El Castillo is the final destination along the San Juan river for many tourists, merchants, and other river travelers. Consequently, the El Castillo-Bartola journey is a much less traveled one. Bartola is not only a tributary river, but it is also the border zone of the Indo Maiz Biological Reserve. Construction on Nicaraguan side is no more allowed eastward of this point, and from here nature will start to dominate. When paddling to Bartola, one will be at some point bordering Costa Rica on the right hand side. From here on, the right border of the river is Costa Rica, and the left one is Nicaragua.
Even on this short leg nature already dominates the scene, with beautiful forests in the backdrop. The fact that very few boats pass only adds to the tranquility and serenity of the area. Given the short distance between El Castillo and Bartola, this journey is an excellent day-trip for visitors of the historic town. Instead of taking the boat to Bartola, consider kayaking down the river to enjoy the impressive sights much better.
There is one hotel on the corner of the Bartola river, providing the last lodging option on Nicaraguan side in the San Juan river.
When nearing Bartola, be careful not to pass this point. The current is rather strong, and the river is very wide. Kayaking to the left of the river (which is the side of the Bartola river) is best. Passing Bartola not only results in a very tough upstream struggle, but it also carries the risk of being questioned by the army officials who have a checkpoint here. (More about the army checkpoints below under Practical Details.)
This activity is one of the many kayak journeys that can be undertaken in the San Juan River. It could be a great daytrip, or this could be part of a multiday journey. To learn more about the kayak journeys at the San Juan River, use the menu to the right.
You can read more about kayak options at the San Juan River here.