Escaping to Laguna de Apoyo

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Kate at Laguna de Apoyo

Well, I’ll be honest — when I planned to spend February in Nicaragua, I never dreamed I’d be having the best Valentine’s Day of my life here!

Nope, I didn’t meet a guy. I met two lovely girls instead.

Let’s set our scene in the beautiful city of Granada.

Granada NicaraguaGranada NicaraguaGranada NicaraguaGranada Flowers

Granada was…interesting. Truthfully, it was the only place in Nicaragua with which I didn’t quite connect. It’s all bright colors and colonial architecture and street food and I even got to experience the famous poetry festival. These are all things that would make it my kind of city, yet somehow there was something about Granada that just didn’t hit the spot for me.

Perhaps it was how tourism-driven it was. I don’t mind tourism, nor touristy places, but in major cities where tourists seem to be the top priority (as opposed to a priority), I find myself losing interest quickly. And yes, I know that I could have made a bigger effort, I could have found local communities, I could have ventured beyond the touristy center more often — but I didn’t. Perhaps Granada will enchant me someday; it didn’t this time around.

That’s okay. Not every destination is a home run, even in a country you love.

But my favorite thing about Granada is that it’s the getaway to the best day trip I’ve done in a long time: Laguna de Apoyo.

Laguna de Apoyo

In Granada, I met longtime reader Sky of Sky vs. World and her friend Graceann. The three of us bonded instantly at Reilly’s (usually I avoid Irish pubs like the plague, but this one literally has unlimited free rums and Cokes for ladies on Friday nights, no strings attached, 9 PM-12 AM!) before dancing all night at another club, so I invited them to join me at Laguna de Apoyo the next day, which just so happened to be Valentine’s Day.

It was a date! Neither of the girls had plans, so we met at my hostel and ordered a taxi to the lagoon.

(Our taxi ride, by the way? Amazing. Our driver played a CD with the most amazing 80s power ballad mix. He both dropped us off and picked us up while grooving to Spandau Ballet’s “True” at top volume.)

Our destination: The Monkey Hut. It was the only place I had heard of on the lagoon, so it seemed as good a spot as any. I knew it was the sister hostel of the Bearded Monkey (known as Granada’s big party hostel) and that it had a nice dock area. That was it.

Well, we were spellbound by the time we crested around the bend and saw what lay before us.

Laguna de Apoyo

Endless, bright blue, and deep.

Laguna de Apoyo is a crater lake. In a region with as much geothermal activity as Nicaragua, the water is naturally heated and full of igneous minerals.

Strangely, we ended up at the lagoon on one of the windiest days ever, and waves were high. In most photos of the lagoon that I’ve seen, the water looks like glass. Not on this Valentine’s Day!

Laguna de Apoyo

At the Monkey Hut, we paid $6 each for a day pass and got into the backyard, finding a sweet beach area with lounge chairs, picnic tables, a small cafe, and hammocks galore.

READ MORE: How to Protect Your Belongings on the Beach

Monkey Hut Laguna de Apoyo

The three of us sat on the patio, Grace and I guzzling demitasse cup after demitasse cup of free coffee, Sky politely refusing.

As the wind whipped our hair around, I weighed whether or not to go in or just lie in the sun. Soon, Not Being Lame won out and I tiptoed into the water, gingerly balancing on the sharp stones and slowly getting into the water.

To my great surprise, it was warmer than the air.

I dove straight in.

Swimming in the laguna was such an unusual experience, I have a hard time putting it into words. The water was so warm against the windy air. The waves were so high, and every time water got in my mouth, I kept expecting to taste salt and was momentarily confused. I’d float on one of the docks and my skin would feel gently tightened, an effect of the volcanic minerals.

Laguna de ApoyoLaguna de ApoyoLaguna de Apoyo

But mostly this day was about bonding. If you’ve been traveling solo for any amount of time, you begin to crave close relationships. I was in serious need of girl talk, and these garrulous ladies couldn’t have been better companions. We gabbed endlessly about every topic under the sun.

After hours of swimming and sunning on the docks, we made our way out of the lagoon — and soon realized that with the sharp rocks, it was harder getting out of the water than going in! I finally staggered out like Sandra Bullock at the end of Gravity. Pizza was had to celebrate.

It was a day filled with love.

Kate, Sky, and Grace

In the end, Valentine’s Day couldn’t have been nicer. I spent the day exploring a gorgeous place with two wonderful new friends. The whole 80s-power-ballad-infused taxi ride back, and for the next few days, we kept raving about how happy we were that we had gone.

No overpriced prix fixe meals. No sky-high expectations and disappointments. No dealing with angry and bitter people, coupled or uncoupled, talking about how Valentine’s Day doesn’t really matter.

Just quality time in a beautiful place with two wonderful people you care about. What more could you ask for?

Monkey Hut Laguna de Apoyo

The Takeaway

You might be madly in love with Granada. You might not be. Either way, I highly recommend you spend a day visiting Laguna de Apoyo. Spend as much of the day there as you can — we found the most magical times were early and late.

I don’t think it’s quite necessary to spend the night here (especially considering I spent less for a nice private room in Granada than what it costs for a dorm bed at the Monkey Hut), but as far as day trips go, I can’t think of anywhere better.

Essential Info: The western side of Laguna de Apoyo is about a 25-minute drive from Granada, but the other side is much closer.

The Bearded Monkey hostel runs a daily shuttle to the Monkey Hut. Round-trip transportation departs Granada at 10:00 AM, returns at 4:00 PM, and costs $8. If you have three or more people, it costs the same to get a taxi — we paid 300 cordobas ($12) each way. You can also take the local bus for a cheaper, longer trip.

The Monkey Hut charges $6 for a day pass that includes unlimited coffee, water, and use of the kayaks and inner tubes. They also offer accommodation: dorms start at $16, private rooms start at $45, and the cabin starts at $59 (all prices include taxes). Personal pizzas are $5.

In Granada I stayed at Hostal Entre Amigos, next door to the Bearded Monkey, and loved it. It was the most comfortable bed with the most comfortable pillows that I had in Nicaragua. There is fast in-room wifi (a relief after Ometepe!) and a beautiful gift shop is attached — this is a great spot for souvenirs, especially jewelry. The cold water shower is just a trickle, though, so be prepared for that. Private room with shared bathroom, $12; private room with private bathroom, $18.

You can find the best rates on other hotels in Granada here.

Be sure to purchase travel insurance before your trip. I never travel without it and always use World Nomads.

PS — Sky wrote about our day at the lagoon, too! Check out her post here.

Where is your favorite day trip in the world?

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47 thoughts on “Escaping to Laguna de Apoyo”

  1. Wow, it looks like you had a great time in Laguna de Apoyo. It’s too bad Granada was so tourism driven, as your photos make it look great otherwise. Your posts about Nicaragua are really making me want to visit!

  2. Hey Kate, loving these Central America posts thus far! You definitely have picqued my previously dormant interest in the region. And you have just begun 🙂 THANKS!

  3. That definitely was my favorite getaway from Managua 🙂 Monkey Hut is awesome, but there’s a lot of other nice places! La Selva Azul for example, their neighbours!

  4. I’m definitely adding Laguna de Apoyo to my list! I’m wondering, does it smell like sulfur? When I was at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, the volcanic gases made it smell like sulfur in a lot of the park. There were also air quality hazards, but I imagine that’s not the case at Laguna de Apoyo.

  5. Love your pictures, laguna apoyo was one of our favorite trips in Nicaragua. If you do stay overnight there is a lot to do like kayakking to a beach with boiling water pubbles.

  6. I know what you mean about Granada – I felt the same way about the city when I paused there for a few days during a backpacking adventure in Central America. As touristy as it was, it just didn’t really feel that friendly. My highlight of Nicaragua was Ometepe island. Amazing wide life and people.
    Claire xx

  7. It may not have been the best of the best, but it looks great from your pictures and sounds like you had quite an awesome Valentine’s Day after all! 🙂

  8. Looks beautiful. My favourite day trip was snorkelling from Caye Caulker on a boat that visited three different reefs where we saw spotted eagle rays, swam with sting rays, nurse sharks and turtles. We had an amazing fish lunch on the boat with run punch and tunes on the way back. It was so beautiful and met some cool people

  9. My friend got married at La Abuela on Laguna de Apoyo a few years ago, and it was incredible. Beautiful and chillaxed. I used to live in Costa Rica, so I’m really loving your recent Central America posts–they’re really making me itch to get back there! I also used to teach near your friend Beth in Texas :).

  10. I loved Granada when I was there in 2010. Interesting to learn that things have changed a bit. Your time at the lake looks awesome though. I visited but didn’t get to go swimming when I was in Nicaragua!

  11. Seeing the brightly colored buildings of Granada and a beautiful day at the beach in Laguna de Apoyo, I can see why you had a wonderful Valentine’s day. You don’t need a significant other to enjoy Valentine’s day, just good company. 🙂

  12. Hi Kate. I did a trip with a Toucan tour group last December passing through Granada. I agree with your comments totally- slightly strange feeling that only tourists were eating and enjoying the Main Street there. I also ate at the Irish pub but never go to Irish pubs!
    Had a gift of 3 necklaces stollen by staff at a hotel when I left a small shopping bag by mistake on the table late at night after we ate in. Found the paper packets I bought the necklaces in, in the bin in their kitchen! Desk staff insisted it was not possible, even when my your leader produced the empty bags we found in the kitchen bin. Oh it could happen anywhere but the only other place I have had something stollen, was notorious Barcelona, my day pack went from under my nose in a tour office! Hard not to let your guard down when you have been traveling for extended periods, I was away 4 months last year.
    Love reading of you travels and have been to many of the same places.
    Loved Leon more than Granada.

  13. Goddamn it! I gave this a miss. It looks lovely! I agree with you about Granada. I really liked it, but it didn’t seem to fit in somehow. It definitely felt like a tourist trap – especially that main street with all the bars and restaurants.

  14. Yup, you’re completely convincing me to head into Central America for an extended period of time, Kate! Glad you’re having such an incredible time out there too 🙂

  15. I <3 Laguna de Apoyo and Monkey Hut! I stayed there back in February and it was one of my favorite spots in Nicaragua. Aw, you're making me miss Central America!

  16. Here’s the thing about Granada….The Poetry festival, which is when you were there, is THE most touristy times all year. Like most awesome spots in the world, if you time your visit if possible, to being there in off season, then you really get the real experience. This is not unique to Granada!

    We lived there for six amazing years and frankly during Poetry Festival we did our best to be out of town as the city is so packed for the festival. It was a rare day that we walked along the main drag … which is where tourists head…much like a smaller Las Ramblas in Barcelona! In Granada ( as in most cities which are popular with tourists) you just have to get off the main drag and then authenticity and village life is there in all its splendor.

    We have been travelling in Asia and Europe now for almost two years and make it our mission to be in places off season. (Example, Lagos in Portugal during winter – you still have the beauty, without the crowds, Luang Prabang in Laos off season, only a handful of travellers here and there.)

    Gotta get off the beaten track and walk far and wide. Tourists tend to be like sheep…they always cluster in one or two main streets.

    Granada is a treasure trove of architecture and small village life – there for those who take the time to explore (beyond the touristy center. )

    That said, Laguna de Apollo was our favorite close by get away, so glad you got there! And yes, Ometepe is uniquely magnificent! .

  17. I love, love your blog Kate! I, Grid, spent 8 weeks traveling sola in Nicaragua in December and January and loved it so much I decided to start a business around it. I’m ( taking single women on tour with the “what would it be like to live here” hat on. In August we’re heading to Nicaragua and to Thailand in January.

    I really loved the mountainous areas of Nicaragua and spent a lot of time in Matagalpa and Esteli. I went and met Mr. Gutierrez who has carved a whole mountainside since he was 14, he’s now 68 or 69, he couldn’t remember, lol. I also toured a Cigar factory in Esteli, what fun that was! I further found the best Hamburger and Fries at Happy restaurant and Besame ice cream on the same block, both owned by U.S. expats…yummy!

  18. We are just leaving Nicaragua today, and also had a FABULOUS day at The Monkey Hut! We are a family of 4, and the kids LOVED the kayaks and pizza. We also were ready to get out of Granada for the day, and Lake Apoyo was a great surprise (we didn’t do much research in advance). A MUST if you’re in Granda. The rooms there looked really nice and clean, a great option if you’re looking for a hostel, in my opinion.

  19. I just wanted to say that your pictures are amazing. Also I’m doing a research paper about Granada and came across to this website. I was wondering if you can send me pictures of the island. thanks

  20. I grow up vacacioning in that blue lagoon .. laguna dw apoyo….and I can complete understand and relate when you said there is no words to describe the feeling ‘ of tranquility and bliss felt while you were there..
    Am so glad that part of your trip was so worth it.
    Am from nicaragua and been living in miami for many years and every cell of my body is asking to go back..

  21. Hussein AlSakka

    Heyy, I’m just here to let you know that I randomly found you while searching on google, and your posts are helping me A LOT!! with planning my trip to NIcaragua!

  22. Thanks for sharing this! Seems like you had a wonderful time. We will be there around the same time as you but in 2018 – Possibly also Valentine’s Day!

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