- 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
A traditional village with a strong Catholic spirit, San Jorge is primarily a port town and farming community that produces plantains. Nearby Popoyuapa, true to its Nahuatl-sounding name, cultivates cacao, the tree whose seed is used to produce cocoa and eventually chocolate, and which was once used by the Nicarao people as a form of currency.
The tiny lakeside port of San Jorge is your access point to La Isla de Ometepe and as such, most travelers breeze straight through it on the way to catch a boat. If you have an hour to kill before your ferry departs, there’s no reason to spend it dockside sitting on your luggage. Some travelers even find San Jorge a pleasant place to spend a night, and the locals are turning out increasingly acceptable hotel accommodations (mostly targeting the backpacker set) hoping that’s exactly what you’ll do.
Be advised that at certain unpredictable times of the year, a southern wind brings plagues of chayules, small white gnats that swarm the lakeside in San Jorge and eastern shores of Ometepe. They neither bite nor sting, but are relentless and always seem to wind up in your mouth.
Halfway down the long road to town, you’ll pass under La Cruz de España, a graceful concrete arch that suspends a stone cross directly over San Jorge’s main drag. This main street runs through town down to the water’s edge and the docks. The monument commemorates—and is ostensibly built over the very place where—on October 12, 1523, Spanish conquistador Gil González Dávila and indigenous cacique Nicarao-Calli first met and exchanged words.
Across the street from the base of the arch is a mural commemorating the same event, with the words attributed to Nicarao: "Saben los Españoles del diluvio, quien movía las estrellas el sol y la luna. Dónde estaba el alma. Cómo Jesús siendo hombre es Dios y su madre virgen pariendo y para qué tan pocos hombres querían tanto oro." ("The Spanish know about the flood, who moved the stars, the sun, and the moon. Where the soul was found. How Jesus, a man, is God and his virgin mother giving birth, and why so few men wanted so much gold.") Many believe that the Spanish went on to refer to Nicaragua as The Land of Nicarao, which over time evolved into the modern word Nicaragua.
The squat Iglesia de las Mercedes is one of Central America’s earliest churches. Built around the year 1575, it was renovated and repainted a bright yellow in 2001. Most tourists keep their bathing suits packed until they get to Ometepe, but San Jorge’s kilometer-long beach is hugely popular among Nicaraguans, who flock there during Semana Santa to enjoy the lake and the awesome view of twin-peaked Ometepe on the horizon.
San Jorge celebrates its fiestas patronales in honor of their eponymous saint every year April 19–23 (the date changes to accommodate Semana Santa when necessary), at which time you can expect the beach to be packed. San Jorge usually has a parade or two during the celebrations, and there are performances of traditional dances, including Las Yeguitas (The Dance of the Little Mares) and Los Enmascarados (The Dance of the Masked Ones).
Hotels and Restaurants
If you missed the last boat to La Isla and don’t feel like backtracking to Rivas, book one of the rooms at Hotel Las Hamacas (tel. 505/2563-0048, $30 d with private bath and fan, $40 with a/c, includes breakfast), no more than 100 meters west of the dock.
Also consider Hotel Restaurant Azteca (from the dock, go two blocks past the castle, make a right, and go two more blocks, tel. 505/8879-9512, $20 d with a/c and TV). There is a nice restaurant plus a pool and pleasant common areas.
You won’t go hungry in San Jorge’s numerous food-and-drink joints lining the beachfront, but neither will you be surprised by the menu: chicken, beef, fish, fries, burgers, and sandwiches.
Getting to San Jorge
Many tour operators in Granada now run shuttles straight to the dock for about $15. From Managua, take any southbound bus from the Huembes bus terminal to Rivas and get off at the traffic circle on the highway at Rivas. From the traffic circle in Rivas to the dock at San Jorge is four kilometers, accessible by Rivas buses once an hour ($0.25); they pass the traffic circle approximately 20 minutes after the hour. Unless you happen to be there right at that moment, however (or are traveling on an extraordinarily tight budget), take a taxi to San Jorge for $1 per person—ignore anyone who tries charging more. There is one Managua–San Jorge express, departing Huembes at 9 a.m., arriving in San Jorge at 10:50 a.m. The same bus departs San Jorge evenings at 5 p.m., arriving in Managua at 6:50 p.m.
© Randall Wood & Joshua Berman from Moon Nicaragua, 4th Edition