Travel to Nicaragua (part 2): Visiting the Archipelagos

Three checkpoints later (two armed, one unarmed), we were finally on our way to explore Nicaragua.


Looming clouds and persistent overcast, we weren’t sure what the weather would bring us for the day. Our ride through the countryside along a two-lane highway lasted about 45 minutes.

Nicaragua travel - market

Vendors were sprinkled on the side of the road selling all kinds of ware. Life was a lot slower here.

Nicaragua Vendors

Even through the rain, the locals needed to keep their shops open. People are poor in this part of Nicaragua. Weather would not deter them from trying to make a living.

Nicaragua tourism: Vendors

After we dropped off our guest passenger we set out to meet our Nicaraguan tour guide.

Rooftops in Nicaragua

Mid-height, brown and friendly, our local guide spoke to us in Spanish. Enrique was of indigenous descent and knew very little English.

Tour through San Pedro

Gabriel translated as we walked through San Carlos.

Colorful doors in Nicaragua

Pops of color, smells of fish and rice, along with the chatter of Spanish voices let us know that we were where most of the action happens in town. We quickly observed local life around us as we made our way to our first stop.


La Fortaleza

La Fortalexa Nicaragua

La Fortaleza is a 17-century fort overlooking the San Juan River constructed to protect the country against Spanish English and American invasion.

La Fortaleza Playground

If you ever visit this part of the country, this should go on your list of things to do in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua biblioteca

The fort houses a municipal library and a small collection of Nicaragua’s anthropological history. We weren’t there long.

Inside Fortaleza
Ladies walking at Fortaleza
Nicaragua crew

The best part of the experience was taking photos and having an interesting conversation with Gabriel.

Travel to Nicaragua: Columbus
A partial timeline of Christopher Columbus in Nicaragua and the Americas

After stopping at a display that outlines Christopher Columbus’ activity in and about Nicaragua, Gabriel starts:

“This guy, Columbus. You Americans celebrate the day that he arrived. You know what we celebrate?”
“Well, as Black Americans we don’t necessarily celebrate Columbus Day,” we all interrupted.
“But yes, other Americans do.”
“Okay, yes. Well, do you know what we celebrate?”
“The day that he left.”
We all laughed.
“He didn’t discover anything. The indigenous people were already here.”
Nicaragua travel guide

Enrique proudly acknowledged.

Enrique in Nicaragua

As women of color with origins around the diaspora, we identified with what Gabriel was saying. Instantly we had deepened our bond with each other.

The crew in Nicaragua

Journey to the Nicaraguan Archipelagos Across the Rio San Juan

Nicaragua Fishing Boat

I have no idea why I assumed we would be traveling to the archipelagos on an air-conditioned ferry.

Nicaragua fishing boat

I had a quick internal conversation with myself. I needed to get with the Central American travel program quick.

Nicaragua Rocky Waters

This next leg of our adventure consisted of a windy boat ride across the Rio San Juan to explore four of the 36 archipelagos off of Nicaragua. Although we didn’t stop, we weren’t too far from Nicaragua’s own rain forest.

Nicaragua archipelagos island

Two of the archipelagos that we visited were wildlife refuges. Uninhabitable, we drifted off shore.


We viewed various bird species from afar through shared binoculars.

Bird watching in Nicaragua

As we sped through the waters, it was nice to see our buddy Gabriel smiling and relaxing. It’s funny what a bit of danger and history can do for strangers’ bonding.

Gabriel in Nicaragua

The six of us sat in groups of two, enjoying private conversations and the peaceful scenery.

Homes in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is a tourism bud waiting to blossom. We enquired about the price of one of the islands, contemplating whether we could buy one.


Gabriel quoted the cost of a Nicaraguan archipelagos at $250,000.

We chuckled, noting that many of our homes in the U.S. cost more than that.

The dream of my own private island might be closer than I thought. The next time I travel to Nicaragua I’ll have to think about it.

Los Gatuzos

Dock in Los Gatuzos Nicaragua

After an informative hour-long ride on the river, we pulled up to a small wood dock.


It was time for lunch on Los Gatuzos, a place marked on my GPS settings as a Wildlife Refuge.

Our boat driver owned the hotel here with his wife who greeted us with smiles and something to drink.


After introducing us to their toucans, the two retreated to the dining room to prepare our lunch. The four of us lingered about in rocking chairs, imagining if we could muster more than just a couple of hours in this super remote location.

Gatuzos chairs

Christie was down for the retreat. I wasn’t sold yet.

Eating in Nicaragua


After about twenty minutes, we finally sat down in the dining room to a nice simple lunch of salad, plantains, black beans, rice, chicken (or fish), and smashed cassava.

Our host, speaking in Spanish, made fun of my choice to eat my chicken with my fork.

She said that I needed to go at it with my hands “como ella,” referring to my girl Carmen who had demolished her fish with all ten fingers.

Although I understood what she was saying, generally, Sili translated so that Carmen could know what the inside joke was. Non-embarrassed, Carmen remarked, “that’s right” and continued with the last of her meal.

After thirty minutes our bellies were full.


Digesting our afternoon grub for a moment, we sat around chatting about the viability of us bypassing Costa Rica and coming back to this place for a secluded retreat.

Los Gatuzos Cabins

As Gabriel settled our bill, we took an impromptu tour. I wanted the owner to show me around.

Los Gatuzos Room

After visiting the restroom and the lodgings that they offered, though quiet and peaceful, it was too simple for my tastes.

Los Gatuzos Cabin sign

The plant life is lush, the cabins are quaint, and the food is tasty. However, I know who I am as a traveler — I just couldn’t get past the sanitation and super basic rooms.

Leaving Los Gatuzos

Carmen and Sili shared my sentiments. We thanked our host for the tour, content with visiting just for lunch.

Gatuzos walkway

It was time for us to be on our way.


The clouds and sun continued to play a game of cat and mouse as we departed for our boat, making our way to our next stop: Solentiname….

Originally published at Mom’s Guide To Travel .

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