At Charco Verde you can swim in the lake accompanied only by the call of the monkeys in the treetops and the whir of colorful birds. This is still a relatively wild area, with enough tall trees remaining to harbor some very exciting wildlife.
The entire area has been cordoned off to prevent development, leaving this cove an oasis of peace to be shared by you and the monkeys (who, incidentally, do their own part by throwing excrement from the trees at intruders).
Pay $0.50 to walk along the Charco Verde nature reserve, a short trail where you may see (or at least hear) howler monkeys, birds, and other wildlife. Bring bug spray.
The three local hotels are each owned by a different Riveras sibling. Each rents horses and offers boat and kayak trips along the shoreline, fishing trips, and outings to Isla de Quiste. The family owns a cattle farm just up the beach you can also visit.
Hotel y Restaurante Charco Verde (tel. 505/8887-9302, www.charcoverde.com.ni ) is next to the reserve with easy trail access; a cute cabana with tile floors, oodles of windows, and front porch costs $35–45 for a private bath and air-conditioning. If you’ve been in-country a while, you’ll appreciate the bedside reading lamps. Reservations are recommended during the high season.
Up the beach toward Moyogalpa , Rubén Riveras runs a family-style guesthouse on the beach called Hotel Finca Venecia (tel. 505/8872-7668, $27–35 for cabins, $7.50 pp for rooms with private bath). The hammock pavilion is quiet and, during the high season, not a bad place to spend the night (for $2) when all the beds are taken. The restaurant serves well-prepared pasta, chicken, fish, and beef dishes. From his place, it’s an easy walk along the shore into the reserve of Charco Verde and to Playa Balcón.
Right next door is La Posada de Chico Largo (tel. 505/8886-4069, chicolargo [at] yahoo [dot] com, $4 dorm beds, $5 pp for room with private bath), the most economic of the three. Despite their nickname, “Los Diablos” are accommodating hosts and their restaurant is good. Ask about La Mirador del Diablo trail.