A little guide to Nicaragua for families with kids: Granada, Masaya, and Managua

Nicaragua is an incredible country in Central America that combines it all: affordability, architecture, delicious food, friendly locals, beaches, everything! We visited it with our kids and we all loved it!

A PIN to make life easier!

We had 3 weeks in Nicaragua in September 2017. I’ve already written about León, and today, I’m talking everything Granada, Masaya, Managua, and the whole of Nicaragua for families with kids. It’s all crunched together because we were kind of sick during those 2 weeks and couldn’t do much around.

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All about Nicaragua with kids

Nicaragua was one of the only places we found to be budget friendly. Most of the Americas ended up being very expensive. This was one of the only countries where we, as a family of 6, could eat out and not pay US$ 100 for each meal.

The people we met were so nice all along, we just felt so welcome! It was really nice.

The beds we had were all a lot more comfortable in Nicaragua than in Costa Rica. This is very important to us because if we can’t rest properly, we’re grumpy and cranky all day long.

The bad part: It was very hot and the showers were always cold. Electricity and water cuts happen. There isn’t much to do when it happens, just wait because they usually come back quickly enough. The internet isn’t very good, but it’s manageable.

We didn’t do anything too extravagant while there because we were kinda sick and we’d wasted all our money in Costa Rica. Well, we tried going on a baby turtle releasing tour, but there were no hatchlings while we were there so no luck.

But overall, we found Nicaragua to be an amazing option for budget and non-budget travelers.

Nicaragua is one great country to take the kids to! It's safe, beautiful, the food is great, and it's still very affordable!

This is at the Main Square in Granada. It’s a super cute town, very worth a visit!

Tips for Nicaragua

– Bring on the mosquito repellent! These little pests are everywhere. We had no trouble in Leon because they had just sprayed the whole city (yes, the whole city), but everywhere else, mosquito land. Plus, the windows and doors aren’t very tightly shut, so they always come in through the little gaps.

– Nicaraguan chocolate is weird. It doesn’t taste good, not even the expensive ones. I gave up.

– On the other hand, coffee is pretty good.

– Food and accommodation are cheaper, but air conditioning isn’t always available and it is really hot.

– Showers are 90% of the time cold.

– Food is great in Nicaragua, by the way. Delicious stuff!

– We didn’t do any forest in Nicaragua, just the cities, and we saw A LOT of weird bugs around, plus a rat, bats, a lotta lizards, and birds. It’s fun trying to figure out what all those strange animals are.

– We paid 2 cordobas for a small bag of water (a cup of water in a plastic bag), 30 for a bubble thing, and 10 for a cotton candy. 1 US$ = 30 cordobas in September 2017.

– Watch out for the pinkeye. There’s been an outbreak going on since 2013. Not fun and it cuts days off a trip, as it’s highly contagious.

– Have US$ on arrival at the airport – a tourist card fee costs US$ 10 per person, no matter the age. We didn’t know it and, even though they do accept credit cards, ours wasn’t accepted. It was sheer luck that we did have US$ 60 in cash then.

People don't often visit Managua, Nicaragua's Capital, but we loved it! Even the kids had fun there.

The sunset in Managua was magic – one of the most beautiful we’ve seen so far

Driving in Nicaragua

We rented a car and it worked out fine. It was smaller than we’d like, but it fit all the big bags in the trunk perfectly, like Lego (it had to go in a certain order, but it was fine anyway), and the day packs went with us. They took the car to us to our hotel (it was very close to the airport) and we drove fine the first week. Then we received a message saying that they sold that car and needed it back. They’d go pick it up and bring us another. We were going back from León to Granada that day, so we offered to stop by Managua to exchange the car, as it’s on the way, and we did so. When we arrived, the lady at the counter never offered us a glass of water and told us to wait outside – for around 10 minutes. We traded the car and left. Around 5 minutes later, ants started coming out of all air vents. We turned back and asked to have another car. Apparently, there was a nest inside the car. They cleaned it and wanted us to have it anyway – we refused. All the way, we were sitting outside in the heat with all our stuff in the parking lot. In the end, they decided to return the ‘old’ car for us.

A couple of days later, the lady sends us another message saying that they really needed the car and we said that we wouldn’t take the ant car so they could either upgrade us or come pick the car up and close the rental. They decided to let us keep the car. That car. All the noise for nothing, really.

Granada, in Nicaragua, is a small colonial town with brightly colored houses, mountains, volcanos, crater lakes, and just so much more!

Granada’s colorful houses are adorable – bright and lively!

It’s not that it was a lot of work, it was just a hassle and a headache, really. They do have a lot to improve.

By the way, research well. We rented ours with a company recommended by a host because all the other places online were charging nearly double of what we paid.

The roads aren’t bad, although some parts are super hole-y. You really need to watch out because there are holes (from small ones to life-threatening ones, seriously), cows, horses, dogs, people, bikes, bike-taxis, mototaxis, buses, trucks, and everything you can imagine crossing the road everywhere and all the time without sparing a second glance towards what’s out there. It kind of is scary, so keep your speed low and pay 100% attention.

It was great having a car, as we had the freedom to stop in places spontaneously and do as we wanted to. It’s not really a need, because of transfers, taxis, shared cabs, and buses are cheap there. It’s just a commodity, really.

If you’re stopped by the police, they retain your license until you pay the fine and get back there to retrieve it, so be ABSOLUTELY 100% sure you’re not doing anything wrong.

We got stopped once because Angelo did a prohibited turn and it was not easy. to deal with.

Driving in Nicaragua is a lot like driving anywhere in Latin America: crazy, chaotic, and yet, a great experience!

Besides the heavy traffic and the different traffic rules, it was a joy driving there

Weather in Nicaragua

It’s always hot, so no need for the sweaters. Seriously.

The wet season is from May to October and the dry season is from November to April.

  • Country
  • Minimun Stay
  • $ ~ $$$
  • Child-friendlyness
  • Best local transport option
  • Safety
  • Do we recommend it?
  • Nicaragua
  • a week
  • $
  • It’s perfect for families!
  • Car. Unfortunately, it’s the easiest.
  • It was super safe, we had not a shadow of a problem!
  • YES!!!

 

 

Granada

We had a week in Granada, but we arrived with pinkeye and it took 4 days to clear so we actually had 3 useful days there. Our thoughts are that it’s beautiful, colorful, and a friendly place, BUT it’s really small and the street vendors are really pushy and annoying. We’d say no and they’d keep on talking and trying to push things for 10 more minutes. Everywhere we went, we had at least 30 minutes with people trying to get us to buy something and it’s just not fun. It was something like Salvador. It didn’t happen once in León, so we thought it wouldn’t happen but it did and we hate it.

A week in Granada is maybe a bit too much. A couple of days would be enough even for us.

Granada is small and laid back compared to the other cities in Nicaragua. Take your time, walk around, and enjoy one of the oldest cities in the Americas.

The iconic church from Granada – Nicaragua. It’s really beautiful, we found it prettier than the White Cathedral in León.

The best things to do in Granada are

– A visit to the Chocomuseo. It was fun and we had a mini-tour with a guy there, he was really funny and nice. The food, though, wasn’t. We were expecting something great like the Peru Chocomuseo, but it really wasn’t. They do have a cacao tree there, so it’s worth visiting just to see it!

– Visit Calle La Calzada. We visited it at night and during the day and it’s a beautiful pedestrian-only street. It’s filled with restaurants and little shops.

– Spend some time at the main square. The Plaza Central is where you’ll find the beautiful orange cathedral. It’s a big square, with a few kiosks and A LOT of carriages. The horses were all so skinny, some of them had raw sores. Please don’t ride them. Ever. Anywhere.

– Have a coffee at Casa del Café, just off the main plaza. Great coffee, great empanadas, and cheap!

– Spend some time watching the lake (Lago Cocibolca). Just don’t get too close. We went up to the wall near the town and tried to spend a moment there but it smelled like garbage, no fun. We walked half an hour to get there and really spent around 3 minutes there. There are many places to sit and spend some time close enough to see the water but not too close to smell it, so you may want to do that.

We spent our days in this Airbnb and it’s a big house, and the bedrooms have air conditioning, but the common areas don’t. We liked it, we could walk to the city center, there were 2 supermarkets around, and even one rat incident (it entered from the laundry, where there’s no door, just a gate) couldn’t stop us from enjoying our time there. It was great to have a whole house with 2 bathrooms just for us, do our own laundry and cook our own food. We didn’t even eat out!

(If you’re new to Airbnb, click here to receive a discount on your first booking – and we receive one too, without any additional cost to you!)

There are many lakes in Nicaragua - a lot of them formed in volcano craters. It's pretty cool and a great geography lesson for the kids!

This is Lake Cocibolca. It can look pretty but it was smelling bad, unfortunately.

  • City / Country
  • Minimun Stay
  • $ ~ $$$
  • Child-friendlyness
  • Best local transport option
  • Safety
  • Do we recommend it?
  • Granada / Nicaragua
  • 2 days
  • $
  • Very child friendly!
  • Walk! It’s a small town, easy to walk around!
  • It’s safe!
  • YES!!!

Masaya Volcano, a peek through the volcano crater with kids

On our way to Manágua, we decided to stop by the volcano and see the lava. You go up to the crater in the car (or bus, depending on what you do), so anyone can go.

We went to the entrance, where we paid a fee (it totaled 100 cordobas per person – locals pay less – on the daytime and US$ 10 per person on the night visit), received bracelets and were told to stop by the museum. We did, logged up our names in a book, walked around the museum learning a bit about volcanos and stuff, and drove to the volcano. The museum entry is free.

We arrived at the volcano after an easy and short drive (spotting some baby iguanas on the way). We are meant to leave the car on exit position and spent a maximum of 5 minutes there due to the gases. Watching the crater smoking is pretty awesome, though we couldn’t see any lava. Coral was highly disappointed.

Some people were lucky enough to watch real lava in Masaya Volcano, but we didn't. It was smoking badly and we couldn't see a thing. It was still fun though.

This was the view of the volcano, really. If we looked down, all we could see was smoke.

Managua

We had our first night and the last 6 days of Nicaragua in Managua. It was hot, we were tired, and we ended up not doing much either. There are, though, a few things everyone must do there.

The best of Managua for families

– Watch the colorful (fake) trees from the airplane window. When we were arriving, I could only see a beautiful colorful line in the middle of all the street and house lights. Then when we were driving from the airport to the hotel, we saw them closer. They are everywhere, lighting up the city.

– Go pay a visit to the tree square. I don’t really know what it was called, but it’s right by the Pope Museum (yes), the Paseo Xolotlan, and the old pier. Go after sunset or a bit before it and be amazed. It’s beautiful, really beautiful. It was also fun to see the guards lighting up tree by tree.

– Walk the Paseo Xolotlan. It’s got some pretty views of the lake, a water park, and some cool miniature buildings remaking Managua, and all of Nicaragua. When we went there, the lights were twitching and we were waiting for Demogorgon to break through one of the tiny walls, but it didn’t happen.

Managua is a super family friendly city, and we also found it to be very safe. Love it!

Managua’s Plaza de La Revolución came to us as a surprise! We didn’t expect it to be so beautiful and alive, but it was all that. It was better at night than during the day!

– Visit Plaza de La Revolucion and Parque Central. It’s beautiful, it comes to life after dark, with kids playing in the colorful water fountains, walking, running, and just playing around. It was one of our highlights for sure. Beautiful place during the day and at night. Just to be sure you see everything, go late afternoon, watch the sunset in Paseo Xolotlan, and go back to the Plaza at night. It’s worth it. They’re all close, around 5 minutes walking from one place to the other.

– Eat at Cocina de Doña Haydee for authentic Nicaraguan food. It’s DELICIOUS. Seriously.

– Buy a hammock as a souvenir. For 10 USD, we bought a great quality hammock for us to take home. It’s not fun to carry it, but it’ll be a great memory. We bought ours at Mercado Central.

If you want to know more about León, you can read the whole post here.

  • City / Country
  • Minimun Stay
  • $ ~ $$$
  • Child-friendlyness
  • Best local transport option
  • Safety
  • Do we recommend it?
  • Managua / Nicaragua
  • 3 days
  • $
  • Highly child friendly! We loved it!
  • Car. Unfortunately, it’s the easiest.
  • Safer in some neighborhoods more than others, but we had no problem driving around anywhere anytime.
  • YES!!!

To finalize it

Nicaragua is highly family friendly and beautiful, and it’s very affordable.

It’s a perfect family destination! On a next time, we may want to go to the beach too, and visit the Corn Islands!

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