(Ruben y el Mundo, YouTube video), photos are mine
I did a daytrip to Granada, a beautiful city that is extremely walkable. Very colorful homes, gorgeous churches (six that I visited), a lovely central park, and a quick twenty minute walk to Lake Nicaragua. There is a large market too, but note that it caters to locals so many vegetables are whole, uncooked, and unwashed. There are few souvenirs. That’s one of the things I loved most about Nicaragua – everyone speaks Spanish to you, there are no name brand stores or fast food joints, and all the food is Nicaraguan – don’t expect a sushi restaurant or even a Mexican night of tacos. I did pass one Irish pub, so I guess Guinness is universal.
Food here is cheaper than at Laguna de Apoyo. I got an extremely filling meal of rice and beans, fried egg and cheese, plantains, and fresh juice for $3.
I recommend climbing La Merced church tower. Lovely views, and a nice breeze which is comforting when it is so hot and humid. I found some museums, but ended up wandering the city streets instead as it was a lovely day. There is a chocolate museum for you chocolate lovers. There is also a cigar factory where you can roll your own cigar and meet the resident parrot, but obviously people smoke cigars there so if you are sensitive to smoke like I am, steer clear.
Lake Nicaragua is nice, but Laguna de Apoyo is far cleaner if you are wanting to swim.
My daytrip on my second day was to Laguna de Masaya and the Masaya volcano. I highly recommend it. Masaya has a nice folk art museum for less than $1 admission. It has a great market with hammocks, wood crafts, ceramics, etc. Bargaining is a must, and you must do it in Spanish. I found that even with poor Spanish, I got prices down 25% easily.
I walked to Malecon, a nice park with a walkway along Laguna de Masaya with great views and shade.
I took a taxi for $3 to the volcano. I then bargained for the driver to stay with me and take me back to Laguna de Apoyo. People are so friendly and kind in Nicaragua. He was eager to be my unofficial guide, telling me about the volcano and recent eruptions. He pointed out various rock formations. I understood about 75% of his quick Spanish, but he was happy to rephrase things. Note that you must sign in at the volcano and you get a quick safety lesson. You have five minutes (up to 15 depending on the wind and activity level of the volcano on the day you go) to be close to the crater. I had five minutes to grab some pictures and stare in wonder. There is a night option too – if you want to see glowing lava. Admission in the day was about $3.
I also recommend stopping in Catarina for El Mirador, a high viewpoint of Laguna de Apoyo.
I highly recommend Nicaragua. I felt completely safe, found it to be very affordable, loved exploring the culture and sights, and the nature is amazing. It remains a little off the typical tourist track, so definitely consider it if you want to dive into the Hispanic culture.