While in Nicaragua I was desperate for a break from traveling for a few days. Long term traveling can take its toll if you try to pack too much in and at that stage I was feeling like I needed a holiday. I was indulging in some touristy pleasures in Granada when I learnt about a cool hostel that was supposedly like a resort for budget travelers at a small lake nearby. The dorms also had the best view of any dorm around the world! I booked myself onto the next shuttle.
You can go for the just the day or stay overnight. Once you arrive, there will be a staff member with a clip board to check you in. My group was separated into day trippers and over nighters and were led to the check in area. The hostel is very well run and I was checked in and shown to my bed within half an hour which is pretty great considering there was a lot of people waiting to check in.
I also noticed some travellers who had stayed the night and were hoping to book for longer! I did the same as soon as I saw the view and knew this was where I needed to be.
You’re given a token with an animal on it and this is what you use when ordering anything so they know what tab to put it on. The hostel is completely cash free until you check out! Which could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how many $2 cocktails you clock up.
Once I was taken down to the dorm I understood why it was so popular. I had heard that the view from the dorm was better than any other room and it was actually quite stunning. The dorm consisted of about 10 bunk beds and where the fourth wall should have been, there is just a large roller cage. This is great for keeping the room cool and also afforded spectacular views out to the lake. Dorms are just $10 a night!
There are also private rooms that are still quite affordable if you’re not into dorm life and everyone has access to all the resort facilities. A single room with shared bath is only $15 and you can get a double room with private bathroom for $32 a night.
If you’re traveling with a group they even have quadruple rooms! Check out their rates page for more information.
The resort offers a day trip option which is great if you don’t have a lot of time but still want to experience lake life in Nicaragua. Day trippers can access all the facilities from 9 am to 5 pm at the cost of $7 per person. They also get free tea and coffee all day as well as access to restrooms and change rooms.
Eating and drinking
There are two spots where you can order and eat, upstairs near the check-in area has a great view of the lake and is more chilled out. A good spot for reading a book or getting lost in the view. The second and main area for eating is located right on the lake front. This is a more social spot where you can order your $2 mojito and take it right into the lake with you. No one’s judging here!
There’s a wood fire pizza oven and they do pizza nights a couple times a week. The pizza is actual some of the best I had while in Nicaragua so definitely give it a try while you’re visiting.
The menu is available to view online so check out all the awesome options. Meals range from typical Nicaraguan fare to more western treats, like my favourite the Blue Cheese and Walnut Linguine. Drool!
If you have any special dietary requirements you can confirm them with the staff before you arrive. Vegetarians and celiacs should be pretty comfortable here as I stayed 5 nights and didn’t feel like I was lacking variety.
Laguna de Apoyo
Apoyo Lake is a crater lake said to be the result of Volcano Apoyo imploding on itself over 20,000 years ago. It is 48 square kilometres and the deepest point has been measured at 200 metres. If you imagine the big cone that would have been left behind by the volcano you can get a good idea of the shape of the lake.
It gets deep very quickly but is naturally warm and filled with volcano mineraly goodness. Like many beaches in Central America, the lake has a black sand beach. This takes a little getting used to if you've never experienced it before.
One of the best parts of Hostel Paradiso is their expansive grounds. It’s basically set into a slope (due to crater like shape described above) so there are lots of levels and lots of stairs. It’s worth taking 15 minutes to just explore the area to see what’s available. I mentioned to some friends that I was going to read my book on a hammock and they didn’t even know there was a hammock area!
There’s loads of water sports and other games available to occupy your time if you ever get bored of just lounging. These include: kayaks, stand up paddleboards, beach volleyball, beach badminton, pool, ping-pong, or traditional French boules.
There’s a chill out cabana with hammocks, couches and bean bags with a tv and dvd player. Great for rainy days!
There is a floating dock on the lake that you can swim to or grab one of the tires and float there in your own time. My top tip is grab a book or your kindle, wrap it in plastic bad or even better a zip lock bag and take it out to the deck. There is really nothing better than floating along on the dock with a good book.
I also enjoyed some night swims out to the floating dock with my new friends. Hanging out, sharing stories and laughing by moonlight in Apoyo is one of my most treasured travel memories.
There is wifi available but mostly on the very top level and sometimes in the reception area. Be prepared to be a bit off the grid, though, as the signal can be weak and cut out a couple of times while I was there. They’ve advertised recently that they have since doubled their bandwidth so you may be surprised!
The staff are super helpful and friendly. If you have any issues they were always happy to help. Especially the restaurant staff. They created a fun environment for all the guests.
I had a couple of friends who did the Spanish classes on offer and they really enjoyed it. The classes are in a cute little garden area on the property with lovely lake views so you still feel like you’re in paradise while doing your lessons
You can do single lessons or Paradiso offers a package deal if you want to stay for a few days and do lessons as well.
The lake and area
The best part of this hostel is the lake. It would be very easy to spend days lounging in a beach chair or floating along in an inner tube. The big surprise for me was that this is THE warmest lakes I have ever been in.
If you want to get out and explore the area there’s some great birdwatching and also monkey spotting. There are over 200 bird species that you can try to spot in Apoyo including 65 migratory species. Feel like getting out of bed early? Head out of the resort and to the right and you can certainly hear, if not see, the local howler monkeys.
There are also white-headed capuchins in the area, although, you would be very lucky to see those! On the Paradiso property I saw my first anteater in the wild so you should certainly keep your eyes open for all the wildlife that’s around.
There are several hikes to small towns in the area including Santa Catarina which has a flower and handicraft market and a stunning lookout where you can see the lake and Mombacho volcano.
Getting there and away
Paradiso has a shuttle that picks up traveler from different spots around Granada. It is $6 for a round trip and leaves around 10 am and 3pm every day, returning by 4 pm.
You can also catch a local bus heading to Masaya and ask to be let off at the entrance to Laguna de Apoyo. These buses leave from Granada every 10 minutes. The bus drops you at the entrance of the small town so you can either catch a taxi (100 cordobas aprox.) or walk for about an hour. Hitchhiking is also an option and you’ll see the locals doing it.
If there’s a couple of you, consider getting a taxi. You should be able to negotiate a fare for about $15 one way.
The important stuff
Phone: Mov: (505) 81874542 Claro: (505) 25203571
Make sure to book in advance
Bring enough cash with you for your whole stay
Try the tipico for breakfast - so good!
Meals range from $3.50 to $10
There are smoothies on the menu and you can add a shot of rum for $1 >.<
If you’re traveling during the off season (September and October) they have discounted rates for longer stays
Try to get up for at least one sunrise, they're amazing over the lake