QCOSTARICA – Granada, Nicaragua is a popular destination for many North Americans living in Costa Rica. The question is, how to get there. Unless you are a resident lucky enough to own a car in Costa Rica, you have to decide whether to take a bus or to fly.
The obvious advantage of the bus is that it is inexpensive, about $40 (US) each direction. But it is an all-day ordeal. San José to Granada by bus, can take anywhere from seven to ten hours, depending on how long you are detained at the border.
Should you decide to fly, the flight on Nature Air takes all of 75 minutes. But there are a couple of factors you should consider.
First is the cost. When we recently called Nature Air to book a flight from San José to Managua, we were told that the round-trip airfare was $180 (US) “plus tax.” Then the nice lady on the phone casually mentioned that the total, with the tax, was $355 per person. That’s a lot of tax! (And that did not include Costa Rica’s $29 exit tax.)
But that was just the beginning. In addition to the airfare, most people will need to take a taxi to the airport. Then when they get to Managua, they will need another taxi to Granada. (The taxi from Managua airport to Granada was $55, including a small tip for the driver.) On the return trip, they will have to do it all over again.
The second consideration is the airplane. Nature Air uses a brightly painted “Twin Otter” from the Dehavilland Corporation of Canada, a plane which has a great reputation. But it is a small plane, and some may find the ride a bit bouncy. In addition, you could spend most of the ride completely in the clouds.
However, given a reasonably nice day, it can be a very pleasant trip. And the real payoff is the view. As you take off from San José International Airport, you turn north over Alajuela. Soon you will be high enough to see the Gulf of Nicoya and the Pacific Coast as you pass over miles of Costa Rica’s beautiful rural countryside.
About half way through the flight, you will find yourself over the massive Lake Nicaragua. Here you will see countless islands of all sizes, some uninhabited, some with an individual luxury home, and some big enough to support farms and small towns.
As the plane makes it’s decent into Managua, you will fly over the city of Granada, which sits like a lovely jewel on the shore of Lake Nicaragua. You may get to see the iconic yellow Cathedral de Granada. If you are lucky you will be able to get a photo or two that will make the trip worthwhile.
After you land at Managua International Airport, getting through customs is a relatively quick and easy experience. Then you are ready to start your Nicaragua adventure.
One of the great advantages of living in San José is that you have lots of transportation options. From San José you can get virtually anywhere in the country, and beyond.
Michael Miller is the author of the first and only guide book that focuses on Downtown San José, titled The Real San José.