to do in Granada! Some of our favorites include strolling down the Calle La Calzada, trying Nicaraguan food, and exploring the city via horse-drawn carriage. Not to mention, visiting Masaya Volcano, spending a day at Laguna de Apoyo, and touring the tiny islands of Lake Nicaragua by boat. This guide details all of the best things to do and see in Granada – as well as the best places to stay in Granada!
As far as affordable luxury in Nicaragua goes, you can’t find much better than the Hotel Plaza Colon. This cozy boutique hotel is located right in front of the main square and features a beautiful blue-tiled pool, lovely verandas, and chic bar. Plus it’s the only hotel in the region that follows sustainable practices, certified by the Rainforest Alliance. Click here to book your stay at Hotel Plaza Colon.
Have you been to Granada before? What are your favorite things to do there? Visiting Granada and have a question? Leave your comments for Melanie below!