The best, eco-friendly activities for tourists, expats, kids, and groups
When I came to Nicaragua as a tourist in 2012, Granada was a sleepy colonial town. It was so beautiful and close to nature, I ended up staying and opening a business. What most people don’t realize is that those of us who live in Nicaragua also enjoy tourist activities in our spare time. In the rainy season, we hike, explore and tour the country. In this post, I’ve made a list of the best ecological activities in Granada. To make things even more informative, I’ve also put a link to an article from Karen Edwards, 2017 Travel Blogger of the year who stayed at Casa Lucia and wrote about her impressions of Granada. Scroll down to find the link.
- Kayaking Around 365 Tiny Islands of Lake Nicaragua. SUP or Stand Up Paddleboarding, is also possible with a local company – scroll down – another eco-friendly way to see the islands without consuming any gas. When my friend Megan from Bermuda visited a few months ago, we paddled around the archipelago of 365 tiny remote islands of Lake Nicaragua in a kayak.
The trip took us past tiny islets filled with mango trees, exotic bird species, and white-faced monkeys. One of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, Lake Nicaragua is home to the bull shark, a species that is now quite rare so you probably won’t see them during your tour. To get to the islands, you can use a local tour company. The standard price of most 2-hour kayaking tours is $25 US including pick up from your hotel. If you have basic Spanish, you can rent your own kayak at Cabana Maria or Inuit Kayak. Take a street taxi for $3 a person to the cabana and the boat operators can connect you there to a guide, not all are English speaking.
- The San Francisco Convento Museum & Bell Tower of La Merced Church Curious about the old antique doors you see on homes all over Granada? While you may not be able to get behind all of them, you can learn the history at the Convento San Francisco Museum.
The museum houses one of the best libraries and collections of indigenous painting and art in the region. It’s also home to a stunning garden courtyard with plants and flowers in the traditional design. After this, walk or hop into a street taxi to the Bell Tower of La Merced(El Timbre). Climb the tower and on the rooftop enjoy some of the best city views of Granada and Lake Nicaragua.
- Chocolate Addicts If you have an obsession with chocolate, you’ve come to the right place. Cacao the raw form of chocolate, or the beans, grow in Nicaragua. It’s actually really good for you before it is processed by brand name chocolate companies who fill it with additives and preservatives. In this class at the ChocoMuseo, you will roast the seeds, de-shell, and grind into a thick paste to make traditional Mayan chocolate drinks and chocolate bars. Just keep grinding, and the bean forms a thick paste. Add spices, milk and sugar. In one hour after refrigeration, you have your own personalized chocolate bar. The store sells plenty of chocolate gifts to take home, but keep in mind most of them need refrigeration.
- Hike a Cloud Forest. Volcano Mombacho is a nature lovers paradise. In its cloud forest, you can see howler monkeys, sloths and rare orchid species. It’s not possible to hike from the base to the top as the whole area is over 4,000 feet. Either go with a tour company or take a taxi to the volcano office. From there you will be transported to the coffee plantation at the mid-way point. If you are a hiker, the road will also take you to the peak but it’s a steep uphill 5.5km to the very top.
- Swim in a Crater Lake. The Laguna Apoyo is a beautiful and idyllic place to spend the day. Apoyo Lodge, a yoga retreat and wellness spa, located in the grounds of the Laguna, offers day passes to swim, relax and enjoy the lake. The Laguna is a freshwater lake, one of the cleanest and coolest in Central America, and is a protected nature reserve filled with rare marine, plant and animal life.
- Hot Lava at Volcano Masaya. If you have never been close to an active volcano, now is the time as there is nothing quite as spectacular as looking into a boiling lava pit. Masaya is not in Granada, but it’s only a 25-minute taxi drive. A pre-organized nighttime tour gives you the best options to see the red and yellow lava silhouetted against the black night sky. Mother nature is always unpredictable and at times the lava flows are low and smoky so keep that in mind. At other times you will a powerful, incandescent lava flow! Take a small mask for your mouth (protection from sulfur fumes) and a good pair of walking shoes.
In my next post I’ll write about my favourite restaurants in Granada, and why I consider them sustainable, the Pueblos Blancos or White Towns, just 20 minutes from Granada by bus and other impressions of how to live and travel sustainably in Nicaragua. Questions? Write to me here or via email, firstname.lastname@example.org.