Located in a wide isthmus that separates the Pacific Ocean and Lake Nicaragua, the department of Rivas has many natural and historic attractions, as well as two of the most visited destinations: San Juan del Sur - with its several beaches - and the volcanic island of Ometepe.
The beaches of Rivas are among the most known in Nicaragua, either for their beauty or powerful waves. Its long coastline on the Pacific features a sequence of them. Some are elongated, others have bay shapes surrounded by low scale mountains, a few have white sand and others are inhabited by nothing but nature.
San Juan del Sur is a small tourist city nestled in a bay of calm waters, situated in the municipality of the same name. Its location makes it easy to reach the nearby local beaches, located either in the North or the South. Some of them are frequently visited bu surfers from all over the world due the quality of their waves. Moreover, La Flor Beach Wildlife Refuge is another point of interest. Here, thousands of Olive Ridley turtles come and spawn.
There are many other beaches in the department. The municipality of Tola has some beaches with some infrastructure, others in a completely wild state and the ones bordering the lake. The port of San Jorge and its city connects mainland with Ometepe Island. This one has hotels, restaurants and beautiful views of Lake Cocibolca. There are also a few establishments in some of the coasts of the municipality of Rivas.
Ometepe Island is also part of Rivas. It is divided in two municipalities: Moyogalpa and Altagracia. Since this is a unique destination, thanks to the many local attractions (volcanoes, beaches, wetlands, lakes, forests and more), we decided talk about it separately. Click here: Destination Isla de Ometepe in order to read about it.
The department consists of 10 municipalities with many urban and rural attractions. The city of Rivas has a nice colonial center, hotels, restaurants and an interesting historical and anthropological museum. In the municipality of Buenos Aires, visitors will find the tip of El Menco, and the Ñocarime Lagoon, which it shares with his neighboring municipality of Potosí. Cardenas is situated in a thin strip of land that divides the southern border with the lake shore, and has many little-known natural sites.
Surrounded by two mountains, the bay of San Juan del Sur is home to one of the most visited towns by surfers. Its urban center has a complete and diversified tourist offer, while in the rural area one can practice surf, fishing, whale watch, canopy, yoga, horseback rides and other sports. Its religious festivities are celebrated in honor of San Juan Bautista and the 'Virgen del Carmen', on June 24th and July 16th respectively.
The municipality of Altagracia comprises the majority of land in Ometepe Island. Here, tourists will find comfortable hotels and hostels, a pre-Columbian museum, a port, and impressive natural attractions like the San Ramon Waterfall, the Maderas Volcano, Santo Domingo Beach and Ojo de Agua. An important cultural event are the religious festivities in honor of San Diego de Alcalá (November 12th-17th).
The lands of this municipality are part of a volcanic mountain range with many flat valleys. There is a public square and a nice colonial church at the end of a long avenue located in the urban center. The rural area, which is constituted by 28 communities, has large livestock and agricultural farms. The religious festivities are held in honor of the 'Niño Jesus' (December-January), with parties and processions.
With 15 kilometers of shoreline, the municipality of Buenos Aires is located right next to Lake Cocibolca. Its elongated territory, which is mainly flat, has a lagoon, a natural reserve, many beaches and a small urban area with a colonial church. The religious festivities are held on March 17, 18 and 19, in honor of San Jose.
The urban center of the municipality of Cardenas, which has a small church, lies on a flat and sandy territory. There are a couple of uncrowded beaches that have a cool weather due to the winds coming from Lake Cocibolca, where the municipality has coasts. The religious festivities are celebrated in honor of the 'Virgen de la Concepción de María', in February.
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Moyogalpa is one of the oldest towns in Nicaragua and the main entrance to Ometepe Island. Many tourism facilities have been developed here, such as hotels, restaurants, tour operators, bars and even a club. In addition, the territory has impressive natural destinations like the Concepcion Volcano, the Chico Largo Natural Reserve, Punta Jesus Maria and many peaceful beaches like the one in Charco Verde. Its religious festivities are celebrated in honor of Santa Ana on July 23rd.
Potosi is a farmer municipality. Its colonial style capitol has a small church and an old Franciscan monastery. Despite being small, its religious festivities - held in honor of the 'Señor de Esquipulas' - last nine days, starting on January 15th. The rural area is constituted by 10 villages that live from livestock and sugar canes cultivation.
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The municipality of Rivas has an strategic geographical position and a "Historical and cultural heritage of the nation", which happens to be the city of the same name. The city still preserves its old center with a colonial church. It also has four parks, an Antropologhy and History Museum (with a collection of pre-Columbian artifacts, bones of prehistoric animals and contemporary objects) and several farms in the late eighteenth century.
Despite being the smallest municipality in the department of Rivas, San Jorge has an strategic element: a port that connects it with Ometepe island. La Merced church, one of the oldest buildings in Nicaragua, is located in its urban area, as well as the monument 'La Cruz de España'. Its rural area, constituted by four villages, work in livestock and agriculture.
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The municipality of Tola is located on a territory with many hills, in Northeast Rivas. The small beaches of Pie de Gigante, Las Salinas and El Astillero, where visitors will find luxurious hotels and community shelters, are part of this municipality. The villagers work in agriculture, livestock and fishing.