- Where to Go
- The Best of Nicaragua
- Nicaragua’s Best Surfing
- Hiking Nicaragua’s Ring of Fire
- Nicaraguan Arts & Crafts
- Nicaragua’s Great Green North
- Sportfishing in Nicaragua
- Down the Río San Juan
- Nicaragua’s Celebrations & Fiestas
- Volunteering in Nicaragua
- Diving & Snorkeling in Nicaragua
- Managua’s Revolutionary Driving Tour
The biggest (20 square kilometers) and tallest (at 257-meter Cerro las Cuevas) of the Solentiname Islands, Mancarrón is populated by 34 families—about 200 people. The “town” of Mancarrón, built up in the 1980s, is simply a cluster of houses, a health center, school, and pulpería, five minutes up the muddy path from the dock.
Casa Taller de la Cooperativa has a large collection of works by artists from different islands. The cooperative shares the profits from the individual sales. Much of the rest of the island is off-limits and has supposedly been purchased by cattle ranchers from Boaco, though conspiracy and corruption theories abound.
Ernesto Cardenal’s project began in the 1960s in the church, which he reconstructed and designed. It is unlike any house of worship you’ve ever seen, featuring children’s paintings on the whitewashed adobe walls, a unique crucifix sculpted by Cardenal, and an altar decorated in pre-Columbian style.
The nearby APDS compound includes a library, a museum, an art gallery, a display of indigenous artifacts, and an eclectic collection of books in a variety of languages, including the complete works of Ernesto Cardenal, who still maintains a residence in the APDS compound. There are other works on liberation theology, plus the original primitivism painting by local resident Eduardo Arana that helped start the whole project. Ask if they can show you the 1970s BBC video documentary about the Solentiname Islands.
A local collective of families offer homestay accommodations; go to the community center and inquire at Hostal Familiar El Buen Amigo (tel. 505/8869-6619, $6 pp). One of the rooms has a private bath and meals run $2–3. Next door, Villa Esperanza has a few rooms for $25 per person, including three meals.
On the hill, Hotel Mancarrón (reserve through Solentiname Tours, tel. 505/8421-5689 or 505/227-09981, info [at] solentinametours [dot] com, $50) is a fenced-in miniresort with 15 basic rooms, a bar, and a restaurant. The property is at the center of a long, contentious battle over its ownership and even once evicted El Poeta from the premises—it’s sometimes open and sometimes closed. There is Internet access in the island library.
© Randall Wood & Joshua Berman from Moon Nicaragua, 4th Edition