Rio San San

Rio San San, Changuinola: Address, Phone Number, Rio San San Reviews: 4.5/5

Rio San San
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15 reviews
Very good

Rachael N
4 contributions
Loved the manatees and supporting Amvecona!
Dec 2019
My husband and I were staying in Bocas Town on Colon Island, Bocas Del Toro, and we took a day trip to see the manatees in Rio San San. The people at Aamvecona care about protecting the wildlife in the region, specifically manatees and sea turtles, and are making efforts to reforest the surrounding land. We were the only visitors when we arrived, so they sent us on a private tour which lasted about 4 hours and cost $50/person. Our guide was great at spotting iguanas and sloths along the river and very willing to slow down or even turn around if we spotted something interesting. We really enjoyed seeing the manatees and other wildlife along the river. This tour is pricier than many others in the region, but it was worth every penny!

Notes about getting there: The center is located on the Rio San San and is not very visible from the road. It is the last driveway before you cross over the "puente San San." If you go by taxi, your driver will likely know where the "puente San San" is. If you go by bus, you will have to catch the "Changuinola -- Las Tablas" bus from Changuinola. There is a bus stop right in front of the center. Bring bug spray!!
Written December 23, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Rens L
17 contributions
Support this beautiful area by having a wonderful trip
Feb 2019
Aamvecona is doing great work in this area, I think, by promoting a sustainable use of the Wetland.
We met some very inspired people (a gentleman of which I dont remember the name and the lady running the office. The highlight of our visit was no doubt watching the manatees. We had to be really silent (so probably not very suitable vor (very) small kids) but then after about 15 minutes we saw about 6 or 7 who came to feed on the bananas and other bait the boatmen had put out. I guess they were there for half an hour to an hour. It was a very nice experience. In other seasons apparently you can see turtles nesting on the beach.

So this place is worth a visit both out of interest in nature as well as to support Aamvecona who are preserving the area. Try to book in advance because I am not sure the station is always manned. They don't speak English very well so its better to try in Spanish or let somebody who speaks the language make the arrangements
Written February 17, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Senatobia, Mississippi40 contributions
Highlight of our Trip
Jul 2017
We took our boys, 7 and 9, along with our niece and her friend age 17 to the San San. It was a rough start because it was raining so much, but by the time we got ready to see the manatees the rain had stopped. We saw four manatees before my son dropped his shoe in the water and scared them away! Ugh. We still got great pics and videos. The best part was seeing the turtle conservatory. Four sea turtles had just hatched and they taught the boys so much about sea turtles and protecting them. They allowed our kids and nieces to release the babies into the ocean. It was almost magical. We made a lifetime of memories here.
Written August 6, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Pinehurst, NC155 contributions
Sea turtles!
Jul 2015 • Family
This is a nonprofit conservation group with a working turtle hatchery, with dedicated volunteers that nightly monitor the nests, count, weigh, and measure the hatchlings then take them to where they can find their way to the water. Were were privileged to see 3 nests hatch in one evening, there are plenty more waiting to hatch. The staff speak only Spanish so you will need to bring your interpreter. They frequently host student groups who help with the work. Food is good, the board is cheap and basic camp style. No electricity since their solar panels broke and no hot water. bring your own food or they will provide if you arrange in advance. bring bug repellant.
For us the manatee feeding (only one manatee that day, not really much to write home about) was not ideal as we were late getting there and morning feeding may be better. We also went on a great canoe ride to see wildlife and the wetlands.
We can't say enough about the hospitality and friendliness of the staff. This had to be the highlight of our Panama trip. When getting there I would suggest flying to Changuinola as it is only a short taxi drive from the airport. To Bocas is a longer taxi drive or bus ride, and a boat taxi which will take a couple of hours. I would recommend staying at least one day.
Written July 19, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Riga, Latvia9 contributions
The Amazing Humedal San San Pond Sak Wetlands and AAMVECONA
Aug 2014 • Friends
Where do I begin to tell you how wonderful this place is?
Firstly, not only was seeing the manatees great, they also have a turtle conservation project that desperately needs volunteers (they are not government funded but run by local volunteers) and the people running AAMVECONA retreat are wonderful!
Contacted Elizabeth via e-mail (, arranged arrival for 4PM. As far as I know you can also show up (not sure about weekends) and you will be attended to.
First a boat ride (40 min.) to the oceanfront retreat deep within the wetlands during which we saw about 15 sloths and many birds.
Then settled into a comfortable room for four (with mosquito nets). They also have running showers and western toilets.
A nest of baby turtles was sheduled for hatching that evening, so after writing down information on an excavated turtle nest (they count the hatched and undeveloped eggs, information in why they did not hatch, etc.) we had dinner (food was truly amazing - better than the restaurants we had eated at) and then went to count, weigh and measure baby turtles and let them find their way to the ocean. After that we went on a 3 km walk down te beach to check if any turtles are laying eggs. The season for the egg laying is March-July, hatching August-September. We saw 3 poachers during our walk. The poachers will kill a nesting turtle and get $75/kg for the shell and 0.50 cents for one egg plus they will enjoy eating the meat. It is a reality of this place and that is why AAMVECONA and what they do is so important!!!
Next day in the morning we went to see the manatees (saw them within first 20 min.) As others in this TA review have explained how it works, I will not go into more details. All I will say is that I wanted to go there to see the manatees and we planned to leave after that, but fell in love with the people and the baby turtles so ended up staying two more days!

This organization, this place and the people who run it have a genuine spirit. They truly care and believe in what they do. This is one of the very special places that has not been touched by the volunteering frenzy yet but they do need help! If you are in the area (only about 2h from Bocas del Torro and 1h from the Costa Ricca border), please stop by and lend a hand, or donate!
Thank you again to our amazing "guide" and overseer Jose, Don Alfredo, Elizabeth, Don Cano, Don Ramos and all the rest! :)
Written September 6, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Leeds, UK16 contributions
manatees and turtles! amazing experience!
Apr 2014 • Couples
We emailed Elizabeth a few days before we wanted to go which she replied quite promptly, but did try the contact box first and don't think it worked. Email direct.
Paid $75 for the boat, manatee tour, and twin room breakfast and dinner. Definetly good value for money.
We arrived around noon and Elizabeth showed us lots of info about the national park and how they are looking after the animals. After we headed out onto the boat to the accommodation and on the way we saw a sloth really close up!
Once we put our bags into our accommodation we were shown around the turtle volunteering station and given some fresh coconuts!
After we headed to the manatee platform and the manatees arrived after 5 minutes! We got to watch them for two hours which was just amazing to see in the wild!
We had some down time back at the accommodation before having a lovely dinner and then at around 8pm we headed out with a guide, Elizabeth and a masters student to go on a nighttime patrol of the beach looking out for leatherback turtles! We walked for about 45 minutes when we found one laying her egs too close to the water, we all helped collect the eggs to bury them back at the turtle station where they will have a much better chance of surviving.
To be part of that experience of watching the biggest species of turtle in the world lay her eggs and help try to save their species was truly a wonderful experience and we feel extremely lucky! Thank you Elizabeth!
Written April 14, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Cees N
Rotterdam, The Netherlands15 contributions
Unique chance to see manatee
Feb 2014 • Couples
We did a day tour with aamvecona. Had a pick-up at Changuinola airport. After a short film about the area, we started with the tour. A nice one hour boat ride on the river to the Manatee look out. After a short time the first manatee arrived. 15 mins later a large Manatee showed up, and started eating the bananas. Nice to see the manatee grab a banana, disapear, and come back after a few mins for the next banana. We stayed at the look-out for almost 2 hours, and after we had lunch at the beach station. After lunch we did a boat tour through the mangroves, and saw a lot of birds, and animals. Thanks to the boatsman and guide Erick for the excellent tour.
Written March 1, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Pennsylvania USA332 contributions
Really cool experience!
How cool, I didn't think there would be a place on tripadvisor for this tour!
I did the manatee tour in May of 2009. I was volunteering in Gandoca and every Sunday on our day off we'd head over to Changuinola for food and internet (easier to get to than Puerto Viejo, plus it's cheaper!) One of our taxi drivers told us about the manatee tours, and one day we decided to give it a try.
Tip #1: call ahead! The people at the AAMVECONA office were nice but they weren't too happy that we decided to just show up out of the blue (we also had to wait about 30 minutes for a boat to come) So, if you can, call ahead! If I remember correctly the tour was around $20 - $25.
When the boat arrived the three of us that were going hopped in and rode straight to the look-out dock (I think the tour takes you other places, like the volunteer station, but we didn't have time for that, as we still had to head to Changuinola and be back to Costa Rica before the border closed). On the way there our boat driver stopped to show us a mother and baby sloth (cuuute) and a snake hidden in a tree branch.
When we arrived at the look-out there was a person waiting for us (I think he worked for AAMVECONA, I can't remember) He lowered the plants and bananas to almost water level and we sat and waited!
Tip #2: BRING BUG SPRAY. Wear pants if you can, no matter how hot it is. The sandflies were KILLER and there is no where to go! And the manatees can take a while (see tip #3) so you will be miserable if you don't bring bug spray. As turtle volunteers we weren't allowed to wear bug spray but we were used to it, so we didn't bother, not knowing... not kidding, the WORST sand fly experience I came across while in Panama/Costa Rica. Wouldn't have been bad at all if we had had bug spray...
Tip #3: Be prepared to wait! We waited about an hour and a half for the manatees to show up. You aren't guaranteed to see them but if you are patient you will usually be rewarded. We waited, and they came - and it was amazing! The water is murky so you won't have a perfectly clear view of them, but you could still see them in the water and they were super cute when they came up to eat the bananas and leaves. It was a really cool experience, especially since I've only seen manatees at SeaWorld...seeing them in their natural habitat was awesome.
I would 100% recommend this tour but whether or not you will enjoy yourself depends on the type of experience you are looking for and your expectations - you won't be able to see the manatees perfectly, and you might have to wait a while (bring a book, haha). Personally though, I'm glad I did it.. it was great!
Written April 6, 2010
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Northglenn, CO105 contributions
watch the Manatees eating up close
we did not take the yellow bus from Guabito into Changuinola direct. We got off at the half way point on the bridge over the Rio San San. You should DEFINITELY do this! Enter the office of AAMVECONA upstairs and tell the guy in Spanish that you want a boat to take you to the PLATFORM. He will wake up the boat captain (as they only get 2 or 3 requests per month) and charge you $70/boat plus $5/person with a maximum of 10 people per boat. Please email ahead if you know you are coming on a specific date to [--]. You will put on your life jacket and enter the boat to go down the Rio San San into the San San Pond Sak HUMEDAL (wetlands area). On this river there will be crocodiles, but also the largest population of Manatees (72 of them) in Central America. The Captain and your guide will take you down river to their cabin on the Caribbean (mouth of San San) where you can watch several 20 year old volunteer females digging in the beach for eggs that didn’t hatch and escorting the baby tortoises as they hatch to the water (with the shade from their body). These babies are so cute and I have some pics of them if you want. You can also buy but the only drinks they have are: coffee, warm water and fresh Coconut water from the coconut.

After a brief stop here to visit the tortoises on the beach, you will reboard your boat to go to THE PLATFORM. This deep jungle patform is very cool. The boat guide will hang fresh Bananas and banana leaves from overhanging branches so they are below the platform and at the water surface. This will become Manatee food in about 30-60 minutes. Then the Captain of your motorized canoe will drive under some overhanging branches and place you at the ladder to the platform (deep in the jungle so bring tons of mosquito spray and sunblock). Once the captain turns off his motor, the Manatees will circle around for a while and eventually come to eat your Bananas. On the day we were there, the rain had flooded the river 2 days before so the river was very high. Thus the water was dirty and we only saw noses and branches being tugged on. But usually, the water is clear and you can see their bodies while they eat.

After that we returned to the main office and said goodbye to the boat captain and guide to reboard the yellow bus toward Changuinola on the bridge for another 70 cents.
Written July 24, 2008
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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