Nicaragua - Rio San Juan

The Río San Juan is an undiscovered paradise for nature lovers and fishermen; visitors to this part of the country can easily observe diverse wildlife and spectacular flora. In addition, the Rio San Juan has a unique cultural history that played a large role in the early development of Nicaragua. This zone was not only a place where pirates once roamed, but was also sought after by powerful nations as the original location considered for the Central American ‘canal’. In 1524, Hernán Cortés wrote to King Carlos I of Spain “He who possesses the Río San Juan could be considered the owner of the World.”

The Río San Juan begins in the immense Lake Nicaragua and runs roughly 200 kilometers before connecting with the Caribbean Sea. The small and rustic city of San Carlos is the principal city of the region andthe starting point for most excursions in the region. Here there is a small airstrip offering flights to and from Managua and a small wharf, which connects the city with other Nicaraguan cities such as Ometepe, Granada, and other destinations located further down the river.

From here, visitors can take a wooden boad down the river towards the Atlantic to explore some of the area’s more remote natural reserves such as Los Guatuzos or Indio-Maiz. El Castillo, one of Spain’s most permanent colonial legacies in the region built to protect the Spanish from English pirates, is also a site not to be missed.

Further down the river in the enormous Indo-Maíz Reserve visitors will have the opportunity to see hundreds of different bird species, from toucans, eagles, herons, egrets, and cormorants. In addition caimans, turtles, monkeys, tropical frogs are abundant.

The ambitious can continue on all the way to the mouth of the Río San Juan at San Juan del Norte. A hot, historic village of about 900 residents, San Juan del Norte is about as isolated as you can get. Visitors can access the Río San Juan from both Nicaragua and Costa Rica at the Los Chiles border.