17 Best Things to Do In Granada, Nicaragua

Bursting with color and historic neoclassical structures, Granada, Nicaragua is a dream. Just one hour outside of Managua, you’ll find the small city nestled in the shadow of Mombacho Volcano. Rich in history, surrounded by natural wonders, and centrally located for endless day trips, this Central American hidden gem has something for everyone. But what are the BEST things to do in Granada?

You could spend weeks here and only scratch the surface of all this charming colonial city has to offer. Luckily, we’ve narrowed down the list for you. 

Here are the 17 BEST things to do in Granada, Nicaragua:

Climb the Cathedral Bell Towers

Granada Cathedral view from bell tower

If you’ve ever looked up pictures of Granada, Nicaragua, you’ve probably seen the iconic red and yellow Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción. Popularly known as Granada Cathedral, this church is a must-visit in Nicaragua.

First built in 1525, the Cathedral is a stunning neoclassical structure that dominates the city skyline. Climb to the choir loft for a better view of the elaborately painted ceilings, or drop $2 and ascend the steep spiral staircase to the top for an unbeatable view of Granada.

HN Hint: On your way up the tower, pose in one of the round windows for a unique photo op. 

Granada Cathedral may be the cornerstone, but don’t let it steal all the attention. If you’re looking for more things to do in Granada, Iglesia La Merced is a baroque beauty with a bell tower that offers spectacular sunset views. (Just make sure you start the ascent before it closes at 5:15pm).

Sunset over Iglesia La Merced bell tower in Granada, Nicaragua
Credit: @kwongeroo

If you have time, be sure to check out churches Iglesia Xalteva and Iglesia Guadalupe for more incredible architecture.

Make Your Own Chocolate Bar at ChocoMuseo

ChocoMuseo Cafe sign

If you are bringing kids on your trip to Nicaragua, then you have to stop by the interactive Granada ChocoMuseo. This free museum is all about everyone’s favorite food: chocolate!

Tours are available every day in English and Spanish. The friendly guides will walk you through the life of a chocolate bar from start to finish. They teach you all about the history of chocolate and how to roast, peel, and grind the cacao into a paste. You’ll even get to see and touch real cacao beans and pods.

For the best experience, we highly recommend booking the ChocoMuseo Bean to Bar Workshop. Offered every day at 11am and 3pm, this two-hour activity lets you make your very own chocolate bar. You get to pick between milk and dark chocolate, then customize it from your choice of over 15 different flavors. You’ll also have the chance to sample chocolate drinks inspired by the Mayans (including alcoholic versions for adults!). The entire event will run you around $25 per person. 

Short on time? Try the 45-minute mini workshop.

HN Hint: Don’t wander too far after the tour. Factor in another hour once the workshop ends to pick up your chocolate when it’s ready. We recommend grabbing lunch in Granada while you wait. 

Cacao bean pod

Looking for a day trip? The ChocoMuseo also offers an off-site tour to the Hacienda los Malecos cacao, coffee, and plantain farm. This activity includes lunch, exotic bird watching by rowboat, and a guided farm tour by horseback or walking. If you’re lucky, you might meet a monkey! The immersive experience runs daily from 8:30am to 1pm, and will cost you $69 per person.

Grab Street Food at Parque Central

View of Parque Central in Granada, Nicaragua

No vacation is complete without a taste of the local eats. If you want to try authentic Nicaraguan food, look no further than the street vendors in Granada’s scenic Parque Central

Located right outside Catedral de Granada, this picturesque park is a vibrant hangout for city residents and tourists alike. By day, you’ll find people relaxing on benches shaded by manicured trees and old men playing chess. By night, the space comes alive with couples and teens passing through to go out on the town. 

Gazebo in Parque Central Granada Nicaragua
Credit: @silvi_art2

HN Hint: Parque Central is also known as Parque Colón

Head to the carts set up in the corners of Parque Central to sample a Granada specialty: Vigorón. Served in a banana leaf, this delicacy is a blend of soft yuca root, cabbage slaw, and crispy chicharrones (pork rinds). 

HN Hint: Look for this woman, known by locals as “La Abuela,” in El Mercado for the best vigorón. 

Nicaraguan man buying street food in Granada

The combination might sound strange, but don’t knock it ’til you try it—it’s famous for a reason. The vinegar in the salad blends magnificently with the sweet yuca, and the fried chicharrones tie the city’s signature dish together with a satisfying crunch. The whole thing will only set you back about $2. Dive in with your hands or use a fork.

Granada’s Central Park also features merchants selling artisan crafts. Stop by the stalls ringing the square if you’re looking for handcrafted souvenirs like jewelry or trinkets.

Pose for a Picture at the Lake Nicaragua LOVE sign

Nicaraguan man posing with Love sculpture in Granada

A cool feature of Granada is its proximity to the lake. Sitting on the shores of Lago Cocibolca, city dwellers can reach the water’s edge in just 15 minutes. You can walk out onto the largest lake in Central America by heading to the colorful Granada Pier.

On your way to the pier, you will pass through a tropical square called Parque Azul. Here you’ll find palm trees, lush flowers, and even horses grazing along the coast. But what you really want to look for is the iconic LOVE sign

HN Hint: The statue in Parque Azul depicts Spanish conquistador Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, who claimed ownership to Granada in 1523.

Acclaimed artist Robert Indiana’s famous red sculpture is a great spot for a Granada photo op. Find it between the park and the pier.

Take a Boat Cruise Through the Isletas de Granada

Isletas de Granada on Lake Nicaragua

If you’re down by Granada pier, there is one activity you absolutely cannot miss: the Isletas de Granada.

These natural wonders were formed 20,000 years ago by a volcanic eruption. Flung across Lake Nicaragua, the 365 islets are today occupied by exotic wildlife, fishermen, and some of the country’s wealthiest inhabitants. 

HN Hint: You can rent out a private islet for an overnight stay at one of the luxury hotels that have been developed on Lake Nicaragua.

Young woman on boat tour of Isletas de Granada

Taking a boat tour through the maze of volcanic islets is an unforgettable experience. With Mombacho Volcano looming in the background and parrots flying overhead, you’ll learn all about the ancient archipelago while immersing yourself in an enchanting jungle cruise.

HN Hint: Bring a banana to feed Lucy, the friendly monkey who climbs aboard boats! You’ll see snacks are sold at the Fort of San Pablo islet stop for this very reason. 

White faced capuchin monkey on a boat in Nicaragua
Credit: @_.today_is_a_good_day._

If you’re up for it, you can also kayak through the Islets of Granada instead of riding in a boat. This serene two to three hour adventure will bring you face to face with the many tropical birds and monkeys that inhabit the region. It’s more physically demanding, but Lake Nicaragua is a beautiful place to paddle.

HN Hint: Some places in this area charge around 10 córdoba ($0.30) to use their restrooms. Bring small bills if you anticipate needing a toilet before or after the tour.

To get there, hail a taxi to Terraza Las Palmas or sign up for an organized tour that includes roundtrip transportation. Expect to spend around $40 for a one-hour guided ride in the 8-person boat (per group, not per person), or $25 per person for a kayaking trip.

Take Colorful Street Photography

One of the best things to do in Granada is 100% free: snapping shots of the city’s iconic rainbow facades

Nicaragua is famous for its many-hued streets. Hot pink houses with turquoise doors aren’t unusual here. As you walk through Granada, hunt for the details that set this vibrant city apart. 

Orange wall with toucan door in Granada, Nicaragua
Credit: @silvi_art2

A painting of toucans on a pair of puertas. An intricate archway design. Lime-green columns set against a yellow building. Once you start looking, you’ll find it hard to stop. 

HN Hint: Walk along Calle La Libertad for a seriously stunning door tour.

Granada is a photographer’s playground. There’s no shortage of opportunities for creative frames or authentic street portraits. 

Woman posing in front of pink wall in Granada, Nicaragua
Credit: @tainabenitez.co

And if you’re not a professional artist? This is one seriously Instagrammable city. Pick out a bright outfit and get ready to create some eye-catching content.

Roll Your Own Cigar at Mombacho Cigar Factory 

Nicaraguan cigar resting on top of Flor de Cana rum glass

Whether you smoke a pack a day or you’ve never touched tobacco in your life, touring the Mombacho Cigar Factory is easily one of the best things to do in Granada, Nicaragua. 

This is no industrial plant. The factory is set inside a repurposed Spanish colonial mansion in the heart of Granada. The canary yellow building, “Casa de Mario Favilli,” was designed and occupied by an Italian architect in 1925 and retains many of its original features today. Visitors are greeted by a grand marble staircase, al fresco courtyard, and intricate handmade tiles.

Like the idea of holding a handmade cigar in one hand and a glass of 18-year aged rum in the other? Then you’ll want to check out the Mombacho Cigar Factory lounge. With a full Flor de Caña rum bar, in-house roasted Nicaraguan coffee, and no shortage of smokes, this is the ultimate tasting room.

Want to roll the cigar yourself? Take a factory tour and opt for the workshop add-on. You’ll learn the process and technique of cigar making, see the humidor aging room, and go home with your very own case of Mombacho Cigars to keep or gift to a friend. At just $14 per person for the full package or $4 for the factory tour alone, even non-smokers can’t pass up this awesome experience in Granada.

HN Hint: Cigar enthusiasts should consider visiting Nicaragua for Puro Sabor Festival del Tabaco, an annual cigar festival held each January that starts in Granada and ends in the northern city of Estelí. *This event is currently virtual due to COVID.

View of Granada, Nicaragua from Mombacho Cigar Factory rooftop

Anticipate spending around 2 hours at Casa Favilli, and countless more relaxing on the rooftop terrace. Mombacho Cigar Factory boasts one of the best aerial views of Granada and the nearby volcano after which it was named. You can visit any weekday from 9AM to 4:30PM.

Eat Ice Cream at La Gelateria

Nicaraguan man smiling and holding ice cream in Granada

Move over, Rome. Granada, Nicaragua is the new place to go for artisan gelato. 

La Gelateria is a cute little corner shop that will satisfy all your ice cream cravings on steamy afternoons. This local gelato parlor is located right off of Calle La Calzada, a popular stretch of eateries. Here you can get all the classic flavors you know and love, plus tropical fruit varieties like pitaya. 

HN Hint: Ice cream isn’t your thing? Gelateria Granada also offers crepes and smoothies.

Granada weather can get hot and humid, and gelato is the sweetest way to cool off. Every time I’m in the city, I find myself at La Gelateria one way or another. At just $1 a scoop, it’s hard not to keep coming back. 

Check Out the Stone Carvings at Convento de San Francisco

Convento de San Francisco in Granada, Nicaragua

Are you an art aficionado? Then you have to make time for the Convento de San Francisco. This 16th century convent and museum has been rebuilt several times over the years, and today is home to historical paintings and thousand-year-old artifacts. 

HN Hint: You will also hear it called the Centro Cultural Convento San Francisco.

The highlight of Convento de San Francisco’s exhibits has to be the volcanic stone statues from Isla Zapatera. Traced back to as early as 800 AD, this collection is attributed to the Indigenous tribes of pre-colonial times. It’s a rare look at early Nicaraguan art forms that is well worth a visit for anthropology buffs.

Nicaraguan Mural in Convento de San Francisco

The museum also features murals depicting the history of Granada, eccentric religious and folk paintings, arte primitivista, 12th century pottery, a scale model of the city and Granada Cathedral, and much more. Learn all about Granada’s history and Nicaraguan ceremonies, then relax in the museum’s peaceful Spanish courtyard.

HN Hint: Aim to visit on a Sunday so that you can get a glimpse into the adjoining Iglesia San Francisco, Granada’s oldest church.

You can spot the large white monastery on Calle Arsenal. It is open to the public from 8AM to 5PM on weekdays and 9AM to 4PM on weekends. The scant $5 entry fee includes a bilingual guide who will shed light on the displays (please consider tipping on this complimentary service).

Go Shopping at El Mercado

Street market in Granada, Nicaragua
Credit: @wat_wanderings

Forgot something? No worries. El Mercado in Granada, Nicaragua has anything you could possibly need. 

Otherwise known as Mercado Municipal, this bustling street market is a hectic hub of haggling locals. Here you can find massive avocados and plantain bunches, endless tables of socks and t-shirts, giant baskets of beans, and stacks of toiletry essentials. Birthday balloons are even sold by some merchants.

HN Hint: Find local eats in the back of the market, like Comedor Chayito.

Just be prepared: this is no air conditioned mall. The market vendors are set up in close quarters, and things can get pretty loud. But if you’re up for a truly immersive Nicaraguan experience, chaotic El Mercado can be a fun place to go.

Take a Break in Historic Parque Xalteva

Iglesia Xalteva in Granada, Nicaragua

If you end up on the western side of the Granada city center, take a water break in Parque Xalteva. This quaint little park is packed with history dating back to colonial times. 

During the period of colonization, native Nicaraguans were not permitted to enter the city. Instead, they formed their own settlement in the Xalteva neighborhood. Situated on the old demarcation line between the Spanish and Indigenous communities, Parque Xalteva serves as a reminder of the time of segregation in Granada. The original wall that divided the two populations in 1751 still stands in the park today.

Parque Xalteva bench in Granada, Nicaragua

Recently revitalized, Parque Xalteva now features lovely floral landscaping while retaining its unique original stonework. This is a great spot to relax and take in the magnificent baroque façade of Iglesia de Xalteva across the street. 

If you are interested in learning more about Granada’s colonial history, hire a guide who can bring the park’s past alive. You can book one through the tour operators set up in Plaza de la Independencia behind the Granada Cathedral.

See the City in a Horse-drawn Carriage

View from horse drawn carriage ride in Granada, Nicaragua

Want to see all of Granada but don’t have the physical stamina for it? A carriage tour might be the perfect activity for you.

Lining Ave Vega, the street along the western edge of Parque Central, the traditional coches are easily spotted. These colorful carriages are pulled by a pair of horses that are often adorned with ribbons and flowers. 

The tour will take you through all the historic landmarks and highlights of Granada. You’ll get to see the brightly-painted colonial homes and churches, old forts and monuments, and hustle and bustle of the cobblestone city streets all from the comfort of a shaded seat. 

The ride is a romantic one: the traditional style of the coches takes you back in time to the early days of Granada, when horse-drawn carriages were the only way to navigate Nicaragua.

Young woman in horse carriage in Granada, Nicaragua

HN Hint: If there are specific places you really want to see, tell the driver. Unless you name a preference, they’ll set the route.

Bringing a guide along will enhance your experience, but you can freely approach any of the 30 drivers yourself and ask to climb aboard. There’s no need to reserve a spot ahead of time. You can choose between a 30-minute ride for $5 or a full hour for $10. Each covered carriage holds up to 4 people.

HN Hint: Plan your coche de caballos tour around sunset to see Granada lit up by golden hour rays.

Hang Out on Calle La Calzada

Calle La Calzada street at night, Granada Nicaragua
Credit: @silvi_art2

To find the heartbeat of Granada, look no further than Calle La Calzada. Granada’s colorful main street is a cultural hub. Here you’ll find outdoor restaurants and bars, boutique shops and hotels, and plenty of live music. The cobblestoned pedestrian thoroughfare is illuminated by string lights, and manicured trees line the walkway.

Street performer on Calle La Calzada in Granada, Nicaragua

Calle La Calzada comes alive at night. Peddlers hawk goods and street performers breakdance tableside. Karaoke isn’t out of the question. Couples dance bachata and cumbia in the street, and buckets of cold cervezas come cheap. The majestic Granada Cathedral serves as a backdrop to all the action. 

Spending the evening hanging out on Calle La Calzada is one of our favorite things to do in Granada. Nothing beats sitting outside on a warm night with a plate of fried flautas and a bottle of Victoria Clásica, absorbing all the good energy. You don’t want to miss this Nicaraguan gem.

HN Hint: Calle La Calzada is fun for dining, but not so much for sleeping. Light sleepers may want to find lodging a few blocks away from this main street, which can get noisy at night.

Side street next to Granada Cathedral at sunset

It’s easy to reach La Calzada street. Walk through Parque Central in the direction of Lake Nicaragua. You’ll quickly come across the bright boulevard. 

Chances are, you’ll hear Calle La Calzada before you see it. Let the lights lead you, and sit down anywhere to be served food and drinks.

Party At A Club

Bartender pouring rum at a club

It wouldn’t be a city without nightlife. Granada isn’t known for its club scene (that title goes to Managua), but it does have several fun options for those looking to go out drinking. 

Encuentros Club on La Calzada street is one of them. This converted Spanish colonial home is a nightclub that doubles as an inn. Most of the action takes place in the open-air inner courtyard, where guests drink Nicaraguan rum around a swimming pool. With good music and strong drinks, Encuentros is a popular Granada club for a reason. You can also stop by before the sun goes down to sip mojitos from gorgeous rooftop views. 

If you want a bigger venue, Level One is a hot new discoteca that’s always packed. This spot has more of a rave feel, with pulsating beats and neon lights. If you like to get dressed up when you go out, then this club is a great move for you. The trendy space is also located on Calle La Calzada.

Front of Selina hotel in Granada, Nicaragua

Not your speed? Lots of hostels in Granada throw weekend parties. The Selina across from Parque Central hosts one every other Saturday that’s free for guests. On Calle La Libertad, The Townhouse also has parties every Friday night, plus shuttles to booze cruises and offsite raves. Oasis Hostal offers pub crawls, and The Madhouse runs a karaoke night with free shots.

Remember, Granada is a small city. It doesn’t have the nightlife of Miami or Ibiza, so don’t expect to find massive multi-level clubs. But tequila shots cost less than a dollar in Nicaragua, so if you want a fun night out, you really can’t go wrong.

Visit the Granada Cemetery

Granada cemetery in Nicaragua
 
It might sound morbid, but Granada has a beautiful cemetery that serves as the final resting place for many famous Nicaraguans. Marble tombs and mausoleums are embellished with intricate carvings and statues that are worth the walkthrough by themselves. Wander through the sprawling cemetery with reverence to appreciate historical figures in Granada.
 

Tour an Art Gallery

 

Granada has a small but impressive art scene. Running perpendicular to Calle La Calzada on Avenida Miguel Cervantes Savedra, you’ll find an art gallery, a cultural center called Casa de los Tres Mundos, and even a restaurant called Café de Arte

Stop in to see the artwork, or sign up for a painting workshop.

Take a Day Trip 

Masaya Volcano parking lot

One of the many wonderful features of Granada is its prime location. The city is in close range to many of Nicaragua’s top outdoor adventures. If you need a break from urban living or simply want to explore the country’s natural beauty, then Granada is the ideal home base for day trips.

In just over an hour, you can be ziplining through a cloud forest amongst the sloths and toucans at Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve

Woman staring up at Mombacho volcano jungle wall in Nicaragua
Credit: @simojuulborring

In 40 minutes, you can be standing on the edge of an active volcano at Masaya National Park

(NOTE: Check for closures due to recently elevated activity)

Man looking out at Masaya Volcano lava at night

In 30 minutes, you can be listening to marimba players as you take in the panoramic views of Mirador de Catarina

Mirador de Catarina, Nicaragua

In 20 minutes, you can be diving into a 23,000 year old crater lake at Apoyo Lagoon

HN Hint: Take a night tour of Masaya Volcano for an electric view of the crater’s bubbling lava lake.

Lava glowing at night in Masaya Volcano

Reaching any of these destinations is easy enough. There are several ways to take a day trip from Granada:

Painted chicken bus in Nicaragua destined for Jalapa

If you want to get there by yourself, you can hail a taxi or save a few bucks and take a public chicken bus

HN Hint: A “chicken bus” doesn’t actually carry chickens. It’s just the name for decommissioned U.S. school buses that have been sent south and are now used as painted public buses in Nicaragua. 

Depending on where you are staying, many hotels in Granada also offer shuttles to popular destinations for a small fee. 

For the full-service experience, you can find tour operators like Abdalah Tours, Tierra Tours, and Danny’s Tour open for business in kiosks on Calle La Calzada. They will take care of your entire Granada day trip from start to finish at reasonable rates.

Conclusion

There are so many amazing things to do in Granada, Nicaragua. 

Whether you like to plan an itinerary down to the minute or prefer to see where the road takes you, you’ll find there is no shortage of adventure here.

Pack your bag, and get ready to discover new wonders around every corner in Granada. 

Meet your Tour Guides

Hola! We’re Gail & Luis, a team of two with a deep love for Nicaragua. Luis, a professional tour guide, is the knowledgeable source behind the blog. Gail, an American writer, is the voice. 

We started this blog as a way to stay connected from afar and support Nicaragua in our own small way.

Today, our mission is to open hearts and minds to the wonders of Nicaragua and make it easier than ever to start planning your trip.

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Diana
Diana
7 months ago

Amazing coverage! I look forward to my upcoming visit even more now thanks to your wonderful reportage. Thank you and all the best.

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