The backsides of Simón Bolívar, hero of the Latin American liberation movement, and his horse greet you upon arrival (he’s peering northward for impending Yanqui invasions, probably). It’s an inauspicious welcome to one of Managua ’s more interesting quarters, though its full potential remains unmet for now.
It was a loudly decried pity that rather than capitalizing on Lake Xolotlán’s windswept lakefront, Managuan mayors had instead chosen for decades to defile it. That has finally changed and the Malecón is becoming a halfway-decent place to spend some time. The Malecón benefitted from a facelift in 2007 and the Puerto Salvador Allende opened for business not long after.
The port offers tourist cruises (45 minutes round-trip) into the lake and around the Isla de Amor, an islet at Managua ’s western side once used by the dictator for trysts, as well as longer tours across to the mostly underwhelming San Francisco Libre (famous for being the first village where illiteracy was eradicated in the 1980s).
The lake is still polluted, mind you, but a Japanese-funded treatment plant that began operation in 2005, and an aggressive initiative to reroute city sewers have improved the lake’s condition over all, and the cruise is pleasant and enjoyable, certainly one of the better ways to spend a late afternoon in the capital.
Cruises around Isla de Amor leave Tuesday–Sunday at 11 a.m., 1, 3, 5, and 7 p.m., and cost $2.50 for adults, $1 for children ($2.50, $1.50 for upstairs seating with a better viewwhich is worth it). Cruises across the lake to San Francisco Libre leave Friday–Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. (5-hour trip: 1 hour in each direction, plus 3 hours in San Francisco Libre). There is not much to see or do in San Francisco Libre, however.