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Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

6 Days in Nicaragua with Kids

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua at sunset (c) incultureparent

We recently came back from six days in Nicaragua with five- and seven-year-old kids. Here’s what our family discovered and enjoyed across the country.








Granada is a great city to spend a couple days. It’s both a launching pad for day trips and a quant colonial city that is almost 500 years old.


Horse drawn carriages are popular to get around Granada (mainly with tourists) and an excellent way to see the city and learn about its fascinating history. My kids loved this ride and my five-year-old got to ask every burning question she had ever had about horses, “How do you brush the horse? What does the horse eat? Do horses make friends? When do horses die?” (She is fascinated by death lately).




Be sure not to miss chocolate making at the Choco Museo for an hour long hands-on lesson in chocolate from fermentation to roasting to your very own chocolate bar in the flavors you choose. I had to explain to my little one a few times that this was in fact real chocolate since it tasted different from the chocolate we usually eat. Ask for Israel as an instructor. He was awesome—so energetic and funny. My girls talked for days after about how he painted his own face with chocolate. The lesson isn’t cheap ($19 per person if I remember correctly) and you can also buy a variety of Nicaraguan chocolate for $4 a bar to bring back for friends.




Once you feel satisfied with Granada, use it as a base for a variety of different activities. You can see the active Masaya volcano and artisans market (a half day trip to do both).


It was recommended to us by a family with kids a little older than ours to take the night tour where you can see the red lava and walk through a cave with bats. As we knew this would scare our five-year-old, we opted to go during the day. You can’t see much in the open crater except smoke and smell the gas. It wasn’t terribly exciting for the kids so the night tour would probably have been better.


The Mombacho volcano and coffee farm tour is another beautiful day trip. Once at the crater, you can do a four-hour hike (ya right with kids) or a 1.5 hour hike (that’s more like it). Finally, take a boat tour of Las Isletas de Granada on Lake Nicaragua, that has the distinction of being the only freshwater lake in the world with sharks.

The boat takes you around a bunch of islands in Lake Nicaragua where mainly rich people have private-island houses and there’s a tiny island with four monkeys. As a note, you definitely don’t need more than an hour for this as some tours are two and three hours.






We stayed at the Hotel Colonial Granada and I highly recommend it with kids. Granada is hot and the two swimming pools at the hotel were perfect to cool off in the mornings and afternoons. The rooms are a good size and very clean and the staff is friendly and helpful. I often worried about how loud and disruptive my kids were being at the pool or running up and down the stairs between their room and the room of the new friends they made but the hotel was extremely tolerant and friendly.



As for food, I suggest avoiding the recommended and touristy El Bistro and El Zaguan, although many people raved to us about the steaks at El Zaguan. Both have food that is good but nothing exceptional and you pay American prices for it.


San Juan del Sur




San Juan del Sur is a beach town on the Pacific. It’s both a destination for many Nicaraguan families as well as a town that comes alive on weekend nights (the time when us families with kids are already tucked into the hotel for the night).  One of the best things to do is to take a surf lesson for you and your child (kids lessons are given in the shallow surf). There are many places to do this. Other activities include horseback riding, fishing and whale watching.




Don’t miss Playa Hermosa, a hidden beach just north of San Juan del Sur, located down a bumpy dirt road that goes on for miles and passes over rivers before coming to an oasis of a beach with hammocks, bars and a basic restaurant. There are many places around where you and your kids can take surf lessons as well.




If you stay longer in Nicaragua, you can also check out Leon, another colonial town where you can go volcano “surfing”, as well as the laid-back and beautiful island of Ometepe that Jimmy Carter and Bono had just visited before we arrived.


Overall Nicaragua was an affordable, fun and safe family vacation.

© 2014, Stephanie Meade. All rights reserved.

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Stephanie is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of InCultureParent. She has two Moroccan-American daughters (ages 5 and 6), whom she is raising, together with her husband, bilingual in Arabic and English at home, while also introducing Spanish. After many moves worldwide, she currently lives in Berkeley, California.

Leave us a comment!

  1. CommentsDebbie Solomon   |  Friday, 14 February 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Hi Stephanie! I sent my books to Meera, but this is about this article where a family with kids traveled to Nicaragua. I am interested in asking some questions i.e. did their children take malaria pills, safety, etc. I am hoping to plan this trip with my kids and spend 2 weeks of travel and one week teaching English ( I am an English teacher) and having my kids study Spanish ( 2 girls 5 and 8). My husband is opposed to the trip so far and I need to convince him. But the malaria thing is big and I can’t find any info on it. Can I reach out to the woman who you wrote the article about??? thanks and ps I love, love , love your site
    Debbie Solomon

  2. CommentsTraveling with KidsInspired by Familia   |  Monday, 17 February 2014 at 6:49 pm

    […] 6 Days in Nicaragua with Kids […]

  3. CommentsNichole   |  Wednesday, 26 March 2014 at 9:33 am

    Thanks for the great post. We are going to Nicaragua with out two kids- also 5 and 8- in two weeks. Did you vaccinate the kids for Hep A and typhoid? I was not planning to but would love more thoughts from other travelers.

  4. CommentsThe Editors   |  Wednesday, 26 March 2014 at 11:28 am

    Hi Nichole, We did not vaccinate against either and felt fine about that decision. Hope you have a great trip!

  5. CommentsJoshua Pierce   |  Thursday, 30 October 2014 at 10:16 pm

    Hi there,
    Thanks for the post. We are a traveling family with an 8 and 11 year old. Also heavily vaccinated due to our time in Africa :).
    My question is, did you rent a car or get around with public transport. And can we do public transport to San Juan and rent a car there?

  6. CommentsThe Editors   |  Thursday, 30 October 2014 at 10:21 pm

    Hi Joshua! We got around between cities using shared minivan shuttles- you can rent them with a driver and they weren’t too expensive. We crossed the border to Costa Rica in a bus. And we got around within towns in a taxi. We met families like us also traveling in Nicaragua who had rented cars. It is an easy place to drive and we would have felt equally fine driving there but chose not to as we were crossing the border after and didn’t want to to do a one way rental. You can take public transport to San Juan. One thing to note though is it’s a small town. Check first how many car rental agencies are in town! I am not sure. Have fun! (And we didn’t get extra vaccinations for Nicaragua so you will all be fine!)

  7. CommentsThe Editors   |  Thursday, 30 October 2014 at 10:27 pm

    Hi Debbie- I somehow missed your comment before! So sorry about that. Are you still looking for info about Nicaragua? We did not take malaria pills and having taken them previously in my life for travel, I would never take them again or give them to kids. They are very, very strong and can make you hallucinate and have all sorts of other side effects. I would prefer to avoid areas heavy in malaria than take them. You should be fine in Nicaragua without them! Hope that helps.

  8. CommentsMelissa - The Roaming Family   |  Thursday, 09 April 2015 at 8:00 am

    We absolutely loved San Juan del Sur and Grenada…..we went there last summer and rented a house in SJDS. We had a great experience with Iskra Travel transportation…..they basically took us everywhere, including a day tour of Grenada. One of our favorite excursions was with Nica Sail and Surf…..we took a HobieCat boat ride all over the bay and to a hidden beach. It was beautiful!

  9. CommentsMindy   |  Monday, 01 June 2015 at 9:20 pm

    Loved your Nicaragua article I am taking 12, 4, and 1 Yr old to south pacific side I really don’t want to give any of us typhoid or malaria are these really necessary looks like a no from your other comments but wanted to reach out to another mom that believes in traveling with children around the world this is the beginning of our adventures and we are so excited but any advice safety tips is much appreciated. Thank you!

  10. CommentsThe Editors   |  Thursday, 04 June 2015 at 10:28 am

    Hi Mindy,

    I saw your email but didn’t have a chance to reply yet so I am glad you also left a comment! We didn’t give malaria or typhoid medication. Personally, I hate malaria pills having taken them once myself. They are not necessary in Nicaragua.

    We found the Pacific coast to be pretty safe, but of course like any place, just be aware of your surroundings and not leaving stuff unattended. I know quite a few people who have gotten things stolen in Granada. We did not have any problems there but I know it happens. Definitely try to go to the out of the way beaches, not just the main ones. They are really nice! We only went into town for dinner on the beach every night, which was great, and spent the rest of our time on beaches just outside town. It was a really fun vacation–you’ll have a blast I’m sure.

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