San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Hidden Treasure Awaits in Southeast Nicaragua

Surrounded by pristine rain forest, at the foot of a glassy, opaque lagoon just inland from the Caribbean Sea, Río Indio Lodge could be considered the middle of nowhere. But for the adventurer hoping for access to dense jungle, wildlife, endless fishing and a respite from anything resembling civilization, “nowhere” might be just the somewhere you want to be.

Rio Indio Lodge

Wooden cabins are connected by a thatch-covered walkway.

Ronald Reyes | Tico Times

Just north of the Río San Juan in the southeast corner of Nicaragua, about a kilometer from the Costa Rican side of the river, Alfredo López has created an opulent fishing lodge in one of the most isolated regions of the country. The lodge sits in a vast tract of virtually deserted rain forest inside the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve.

Here, in the thick of the emerald jungle, López has built a luxury lodge complete with 40-foot-high mahogany ceiling in the central lobby and kitchen area, Spanish tile floors and a wraparound veranda with a panoramic view of the lagoon and surrounding rain forest.

“When we first came to this spot 10 years ago, (López) told me, ‘I want to build it right here,’” says Mike Lilla, fishing manager of Río Indio Lodge. “We were standing in a spot with grass up to our eyes and I couldn’t see a thing. I asked him, ‘Here?’ And he just nodded. I thought he’d lost his mind.”

After beginning construction in 2000, the lodge opened in 2003, looking to attract ecotourists, adventurers and sportfishermen with nearby trails, hiking, bird-watching, access to indigenous villages and abundant fresh- and saltwater fishing. According to López, bass, tarpon, tripletail, snook and a horde of other fish can be caught within 10 minutes of the lodge.

“About 15 to 20 percent of our clientele are here solely to fish,” López says. “But most come to do a little bit of everything. They hike, they bird-watch, they take boat tours, they kayak, they visit the local communities and they might fish a little as well. We want people to have exactly the type of adventure they are looking to find.”

Rio Indio Lodge

The deck with a view of the lagoon.

Ronald Reyes | Tico Times

The adventure begins with the trek to San Juan de Nicaragua, formerly known as San Juan del Norte and Greytown, in southeastern Nicaragua (see separate story on Page N1). Coming from Costa Rica, the boat ride up the Sarapiquí, Sucio and San Juan rivers immediately puts you in the thick of a rain-forest adventure. Speeding through unexplored jungle on the brown rivers, you might see crocodiles sunning on the banks, wild horses drinking from shallow pools or monkeys howling from the trees above.

Once on the Río San Juan, López makes a few stops on the Nicaraguan side of the river to visit the local communities made up of humble tin homes and shacks, and to buy produce from the people who make their living on the banks of the muddy river.

“We are the only lodge of our kind in this region of the country, and we consider it important to involve ourselves in the communities,” López said. “We try to help the local economy in any way we can.”

While at the lodge, López uses some of the local produce for the near-regal-caliber meals served three times a day. The gourmet feasts are prepared by chef Hans Romero and are eaten in a community setting, offering the combination of fine dining and lively conversation with fellow guests from all walks of life.

As for accommodations, Río Indio Lodge offers beautiful, spacious, wooden double suites with 20-foot ceilings, two comfortable queen-size beds, hot running water, a small table and chairs for conversation and a comfortable porch with rocking chairs and a view of the water. Each of the lodge’s 24 suites feels as comfortable as if you had your own private jungle villa.

But perhaps the most comforting aspect of Río Indio Lodge is the tranquillity – no sounds of motors, airplanes, honking horns or radios. The environment is made all the more soothing by the view of the still lagoon at the base of the lodge.

There is a certain mystique to seeing a part of the world barely touched by human interference, and that mystique can be found at Río Indio Lodge.

Going There
 From San José, Costa Rica: Charter flight from San José to Barra del Colorado, then boat to Río Indio Lodge. Or drive to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí, then take a boat tour via the Sarapiquí and San Juan rivers to the lodge.
 >From Managua, Nicaragua: Fly from Managua to San Carlos (La Costeña airline,, then take a boat tour down the San Juan River to the lodge.
 Rates start at $95, depending on group size and package purchased. For more information, visit, e-mail or, or call (506) 2231-4299, 2220-3594 or 2220-3596.

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