A Guide to Somoto Canyon; if you want to take it easy

Somoto Canyon could be one of the most insane experiences in Nicaragua...or the most leisurely

Somoto Canyon sounded like an incredible adventure. A remote canyon in to which you can venture as deep as you wish…but at your own peril. There’s a river flowing amongst the rocks. The further you go, the bigger the leap from rock to rock. Adventurous travellers may even wish to jump from a height of 20 feet in to the water.

We set off from Somoto on a 7:30AM bus. There’s a lot of mixed information about visiting Somoto Canyon with or without a guide. We like to do things off our own back when we can, but also appreciate how tours can support the local community. With an element of danger we thought a guide may help and decided to speak to them at the park itself.

However, on arrival at Somoto Canyon, the park office was closed. Our research indicated there were two routes. The first; follow the path and you can do the easy part of the canyon. The second; find a dirt road and start clambering. Guides tend to take tourists on route two.

Yet with no guides about, a lack of clarity on dirt roads and myself suffering from a bad cold, we opted for the simpler and safer option.

Onward we trekked. Down rocky paths through the valley. Then we reached the end and a river. Which way were we supposed to go? There’s no signs. There’s no canyon! We found a lady washing clothes in the river and she waved her arm in one direction. We crossed the river and on to a sandy path. There’s not much; a barren forest and some cows. Could this really be it?

Somoto Canyon Tubing
Excited that we found the way

After about 25 minutes walking, we spotted a shack. Underneath it, there was a small boy renting out life jackets. This had to be right! He shouted his father who came to collect the 50 Cordobas ($1.75 USD) from us. We ventured further, the small boy chasing after us to ask if we could please return the life jackets later. Maybe some people never make it out the canyon alive!

Next we spotted some boatmen. I’d read they can offer a lift, but none seemed very forthcoming so we climbed more rocks and scrambled ahead. 10 minutes later a boat appeared. “We’re going that way. Have a lift with us“. How kind of them! The boat took us as far as the river goes, before it becomes impassable. This is the mouth of Somoto Canyon.

Boat in Somoto Canyon
The small boats which row along Somoto Canyon offer gorgeous views

Exiting the boat, the youthful rower and his friend climbed the rocks. Grabbing one of the many anonymously piled up inner tubes, they asked if we wanted one for 50 Cordobas ($1.75 USD) each. We agreed and found a way down to the water. In we jumped.

Somoto Canyon Tubing
Rose gets ready to take the plunge

The water was cool, but not uncomfortable. A gentle current from the breeze led us in to Somoto Canyon. It’s an incredible experience. Laying back and relaxing, starting 100 feet up at the imposing rocks. It was unbelievably relaxing. We felt far from anywhere and enjoyed the tranquillity.

Eventually the river leads to a tiny waterfall and more impassable rocks. From the water you would struggle to climb them, so it is here where the easy and relaxing part of Somoto Canyon ends. We gently paddled back up stream to where the boat boys were playing in the water and got a ride back to the life jacket shack.

Relaxing in a canyon was just what we needed. Having not felt unwell I would have attempted a solo adventure deep in to the canyon. But today, it wasn’t to be.

Somoto Canyon Tubing Nicaragua
Taking it easy for a change

Of course, I can’t leave a post about Somoto Canyon there. If you want to go on a crazy adventure, you can arrive later in the day and hire a guide for about $25. Alternatively, I’m led to believe that if you walk along the highway, around half a kilometre after the Somoto Canyon entrance sign and then turn right on to the dirt road, it will lead you to the difficult ‘adventure’ route,

A word of caution though. I understand the jumps can be be high and rocky passages difficult to navigate. Exercise caution to avoid any danger. Although maybe danger is part of the excitement! 😉

How do I get to Somoto Canyon?

If you are coming from Somoto, reaching the canyon couldn’t be easier. Go to the bus terminal and there will be a regular bus. The journey is only 20 – 25 minutes and costs 13 Cordobas ($0.40 USD) each way.

Ask for the bus to drop you off at Somoto Canyon.

If you are coming from Esteli you will need to head to Oriente Norte (the North bus terminal). Buses to Somoto are regular, but you’re better to leave early if planning on returning to Esteli the same day. The cost is 45 Cordobas ($1.35 USD) and the journey takes two hours.

Upon arrival, you will see this entrance sign form the highway:

Somoto Canyon Entrance Sign
The entrance sign on the highway. You can’t miss it!

The path will turn right and you will see the park office. Carry on past it until you reach the very end of the path and it will look like this:

Somoto Canyon Directions 1
When you reach the end of the path you will see see this river. Cross straight over and then on the sandy path, slightly to the right.
Somoto Canyon Directions 2
Follow the sandy path and you’ll see this view. Turn right and carry on
Somoto Canyon Directions 3
It opens up to the river, so keep going
Somoto Canyon Directions 4
You will see these football posts on the opposite side. Cross the river and walk past them to reach the where the boats dock, or clamber over some rocks for 500 metres to enter the canyon


How do I arrange a guide for Somoto Canyon?

At the main entrance by the highway, there will likely be guides offering tours. I am led to believe the ones at the park office are much cheaper. Both may require your haggle skills to get the best price. Expect to pay $15 USD per person for the easy route and $25 USD per person for the more adventurous route.

How much does Somoto Canyon cost?

The park office was closed when we arrived and so it was free! However, I have read that charges for the canyon were waived in 2018, but at the time were only 70 Cordobas ($2 USD)


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