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San Carlos

The port town of San Carlos is most commonly used as a transfer point to Los Chiles, Costa Rica. There are also a few tour operators that organize private or group rides through the San Juan River to the small, but beautiful, towns of El Castillo and Boca de Sabalos. Small boats leave twice a week to Solentiname, an archipelago of islands with artist colonies and wild life reserves.

If you are headed to any of these destinations, it is important to do any online errands and withdraw all the funds you might need while you are in San Carlos, as it is impossible to access either the internet or your bank account in the rest of the region. It is rare for tourists to actually stop for any length of time in San Carlos or have the town on their list of destinations.

One reason why San Carlos may not have taken off as a tourist hotspot is that, located at a low altitude of 91 feet, the town is literally too hot for visitors. The humidity, in addition to being extremely uncomfortable, also draws several species of mosquitoes; if you plan to visit, don’t forget your bug spray.

Despite its lack of visitors, San Carlos actually has a very rich history and friendly locals. In 1300 B.C, many indigenous tribes settled in the southern coast of Nicaragua. When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, the newcomers forced the original inhabitants to gradually move into the jungles of what is now San Carlos. Their descendants became known as the Guatuzos Indians.

The indigenous people still managed to contribute quite a few characteristics to current day San Carlos. Their influence can be found in the local economy, which is based on agriculture and corn harvesting, hunting and fishing.

The geographical location of San Carlos, at the meeting point of Lake Nicaragua and the San Juan River, has also played an important role in the local history. Between the years 1640-1780, pirates used the river and the lake to reach the Spanish cities of León and Granada. Since the pirates’ actions were often subtly condoned by the English (such as Henry Morgan’s trip there in 1670), the attacks on the Nicaraguan cities only increased tensions between the two great empires of Spain and England.

To deter pirate activity and defend their land, the Spanish constructed a fort in San Carlos during the 17th century. This fort is the only real tourist attraction in San Carlos and has been renovated to include a library and a cultural center with informative plaques about the region.

Along the shoreline there are numerous accommodations, most are family owned and include private rooms. There are also a handful of restaurants with nice views of the lake and an abundance of fresh fish on their menus.


Other places nearby San Carlos: San Miguelito, San Juan De Nicaragua, Islas Solentiname, Boca De Sábalos, El Castillo and Refugio Bartola.

By Dyani Makous
Dyani Makous has a B.F.A. in writing and a minor in Photography from Emerson College. She is currently living in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, working...
08 Dec 2009

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