Makengue Reserve

The mission of the Makengue Reserve is to conserve rainforest biodiversity through environmental research, international education, and engaging the local community. Are you a university or independent researcher? Come study the amazing flora and fauna on-site at the reserve!  Makengue is a 190-acre private reserve owned by Becki Cohn-Vargas and Rito Vargas,  located along the Pocosolito River that feeds into the San Juan River in southern Nicaragua along the border with Costa Rica. Accessible only by boat, the off-grid private reserve has no neighbors and is a safe haven for many endangered species: howler, white-face, and spider monkeys, jaguars, alligators, toucans, parrots and a rainbow of orchids and butterflies. We bring groups of college students, researchers, and others interested in preserving the rainforest and doing community service projects in the region. 


Make Makengue your next vacation or book a school group. Makengue is an excellent location for research about all aspects of rain forest habitat, flora and fauna, local cultural traditions, and ways to protect the environment. 



"Makengue is a beautiful 190 acre property of virgin rain forest complete with a main lodge, several small independently standing cabanas, a swimming pool, and large wooden bridge complete with hammocks for afternoon relaxing. The lodge too offers a wrap-around veranda great for lunching, reading, or listening to the jungle rain. Makengue is a quiet, isolated location perfect for early morning bird watching - I’ve been lucky to see the likes of toucans, parrots, owls and more. Modest trails through the forest allow for exciting wildlife spotting of creatures like strawberry frogs and leaf cutter ants. Makengue is a short boat ride from the municipalities of Sabalos and El Castillo, and a great stop for adventure seekers." — Dorian, Washington D.C.


"I had the good fortune of visiting Makengue in March of 2013 with my university group, and it was an unforgettable experience! The property is breath-taking and allows for a fun combination of relaxation and adventure. We spent many hours relaxing on the beautiful porch where we could see and hear countless rainforest animals, including birds, bats, frogs, lizards, monkeys, alligators, and more. Hiking around the property was also a fun experience, as you do not often get to experience natural habitats that are as pristine as Makengue. In our free time, we went swimming in the river, drank lots of coffee, went out on the boat at night to look at the stars and the alligators, and played a lot of pool. Visiting nearby towns like El Castillo allowed for exciting excursions. The people are incredibly friendly, even if you do not speak much Spanish, and the food is delicious!" — Claudia Gonzalez


"One of the greatest weeks I have had! I was lucky and joined a research group from my university in March 2014. The accommodations are very nice and make you feel like an adventurer. A beautiful wooden house with multiple rooms and bathrooms in the middle of the rainforest. In the morning you can observe beautiful tropical birds and hear the howler monkeys across the river in the tree tops. Hiking around the reserve is an unforgettable experience. Reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds call this rainforest their home. Even better are the night hikes. In total darkness a completely different set of animals appears in the dark. I can only recommend this place and I will come back the next time I have the chance to." — Nico, Miami University student



"I stayed here for a week in the rainy season and enjoyed being deep in the rain forest. The description and photos accurately show the large, rustic, lodge with its lovely, deep porch and the beautiful surrounding preserve - truly far, far away from "civilization." If you love nature and adventure travel, as I do, you will love the boat ride to get here on the San Juan River, the views and sounds of birds, frog, and monkeys, and the opportunity to explore a true rain forest without any other tourists around! The owners are very helpful (this is a labor of love for them), and the caretaker is knowledgeable and skilled. My week there was a truly memorable experience!" — Cathy, Mountain View, CA


"The Makengue lodge is truly located off the beaten path, nestled amid a virgin rainforest. If you want to disconnect from the real world, there is no better place to go! Nicaragua is a hidden gem with so much to see and do. Traveling to Makengue is fairly easy via a bus from Managua and then a boat ride from San Carlos. The San Juan River is known for its fishing. Small towns dot the river along the way. Sabalos and El Castillo are a short boat ride away from Makengue. I personally love El Castillo and the old fort located there. There is lots to do in Makengue whether hiking through the trails on the property, bird-watching early in the morning, sunbathing by the river, or just kicking back on a hammock. The food was delicious and the staff very attendant. I slept in one of the cabins by the river and was lulled to sleep by the soothing sounds of the forest. The accommodations were comfortable and clean. All in all, it was a wonderful stay and hope to return again in the future." — Otiir, Miami, Florida