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Kayak at the Río San Juan

Río San Juan

The exuberant nature and important episodes of history are mixed in the region of the San Juan River, which make it a highly attractive destination. Nowadays, large areas of this river that connects Lake Nicaragua (or Cocibolca) with the Caribbean Sea, are National Wildlife Refuges in which visitors can easily see a variety of species of tropical flora and fauna. In the past, this area was coveted by powerful countries, attacked by pirates and defended by heroes.

The city of San Carlos, located right in the birthplace of the river - on the shore of the lake - is the administrative center of the department. This is a city of lovely sunsets, good quality restaurants, many hotels and some interesting places in the old urban center. Boats to explore the most interesting destinations of the area can be taken at the municipal and secondary piers.

There are two interesting attractions near the city. One is the Solentiname Archipelago, which is formed by 36 islands of various sizes, some inhabited by small communities where artists and artisans work, and sometimes by nothing but the flora and fauna. Another place is the Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge, located in front of the Southern coasts of the lake.

A trip down the river, either if it is on a public or private boat (locally known as 'pangas'), or even on a kayak, is an amazing experience that allows visitors to reach great destinations. First is the region of Sabalos, where one can find private natural reserves and hotels in front of the river. Then, one gets to the picturesque town of El Castillo, with its old colonial fortress and local tourism services. The beginning of the enormous Indio Maiz Biosphere Reserve is located next to this town and it is one of the most important tropical rainforest conservation areas worldwide.

The San Juan continues up to its mouth on the Caribbean Sea, near which is the quiet little village of San Juan del Norte (or San Juan de Nicaragua) and the ruins of Greytown. This continues to jungle territory, with rivers, lakes and abundant wildlife. It is also another entry point to the Indio-Maíz.

There are lesser known municipalities outside the river area, in the Northern side of the department, such as Morrito and San Miguelito, with extensive coastlines on the lake. El Almendro is another one, which has beautiful ponds and waterfalls. Rio San Juan is constituted by 6 municipalities.


  • San Carlos

    Jungle, lake, river, art and history. This municipality has various attractions. Its center is the city of San Carlos, in which the visitor will find multiple tourist companies and places to visit. The Solentiname Archipelago is located on the lake, and its islands are inhabited by nature and small communities of artisans and painters. The Los Guatuzos Natural Reserve, situated nearby, is home to a great diversity of plants, animals and insects.

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  • El Almendro

    Lots of rivers, creeks and streams are the major attractions of this municipality. The Tepenaguazapa River begins in its territory, and offers nice waterfalls and places to take a swim. El Zapotal is one of them and it is located just four kilometers from town. There is a plaza for the local cheese producers in the urban area, which is the town of El Almendro. Another attraction are the prodigious saddlers. El Almendro celebrates its traditional festivities starting on April 24th, in honor of 'San Juan Obrero'.

  • El Castillo

    The name of this municipality is related to the historic fortress of El Castillo de la Inmaculada Concepción, located in a quiet little river town. Another important urban center is the town of Boca de Sábalo, which functions as the capitol. Nature is a major local attraction. There are rivers, private reserves and the immense Indio-Maiz Biosphere Reserve, part of the territory of El Castillo.

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  • Morrito

    The coasts of Lake Nicaragua are the major attraction of this rural municipality. In addition to some sandy beaches, there are nice estuaries filled with nature and the silhouette of Ometepe Island's volcanoes in the horizon. Sunsets are amazing here. The San Bernardo Island are located in front of the coasts, and can be visited with a local fisherman. Furthermore, the territory - which center is the the lakeside town of Morrito, has several rivers and waterfalls.

  • San Juan del Norte

    This remote municipality has several natural attractions and interesting historic sites. Its roads are the rivers and streams of the area, which lead to the jungle and various lagoons. The urban are is the small town of San Juan del Norte (also called San Juan de Nicaragua), where several ethnic communities live. Despite its size, visitors will find hotels, restaurants and tourist guides in the area. The ruins of Greytown, the outlet of the San Juan River in the Caribbean Sea and the exuberant Indio - Maiz Biosphere Reserve.

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  • San Miguelito

    This mountainous municipality has several rivers with nice waterfalls in its territory. However, the main attraction here are the shores on Lake Nicaragua, where visitors will find sandy beaches and wetland zones, and enjoy the beautiful sunsets. The center of San Miguelito is the town of the same name, where there are some lodging options. The traditional festivities are in honor of San Miguel de Arcangel from March 8th to 14th.