Nicaragua is a tropical paradise and I adore it year round, but summer months are more challenging for everyone when temperatures shoot up. It’s strange to think that here in Granada, as we now enjoy temperatures between 80 and 90 °F, we are about to enter our region’s hottest summer months in March and April when we are directly positioned closest to the sun.
If you are heading to Central America during those months you are going to want to remember that a tropical summer requires some practical strategies to make it more pleasant and fun, particularly for kids. Hot is hot no matter where you are, but travelling out of a harsh winter in North America or Europe to Granada can make the temperatures seem particularly extreme when they spike above 95 °F, 35 °C.
If you figure out your strategies before you get here and build them into your stay, you won’t be caught off guard if your kids remind you for the 100th time: I’m, hoooot.
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.
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.
Have you ever had that feeling like you are missing your child even though they are right there under the same roof? That time was slipping through your fingers and with it a thousand chances to reconnect with your family? Sometimes we can bridge the divide in a moment, a shared joke, game or activity and sometimes you want to do something drastic and just grab a chance to get away from it all.
Even here in Nicaragua where life moves more slowly for many and there should be more time to spend with our kids, it’s easy to slip into old distances. Projects, work, school, social networks; you can fill up a schedule anywhere if you are inclined to doing it. And let’s face it, I know that for us, we’re kind of trained to design our lives that way.
Even here in Granada, you might sense after awhile the busyness creeping back into your lifestyle, that habit of pushing out to the edges of your daily itinerary. The rush and the stress that you wanted to leave behind can get recreated in the land of lakes and volcanoes, too.
Sports programs in Granada, Nicaragua are a great way for young newcomers to meet other kids and have a Spanish language immersion experience. The experience of playing sports is somewhat universal, but it’s also bound to be different based on geography, culture and economics. Granada supports mostly youth soccer and baseball teams, but there is a growing interest in organizing a basketball league for tween boys, as well. Continue reading “Aiden digs the boy’s boot camp basketball training in Granada, Nicaragua”→
Update: Aiden and I have toured Mombacho Volcano now three times and I feel just as strongly about how worthwhile this activity is for families as when I wrote this article in 2017. The prices and transport times listed below are current as of January 2018.
When Semana Santa (otherwise known as Spring Break or Easter Vacation) hit Granada in April, I decided we needed a plan to give ourselves a rest from the constant heat. Ironically, this led us to visit a volcano. Mombacho Volcano Natural Reserve was a perfect solution for getting the family outside and recreating in breathtaking Nicaraguan nature without feeling the summer burn.
When you arrive to the top of Mombacho Volcano which has three craters, you will appreciate that you are now in a cool, breezy, cloud forest full of tropical canopy and exotic critters. It is like someone has suddenly turned on the air conditioning. This leads to a boost of physical productivity! Watch your kids take off down the trail…. Continue reading “Hiking Mombacho Volcano with kids in Nicaragua”→
Visiting families that reside inside the city of Granada often seek a recreational green space similar to something on offer at a public park back home. Publicly in Granada, the Cocibolca lakefront area called the Malecón is the most similar to that sort of recreational environment, although it really is only a strip of land that follows the lake with no wide open lawn area. The Malecón includes playground equipment, restaurants and some basketball courts. It is safe to use during the day and the city is doing a lot to make it a more attractive, maintained destination. On Sundays, it is a very popular hangout for Nicaraguan families.
These months are hard on both parents and kids. You’ll find that the heat limits outdoor physical activities and can raise stress levels. However, if you are planning on coming this April or are already here, you are going to need some savvy local ways to stay cool during the Nicaraguan summer.