Is it the colors on the walls? The old clay tile roof lines? The inner courtyards inside our historical center homes? or is it the friendly local people?
It's honestly hard to pinpoint. The truth is that Granada is a charming city and to explain it in a few words is no easy task. Our city is gifted with a number of qualities that stretch from architectural genius to natural beauty; from local, authentic expression and culture to charming cafes and restaurants offering an array of both local and foreign fare.
I'm Nicaraguan, originally from Managua, I decided to move to Granada 11 years ago to co-start The Garden Cafe. To this day I wake up every morning in absolute awe and grateful to live in this beautiful place.
As a local I experience and enjoy this city slightly different than visitors, though I enjoy visiting the beautiful sites, here's my top 7 favorite things to do in Granada on a regular basis as a local:
1. Take a walk in the historical center at 6:00 AM. Granada's prime time is the early morning: it's the coolest, it's also the quietest and the least crowded. Pair these elements with the soft morning light and you have a picture-perfect citiscape.
2. Fresh Coconut Water by the Malecón. This is one of the oldest traditions amongst locals. Take a walk or a drive to the Cocibolca Lake and enjoy fresh coconut water for a U$1.50. You may choose to have a "coco pelado" to be able to eat the coconut flesh as well.
3. Paddleboarding on Lake Cocibolca. There are many different ways to experience and explore one of the largest lakes in the world, my preferred way is paddleboarding. It allows for a bit of exercise, it's quiet, non-polluting and non-invasive. It allows one to get close to all the little islands and the biodiversity. When you get tired, stop, park your board, jump in the water to swim or simply sit on your board to have a quiet moment and enjoy the view of the Mombacho Volcano. To hire boards: www.livitwater.com
4. Ice cream at Parque Sandino. All Nicaraguans grew up on Eskimo, the local and prefered ice cream bars. Listen for the Eskimo cart bells and enjoy your "Ehkimo" at this park full of local families. My personal favorite is "Fruta Rellena".
5. Traditional Nicaraguan Confectioners At least one yearly trip to Granada is a must for lots of Nicaraguan families who come here to specifically buy the most authentic sweets. These local sweets include "cajeta de leche", "manjar", "limón en miel", "cajeta de coco" and many more, these are all made by local Granadinos who have been passing traditional family recipes from one generation to another. My recommendation: "toronja en miel" (caramelized grapefruit) and "cajeta de coco" (coconut sweet). Ask a taxi cab to take you to Dulceria La Miel or Dulceria El Encanto.
6. Central Park at 5:00 PM Granada has become a very popular destination for tourists, but one of the greatest qualities of our city is that locals actually live here and we enjoy our city as much as tourists do. 5:00 PM is the peak time for getting a feel for local interaction. Enjoy a walk through the park and mingle with local Granadinos as they grab a quick snack on their way home from work.
7. Baseball game at Estadio Roque Tadeo Zavala. Baseball is Nicaragua's national sport and Granadinos are specially passionate about it. If you happen to find yourself in Granada during baseball season, make sure to catch a game. It's a unique experience. Ask at your hotel for game schedules or consult on the Liga Profesional site.
When in Granada I recommend you to slow down, listen and observe; the architectural and natural beauty is evident but there is profound authenticity and tradition underneath the obvious.
The Garden Cafe