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San Jorge

San Jorge is where the popular ferry to Isla Ometepe docks and most visitors hurry by the center of town on their way to either the port or the beaches – with good reason. All of the best hotels and restaurants are ranged along the well trafficked ferry road. Sleepy during the rest of the year, San Jorge really gets going during Semana Santa when colorful umbrella stands cover the beach and locals settle in for a week-long party in the sun and surf. Should you visit during high season, you’ll find that hotels have raised their prices (that is, if there are any vacancies left), bathers choke the waterfront and the ferries are so full they seem to wallow.


On your way into San Jorge, you may notice a curious half arch above the road topped by a cross. This is La Cruz de España, supposedly the spot where Spanish and indigenous Nicaraguans first met in 1523. The leaders of that initial meeting, Spanish conquistador Gil González Dávila and Cacique Niqueragua, are immortalized as colorful statues on either side of the road (with Dávila looking curiously like San Jorge).


If you decide to stop in San Jorge proper, you’ll find a sleepy central park (most food kiosks don’t open until 5 p.m.) with the alcaldia on one end and Nuestra Señor de Rescate on the other. Various images of St. George (said to have appeared on the shores of Lago Nicaragua) and his dragon appear throughout the church. In 2009, the church was in the process having its roof retiled, which caused quite a racket among the resident parrots.


A short walk down the road from Nuestra Señor will bring you to Iglesia de las Mercedes, which likely dates from the 1500s and is said to be one of the oldest churches in Nicaragua. Las Mercedes certainly looks its age – other than a row of cracked bells, it’s hard to tell from the outside that the rough wooden building is a church. Iglesia de las Mercedes is closed most of the time, but ask around and you can usually find a caretaker to let you inside to see the doll-like saints and carved altar pieces.


There is one internet café in town, Cybercafé San Jorge, located 1.5 blocks north of the alcaldia. The cyber (505-2-563-4228) is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and charges C$12 per hour. Most of the area hotels provide wireless internet to their clients, with the only exception being Hotel and Restaurant Azteca (505-2-563-1088).


Hotel Azteca, located near the city center, has eight rooms (single US$15 with fan/ US$30 with air conditioning and breakfast; double $30/$50) and a huge pool. An extremely basic 24-bed dormitory ($5 per person) is being renovated and should reopen by the end of the summer 2009. Azteca employees have a lackadaisical approach to guests, preferring to concentrate on the restaurant side of the business, and you might find yourself asking for a towel, soap or the television remote. Should you decide not to stay, Azteca is still a nice spot for a quiet, poolside meal.


Hotel California (single, $20; $30 double; $35 triple,, down the road from Azteca but still a few blocks from the beach, has a strip of lush garden and a row of rooms. The hotel offers the full menu of services: cable TV, air conditioning, wireless internet, hot water and wooden furniture. The rooms are a bit musty, but clean, and California is a good choice if you want to escape swarms of beachside mayflies. The hotel accepts all credit cards.


Two hotels are located steps from the ferry: Hotel Hammacas (505-2-563-1709/ 563-0048/ 505-8-839-9735) is chocked full of antique accents and strung with a rainbow of hammocks. There is a small pool and some of the rooms even have stocked mini fridges (single $20 fan/ $30 air conditioning).


Hotel Dalinky (505-2-563-4990/ 505-8-912-1205,,, singles $25 fan/ $35 air conditioning) has slightly larger rooms with wardrobes and rocking chairs. Both hotels are spotlessly clean…except when swarms of short-lived, but otherwise harmless, insects called sayules find their way into the rooms.


Restaurants along the beach also have trouble keeping their open patios sayule-free. Try to choose a table slightly inside and not directly under a light. Bar y Restaurant El Nuevo Oasis (505-2-563-0789) has all the Nicaraguan favorites (beef, pork, chicken and seafood) for between C$150 and C$190, plus vegetable and chicken salads. Restaurant El Refugio (505-2-563-4631/ 505-8-851-0267) has, among other options, savory skewers.


There is a small bus (C$10) that runs on an irregular schedule between Rivas and San Jorge, but the easiest way to get there is by taxi. Fares to the ferry start at C$40, but can drop as low as C$15 if you’re willing to share a cab. The trip back should cost C$20, whether you share or not.



Other places nearby San Jorge: Moyogalpa, Rivas, Las Salinas y Playa Popoyo, Altagracia, Around San Juan del Sur, Playa Pie de Gigante, Tola, Playa Santo Domingo, San Juan Del Sur and El Astillero.

By Rachael Hanley
A sometime newspaper journalist with a heavy side of wanderlust, Rachael moved to Quito in November to work on the V!VA staff. She is currently...
29 Oct 2009

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