Cobblestoned streets are lined with varied, wallet-friendly shops owned by both expats and locals. Sample cold, fresh sweets made from raw, unpressed cacao beans at Momotombo on Parque Colón. Nearby at the Sultan Cigars' storefront (next to Hotel Alhambra), score a box of ten hand-rolled stogies for about $5. Pick up your own guayabera—the classic Latin four-pocket linen shirt—for under $30 at Guayaberas Nora (eighteen yards west of fire station, 418-505-2552-4617).
Consider the city's burgeoning art movement in the open-air gallery of La Casa de los Tres Mundos Foundation. Around the corner, buy and swap books, trade info, or sip a coconut-mango smoothie at Maverick’s (104 Calle El Arsenal; 505-8432-4724), the favored hangout of English-speaking residents.
Take your own private, sunset booze cruise around Las Isletas, the pretty archipelago of 365 small, lush islands in Lake Cocibolca. About 90 minutes before the sun goes down, grab a cab to the lakeside dock of the Restaurante La Cabaña Amarilla for $2. Negotiate a one-hour tour with the waiting boatmen (about $15 for two people). Get some beers and a loaner cooler from the restaurant.
Hotel El Club hosts a DJ-and-booze-fueled dance party on weekend nights. Or take it easy at Café Nuit (Calle La Libertad; 505-2552-7376), where live salsa pulses through the open-air courtyard and $7 buys you a 375ml bottle of Flor de Caña rum, a bottle of Coke, and some limes.