Planning a day trip to the islets of Granada? Find out everything you need to know to take a tour from Granada.
Taking a boat ride to the islets of Granada is a fun, relaxed way of exploring Central America’s biggest lake. You can join a tour from Granada, and the ones in the afternoon are particularly beautiful because you get to watch the sunset over the volcanic islands.
We went on a 2-hour sunset tour to las isletas, and in this post I’ll share all the details and info so you can plan your own trip here.
Read next: A quick Nicaragua travel guide
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The islets of Granada
Just 10km south of Granada lies Mombacho Volcano. The 1,344m high volcano is one of the most famous volcanoes in Nicaragua (which has 21 in total), because it’s so close to Granada and has a mystical cloud forest at the top.
More than 20.000 years ago, Mombacho Volcano erupted and spew boulders, ash and lava into Lake Nicaragua. This created a group of 365 small volcanic islands, now known as the Islets of Granada or in Spanish, las isletas.
Read next: 12 amazing things to do in Granada
Local life at Las Isletas
The isletas come in all shapes and sizes, all home to swaying palm trees and birds. Some of them are also inhabited by a small community of fishermen, who live in craggy wooden houses, while more and more islands are being snapped up by wealthy foreigners, expats and investors for extravagant houses or hotels. The contrast between the two lifestyles is striking to say the least.
On our trip, we passed several fishermen casting net for supper and seafood to sell at Granada’s market. The net is edged by weights that makes the net sink and contract into a ball. Some of the fishermen also jumped into the water.
Birdlife at the islets of Granada
Most of the islets are rich with life, most of all birds. You can see cormorants, herons, parrots, hawks, vultures, bats, ospreys and the colourful Montezuma Oropendola, found exclusively in Latin America.
Oropendolas are known for their pendulous hanging nests, and they’ll fill a single tree with up to 50 nests into a community habitat (see photo below).
Lake Nicaragua also houses lots of fish. Crocodiles crowd the lake around the swamps, and there are also bull sharks, although they’re barely ever seen.
The Monkey Island
On our trip, we came across a small island with a stranded family of spider monkeys and a single capuchin.
I noticed a wire that connected the island with another and asked about it. Rather nonchalant, our guide said: “It’s a high-voltage wire, and it’s there to ensure the monkeys won’t escape.” Apparently, some of them had tried it numerous times, but had gotten injured from the power line.
It was sad to see how they had clearly been installed there for entertainment, given the hundreds of other genuinely free monkeys you can see throughout the country.
Is it safe to swim in Lake Nicaragua?
Well, sort of.
Before you jump in with both feet, though, you need to know that Lake Nicaragua is home to crocodiles and a species of bull sharks, tarpon and swordfish, which have adapted to freshwater. Although they’re rare and don’t generally live in populated areas, it’s not something I’d want to encounter in the murky water.
But it’s up to you.
Restaurants on the islets of Granada
There are several restaurants in the island chain, where a typical meal of veggies, fried plantains and locally caught fish will cost around $8.
If you visit the islets of Granada around noon or dinner-time, it’s often included in the tour (food is on your own dime, though). You’ll have an hour to eat, and then the guide will pick you back up.
We didn’t have the best dining experience and would have rather spent more time on the lake. Whatever you prefer, make sure to check with the tour beforehand if it includes a stop at a restaurant or not.
How to book a tour
There are quite a few tour operators that can take you to las isletas. They don’t all run the same tour, so make sure to know exactly what you’re getting.
What to consider:
- Do you want to have lunch/dinner at one of the island restaurants?
- Would you rather not visit Monkey Island?
- How long do you want the tour to last – one or two hours?
- And at what time of day do you want to visit?
A one-hour boat tour of the islets of Granada will typically cost around $20, whereas a two-hour tour is $30. Best time for birdwatching is at dawn, in which case you should arrange your trip the day before. Sunset is also quite nice (what we did).
You can also rent a kayak (around $25 per person) rather than taking a boat tour. You wouldn’t cover as much ground in a kayak, but you can explore the lake and the isletas at your own pace.
What to expect from a tour
It’s always best to check what’s included with a tour operator before you book. Tours can vary, but you can and should always expect this from a tour to the islets of Granada:
- Entrance fees
- A guide
- Life jackets
As I’ve mentioned, you’ll mostly see birdlife here. Maybe you will see a wild monkey (you’ll probably hear them at the very least!) or a crocodile. An experienced guide will be able to point out the animals for you and give you insight into the isletas and the history.
What to bring
Nicaragua is hot and humid, so dress accordingly (shorts, T-shirt, closed sandals). You’ll be in a boat, most likely with a canopy to shield from the sun. You’ll also be given a life jacket.
This is what to bring to the islets of Granada:
- Sun lotion
- Mosquito repellent
- A hat (optional)
- Binoculars (especially for birdwatching)
- Bottled water
- Your bathing suit (if you’re jumping in) + a towel
Read next: Where to stay in Granada
Planning a trip to the islets of Granada? Ask me anything in the comments!
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