Fly from Managua to San Carlos in the early morning. If you really want the full-blown adventure, take the slow boat from Granada on Monday: You’ll arrive Tuesday morning. Poke around San Carlos until the afternoon, when the boat leaves for Solentiname.
Enjoy the island artist colony of Solentiname, set in a unique area of profound natural splendor. You can hire boats to take you among the islands, enjoy scarlet sunsets, and absorb the intense tranquility of the archipelago. Return to San Carlos Thursday morning to catch the boat to Los Guatuzos. If you’d rather go directly and bypass San Carlos, strike a deal with a local Solentiname boat owner.
Hike and explore the fascinating tropical landscape of the Los Guatuzos Wildlife Reserve. A two-day stay will give you a taste for the reserve, but real outdoors enthusiasts will probably prefer to stay until the next boat (Tuesday, unless you make other arrangements). Arrival in San Carlos on Saturday means you are just in time to catch a boat downstream. Cast away and start your adventure down the mighty Río San Juan, bound for El Castillo.
Start your day off in El Castillo early, so you can hear the sky fill with birds. Visit the old Spanish fort or rent a horse for a bush trip. Most travelers return to San Carlos for a flight to Managua at this point, but if the downstream horizon is beckoning, then keep on floating.
Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Nicaragua.