What is it like to live in Granada, Nicaragua? I am pretty confident that if you are interested in that answer or are even reading this blog, you are currently entertaining a case of persistent wanderlust that has you scoping out family-friendly venues abroad for your itchy, adventurous feet.
I am very familiar with that unrelenting desire and challenge to find the right exotic destination to satisfy the impulse for change. But as you probably know as a mom or dad planning a major trek abroad with kids, there is a whole other layer of parental responsibility to your voyagingdeep into the unknown that will have to be addressed, as well.
(And yet, I messed up).
Admittedly,I have made some bad calls in that regard. I started this journey in an area of Northern Nicaragua that wasn’t right for my son, Aiden or me. It was too different for a long-term stay and we excessively struggled with our surroundings. We stayed much too long and although we both can definitely say that yes, we can survive a hardship post (for years!), it’s not the bragging rights that a twelve-year-old yearns to exercise among his peers or across his resume (not applying for a foreign service position, yet).
It has taken me some time to win back his trust in that regard. Aiden had left everything behind in Charlotte, North Carolina: his childhood home, neighborhood, and friends that he had known since he was two years old. Kids don’t really have a choice in these big moves, they come along with parents who are questing, and they are trusting that we are going to make the right choices. And sometimes, although we mean well, we make mistakes. We blow it. And then the next choice, well, it had better be good because getting it wrong the second time around could be even worse, right?
Oh, gosh. It might be just another fruitless quest, but I want to try Granada.
It’s no secret that I love living in Granada, Nicaragua. We are surrounded by beautiful, tropical nature and there are so many fun and easy excursions to do with kids with Granada as your home base. Aiden and I just had an amazing weekend adventure a few hours south at La Flor Beach Wildlife Refuge where kids can get up close and personal with wild turtles in their natural habitat and at nearby Playa El Coco which is a beautiful beach perfect for families. This trip was a breeze and I wholeheartedly recommend that you add these two popular family destinations to your Nicaragua trip planner because your kids are going to raveabout the experience.
Laying out the trip
The La Flor Wildlife Refuge (Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor), where you can interact with wild turtles in their natural habitat, is located at Playa La Flor. You could camp at the refuge overnight, but more formal accommodations can be found right on the beachat nearby Playa el Coco which is 2 km away (or Playa Hermosa, Playa Escameca, Playa El Yanke, etc). If you are wondering if you could also stay at mega-popular, party beach town San Juan del Sur, yes, you could, but just know that it is 30 km each way on a partially dirt road (while probably driving in the dark for best turtle hours). If you are travelling with kids like we were, you might prefer the nearness and the totally laid back, family-friendly atmosphere of the local beaches next to the refuge.
One of the great perks of living in Granada, Nicaragua is being able to effortlessly head out to a beautiful, family beach for the day (or more luxuriously for the entire weekend) without going out of your way to do so. When volcanoes and their swimming holes just won’t do and you need fresh seafood, beachcombing and surfable waves, in a few hours drive Granadinos can be entertaining the family all day long in the warm, healing waves of the Pacific Ocean.
Most travelers will want to head to San Juan del Sur at least once to see why it is always at the top of the tourist billboard. San Juan is known for its brilliant, blue bay with fantastic eclectic restaurants, all manner of hotels and spectacular beach home rentals. I also have loved San Juan de Sur for those very same reasons through the years, but there is a lot more out there to see along the Pacific coast that can provide a more intimate, Nicaraguan immersion experience for families in the water.
When I first arrived to Granada, I would take early exploring walks through my neighborhood before the summer heat would begin to hover heavily over the day’s movements. On one such morning, I fell into one of those easy spontaneous exchanges, that Nicaraguans so freely initiate throughout their day, with an older man (in his third age, as they kindly say here) sitting on his porch. He saw me admiring his pretty street and eagerly wanted to know what I thought of his city. I did’t have to embellish the truth.
Granada is surely the most beautiful city in Nicaragua, I said.
He shook his head and smiled at me almost paternally. No, he calmly corrected me. Granada is the most beautiful city in Central America.
Nicaragua is definitively the land of lakes and volcanoes, but it also hosts fantastic mineral watering holes, impressive rivers you can navigate by boat and infinite miles of coastal beaches along the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Unless we are visiting the higher altitudes of a volcano or mountain range, Nicaragua provides constant tropical weather that enables us to submerge in water year round on any given day.
Personally, we primarily recreate during the week in pools and in the healing waters of Laguna de Apoyo, an ancient crater lake 20 minutes out of Granada. But we also swim in the cleaner areas of Lake Cocibolca or in the Pacific Ocean at any number of beaches as far down as Guanacaste, Costa Rica. For all these activities, I have always had to proactively consider Aiden’s water safety because I can never be sure what safety gear will be available on site when we arrive.
Nicaragua is full of unique destinations off the beaten path that you can scope out if you want to avoid the main tourist attractions. When you are ready to head down a dirt road with little to no signage, you will find a very pure side of Nicaragua that is best known only to the Nicaraguans, themselves.
Picture you and your child one-on-one, blocking out the crazy world around you for some quality family time that you get credit for because you are playing the Pokémon Trading Card Game and that means in kid world that YOU CARE.*
If you totally focus and read through this tutorial you can learn how to play Pokémon in less than 15 minutes.
Arriving by Nicaragua by air to Managua with kids is an easy, safe, transparent process that should go quite smoothly for you and your family. Read on for some tips for what to expect for your air arrival into the land of lakes and volcanoes.
One of the problems that I faced in my first year of living in Nicaragua was that I acutely felt the loss of not living near a world-class library system. We had brought our own physical library of books but as you know with kids, they consume books like paper towels when they love to read and we found that ordering books from organizations like Better World Books didn’t work for Nicaragua, they were simply stolen from out of the mail.