On the southern border of Nicaragua, feeding into the Atlantic Coast lies the Rio San Juan. This major river starts at the southwest corner of Lake Nicaragua and flows 119 miles to the Caribbean Sea. This isolated region of Nicaragua offers a rustic and raw nature experience that is relatively unexplored by touristic travelers. Here are some insider tips for visiting stretches of the Rio San Juan:


See and DoSan Carlos is the principal point of entry to Rio San Juan, located at the mouth of Lake Nicaragua. This is also the perfect place to eat freshly caught fish at local restaurants as fishing is a primary profession for many of the people in town. In fact, the Rio San Juan is a fisherman’s paradise and attracts sports fishermen from all over the world.

Sabalos Lodge

Additional points of interest not to miss include Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge for riverboat-led tours, exploration through the caiman and turtle nurseries, butterfly farm and orchid garden. Visitors will get to see various types of local wildlife from pumas, jaguars, reptiles and different monkey species at the Indio Maiz Biological Reserve. In the local town of El Castillo, travelers can witness the impressive Immaculada Concepcion de Maria Fort built by Spaniards in 16th Century.

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Indio Maiz Biological Reserve

Stay – Accommodations are scattered throughout the region along the San Juan River; some of the more popular lodges include Sabalos Lodge, which was once an amphibian farm but now offers riverside cabins, a hammock lounge and dining area; and Rio Indio Lodge, which generates its own electricity and purifies its own water, and offers double-rooms, restaurant and bar.

Getting there – From Managua it takes approximately six hours by land to get to San Carlos, the entry to Rio San Juan. For a quicker hop, travelers can instead take a 45-minute flight from Managua to San Carlos. The region is so vast that it is highly recommended that travelers book private transportation as local public buses can be slow and run infrequently.