San Carlos itself might not be the most interesting or beautiful city in Nicaragua, but it serves as an important local transportation hub and the last place to stock up when heading into the more rural parts of the Rio San Juan Region. However, in the 2000s and 2010s, the town was awakened from its decades long slumber when the Malecón (lakefront) was redesigned, turning it into a nice place to catch the sunset or a local fiesta or just spend a lazy afternoon. With the construction of the new carretera to Managua (reducing the travel time for the 300 km from just over 12 hours by bus to 6 hours) and the completion of a bridge across the Rio San Juan just out of town there is bound to be a lot of development in the next few years.
- There are boats coming in from El Castillo and San Juan Del Norte.
- There are boat connections to Solentiname Islands and to the villages on the southern shore of the Lago de Nicaragua.
In years past, there were boats to neighboring Los Chiles (Costa Rica) and all the way to Ometepe as of September 2018 neither of them has gone in over a year and there is no sign of them ever starting up again. However, the website of the national port administration unhelpfully still lists the Ometepe ferry.
- There are buses to and from Managua. The trip takes 6 hours and costs C$200.
- All buses to Managua stop in Juigalpa but some also do the San Carlos Juigalpa trip on its own.
- Please note that the buses that say “Los Chiles” on the windshield do not go to Los Chiles Costa Rica but rather to a Nicaraguan town of the same name. If you want to go to the frontier, take one that says “Frontera” or “San Pancho”.
- 1 San Carlos Airport (NCR IATA).
- There are twice weekly flights from Managua (~US$120 round trip).
- The new airports in Sun Juan del Norte and on Ometepe have scheduled flights to and from San Carlos as well.