Lighthouses of Nicaragua

Nicaragua is a country of Central America located south of Honduras and north of Costa Rica. Spanning the isthmus, Nicaragua has coasts facing southwest on the Pacific Ocean and east on the Caribbean Sea. The most important port is Corinto, on the Pacific in the northwestern corner of the country. Low and fringed by dangerous reefs, the Caribbean coast has no major ports.

Additional information from visitors to any of these lighthouses would be very welcome.

Aids to navigation in Nicaragua are managed by the Aquatic Transport Directorate of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

The Spanish word for a lighthouse is faro. In Spanish-speaking America, this word is used generally for all navigational lights, large and small, although smaller lights are also called balizas (beacons).

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. Admiralty numbers are from volume J of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals for Caribbean lights and from volume G for Pacific lights. Light List numbers are from NGA Publication 110 for Caribbean lights and from Publication 111 for Pacific lights.

General Sources
World of Lighthouses - Nicaragua
Photos available from
Lighthouses of Other Regions
Historic postcard views posted by Michel Forand.

Cardón Light
Isla El Cardón Light, Corinto, May 2012
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Larry Myhre

Pacific Coast Lighthouses
* San Juan del Sur
Date unknown (station established 1900). Active; focal plane 30.5 m (100 ft); white flash every 6 s. 4.5 m (15 ft) round cylindrical white tower. Lantern removed; beacon mounted on a short mast at the top of the tower. A photo is at right, Justin Mosca has a closeup, J.V. Duivendijk has a view from the sea, Melvin Somarriba has a second view from the sea, and the tower is seen in Bing's satellite view. The original light was described as "pyramidal." Located on a steep promontory about 2.5 km (1.5 mi) southwest of San Juan del Sur; accessible by a hiking trail from the town. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS NIC-004; Admiralty G3350; NGA 15440.
* Masachapa
Date unknown. Active (?); light characteristic unknown. Approx. 15 m (49 ft) round tower with a faux lantern and gallery; the light is displayed from the top of the lantern. Lighthouse painted gold with a purple spiral stripe; lantern painted white. Ronald Calero has a 2009 closeup, Elvis Dávila has a photo, Wilfredo Gaitán has a distant view in which the lens can be seen, and Google has a satellite view. Masachapa is a former fishing port, now a beach resort, about 55 km (35 mi) southwest of Nicaragua's capital Managua. The town had to be rebuilt after being swept by a tsunami in September 1992. Located on the waterfront of Masachapa. Site open, tower closed.
Isla El Cardón (Morro Cardón, Corinto)
1876. Active; focal plane 26.5 m (87 ft); white light, 3 s on, 7 s off. 13 m (43 ft) white round cylindrical concrete tower with gallery, centered on a 1-story hexagonal base. Lantern removed. Larry Myhre's photo is at the top of this page, Rodrigo Castillo has a good photo, Michael Leydet has a photo, another photo is available, and Google has a satellite view. Forand has a historic postcard view. The sender of the card has written on it that the light was "installed by the Denver," a U.S. Navy cruiser that brought troops to occupy Corinto in the fall of 1912, during a period of political unrest in the country. This historic tower is the oldest lighthouse in Central America. The port of Corinto was founded in 1863, but the first substantial development was in 1875-76 with the construction of a pier and this lighthouse. Located at the north point of Isla El Cardón, marking the entrance to the harbor of Corinto. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. ARLHS NIC-003; Admiralty G3352; NGA 111-15400.
San Juan del Sur Light
San Juan del Sur Light, March 2004
Flickr photo copyright Sarah and Jason; used by permission
Islas Farallones
Date unknown. Active; focal plane unknown; quick-flashing white light. Approx. 15 m (49 ft) square cylindrical white masonry or concrete tower. Orlando Jarquín has a view from the sea, and Carlos Pullinger has a distant view (click on the photo for higher resolution), but the light is not seen in Google's satellite view. The Farallones are a group of rocky islands rising dangerously in the entrance to the Gulf of Fonseca. Located at the highest point of the group. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. Admiralty G3359; NGA 111-15398.

Caribbean Coast Lighthouses
* El Bluff (Bluefields Bluff)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 50 m (164 ft); white flash every 3.8 s. 8 m (26 ft) square skeletal tower, painted white (not red, as listed by NGA). The tower is barely visible in a view from the sea by Ulises Gutierrez, a photo of the view from the lighthouse is available, and Google has a satellite view. A former pirate hangout, the fishing port of Bluefields is the only port of any size on Nicaragua's Caribbean coast. A former pirate hangout, it was the capital of the British protectorate of the Moskito Coast from 1740 to 1796. El Bluff is the name of the port district and of a prominent hill -- a rare eminence on this flat coast -- that protects the harbor. Located atop the bluff. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty J6064; NGA 110-16500.
** Isla Pequeña del Maíz (Little Corn Island) (2)
Date unknown. Reactivated(?); focal plane unknown; flashing white light. Approx. 15 m (49 ft) square pyramidal skeletal tower with gallery. A 2014 photo (halfway down the page) and a closeup photo are available, J.-P. Keskinen has a view from the top of the tower, and Google has a satellite view. We need information on the history of this lighthouse. An older tower lies on the ground next to the present tower. This light may have been reactivated in 2011, when it reappeared on the Admiralty list. The Islas del Maíz (Corn Islands) are in the Caribbean about 70 km (45 mi) east of the Nicaraguan coast. They were under a British protectorate until 1894, when Nicaragua assumed control. In 1914 the islands were leased to the United States, although the U.S. never assumed direct administration. The lease was terminated in 1971. Isla Pequeña del Maíz is accessible by passenger ferry from Isla Grande de Maíz (Big Corn Island), which is accessible by air from Managua. Located at the highest point of the island. Site open, and tourists frequently climb the tower to take panoramic photos. ARLHS NIC-002; Admiralty J6065; NGA 110-16502.

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Notable faux lighthouses:

  • Faro de la Paz (1990), Managua. This lighthouse was built to mark the end of the Sandinista revolution of the 1970s and 1980s; 15,000 rifles are buried under the base of the tower. Another photo is available, and Bing has a satellite view. By 2013 the lighthouse was suffering from poor maintenance and vandalism, and there were proposals to repair it and clean up the surrounding area. Located on a hillside above Lago de Managua in downtown Managua, the national capital.

Adjoining pages: North: Honduras | South: Costa Rica | West: El Salvador

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Checked and revised July 9, 2016. Lighthouses: 6. Site copyright 2016 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.