This is the most popular place to stay at a slightly higher price than the cabins Jose Pineda offers. We visited this place for dinner most nights, as they have an open veranda style dining room with a sweeping view of the water. The restaurant prefers to have reservations made in advance so that the home style cooking can proceed conveniently. Geckos climb the walls, but the food is very good even if the menu is limited. Peacocks roost in the trees next door.
Solentiname Islands are inhabited by families that are very closely related, some of whom practice subsistence farming, others who engage in the tourism business. But, tourism here is still at a very primitive state, being self financed by the very poor families themselves. The single wall cabins constructed from exotic tropic lumber milled on site provided no sound barrier to the arguments of the couple next door. The shared tiled veranda with hammocks out front had a great view of the lake in the background but also a garbage heap in the foreground. Inside, the floors are unfinished concrete, and the beds are rudimentary spring mattresses with sheets that didn't fit right nor were changed daily. We soon found electricity available only half time because the solar electric panels are used to charge batteries for lights and television during leisure time at night. So we had to carefully manage the charging of our electronics. No hot water is available--just one water tap in our private bathroom shower--although the island's spring fed wells do provide potable water (we didn't chance this though, except when brushing our teeth). Cool showers were exciting as they were a relief from the hot humid climate.
So, these the quarters that Jose introduced us to, charging $15 per person when the original deal was $15 per cabin. Other hotels on the island weren't much better, and charged more. So, don't expect a bargain for lodging at the Solentiname Islands.
Despite all these seemingly horrible conditions, Jose Pineda and his family are very friendly and serve a good home style breakfast. Jose himself is as genteel and pleasant a man as one can expect in the tourism business. His focus is on keeping the motors of his boats in proper working condition, so the hotel rooms that he proudly built are really secondary in his life. Neatly dressed for his business, he bathes in the lake every morning.
Fortunately, there is little to worry about here. The geckos eat the flies off the wall, and there are no cockroaches or mosquitoes to worry about about. Relax in a hammock, stare at the islands that cluster along the horizon, and prepare for a bird watching hike around the tropical island. This is a simple life definitely worth experiencing. So, don't let this review discourage you from staying on the islands overnight. For all its faults, the Solentiname Islands are a major stop on a tour of Nicaragua.
Trying to contact hotels in El Castillo is not easy since it seems that nobody has internet access, but sometimes the telephone works. The easiest thing is to do as we did, make a phone call from San Carlos before you arrive. Hotel Victoria is unlikely to be fully booked, but if they are, you can find accommodations elsewhere in town. Because of communication problems. most hotels rely on walk-in customers. So, it's also OK just to arrive in town and look for your place to stay.
We were able to contact Hotel Victoria, and we were very satisfied with the room and service. No hotel in El Castillo is above 3 star, so don't expect luxury. The hotel is located at the end of the paved pedestrian main street, well away from the noise of the river boat port. Rooms are nicely paneled in tropical hardwoods, and many have a views of the river. We had access to both a private and shared balconies; the shared one had hardwood rocking chairs, which is where I recovered from flu symptoms by reading Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose.
The beds are just OK, nothing fancy but firm enough. Warm water dribbles from the tiled shower, and although outlets are few in number, we had adequate recharging capabilities for our smart phones and cameras. There are windows to stop the rain when it pounds, but there are no mosquitoes to worry about in our experience. We changed to a front view room after one day after another couple left.
The restaurant is sits right above a place in the river where canoes launch and return. Feeding the birds with fruit is routine just off the open balcony. Food is on par with the best of the many restaurant options in town. Breakfast is complimentary with lodging. Staff are very friendly and helpful.
Highly recommended. Rustic yet refined, tons of things to do, or lay in a hammock and drink the included rum/beer. Horses and kayaks also included as well as 3 cooked meals a day for $50 per person per day (for a 3 day stay, I think it was $65 if less).
Owner was a real character and extremely helpful.
A great place to explore the San Juan river from.
Very charming, clean, friendly and the food was superb, all fresh, most from the river, including fresh water shrimp the size of small lobsters.
Owner is working on hot water showers, but that was the only drawback
An Ocalot ate my breakfast.... what more can I say!
First the service, Yaro the owner is a very friendly person, he has lived there many years he can recomend what to do or where to go. the lodge is rustic and clean, abins almost over the river tarsan or chitas cabin. make sure you get all your transportation square out. you can get there driving in 4x4 or take a plane from Managua (the capital of Nicaragua) to san carlos, from san carlos take the boat about 30 minutes on the san juan river, the river itself is worth the trip. there is public transportation (boats) make sure you go to el castillo, at el castillo go to the restorant (El Cofalito) right next to the boat ramp. ask for the river shrimp (you will remember that shrimp) the best I have had.
if you have more time go to Solentiname Island, this island has history and beauty.
river travel, fishing, there is no hot water but the weather is warm, the bathroom has no roof you feel you are taking an outdoor shower the best shower I have taken.
This is the best hotel in town but do not expect much. The Nica guide by Josh Berman describes it as 'clean' but it is far from it. We were there a whole week and never had water for any of the upstairs rooms. Downstairs apparently had water but they took all the pressure. Upstairs had to take 'dip-n-pour' showers from 20 gallon trash cans that were refilled every couple of days. The water was cold but eventually refreshing after the initial shock.
The water in the sink ran sometimes. We had the front room upstairs and that appeared to be the ONLY room with any ventilation. The other rooms were stifling. The downside to the room was that every morning at 4am the bells on the Catholic church less than a block away started ringing...hit the snooze...they rang again in 10 minutes for some reason. That inspired the neighbor below to turn on her stereo full blast. Who knows why.
It was all very unique but not good unique. There was a decent little store down at the end of the street run by very nice people and there is a brand new Internet place right across the street with satellite access and 10 computers.
There was a guard at the door most times and it was the only place we've stayed in San Carlos where things did not get stolen from our rooms. That is enough of a reason to put up with everything else.
There was a beautiful overlook though at the end of the street, exiting left out the front door. Spectacular views every morning and evening across the lake to the islands and the volcanoes. Worth the walk and possibly the whole trip.
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