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Family Adventure Travel – Granada Nicaragua
Yes that's right a family vacation in Nicaragua. This amazing country has something for everyone. I've been traveling to Nicaragua with my family for over 5 years. We've chilled out on the Pacific Coast in San Juan del Sur and some of the beaches a little further north like Playa Madera and Bahia Majagual. Our visit to Ometepe Island, which is home to the jaw dropping Conception Volcano, left us feeling like we had traveled back in time 50 years. We have studied Spanish in the mountain town of Esteli and visited other small towns throughout the north. Of all the places we have visited in Nicaragua our favorite place is the beautiful colonial city of Granada. Located on the shores of Lake Nicaragua (known by Nicaraguans as Lago Cocibolca) Granada's colonial architecture and striking location below Volcan Mombacho are only part of the reason that Granada makes for great family adventure travel.
Great photos of Granada
Granada is great for walking as most of the attractions are centered within a few blocks of the Central Park. If you don't feel like hoofing it yourself you can hop on one of the many horse drawn carriages waiting by Central Park and let the horses hoof it for you. It is a great way to see the many sites of the city in an hour or so and the price is very reasonable, we paid around ten dollars for a great city tour. Look for a horse that looks well cared for and let the driver know you picked his carriage because he takes good care of his horse.
Granada, Nicaragua Slideshow
Edit: Since writing this hub, I came across an excellent youtube slideshow of Granada. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so have a look. After watching the video, I wanted to go to Granada again. The guitar music in the background is nice too.
Where to begin? Granada is a place that attracts interesting people from all over the world. This has created a very diverse choice in restaurants. You can have a fantastic meal at a fraction of the cost it would be in the US or Europe. There are dining options for every budget. My favorite place is a pizza restaurant a block from Central Park called Tele Pizza. We have a large pizza, two beers and a coke for under 8 dollars. My son's favorite restaurant is the El Tercer Ojo. It offers vegetarian food, Spanish tapas, French crepes, Italian pastas, Thai and Hindu dishes. His favorite item on the menu is the Smoked Salmon and bagel. My wife's favorite restaurant in Granada is The Garden Cafe. Set in a lush courtyard complete with hammocks and a book library the hip owners have created a relaxed setting, but it is the great food that will have you wanting to come back for more.
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Like the restaurants in Granada, there is something for every budget. For the backpacking or budget minded, the hostels The Bearded Monkey and Hostel Oasis are good choices. Our favorite hotel is a lovely romantic boutique hotel. The hotel is owned by two sisters who were formerly US Peace Corps workers. One of the sisters, Terri is still very active and travels to war torn countries in relief efforts. The two sisters constructed the hotel in 2004 and most of the staff they hired then is still with them today. We always enjoy being greeted by name each time we return. The hotel is small with only nine rooms so you always feel like a special guest.
Activities in and Around Granada
Your children will not be bored in Granada whatever their age. There are so many activities to do in the area, any of the hotels in the area can arrange outings for you. The National Park of Volcan Mombacho has beautiful nature hikes as well as an incredible zip line experience. Lake Nicaragua which is the largest lake in Central America and 9th largest in the America's is home to Las Isletas, a grouping of 365 small islands just off the shore of Granada. These islands were all created by a great blast fromVolcan Mombacho. A pleasant boat tour allows for a relaxing afternoon. Don't forget bananas to feed the monkeys!
If you are in Granada in the spring an interesting activity for the family is to take in a game of baseball. The Granada Tiburons (Sharks) are part of the Nicaraguan pro league. It is great fun and the caliber of baseball is quite good. We watched a baseball playoff game in Granada in 2008 between Managua and the Sharks and it was a very good time. We bought seats behind home plate, had snacks and beer and pop for under $10 for all three of us. Just to go to the game and people watch is a hoot. The activity in the stands can be as much fun as on the field.
Laguna de Apoyo is a breathtaking crater lake just a short distance from Granada. You can be swimming in the crater half an hour after leaving your hotel room in Granada. We spent six days here and the feeling of being inside of a crater was omnipresent. The “white villages” located around the crater rim are very scenic and each of the little towns in the area is known for a particular trade. If you are in the mood for shopping, then Masaya is the place to go. The artisan market has handicrafts from all around Nicaragua as well as cultural performances once a week. Nearby is Volcan Masaya, an active volcano located in a national park. It offers a rare opportunity to get up close to a smoking crater without a long hike.
The Best Guidebook on Nicaragua
Okay, I am going to recommend a guidebook that I think is the best guidebook I have ever purchased. It is Moon Handbooks - Nicaragua. The book is written by Randy Wood and Joshua Berman. A couple of years ago I was staying at Terri and Nancy's hotel and they know Randy Wood. He came one evening and held an enlightened discussion on Nicaragua. I think Randy is a cool guy. His wife is from Nicaragua, so you know that this guidebook is written from the perspective of someone who knows the country inside and out. In the book he and Berman discuss ways you can make a difference to the community you are visiting. He is involved in improving the lives of the poor, you can check out his website http://therandymon.com/. He also is part of an organization called Amigos de Nicaragua http://www.amigosdenicaragua.org/ .
The beaches are within reach of Granada
San Juan del Sur is a great place to head to if you are looking for a little beach time during your trip to Nicaragua. It is an easy drive on good paved roads the whole way to San Juan del Sur. There are beaches just a few miles to the north of San Juan del Sur, that are excellent if you are into surfing. Bahai Majagual is a good place to rent surfboards and get a lesson.
Here is an excellent online guide to surfing: Learn How to Surf
With all of these activities surrounding Granada it would be easy to fill three of four days and still not fully explore the area. When traveling in Nicaragua you will be helping the people who can certainly use your tourist dollars and your money goes a lot further here. Once you experience the people, their culture and the incredible sights of Nicaragua you will want to visit again.