I had a wonderful time learning Spanish at the Apoyo Cultural Center. Besides learning Spanish I was able to kayak, snorkel, chill out and enjoy the beautiful lake. After spending a week there I went to a partner spanish school in Granada and enjoyed the colonial city. Lovely spot with lots to do including scuba diving.
There is a breathtaking view of Laguna de Apoyo from Mirador de Catarina. But the lagoon is a beautiful place that has abundant nature (you can spot howling monkeys and lots of birds) so it’s worth taking the time to explore it and enjoy a variety activities, from hiking, diving to kayaking. For hiking it's better to have a guide because most of the shore is privately owned. The lagoon is a tranquil and relaxing place, very clean and beautiful for swimming. And besides, the water has healing properties due to its rich mineral components. There are a handful of small local restaurants that serve fish, typical Nicaraguan food and cold beers, and lots of lodging options. The restaurants 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. A cold Toña beer was very refreshing after many hours in the sun. Not really hungry for a proper meal. We only bought peanuts from a local woman on the beach. They were great snack and went well with the beer.
Along with Pueblos Blancos and Mirador de Catarina, this was a very enjoyable getaway from Granada.
The hillside pueblo Catarina is mainly known for the viewpoint Mirador de Catarina, a cliffside walkway at the edge of the crater lake Laguna de Apoyo. It is lined with restaurants and a few souvenir shops where you can buy some locally produced handicrafts. There is a small entrance fee to the viewpoint. Mirador de Catarina is one of the highest hills surrounding the Laguna de Apoyo, with one of the best panoramic views in Nicaragua. You will be standing on the edge of a vast volcanic crater looking across the spectacular Laguna de Apoyo to Lake Nicaragua, the Isletas and Mombacho Volcano to the south, and on a clear day the twin volcanic peaks of Ometepe. Truly breathtaking!
The viewpoint is a popular attraction for tourists, and a favourite place among Nicaraguans during weekends, when many gather there to enjoy the view, grab a bite in one of the restaurants or have a look through the telescope. It is said to have been young Agusto Sandino's favourite place to consider decisions.
Once in Catarina, the mirador is easy to find. Walking through the village of Catarina you will see signs. Otherwise ask, anybody will know.
Several times I visited this place, alone or with my family.
Hotel Oasis or Bearded Monkey in Granada offer shuttle to their places at the Lagoon.
I always went with Bearded Monkey to their Monkey Hut.
The mainattraction in one of the Pueblos Blancos, Catarina, is the viewpoint from where you have a great view over the Laguna de Apoyo. This is a lake that is situated inside the crater of the Apoyo Volcano. The deepest point is 200 meters deep and is the lowest point in all of Central America.
In the village Catarina you can go to the Mirador which offers a great view over the lake, the forests on the sides, the deep blue water of the lagoon and the wide area around the lake: the Mombacho Volcano, Granada and even the Lago de Nicaragua. The fee to enter the Mirador is about one dollar.
It is also possible to go to get to the banks of the lagoon and to lie in the sun there and rent a kayak for a day.
The Pueblos Blancos are a strip of small villages between Masaya and Granada. When you take the bus from Granada towards Catarina, you will already pass through a lot of small villages. These villages all have a central square and a very peaceful caracter.
As soon as you enter the two most famous ones Catarina and San Juan de Oriente you will see more activity, and most of it is focussed on tourism. The villages are famous for its artesanias that are very caracteristic. Most of the things you find here are pottery and windchimes that are sold in every shop along the mainroads through the villages.
Most of the tourists that come here are Nicaraguan people; western tourists are still pretty rare here.
Inside the hut there are many board games, cards, books and binoculars that you are free to use. They sell basic snacks and drinks, if you want anything more substantial you will have to bring it with you.
The Bearded Monkey or just ‘the monkey’ is another hostel in Granada and they own the monkey hut on Laguna de Apoyo which is a crater lake you can swim in. If you are on a tight budget you can sleep in a hammock there for $1.50!
There were some local Nicaraguan singers and it was so peaceful sitting up there with this spectacular view and listening to the beautiful music. They played ‘Nicaragua, Nicaragua’ for us and just hearing that song always reminds me of that view.
Catarina is one of the Pueblo Blanco (white towns) and is characterised by the white stucco houses. Catarina is 520 meters above sea level. At the highest point is Mirador Catarina where you get a spectacular view of the very blue Cocibola Lake, Volcan Mombacho and on to Granada and Lake Nicaragua.