Río San Juan and the Solentiname Archipelago listings

SleepingSan Carlos

$
Cabinas Leyko
, Policía Nacional, 2 c abajo, T2583-0354. The best place in town has clean, comfortable rooms with good mattresses, private bath and a/c. Cheaper with fan (
$
).

$
Carelhy's Hotel
, Iglesia católica, ½ c sur, T2583-0389. 10 rooms with private bath, fan and cable TV. Can help arrange tours and transport, breakfasts for large groups.

$
Cocibolca
, in San Miguelito north of San Carlos, at the end of the jetty, T2552- 8803. Colonial style hotel with hard beds; ask for a room with a balcony. Horse riding arranged by the owner, Franklin, as well as day trips to El Boquete and El Morro Islands. The Granada-San Carlos boat stops here.

$
Costa Sur
, Consejo Supremo Electoral
50 m sur, T2583-0224. With 10 rooms, shared or private bath and fan, meals. Some have a/c (
$$
).

Solentiname Archipelago

It's possible to stay in basic but generally very clean private homes.

$$$
Refugio Mancarrón
, Mancarrón, up the hill from the dock and church, T2265- 2716 (Managua). Includes 3 meals per day. Good spot, ideal for wildlife, hiking, with good rooms and food.

$$
Hotel Celentiname or Doña María
, San Fernando, T8893-1977. This hotel has pretty grounds and owners Daniel and María are friendly and helpful. Tiny rooms have shared bath, weak beds and no windows. The cabins have private bath and spectacular lake views. No advance booking.

$
Albergue de la Comunidad de Solentiname/Doña Esperanza
, Mancarrón, T2283-0083. Low-ceiling cabins in need of care, big grassy grounds, food available, library. Turn right before church and call out at the gate (¡
Buenas
!), rustic cabins with full board included, some with private bath, some with shared, owned by the famed priest Ernesto
Cardenal (can be booked through his
Galería de
Los Tres Mundos, in Managua, T2278-5781).

Río Sábalo

$
Hotel Sábalos
, on confluence of San Juan and Sábalo rivers, T8894-9377, www.hotel sabalos.com.ni. This simple, wooden hotel has a great location, with views up and down the river, great for watching locals pass in canoes. Friendly and recommended.

Los Guatusos Wildlife Reserve

$
)
Research centre
, offering bunkbeds with mosquito netting and shared bath.

El Castillo

$$$
Posada del Río
, 100 m north from the dock, T2616-3528. The best place in town, with very comfortable, pleasant rooms,

hot water, a/c, private bath and balconies. Breakfast included.

$$
Hotel Victoria
, north from the dock and at the end of the end road, T2583-0188, hotelvictoria01@yahoo.es. 9 rooms with fan, private bath and hot water, 3 with a/c and 2 with shared bath (
$
), There's lots of turtles and caimans nearby, but they seem to feeding on waste from the hotel. Breakfast included.

$$
Albergue El Castillo
, next to fortress above city dock, T2583-0195. Comfortable, if simple wooden rooms and great views from a shared balcony overlooking the river. Only 1 room has a private bath, best rooms are 1 and 10 for extra side ventilation, but noisy bats for company in 10. Good food; try the
camarones del río
(river shrimp) in garlic butter. Noisy in the early morning as the public boats warm up (0500) motors. Breakfast included.

$
Universal
, main dock, 50 m downriver. Friendly owners, pleasant views and small, clean, wooden rooms. A good budget choice.

Bartola and further eastRío Sarapiquí

$
Cabinas La Trinidad
or
Doña Adilia's
, at confluence of Río San Juan and Río Sarapiquí on Costa Rican bank, mobile T(506) 391-7120, hurbinacom@yahoo.com. Little rooms with private bath, fan, not terribly clean, bring mosquito net. You need to check in with the Costa Rican guard station across from the lodge on the Río Sarapiquí.

Bahía de San Juan

$$$
Rio Indio Lodge
, between Indio river and Río San Juan, near San Juan del Norte, T(506) 296-0095, www.rioindiolodge.com. Multi-million dollar lodge, designed for upscale fishing packages but excellent for wildlife safaris, birdwatching and rainforest walks. Nicaragua's finest rainforest jungle lodge, recently named one of the top 10 jungle lodges in the world.

San Juan del Norte

$
Hotel Lost Paradise
or
Melvin's Place
, on the river at the south end of town. Ceiling fan, private bath, screened windows but bring coils or mosquito netting. Bar, restaurant (order well in advance), night-time generated power, gazebo on the river, bottled water is sometimes for sale, becoming neglected.

EatingSan Carlos

$$-$
Granadino
, opposite Alejandro Granja playing field, T2583-0386. Daily 0900-0200. Considered the best in town, with a relaxed ambience, good murals, pleasant river views,
Camarones en salsa
, steak and hamburgers.

$$-$
Kaoma
, across from Western Union, T2583-
0293. Daily from 0900 until the last customer collapses in a pool of rum. Funky place, decorated with dozens of oropendula nests, attracts a hard-drinking, friendly clientele.

$
El Mirador
, Iglesia católica, 1½ c sur, T2583-0377. Daily 0700-2000. Superb view from patio of Lake Nicaragua, Solentiname, Río Frío and Río San Juan and the jumbled roofs of the city. Decent chicken, fish and beef dishes starting at US$3 with friendly service.

$
Mirasol
, next to the Roman lake dock where the river meets the lake. Good grilled meats and decent salads, fried chicken, good place to sit in the daytime to watch life on the river and lake with nice views, ruthless mosquitoes in the evening.

El Castillo

$
Bar Cofalito
, on the jetty. Good view and even better
camarones de río
considered by many the best in town, occasional fresh fish. Owner has river kayaks and can organize expeditions on the Río San Juan, rents motorboat (US$10 per hr) for tarpon and snook fishing.

$
Vanessa's
, north of the dock. Great spot by the rapids, with excellent fish and
camarones del río
.

San Juan del Norte

Simple food, fresh lobster if in season, if not the fried snook is recommended. There is a pleasant bar upriver from
Doña Ester's Place
with a big palm ranch and cold beer, card- playing locals and friendly Rama. It can be hard to find someone in San Juan to cook a meal, so bring snacks and arrange meals at
Doña Ester's
or
Melvin's Place
in advance.

EntertainmentSan Juan del NorteBars and clubs

There is a disco which is full of festive locals at weekends dancing to reggae, salsa, rap and merengue. If staying at
Melvin's Place
he will take you to the disco to make sure you have a good time and get home safely. It's a short walk but a ride in his
super-panga,
if offered, is not to be missed. There are no police in San Juan and while the locals are very honest, be aware that this is border country and care should be taken, particularly at night.

TransportSan CarlosAir

To
Managua
,
La Costeña
, 0925, 1425, US$120 return . Sit on the left for the best views. There is a maximum weight for flights - you will be asked your body weight. Flights land and take off within 5 mins, so early arrival is advised. Taxi from airstrip to dock US$1.

Boat

Pangas
are small motor boats;
botes
, long, narrow ones;
planos
, big broad ones. All schedules are subject to change, check locally before planning a journey. To
Granada
, Tue and Fri, 1400, 15 hrs, US$7. Bring a hammock and expect an exhausting journey. To
Solentiname Archipelago
, stopping at islands La Venada, San Fernando and Mancarrón, Tue and Fri 1200, 2½ hrs, US$4. To
Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge
, stopping at village of Papaturro, Tue, Wed, Thu, 0700, 5½ hrs, US$5. To
El Castillo
(and Sábalos), 0800, 1100 (express), 1300 (slow boat), 1430, 1530, 1630, 1½ (express) - 2½ hrs, US$4, US$5 (express), US$2 (slow boat), reduced services on Sun when only first 2 boats run. Avoid the slow boat if you can, it's a gruelling 6-hr ride. To
Los Chiles (Costa Rica)
, 1000, 1600, 2 hrs, US$8. To
San Juan del Norte
, Tue, Fri, 0600, 8 hrs, US$15.

Private boats

are expensive but are faster. Ask at docks, restaurants, taxi drivers or at tourism office. Average round-trip rates:
El Castillo
US$190-250,
Solentiname
US$100-150. Group tours are available from tour operators in Managua.

Bus

Managua to San Carlos is a brutal ride, but locals prefer it to the ferry trip. There are some lovely views during the early part and pure pain in the kidneys at the end. To
Managua
, daily 0200, 0600, 0800 and 1100, 9½ hrs, US$7. Returning from Mercado El Mayoreo at 0500, 0600, 0700 and 1300.

Solentiname ArchipelagoBoat

Private transfers from San Carlos to
Solentiname
1-1½ hr, US$55-85 per boat. Public boat to
San Carlos
, Tue and Fri, 0430, 2-3 hrs, US$4.

El Castillo

To
San Carlos
: 0500 (slow boat), 0520 (express),
0600, 0700, 1100 (express), 1400, 1½-2½ hrs, US$2.75, US$3.75 (express), US$2 (slow boat), reduced services on Sun when only first 2 boats run. Avoid the slow boat if you can, reduced services on Sun. To
San Juan del Norte
, Tue, Fri, 0930, 5 hrs, US$10.

San Juan del Norte

To
San Carlos
, stopping at El Castillo, Thu and Sun, 0430, US$15. There's little chance of connecting with Bluefields, north on the Caribbean coast, unless you have lots of patience, cash and a strong, sea-faring stomach. You might hitch a ride on a fishing boat if you're lucky, otherwise expect a challenging trip.

DirectorySan CarlosBanks

BDF
, next to dock for Solentiname. No exchange for TCs and you can only change cash with street changers. Bring all the cash you need, as there's no ATM for miles.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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