Rio San Juan Region
This region is one of the least developed regions of Nicaragua but in the last years the government has invested in some infrastructure, like the new Malecon and Custom & Immigration office building in San Carlos. A new highway that connects to the rest of the country is finished, as well as the new bridge across the San Juan River that will open in December 2014, making it possible to cross the border by vehicle. The new customs and Immigration at Las Tablillas is already finished, just waiting for Costa Rica to build their offices.
Rio San Juan is a new undiscovered eco-tourism destination, it is the largest rain forest north of the Amazon, featuring the national reserve Indio-Maiz and a few private wildlife refuge such as Montecristo Private Reserve between the town of Boca de Sabalos and the historic El Castillo. The San Juan River is also a Tarpon sport fishing destination. They are now they are enforcing catch and release regulations.
The private sectors have also invested in more hotels. There are a few local tour operators and other infrastructures like an ATM. Disco bars and restaurants are making San Carlos the center of activity and logistics for your trip down river.
A new highway, bus station, and international river port (border crossing by boat between Costa Rica and Nicaragua), a well keep airstrip and the new bridge over the San Juan River (border crossing by land between Costa Rica and Nicaragua) are making it easier for backpackers and general tourism to travel. Crime is very low, but you must always be careful and used common sense.
The new highway San Carlos – Managua a 300 KM journey by private car is 4 hours drive and by bus about 7 hours. There is a dirt road that takes you into Boca de Sabalo, about 45 Km it could be done in 1 hour. Most of the traveling is done by public boat with a schedule route up and down the San Juan River, a few in the morning and a few in the afternoon. Is possible to hire a private boat for charter trips or for fishing expeditions, ask around La Porturia if going down river to Montecristo, Boca de Sabalos or El Castillo. If you are traveling to the Solentiname Islands, you must go next door to the Custom & Immigration office in the Malecon area of San Carlos, now they have a daily boat that leaves in the afternoon and return early morning.
A kayak or canoe trip up the Sabalos river, from 1 hour to 3 or 4 hours depending how far or deep you want to get, you can combine the trip with a visit to a cacao plantation, and then come back down stream in the Rio San Juan. You could also arrange for a longer trip all the way down stream to El Castillo is about another 2 hours. For the most adventurer there is the possibility to canoe or kayak all the way to San Juan del Norte, a 4 or 5 day trip, about 160 km down river, you must bring your camping gear, guide trip are expensive, but if you have experience and are in good shape, this could be the adventure of a life time.
If you like fishing, go give it a try to capture a giant Tarpon, weighing an average of 140 plus pounds, for this you must rent a boat, or pang.