What are Granada’s Isletas?
When Mombacho Volcano erupted thousands of years ago it blew large chunks of its cone into Lake Nicaragua, creating hundreds of small islands, known today as Las Isletas. Positioned roughly 5km from Granada’s centre, these islets are easy to access and fun to explore, either by boat or kayak. As my son was recovering from a minor head injury we were under doctor’s orders not to get his wound wet. Boating it was to be then!Ahoy Matey! Take a family-friendly boat tour of 'Las Isletas' in #Nicaragua #FamilyTravel Click To Tweet
Take a video tour of Las Isletas!
Exploring Las Isletas by boat
Boats hold around ten people each although when we visited we were lucky enough to have one all to ourselves. After leaving the quay, boats spread themselves out, weaving their way at a leisurely pace around the many islets.
As I was solo parenting during our time in Granada, I was thankful for an activity that was instantly calming for all three of us. The children sat at the front of the boat in silence, sedated by the natural beauty and the gentle whirr of the boat’s engine. It was also the meditative tonic required to soothe frayed nerves after my son’s hospital visit the previous day!
Life & Wildlife on Las Isletas
Lake Nicaragua, or Lago Cocibolca (its indigenous name) is a freshwater lake and the largest in Central America. Although geographically it’s closer to the Pacific Ocean, its waters flow into the Caribbean via the Rio San Juan. Historically, this provided an important transcontinental trade route for the Spanish.
Today the islets are home to hundreds of birds including cormorants, parrots, hawks, jays and herons. Some are also inhabited by local fisherman and, in stark contrast, wealthy businesspersons who have built their weekend retreats here.
One eyebrow-raising fact we learned is that the lake is also home to bull sharks! Somewhat remarkably these sharks migrate up the Rio San Juan (a distance of 180km), leaping up river rapids like salmon and adapting to the freshwater of the lake. Although bull sharks are considered unpredictable and dangerous to humans, the reality is that sightings are few and far between. In the 1960s and 70s, the Japanese owned a shark-fin processing plant on Rio San Juan that virtually wiped out the species. In any case, I personally would think twice about swimming in its waters!
The Pirates of Lake Nicaragua
Back in the Golden Age of Piracy, these islets became a launching pad for pirates to attack Granada. Today, there is one island in particular that still serves as a springboard for raids: La Isla de Los Monos (Monkey Island). Its inhabitants – deceptively cute spider monkeys – lie in overhanging branches waiting to ambush tourist boats beneath them.
As we approached the island, a couple of them surprised us by leaping across the water onto the bow of our boat. Unlike Henry Morgan and friends, ‘Lucy’ and ‘Lucito’ (as our boat captain referred to them as) were surprisingly gentle. The captain proffered a handful of gold(en crackers) in their direction, much to the children’s amusement. I don’t know if this experience falls under ‘responsible tourism’ but in any case it was an unforgettable highlight for the kids.
How to book a boat tour of Las Isletas
If you are not booking through an agent most hotels in Granada can arrange these tours for you. Alternatively you can take a taxi to the quayside (about 5-10 minutes drive from the city centre) and book directly.
Tours are usually 1-hour but for an extra charge you can arrange to stop off on one of the islands for lunch.
Rates: Rates vary from agent to agent and from hotel to hotel but generally start from around $15-20 per person per hour.
Tip! If you want to beat the heat, book a tour first thing in the morning. We left around 8am, and were back in our hotel by 9:30.
Shiver me timbers! Enjoy a family-friendly boat tour of 'Las Isletas' in #Nicaragua #FamilyTravel Click To Tweet
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