Monkey and Boat Driver on boat in Las Isletas

Nicaragua is filled with stunning natural beauty. Take a boat ride from the colonial city of Granada Nicaragua and get transported to a series of magical islands filled with historic forts, curious wildlife as well as the homes of some of Nicaragua’s elite. Read on to find out why the Las Isletas Boat Tour is one of the best things to do in Granada Nicaragua!

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About Las Isletas

View of Las Isletas from Restaurante Correviento
Las Isletas from Restaurante Correviento

Las Isletas, or The Islets in English, are a unique feature of Nicaragua’s largest lake, Lake Nicaragua. These are a series of 365 small islands which formed 20 thousand years ago due to a volcanic eruption from nearby Mombacho Volcano.

About Lake Nicaragua

Lake Nicaragua is known by many names, including Lago Cocibolca, Lake Granada, Mar Dulce, Gran Lago and Gran Lago Dulce. This freshwater lake is the largest lake in Central America and the 19th largest lake in the world. Granada sits on the shore of Lake Nicaragua and it is only a 15 minute walk to the edge of the lake from the city centre.

The Las Isletas boat tours

Pool at Restaurante Correviento Las Isletas Nicaragua
Pool at Restaurante Correviento

Private boat tours of Las Isletas take you around the many small islands which have formed in Lake Nicaragua. Tours generally include:

  • The old fort – where you can disembark to explore the fort and enjoy the views
  • Passing by the many islands, where you can see mansions owned by billionaires and past presidents
  • Monkey Island – if you’re lucky a monkey may hop on the boat. For a more interactive experience, consider bringing some fruit to feed the monkeys
  • Restaurant – there are some nice restaurants on the lake that sell food and drinks. We visited Restaurante Correviento, which also has a pool you can swim in. This is a nice place to relax for a couple of hours and enjoy the view

Getting to Las Isletas

Horse and Carriage Ride in Granada Nicaragua
Horse and Carriage Ride in Granada Nicaragua

Las Isletas boat tours leave from the Central Park of Granada, and some tours will also include transport down to the lake. Otherwise a taxi ride to the lake should be around 20 cordobas. Be sure to ask up front whether they also bring you back to the Central Park at the end of the tour, so you know up front whether you might need to walk back. The walk back is a pleasant half hour walk along the water and then up the road via Calle La Calzada. When walking around the lake area, take particular care with not having your valuables visible. We mention this because we’ve heard of robberies occurring in this area.

The boat ride leaves from the Turistico Centro area at the edge of the lake. There is a boat dock at the far edge of the lake.

Pier on Lake Nicaragua
Pier on Lake Nicaragua

How long to spend at Las Isletas

Las Isletas boat tours generally go from between 1-4 hours, depending on how much of the islands you want to see. We did a 3 hour tour, which included a stop at the restaurant. We thought this was a good amount of time to enjoy the lake and relax in this beautiful area.

How to book the Las Isletas boat tour

There are plenty of touts around the Central Park (Parque Central de Granada) area as well as near the lake that sell tours of Las Isletas. When we were there we were able to book and go on the boat tour straight away.

Rotunda and Water Fountain at Parque Central Granada Nicaragua
Central Park of Granada Nicaragua

How much does the Las Isletas boat tour cost?

The Las Isletas boat tours are private boat tours and when we did it the price was quoted for the group not per person. The price of the Las Isletas boat tour varies depending on the length of your tour, with tours between 1-4 hours. Prices are generally quoted in US dollars, although you can also pay in cordobas. Prices are negotiable and may fluctuate with demand. We were in Nicaragua during the Covid pandemic and there were no tourists around, so prices were lower than normal. You should expect to pay around $40 US Dollars to hire a boat with a driver and guide for one hour. That price should include transport to the boat as well as back to your hotel after the tour.

You pay the guide at the end of the boat tour in cash.

What to bring on the Las Isletas boat tour

We recommend bringing the following things to make the most of your tour:

  • Cash – in US dollars and cordobas. The restaurant prices are in cordobas and the tours are generally quoted in US dollars
  • Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses and other sun protection
  • Insect repellent
  • Swim suit
  • Towel
  • Camera
  • Fruit to feed the monkeys

Our experience of the Las Isletas boat tour

The Las Isletas boat tour is the best thing to do in Granada Nicaragua. After living in Nicaragua for close to a year we wanted to find a special experience to celebrate Jay’s birthday and this boat tour certainly delivered!

Horse and carriage ride through Granada Nicaragua

Our tour started with a unique way to travel through the colonial town of Granada – a horse and carriage ride! The ride from the Central Park of Granada to our boat at the Turistico Centro (the Tourist Centre of Granada) was a great feature of the tour and something we loved. Note though that dropping you back to town may not be part of the tour, so you may have to find your own way back afterwards.

Fort of San Pablo Las Isletas NIcaragua
Fort of San Pablo

Fort of San Pablo: Las Isletas Nicaragua

The first stop on the tour is the Fort of San Pablo. The fort was built in the late 1700s as a defence against pirates, who would travel up Lake Nicaragua from the Carribean to plunder the riches of Granada. This fort has beautiful views over to Mombacho Volcano as well as views of the city of Granada. For the best views be sure to climb to the roof of the fort.

While we were there we had an unexpected treat of meeting the guy who is on the picture of the 100 cordoba bank note! He was a super friendly guy and took the time to pose with his likeness for us! He still works as a tour guide in Granada, so if you’re lucky enough you might be able to meet him too.

Man from 100 Cordoba Note Nicaragua
Man from the 100 Cordoba Note

Who lives on Las Isletas Nicaragua?

Our tour guide told us that 80% of the islands are inhabited. We got to have a peek at islands owned by past presidents, Nicaraguan business moguls and ex pats. This island mansion is owned by Carlos Pellas Chamorro, Nicaragua’s first billionaire and richest man!

Mansion of Pelas on Las Isletas Nicaragua
Pelas Mansion on Las Isletas Nicaragua

There are also fishing families who live amongst the islands and catch the fish to be served up back in the restaurants of Granada

One of the buildings that you will pass by used to be a hotel and it had three underground rooms and also a helipad.

A former president of Costa Rica also lives on one of these islands.

Monkey Island: Las Isletas Nicaragua

Our favourite island was Monkey Island. There are 3 monkeys that live here, Lucy, George and Pancho. They are used to humans visiting and peered out from their tree to see us as we arrived. Lucy even hopped onto our boat to say hello!

Monkey getting on tour boat at Monkey Island Las Isletas Nicaragua
Lucy the Monkey Climbing on Board!

Restaurante Correviento: Las Isletas Nicaragua

After about an hour and a half of touring around the islands we came to an island that had a restaurant called Restaurante Correviento and a pool overlooking the water. The restaurant has a good range of options and their prices are similar to what you’d pay for tourist restaurants in Granada. They only accept cash and their prices are in cordobas. We shared a whole fish with sides, which was 700 cordobas for the both of us. The fish was absolutely delicious! We loved the layout of the restaurant with plenty of tables under the shade of straw roofed cabanas.

Fish, salad, tostones and rice at Restaurante Correviento Las Isletas
Catch of the Day!

It was lovely cooling off in the water while gazing at the view of the nearby islands. Fortunately for us there were only a couple of other groups at the restaurant while we were there, so it wasn’t too crowded. We found a nice spot by the water and had a relaxing couple of hours enjoying the peacefulness of the area.

We saw some people swimming in the lake, but we later found out that there are sawfish, tarpon and even bull sharks in the lake, so we’re glad we didn’t go for a swim!

Boys Jumping into Lake Nicaragua
Jumping into Lake Nicaragua

Flowers on the Las Isletas Boat Tour

Before we finished our tour, our guide had a birthday surprise for Jay! The boat pulled up alongside an island with a tree full of flowers and our guide picked a flower for Jay.

Flowers on Las Isletas Boat Tour Nicaragua
Flowers on Las Isletas Boat Tour

End of the Las Isletas Boat Tour

Our tour ended lakeside at the Turistico Centro area of Granada. It was a very pleasant walk back along the water and up Calle La Calzada to the town centre of Granada. If you are in Granada make sure you walk down to the lakeside, its just a really pretty area. Just take care not to have your valuables out in plain sight as there have been a few robberies in that area and we’d suggest avoiding that area at night when it does become a bit more dangerous. However during the day it’s lovely, lots of people here having picnics and just relaxing.

Woman Walking Along Lake Nicaragua, Granada Nicaragua
Walking Along Lake Nicaragua

Where to stay when visiting Las Isletas

We recommend staying at least a few nights in the city of Granada while in Nicaragua. Granada is a beautiful city, and we called it home for a year.

We recommend the following accommodation in Granada Nicaragua:

  • Best hostel in Granada Nicaragua – Hostal De Boca en Boca is one of the best hostels in Granada Nicaragua. It’s clean and comfortable with delicious free breakfasts. There is a spacious common area and it also has a well equipped kitchen.
  • Best value hotel in Granada Nicaragua – We highly recommend staying at Hotel La Gran Sultana for budget friendly accommodation in Granada Nicaragua. We stayed here ourselves and thought it was a great value option. It’s also conveniently located, has a pool, delicious breakfasts and a spectacular rooftop area.
  • Best hotel in Granada Nicaragua – Hotel Jardín de Granada is one of the best hotels in Granada Nicaragua. It has an amazing garden and pool area. It is within easy reach of the major attractions of the city whilst also being in an area that is peaceful and quiet.
  • Best luxury accommodation in Granada Nicaragua – If you are after an impeccably presented villa and a luxurious experience in Granada Nicaragua, you can’t go past Casa Bubu Guesthouse. The team at Bubu offer exceptional service in a little piece of paradise.

For longer term rentals, we recommend Granada Property Services (GPS Nicaragua). They have a good selection of colonial style home rentals as well as apartments and some of their staff speak English.

Is Las Isletas safe?

General safety considerations for travel in Las Isletas:

  • Drinking water – Bring your own water with you for the Las Isletas Tour. Depending on the length of your tour, you may stop at a restaurant where you can buy drinks
  • Mosquitoes – We didn’t have any issues with mosquitoes on the Las Isletas Tour, but it’s a good idea to bring insect repellent with you
  • Water safety – You will be provided with life vests to wear on board the boat. There is a pool to swim in at the restaurant. Some people also swam in the lake. If you decide to swim in the lake, keep in mind that there are some levels of pollution in the water and the lake also contains sawfish, tarpon and sharks
  • Sun safety – The UV Index is very high in Central America, so sun protection such as sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses is very important to ensure you don’t get burnt
  • Crime – we’ve heard reports of robberies around the lake area, particularly at night but also during the day. We haven’t had any bad experiences there personally, but we’d recommend not flashing around your valuables, particularly if you’re there without a tour guide
  • Dogs – in many countries in Central America, stray dogs are common, however we didn’t come across any stray dogs during our boat tour. For more on dog safety while travelling, check out this video

As with any destination, take all of your normal safety precautions.

Final thoughts on Las Isletas Nicaragua

If you want to learn more about visiting Las Isletas, check out our Las Isletas video.

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