1. Where to Stay
Do a good deed when you stay at the Hotel con Corazón (from $48), where all profits go to local education. Have a cocktail by the pool or catch the breeze in a large, locally made hammock in the courtyard.
Ten-month-old Casa Silas B&B (from $45) is a pretty, refurbished colonial home with just two rooms, which means extra-personalized service from the Canadian owners (and their pup, Silas). Soak in the small, sunny pool while you wait for your cooked-to-order breakfast.
Reserve one of the second-story rooms at the Hotel Plaza Colon (from $109) to score a terrace overlooking Parque Colón (a.k.a. Parque Central). See the leafy heart of Granada from your rocking chair, the favorite seat of Nicaraguans everywhere.
2. Where to Eat
Cheap eats abound on Calle La Calzada, Granada’s restaurant row. The best traditional Nicaraguan fare —pupusas, $3; or Indio Viejo (meat stew with local cheese and plantain), $2.60—is at Comidas Tipicas y Mas (from Parque Colón, first on right).
A high-end French meal at Jardin d’Orion (Calle Caimito, south end of Parque Colón; 505-8429-6494) won’t set you back more than $75 for two (a three-course meal with wine pairing). The colonial building is newly renovated, but the lush garden is a more romantic setting.
Drink enough sangria to forget the past at Doña Conchi (Calle Caimito de la Alcadia, #413; 505-2552-7376). In between tapas courses, examine the bullet holes in the wall. They’re supposedly from the attempted execution of a wannabe American conqueror in 1858.
3. What to Do
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.
4. Insider’s Tip
Take a twenty-minute, $10 cab ride to Laguna de Apoyo, where you can cool off in a freshwater volcanic-crater lagoon. Skip the Monkey Hut and its $6 “admission fee,” and instead ask your driver to drop you off at the free public-access area just past the hostel’s entrance. Cheap beers and fresh fish await.
5. Oddball Day
Rent a bike from Eco Expedition Tours ($1 per hour; 201 Calle La Calzada) for the breezy ten-minute commute to Lake Cocibolca. Take a half-day lesson at the country’s only sailing school, Velago Nicaragua (two hours, $50 for four people). On your way back to town, snack on a veggie-curry crêpe ($3.20) at the Nectar Café (Calle La Calzada, 505-2552-6095). If the Granada Tiburones are playing at home (ask at your hotel), get a ticket for the night game ($0.75–$2.50). Take a taxi to El Estadio “Flor de Caña” Roque T. Zavala (Calle La Immaculada) and be sure to go hungry — the food vendors are half the point. Pair the vigorónes (yucca, chicharron, and spicy cabbage salad in a banana leaf; $1) with a cold can of Toña, and watch the next Dennis Martínez throw a no-hitter.
The writers of the Moon Handbooks’ guide to Nicaragua operate GoToNicaragua; the forum is especially helpful for having your questions answered by other travelers and the authors themselves.
ViaNica.com is a comprehensive online guide to Nicaragua, with hotel, restaurant, activity, and background information for Granada and other areas.
The new bilingual underground-arts-and-culture mag Hecho created by two Managua-based American designers, is downloadable online.