Granada, Nicaragua is Beautiful

Granada, Nicaragua is Beautiful

Granada, Nicaragua

 

I never decided to go to Granada, Nicaragua.

 

Granada, Nicaragua market

 

Less than twenty-four hours earlier I was en route to Puerto Viejo. I had planned to spend the next few months settling in.

 

The Garden Cafe Granada

 

Finding the clarity I needed to determine my next adventure. Conserving the energy I spent simply trying to survive and channel it into projects I had neglected on the road.

 

Granada, Nicaragua

 

I couldn’t wait to be back on my bicycle. To cook myself dinner. To see my friends. To return to the closest sense of normalcy I have experienced in more than a year.

 

The Garden Cafe Granada, Nicaragua

 

But the night before I planned to go, something inside me did not feel ready. Something in me feared that if I went back to Puerto Viejo I might never leave.

 

Granada, Nicaragua fruit market

 

I worried I might lose my wanderlust spirit and become stuck.

 

Granada, Nicaragua fish market

 

This decision weighed heavily on me.

 

Granada, Nicaragua iglesia

 

So I did what I often do when presented with a difficult choice:

I relieved myself of all responsibility and instead let the universe decide.

 

Granada, Nicaragua fruit market

 

It chose Granada.

 

Granada, Nicaragua church

 

And there, in the beautiful, hectic, colonial city, I was reminded why I love this life of travel.

 

Granada, Nicaragua market

 

I wandered the quieted early morning streets

 

Granada, Nicaragua market

 

eating fruit freshly cut on the road

 

Granada, Nicaragua street food

 

fried balls of yucca dipped in honey

 

Granada, Nicaragua street food

 

and the most incredible pupusa known to man.

 

Granada, Nicaragua street

 

I never felt more alive.

 

Granada, Nicaragua iglesia

 

I marveled at stunning churches

 

Granada, Nicaragua street

 

stairs

 

Granada, Nicaragua street

 

and streets.

 

Granada, Nicaragua street art

 

I chatted with locals

 

Granada, Nicaragua street art

 

whose rapid Spanish

 

Granada, Nicaragua street art

 

humbled my sassy spirit.

 

Granada, Nicaragua doors

 

I photographed

 

Granada, Nicaragua doors

 

every

 

Granada, Nicaragua doors

 

beautiful

 

Granada, Nicaragua doors

 

door

 

Granada, Nicaragua doors

 

unblocked by passing cars.

 

Hotel Spa Granada

 

I escaped the heat of the city

 

Hotel Spa Granada

 

in a mecca

 

Hotel Spa Granada

 

with a spa and a pool

 

Hotel Spa Granada

 

and the meanest little residents

 

Hotel Spa Granada

 

who nipped at my head and toes.

 

Mombacho volcano Nicaragua

 

I climbed to the top of volcanoes

 

Las Isletas Granada

 

explored tiny islands

 

Las Isletas Granada

 

swam in a cool blue lagoon.

 

Expressionista Granada, Nicaragua

 

I took the wrong bus

 

Expressionista Granada, Nicaragua

 

but found my new favorite café

 

Bell Tower of Iglesia Merced

 

I climbed

 

Bell Tower of Iglesia Merced

 

to the top of a tower

 

Carnival in Granada, Nicaragua

 

moments later saw a Carnival parade.

 

Sunset in Granada, Nicaragua

 

I became lost

 

Sunset in Granada, Nicaragua

 

early and often

 

Sunset in Granada, Nicaragua

 

but the universe always led me

 

View of Granada, Nicaragua

 

exactly where I needed to be.

 

Where to Stay in Granada, Nicaragua

 

Hostel El Momento

$8 for a dorm bed, private rooms start at $14

Hands down one of my favorite hostels I have ever stayed in. The rooms are large and spacious, even the dorm boasts big double beds. The communal area is adorably decorated and feels comforting, like home. The staff is kind, accommodating, and helpful. And somehow, in a city with incredible cuisine, the onsite restaurant has some of the best and most affordable food around. Try the thai red curry with loads of veggies and local raw cashews.

 

Hotel Spa Granada

Rooms start at $59 per night including full buffet breakfast, daily pool use, and one spa treatment per day

Hotel Spa Granada is inside of a beautiful old colonial building. The rooms, the gardens, the pool, and the views are all stunning. Enjoy a buffet breakfast each morning with gallo pinto, eggs, fruit, granola, toast, coffee, and juice. Spend time at the pool when you burn out from the heat of the street. Enjoy a massage, manicure, pedicure, or facial e.v.e.r.y.d.a.y. For $60 it doesn’t get much better than this.

 

Hotel con Corazon

Single rooms start at $62 per night

This hotel has style. Consider it the Ace of Nicaragua. Rooms are air conditioned with private bathrooms and plenty of storage. The rate includes the use of a nice outdoor pool, wifi, great communal areas, an extremely friendly, helpful staff and breakfast. So what’s with the name? They donate 100% of profits to support local children with tutoring programs, extracurricular activities, and even sponsored tuition for those moving onto university.

 

Backpacker’s Inn

$15 for a dorm bed

This might be the fanciest hostel I’ve ever stayed in… and I’ve stayed in a lot of hostels! It may be much pricier than other hostels in Granada, but the communal spaces are as beautiful and well decorated as some of the nicest hotels in the area and there is a big outdoor pool guests can enjoy.

 

Where to Eat in Granada, Nicaragua

 

The Garden Café

$3-5 for breakfast, $4-6 for lunch

Come to The Garden Cafe to sit and read one of their many books on a cozy couch or chair, sip on a cappuccino, nibble on a freshly baked muffin, and observe the Granada expat community. Enjoy a healthy breakfast or lunch with fresh fruit and vegetables and other local ingredients. Purchase organic farm produce when available.

 

Café de los Suenos

$5-8 for lunch

Is your body craving an enormous, satisfying salad? Head to Cafe de los Suenos immediately. For $6 they load roasted beets, avocado, grilled chicken, feta cheese, bell peppers, and bacon on top of a big bed of lettuce. It might be the best salad I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant. The space is lovely, as is the staff. Quiche, lasagna, crepes, and panini also grace this french inspired menu.

 

Expressionista

$2-10 for breakfast, lunch, and treats

An absolutely beautiful cafe and shop owned by expats from Spain. The interior is positively inspired, the organic food is delicious, and the perfect little treats will tempt you to come again and again. Treat yourself to the lovely iced tea, cold coconut water, and yogurt berry cheesecake if they have it.

 

El Zaguan

$15 for local steak

The ambience may make you feel a bit like you’ve landed in the Olive Garden of Central America, but give it a chance. It’s the most famous restaurant and steakhouse in Granada for a reason. The steaks are tender, perfectly cooked and served alongside local favorites like grilled plantains and celery sauce.

 

On the street

$0.50

It may not be healthy. It may not be safe. But it is delicious. And cheap. Savor a life changing pupusa made from flattened cornmeal dough stuffed with local cheese, grilled hot and crispy topped with vinegary cabbage salad. Eat seasoned fried chicken on top of crisp plantain chips. Taste unfamiliar goodies that catch your eye. Stock up on inexpensive fish, fruit, vegetables, eggs, and cheese at the local market if you’re lucky enough to have a kitchen.

 

What to Do in Granada Nicaragua

 

Wander the streets

Free

Days can easily be spent simply wandering the streets with your eyes and a camera. Enjoy the beautiful technicolor painted colonial architecture. Sit in the park by the fountain. Let your eyes feast at the colorful markets. Soak in the beauty that is Granada.

 

Swim at the Laguna de Apoyo

$12 for a tour through one of the many hostels

Just outside of Granada is the stunning natural wonder called the Laguna de Apoyo. It is a clean, blue, body of water that rests inside of the crater of a volcano. Make sure to be dropped off at The Monkey Hut to lounge on docks, eat at the restaurant, use complimentary kayaks, and take a long swim.

 

Take a tour of the Isletas

$20 for an all day tour of the isletas.

One of Granada’s many majestic offerings is its proximity to Lake Nicaragua and the many beautiful tiny islands nearby. Explore on a boat, then stop, eat, rest, swim, kayak. Perfection.

 

Climb to the top of Mombacho

$15 for transport to the top, $5-10 for guided tours

Walking to the top of Mombacho is entirely possible, it is also incredibly grueling. Do yourself a favor and save your energy for the many trails at the top. Enjoy stunning views of Granada, the isletas, and the surrounding countryside.

 

Escape the heat at Hotel Spa Granada

$5 for all day pool use, come and go as you please. $8-30 for spa services, $55 for a manicure, pedicure, facial, hour long massage, and eyebrow wax…what?!

Granada is absolutely beautiful, but damn is it hot. I spent nearly every afternoon when the sun was at its strongest, bathing in the cool water of the private courtyard pool. Beware of the three evil ducks who act as gatekeepers surrounding the adorable white kitten. They will bite and attack you. The spa services are excellent and shockingly affordable.

 

Center yourself at Pure Spa

 

$5 for a gym or yoga pass, acupuncture starting at $17, full spa services at a screaming deal

A day of pampering at Pure Spa is necessary. Daily attendance is even better. Skilled teachers offer Vinyasa yoga classes several times daily, a full gym is available for your own routine, and you can take advantage of exceptional spa services like acupunture, reiki, and massage for next to nothing. They service detoxifyingly delicious green juice all day for only $1 and yummy vegetarian meals for $5. You may wonder if you’ve died and gone to wellness heaven.

 

Climb to the top of the Tower of Merced

$1 for entrance to the top, tower closes at 5:30pm

A short climb to the church’s bell tower offers beautiful views of Granada and Mombacho. The bell rings on the hour and it’s an impressive site to see a strong man rock that bell! This spot is ideal at sunset when a warm glow washes over the town and the apse of the cathedral becomes a lovely silhouette against the pink sky.

 

Visit the Calzada at night 

Free or very expensive depending how soft your spot is

Watch street performers, have a drink, and mingle with locals on the liveliest strip in Granada. Vendors may hassle you, stay strong and you won’t be a target.

 

Please Don’t Go to Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

Please Don’t Go to Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

Little Corn Island

 

Little Corn Island fulfills every Caribbean fantasy I could conjure

 

Little Corn Island

 

an untouched paradise

 

Little Corn Island

 

where magical jungle meets crystalline turquoise sea

 

Pangas to Little Corn

 

colorful boats rock gently on a sleepy harbor

 

Little Corn Island Beach

 

the water is warm

 

Little Corn Island Beach

 

the air is breezy

 

Little Corn Island Shack

 

and the smell of fresh coconut bread wafts

 

Little Corn Island Cool Spot

 

from pink, periwinkle, and lemon painted houses

 

Little Corn Island

 

where families sell pillowy loaves for less than a dollar.

 

Little Corn Island Ocean

 

Heaps of lobster come ashore from the salty sea

 

Little Corn Island Lobster

 

swim in coconut curry

 

Little Corn Island

 

and rest in satisfied bellies.

 

Little Corn Island

 

Everyone wanders the island barefoot

 

Little Corn Island

 

no shoes no shirt no problem

 

Little Corn Island

 

and drinks rum from fresh coconuts around a blazing bonfire.

 

Little Corn Island Dolphin Dive

 

Divers spend their days deep underwater

 

Little Corn Island Dolphin Dive

 

making dolphins, sharks, and stingrays their friends.

 

Little Corn Island Farm Peace and Love

 

Yogis wander into the woods to a magical, spiritual space

 

Little Corn Island

 

and flow with a beauty who once called my jungle her home.

 

Little Corn Island Stedman's

 

Travelers sleep in shacks, with no electricity in the day

 

Little Corn Island Casa Iguana

 

grateful for the intermittent internet from gringo cafes.

 

Little Corn Island Island Trader

 

Provisions are precious and come but once a week

 

Little Corn Island

 

reminding privileged travelers you can’t always get what you need.

 

Little Corn Island Fishing

 

Evenings feel as safe as balmy childhood summers

 

Little Corn Island Sunset

 

under a bedazzled sky and a glowing moon

 

Little Corn Island Sunset

 

the path is dark but fireflies will guide you home.

 

Little Corn Island Miss Priscilla

 

Time does not exist

 

Little Corn Island Lighthouse

 

rather the rise and set of the sun

 

Little Corn Island Sunrise

 

the glow and fade of the stars

 

Little Corn Island North Beaches

 

and though each day passes

 

Little Corn Island North Beaches

 

life continues

 

Little Corn Island North Beaches

 

to always stay the same.

 

Little Corn Island North Beaches

 

So please

 

Little Corn Island

 

whatever you do

 

Little Corn Island

 

don’t go to Little Corn.

 

Little Corn Island

 

Let it stay perfect

 

Little Corn Island Sunset Harbor

 

and let it stay mine.

 

But, if you must go…

 

 

Where to Stay on Little Corn Island

 

Little Corn Beach and Bungalows
Starting at $30/night in low season for 2 people, Master Suites for $140 in high season

This is the loveliest, most luxury accommodation on the beach side of the island. The cabins are beautiful, look out onto the ocean, are centrally located and on one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. They also have wifi which, while spotty, is pure solid gold on this island. It’s almost unbelievable that cabins start at $30. The inexpensive rooms fill fast, so book in advance. Kayak rentals and snorkels are available to rent and the onsite bar and restaurant is delicious.

 

Casa Iguana
Starting at $35/night for a cabin for 2

These cabins are built up on a bluff and have stunning views of the East side of the island. The onsite restaurant has wifi, free purified water, the best french toast I’ve ever tasted (soaked in coconut cream custard and topped with coconut infused syrup and shredded coconut), and uses organic ingredients from their own farm.

 

Cool Spot aka Grace’s Place
Starting at $15/night for a double with shared bathroom, $50 for a cabin with kitchen

I stayed at Cool Spot for more than a week and for the same price as a dorm bed in Costa Rica I was quite happy for my simply beachfront shack. Sure my feet were sandy all day every day but that’s part of the fun! I met awesome solo travelers here. It does have the most party atmosphere of the beach accommodations, which was annoying at times. They host twice weekly beach barbecues and bonfires.

 

Three Brothers
Starting at $10 per night for a double

If you are a serious budget traveler, this is the only hotel (there are no hostels) on the island with a shared kitchen. Rooms are clean and the kitchen is spacious. It sits on the West side of the island in town, a fifteen minute walk across the jungle to the beach.

 

 

Where to Eat on Little Corn Island

 

Tranquilo Cafe

$3-5 cocktails, $6-8 meals

The entire social scene of the island seems to center around Tranquilo Cafe. Every night they offer happy hour drink specials from 5-7 and have bonfires a few times a week. The ceviche, fish tacos, and burger are delicious and I became obsessed with their raw beet slaw (a valuable commodity on an island with no health food). Do not miss the amazing smoothies with fresh fruit, yogurt, and avocado. Did I mention they have the best internet connection on the island?

 

Café Desideri

$5-8 for lunch, $8-12 for dinner

The tastiest restaurant on the island imho. My first night I enjoyed fresh kingfish fillet smothered in onions and coconut sauce with roasted veggies and green papaya salad. It was amazing. They also offer Italian treats like lobster pasta and lasagna. I’ve heard the breakfast is to die for as well.

 

Turned Turtle

$4-6 for breakfast, $10-15 for four course dinner, $6 for a life changing Pina Colada

The lovely beachfront restaurant of Little Corn Beach and Bungalows. Delicious breakfasts come with toasted local coconut bread topped with cinnamon and sugar. The dinner is by far the best deal on the island with an appetizer (usually a delicious homemade garlic bread), small salad,  entree with starch and vegetable, and dessert. My favorites were the tender filet mignon on a bed of fresh spinach with a buttery, buttery, BUTTERY baked potato and the parmesan crusted snapper in a spicy red pepper cream sauce. Whatever you order be sure to try the Pina Colada. Thick, smooth, and creamy with a big dollop of toasted shredded coconut it blows any Pina Colada… no ANY DRINK I’ve ever had out of the water. It is amazing. Trust me.

 

Colorview

Come here for local rondon (coconut seafood stew) and lobster. The atmosphere leaves something to be desired but if you want delicious, local food, you can’t beat it.

 

“Street Food”

Some of the best and certainly the cheapest food on Little Corn is sold from local homes and on the street. Wander town looking for cardboard signs reading “hay pan de coco” and buy yourself a delicious loaf of local coconut bread. Next to the dock is a woman selling fruit and vegetables and ready to eat slices of watermelon for $.50. Be sure to find the old local man selling coconut cookies and Nicaraguan pati (similar to an empanada) on the street and on the beach.

 

 

What to Do on Little Corn Island

 

Explore the island

It may be called “Little Corn” but there is so much to see on this island. Walk the beach up to the deserted northern coves, explore the hidden beaches behind Casa Iguana, visit the farm on the South side, and climb the lighthouse in the center of the island. Tourist maps are readily available.

 

Dive

Diving is practically a religion on this island and there are plenty of reputable dive shops for you to choose from. If you are looking to get your open water dive certification it is an incredible bargain here for $300. Fun dives cost $35 and a one time experience for those without certification costs $65 for basic skills training and a 1 hour dive. I did my dive with Dolphin Dive and found them to be professional and fun.

 

Snorkel

There are some nice reefs you can swim to from the beach in front of Casa Iguana or you can arrange a snorkel tour for about $20. You can arrange a tour through your hotel or with any of the guys trolling the beach.

 

Trip to the Pearl Keys

$50 for a full day

A few hours from Little Corn lies a stunning island chain said to rival the San Blas islands in Panama. Some are completely deserted, others are privately owned. Arrange a tour to visit these tiny tropical islands, spend a few hours snorkeling and fishing, and eat a big seafood barbecue on the beach. I have heard this tour is phenomenal.

 

Yoga at Firefly Yoga and Massage

$10 for a 1.5 hour yoga class, intro specials available, $40 for a 1 hour massage

When friends from Puerto Viejo heard I would be on Little Corn they urged me to take some classes at Firefly Yoga and Massage. The owner and instructor, Sarah, used to teach at Om, my favorite yoga studio in the world. Her studio on Little Corn might be the loveliest, most intimate, sacred yoga space I have ever entered. Surrounded by screens in the middle of the jungle you hear birds chirping and the waves crashing during your yoga or massage session. Sarah is an incredibly talented instructor, showing me transitions I had never seen before. In the few classes I took I learned how to go deeper into several postures and with greater ease. Her words during meditation are beautiful and she has a soft yet strong presence which keeps her classes grounded.

 

Relax

Lay in a hammock. Soak up the sun. Float in the glowing aqua sea. Sip a cold cerveza. Everything else can wait.

 

 

How to Get to Little Corn Island

 

It is possible to arrive by bus and boat to the Corn Islands, but the stories I have heard are so horrific I’d like to urge you to just fly.

Flights leave twice daily from Managua to Big Corn Island in the morning and afternoon for $160 round trip. It is possible to book an open return ticket, which is dangerous as you might never leave.

From Big Corn Island take a panga for 30 minutes ($6) to Little Corn which leaves an hour after the planes land.

 

 

What to Know About Little Corn Island

 

Stay on the beach

The beach side of the island is breezier and you really can’t beat the views. There is nothing quite like watching the stars before bed and waking up to see the sunrise over the ocean.

 

Bring cash

There is no ATM on Little Corn, only on Big Corn, so bring lots of cash. Some restaurants and hotels accept credit cards and charge a 5% fee.

 

Take the South path to town

Walking between town and the beach across the jungle is inevitable. Take the paved South path at night as I’ve heard there have been robberies on less trodden paths. Bring a flash light.

 

Electricity stops in the daytime

Most places run off of generators, but there is still no electricity between 6am and 3pm. Charge all of your electronics at night and be prepared to wake up when the fans shut off.

 

Fresh produce is difficult to come by

This was my biggest struggle staying on this island. Having a nice big salad for lunch is downright impossible. It’s understandable as food comes in by freight once a week.

 

English is widely spoken

The native tongue is English Creole but locals speak English and Spanish fluently.

 

Lower your service expectations

This is a laid back island with a very different culture. Expect to wait a long time for your food and drinks. Expect your order to occasionally be wrong. Do not expect to be asked if you want another drink, to have your water refilled, your bed changed, or to have anything done in a timely manner. If you want something, ask for it. Relax and it will all be ok.

 

Come during lobster season

Fresh, cheap lobster is a huge bonus, but be sure to come during lobster season which typically runs July through March. The rest of the year lobster is not available or comes from the freezer.

 

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