Granada With Kids: An Overview
Located 50 km south of Nicaragua’s international airport in Managua (just over 1 hour by car), many families bypass the country’s capital and head directly to Granada to begin their holiday. Founded in 1524 by the Spanish, this vibrant lakeside city is steeped in colonial history and sits at the foot of Mombacho volcano – one of Nicaragua’s iconic landmarks.
I spent three glorious days here with my two children (8 and 7 years). As I was travelling without my husband, the plan was to take it easy and relax by our hotel pool. However, shortly after arriving my son bashed his head and had to have stitches. As he wasn’t allowed to get the stitches wet we were forced to find alternative entertainment. The cloud’s sliver lining came with the discovery of chocolate-making workshops, smoking volcanoes, zip lines over volcanic rainforests, boat trips and a lot more!
As a mum on my own, I also felt very safe in Granada with my kids. Despite being one of the poorest countries in Central America, Nicaragua is statistically one of the safest. It also helped to have a reliable driver who ferried us around during our time here (you can find his details at the end of this post).
Here follows my top 10 things to do in and around Granda with kids: 5 within the city itself and 5 in the surrounding area.
10 fun-filled things to see and do in #Granada with kids! #Nicaragua #FamilyTravel Click To Tweet
5 Things to do with kids in Granada
1. Explore the city in a horse-drawn carriage
First on the agenda should be a tour of the city in a horse-drawn carriage. Not only is it an easy and comfortable way to see the main sights of the city but also a fun way to learn about Granada’s long history.
For more information on this tour, see Nicaragua With Kids: A Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride around Granada.
2. Learn to make chocolate at the Choco Museo
Although Nicaragua has been growing cacao for centuries, it is only now that it is emerging as a world-class cocoa producer. The aim of the Choco Museo is to inform visitors about the history and production of chocolate. One of the kids’ highlights in Granada was their Bean to Bar workshop where they made their own chocolate bar from cocoa beans.
For more information on this class and to watch our video guide on how to make chocolate see Nicaragua With Kids: Charlie and the Choco Museo, Granada
3. Match your shirt to the buildings!
I discovered that exploring the cobbled streets of Granada on foot is a lot more fun for kids if you ask them to find buildings that match an item of clothing they are wearing! The remarkable thing is that no matter what they wear, they will nearly always find a building that matches the exact shade of their tshirt, such is the vibrancy of Granada’s streets.
The town itself is pretty small and can be easily covered on foot. If you are travelling with babies and toddlers, I’d leave the stroller behind though and bring your sling / backpack baby carrier instead (unless you have a four-wheel drive buggy that can navigate cobbles and broken pavements).
4. Climb a bell tower
Many tourist guides recommend climbing the bell tower of Iglesia La Merced, which I agree offers spectacular views of the city and is worth the climb. However a recent policy now prohibits children under 11 from going up it. You’ll understand why when you see its tiny spiral staircase! A good alternative is the bell tower in the main Cathedral for a parakeet’s eye view over Parque Central and beyond (see Instagram photo above).
5. Cool off poolside!
When booking a hotel in Granada, I strongly advise families to pick a hotel with a swimming pool. Nicaragua is hot all year round and if your kids are anything like mine, there comes a point when they’ve walked up one too many bell towers! Just remind them not to bash their head in the pool, at least not on the first day, por favor!
We stayed in Hotel Plaza Colon which provided a welcome retreat when little legs started to tire and tempers began to fray. As we visited during the Easter holidays, there were a handful of other families staying too and every afternoon we would convene together around the pool with smoothies and cupcakes!
*Note: Hotel Plaza Colon are offering globetotting families a special discount. You can find the promo code here.
5 Things to do with kids surrounding Granada.
6. Mombacho Volcano
Looming high above the city of Granada is Mombacho volcano, one of Nicaragua’s most distinguished landmarks. Although officially active, Mombacho’s last eruption was in 1570. The volcano has four craters, all shrouded in misty cloud forest. Located approximately 15km south of Granada’s city centre (20 minutes by car) the volcano is easy to access and offers the following adventures:
Hiking at Mombacho
Mombacho volcano has three hiking trails:
1) El Crater (1.5hrs) : A moderate trail that circles the main crater. You can walk it with or without a guide, although we recommend having one. Liisa Vexler and her family did this hike wrote about their experience here.
2) El Tigrillo (2.5hrs): Challenging. Certified guide required.
3) El Puma (4 hrs): Very challenging. Certified guide essential.
All the hikes begin with a jeep ride up the steep side of the volcano, through coffee plantations on the lower slopes to the cloud forest above. The views of Granada and Lake Nicaragua from the top are magnificent … apparently! We ‘zipped’ across the volcano instead (see below). The air is also cooler at the top so it’s worth bringing extra layers, especially for kids.
Zipping at Mombacho
Another way to see Mombacho is by zipping across the rainforest canopy. As a family we have enjoyed a number of zip lines in Central America and the kids rate this as their favourite zip to date. The circuit covers 2km of forest and includes 17 platforms, 11 cables and 3 rope bridges. The children particularly enjoyed the cables where they could fly like Superman, bounce like a yoyo and – gasp! – zip upside down. They are a lot braver than me! The team were fantastic with our kids and full of enthusiasm. This was just the post-hospital tonic my son needed.
- Duration of tour: 1.5 hours.
- Children under 8 years can do the tour strapped to a guide.
- They allow children over 2 years and adults with reasonable fitness up to 70 years (*but please double check this with them directly at time of booking)
- Pregnant women are not permitted on this tour.
- Wear: Shorts or long trousers and closed shoes.
- Bring: mosquito repellent, suncream and water.
- Email: canopymiravalle [at] yahoo.com. However the majority of people (including ourselves) book through an agent or hotel, or which there are many in Granada.
7. Cruising Las Isletas of Lake Nicaragua
When Mombacho Volcano erupted thousands of years ago, it blew a lot of its debris into Lake Nicaruga, creating hundreds of small islands. These islets, Las Isletas, are also easy to access from Granada (roughly 5km from the city centre) and are fun to explore, either by boat or kayak.
For more information on Granada’s Isletas, see Nicaragua With Kids: A Boat Tour of Las Isletas, Granada
8. Pottery, Markets and an Active Volcano
Located between Granada and the capital city of Managua (roughly 30 mins by car from Granada), the small town of Masaya is famous for its handicrafts and its National Park for its active volcano. A number of local tour operators run half-day tours from Granada that include the following sights and experiences:
- Masaya Volcano: Peering into the crater of an active, smoking volcano!
- Catalina Mirador: A scenic coffee break overlooking the beautiful crater lake of Apoyo
- The Artisan’s Market: Shopping in one of the best handicraft markets in the region
- San Juan de Oriente: Learning to cast a clay pot as they did in the pre-Columbian times
For more information on this tour, see Nicaragua With Kids: Smoking Volcanoes in Masaya
9. Lake Apoyo
Lake Apoyo was formed some 23,000 years ago after the volcano erupted, leaving a vast crater that, over time, filled with water. Sandwiched between Masaya Volcano and Granada, this scenic lagoon is easy to access by car and is a wonderful place for families to spend the day.
The glassy lake waters are warm and clear year-round, making it an ideal spot for kayaking and swimming. There are a number of lakeside restaurants and clubs that offer access to the lake, most of which sit adjacent to each other and charge a small day fee.
To find out which club we recommend, see Nicaragua With Kids: Swimmig inside a Volcano
10. Saddle up for a Sunset Horse Ride
One of the best ways to see Granada’s surrounding countryside is in the saddle. Painted Pony offer two horse riding tours: a Morning Tour (3 hours) and a Sunset Tour (1 hour), the latter being more suitable for beginners. As they only permit kids of 10 years and older, we were unable to experience it personally, but you can read their (‘excellent’) reviews on Tripadvisor.
Where to stay in Granada
How to get around Granada
We used the local taxi and tour company, Favio Travels as we had developed a good rapport with one of their drivers, Pablo, on our first afternoon in Granada. He was one of the friendliest people we met in Nicaragua and the kids loved him.
Watch our Video Series, Nicaragua with Kids
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