As we neared the end of our trip to Nicaragua, there were still a handful of places we wanted to visit. We were down to only 3 days though, so we decided to head for Granada because we had heard good things from other travelers we met and it is close enough to Managua that we could get to the airport by taxi on our last day. Granada is a traditional colonial town with beautiful, old architecture and rich culture. We were excited to learn a bit more about Nicaragua.
We arrived after dark via the aforementioned Tica Bus without a hotel reservation for the night. On the bus ride, I had called a couple of places and, doing the best I could in Spanish, tried to arrange a room. The first place I called offered a rate that was more than double what we saw online so we decided to keep looking. It turned out that the online rate was per person, despite the fact that it was for a “double room.” That is something to watch out for when traveling internationally; hotel prices often vary depending on the number of people. The next place I called looked really nice and the man on the phone, who spoke no English at all, was able to tell me that they did have rooms available but he needed to call the manager to make the reservation. After a rather stilted conversation I figured out that he was going to call the manager to actually come in and meet us at the hotel when we arrived.
When we got off the Tica Bus we were on a fairly dark, mostly residential, street. We were soon greeted by an American who introduced himself and explained that he ran a hostel down the road. We told him we had arranged for a room at a hotel, Casa Lucia, and he helped us with directions and assured us that it was safe to walk around town at night. He also told us that he ran day trips from his hostel to various attractions just outside town, including Laguna Apoyo which we had planned to visit. He invited us to just let him know if we wanted to participate and he would arrange space in the van. We quickly went from feeling a bit disconcerted about where we were and what we were doing to feeling confident and excited to be in this new place.
We made our way to Casa Lucia which was situated on a quiet, residential street just outside the busier city center. The face of the hotel is a simple blue wall with a gate and a small sign to let you know where you are. When we arrived, the man I spoke with on the phone was there to greet us and let us in. He said the manager would be there soon and he showed us around the property a bit. We were in awe at how beautiful, and large, the property was. The quaint facade did not portray what we found inside. When you first walk in you are greeted with a welcoming seating area and a bar hosting local beer and cocktails. As you continue down the narrow path, you pass an on-site rented apartment on one side and a guest room on the other. Then you step out into an open area which contains a stunning pool, an outdoor yoga studio, a kitchen, and multiple seating areas. From here you can look up and see the rest of the guest rooms as well as a rooftop patio complete with hammock.
Needless to say, we were glad we made the extra effort to find this place. When the manager arrived, she showed us two available rooms and we picked one which had a king-size bed and was big and open with vaulted ceilings. It was truly luxurious. After the necessary paperwork, we put our stuff down, freshened up a bit, and headed out for a late dinner. El Zaguan is a steakhouse which was recommended to us and we were pleased to find a great atmosphere and a mix of locals and tourists. We ordered a pitcher of sangria, which was delicious, and each of us ordered a steak. The food was divine. We both agreed it was definitely the best steak we’d had in Central America and even some of the best anywhere. We came home to Casa Lucia that night happy and ready for a good night’s rest.
The next morning we woke up feeling great, ready for another exciting day. We went downstairs where there was fresh coffee and a cook in the kitchen ready to make us breakfast. We both ordered the classic Nicaraguan breakfast: Gallo pinto and eggs. It was also served with fresh fruit, juice, bread, and jam. Everything was delicious and we both thought it was the best gallo pinto we’d had. The cook was actually from the Corn Islands so we got to talking about our visit there and it turns out he knows Ike, the owner of the inn we stayed at on Big Corn Island. It goes to show what a small island it really is.
After breakfast we spent the day just wandering around the town, admiring the beautiful architecture. We stopped and had lunch at a food stand in the center of town but were a bit under impressed. A little later, after we took a walk along the shore of Lake Nicaragua, we stopped for afternoon drinks and a snack at a restaurant that has the reputation of having the best Macuás in town. The macuá is Nicaragua’s official cocktail and contains Flor de Caña (the national rum), guava juice, and lemon or lime juice. They were very good and it was very easy to drink too many of them without noticing. We walked around some more and then headed back to the hotel to enjoy the pool. Later that night we went back into town for dinner where we sat outside and watched the people go by.
The next day, our last full day in Nicaragua, we headed to GM Granada hostel where we had arranged to meet the van heading to Laguna Apoyo. While we waited there for the van, we got a tour of the hostel which was really very nice. Had we been more focused on sticking to a budget, we definitely would have been happy to stay there. It was clean and comfortable and even had a pool. Finally, the van came and we squeezed in with a bunch of other people. We stopped at one or two more places before heading out of town for the lake. The van was completely full at that point, mostly of people from the US. There were a few girls who were in Nicaragua volunteering at an orphanage, some other backpackers, and a couple from Baltimore who had recently gotten engaged.
We arrived at Laguna Apoyo and were shown around the hostel resort which was really cool. It had multiple levels, leading down to the shore of the lake. There was a bar and restaurant and they made it easy with a system where you just order food and drinks all day and pay at the end. The use of kayaks and inner tubes was included. Laguna Apoyo is a lake in the crater of a volcano. The water is clear and refreshing and apparently is extremely deep in the center. We made use of the kayaks and inner tubes and really enjoyed the lake. We spent the day hanging out with the couple from Baltimore, Blayne and Elizabeth. We had a lot in common and it was only too bad that we didn’t meet before our last day.
It turned out it was their last day too and we quickly learned that we were on the same flight from Managua to Houston the next day. We had already arranged a taxi to take us from Granada to Managua so we invited them to join us and split the fare. When we got back to Granada from Laguna Apoyo, we invited them over to our hotel for a couple of mojitos. Made by the hotel manager, they were probably the best mojitos any of us had ever had. After drinks, we arranged to meet later on for our last dinner in Nicaragua.
We met up at Ciudad Lounge, a hip restaurant owned and run by a couple from San Diego. When we arrived we were seated in a comfortable outdoor “lounge” area. We ordered drinks and appetizers and just sat and enjoyed the relaxed ambiance. Everything we ordered was delicious. Drew and Blayne had a locally-made microbrew which we had not seen anywhere else. Elizabeth and I had an Italian white wine that was quite good. All of the food was great as well. We would definitely recommend Ciudad Lounge to any visitors of Granada. It was not as cheap as most food in Nicaragua but it was as good as anywhere you might go in San Francisco or San Diego where the prices for the same thing would have probably been double.
After a fun last night out in Nicaragua, we woke up the next morning to have one last delicious breakfast of Gallo pinto before heading to the airport. We were there with plenty of time and our flight was delayed so we had a long wait. While waiting, Drew was chatting with his sister who was to be graduating medical school the coming Monday. We would have planned to go but she was sure she couldn’t get us tickets to the ceremony. So when she mentioned to Drew that she now could get tickets, she jokingly suggested that we come to London. Well seeing as we were heading home and feeling kind of bummed that our vacation was coming to a close, Drew took this as an opportunity to extend our travels a bit longer. By the time we were boarding our plane in Houston for San Francisco, we had plane tickets for four days later to London. The adventure continues!