Use Tierra Tours
Tierra Tours is reasonable and very professional. The more people on your tour, the cheaper. Las Isletas tour and Volcan Masaya tour (includes spots at various places of interest that are superb, like Lake Masaya, Lake Apoyo, Masaya markets, San Juan de Oriente, Catarina etc..
Tipping at Restaurants
Check your bill before tipping. Some restaurants add a 10% tip (propina) automatically to the bill. I really doubt the server gets the tip in such cases. This is actually against the law and no one is required to pay any sort of tip. In fact most Nicaraguans do not pay tips and are incensed if they see the tip added to their bill. My recommendation is if you see the 10% automatically added to you bill, is to inform the server to remove the 10% tip and present a new bill. Then tip the person directly, but descretely. This keeps everyone honest and the one who served receives the tip rather then his/her boss.
Masaya is a little town situated 14 km north of Granada, on the way to Managua. It rises on the banks of the lake that has the same name. The city is the heart of Nicaraguan craft arts and folklore. One of the most interesting attractions in Masaya itself is Mercado de Artesanías. It's the biggest handicraft markets in Nicaragua, which houses a variety of little shops where traditional handicrafts can be found, from hand woven hammocks to wood carving, ceramic, musical instruments and many other things. Inside the market there are several restaurants where you can taste some typical dishes. On Thursday nights you can visit La Verbena, a cultural event that includes folkloric dances, music and traditional Nicaraguan food.
Just outside the city lies the Parque Nacional Volcán Masaya, one of Nicaragua's most impressive natural phenomena. Established in 1979 as the country's first natonal park, it comprises an area of 54 km2 with more than 20 km of scenic hiking trails, leading to and around the volcano.
Laguna de Apoyo
Located between Masaya and Granada is a 200m deep volcanic crater lake named Laguna de Apoyo. With its blue water and an amazing view, it is one of Nicaragua's most beautiful natural wonders and should not be missed. Laguna de Apoyo was formed by a volcanic eruption more than 20.000 years ago that left a hole in the shape of an inverted cone. Slowly, over thousands of years, the crater filled with a combination of underground water and rain to form the country's cleanest and deepest lagoon. In 1991 the lagoon was declared as nature reserve, Reserva Natural Laguna de Apoyo.
Many visitors are simply pleased to view the lagoon from Mirador de Catarina. But it's worth making your way to the the bottom for one of the finest swims you'll ever enjoy. You can explore the lagoon itself and enjoy a variety of activities, from hiking, diving, paragliding to watersports. Tere are a handful of small local restaurants that serve fish, typical Nicaraguan food and cold beers, and lots of lodging options. The restauants are conveniently located just above the beach.
We were happy to spend an afternoon by the lagoon, having a swim in the warm water and relaxing in the shadow of one of the restaurants. The cold beer was very refreshing after many hours on the sun. Along with Pueblos Blancos and Mirador de Catarina in the morning, this made as a very enjoyable day trip from Granada.
From Granada to Masaya
I visited the Masaya Vulcan on a tour from Granada, but another day I took the bus to visit the town. Buses to Masaya from Granada leaves a few block from where I stayed and only a block from the market. There are frequent buses and I didn’t have to wait long until the bus departed. The bus was one of those repainted old American school buses, so common in Central America. The ride took 30 - 40 minutes and it was 9 cordobas (July 2009).
In Granada the buses stops at a big open space next to Mercado Municipal, about one kilometre east of the centre. I came back here to take the bus back to Granada and had to ask around for the right bus. There were a few with the sign Granada, but only one leaving soon. On that bus there was a TV, the first and only TV I saw on one of these buses.