Spending good few days in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, I just could not skip seeing places around. The landscape is way too beautiful to just stay in the city. Lakes, volcanoes and mountains create a very interesting environment that stun you straight away, especially when coming from tropical and very green Costa Rica, like myself. I would definitely recommend to see two places that are close by: stunning Masaya Volcano, along with surrounded national park, and a cute little town called Granada. Second mentioned one is a very touristic place, so you can find there loads of restaurants, hostel and hotels to stay in. Please note that half of the day is more than enough to enjoy this town. The volcano, however, is definitely a must see attraction while in capital. It can become as an amazing one day trip, you will never forget. The bad news is that its not always open, especially when caldera is too active, but once is available to public…no excuses for not seeing it! So how to get there?
Managua offers loads of tours to take you to both places, but why to pay more when catching a minibus could not be easier. The place to find them is same for both directions, so are the minivans. They do have a sing on the front saying Granada, where they terminate, and the volcano is on the way to mentioned town. Just please tell the driver to stop in front of the entrance to the park. For your way back from the Masaya, there is a bus stop on another side of the motorway where you can wait and wave when you will spot the bus. I am afraid they are usually full, so you may even wait for the third one that will let you in. Luckily, they run very often, every 15-30 mins. You can get a taxi too, if you prefer, for around 40$ one way (so not so cheap, but option as well).
The bus stop for the mini vans towards Granada, in Managua, is located at UCA terminal (University of Central America on Pista de la Resistencia street), and the ticket cost around 24-44 NIO (1$). Another bus stop can be found at Mercado Huembes, but its a bit further south from the city center (please see the attached map). It will take about 1 hour to rich Granada and around 40 minutes to rich Masaya. UCA terminal is a bit chaotic, but just look for the minibus with Granada sign on it. Vans run from 05:00 till 22:00.
I did walk to UCA terminal from city center, was safe for me, but police stopped me twice to ask why do I walk alone, and that I should take a taxi there. You can catch a bus there from the city center too. Once there, vans run very often and depart once almost full. You pay in the bus, usually on the way towards your destination. Ticket cost around 1$ one way, so its extremely cheap. In Granada bus stops right in the city center, the return one departs from different stop, see map attached below. There is no timetable again, as it leaves very often (every 15-30 mins) once van is full.
One more thing to add at the end. If you have just one spare day please do pick volcano over Granada!