San Bernardino, Paraguay (also affectionately known as San Ber), is an idyllic lakeside town and a favorite summer vacation destination for Paraguayan locals and visitors. Located next to the Ypacaraí Lake in the Cordillera Department, San Ber was originally founded by Swiss and German immigrants, whose influence can still be noted in the town’s architecture and cuisine.
It’s an ideal destination for lovers of adventure sports, as kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, cycling, dirt biking, and ATV riding are all popular here. During the summer months, people from nearby cities flock to San Ber to spend their summer vacation by the lake. But in the wintertime, it becomes a sleepy town, and many restaurants and businesses close during the off-season.
If you’re looking for a peaceful place to enjoy the outdoors, be sure to head to San Bernardino during your stay in Paraguay.
Backpacking San Bernardino, Paraguay
San Bernardino Map & Resources
Best Time to Visit San Bernardino
San Bernardino comes alive during the summer months, from December to February. If you’re looking to party, enjoy the outdoors and local events, and don’t mind the crowds, this is the best time to visit.
If you prefer to avoid summer crowds, visit San Ber in the spring (September through November) or fall (April through June). During these months the temperature is moderate, with occasional rainy days. You’ll be able to enjoy lakeside picnics and bike rides. Just be aware that some restaurants and activities close during the off-season, so there might not be as many options as during the summertime.
From late June through early August, the weather can be cold, foggy, and dreary. Not great for kayaking and waterfront strolls! The winter isn’t the best time to visit as San Bernardino becomes a bit of a ghost town at this time. If you want to enjoy everything San Ber has to offer, choose a warm and sunny time of year to visit!
Where to Stay in San Bernardino
Despite being a relatively small town, San Bernardino offers a wide variety of vacation rentals, hotels, and hostels or posadas. Whether you want to be on the lake, up in the hills, or close to the best restaurants, you can find a place to stay in San Bernardino that will suit your needs. Here are a few of the best areas to consider:
- On the waterfront. San Bernardino’s main attraction is the Ypacaraí Lake. If you’re hoping to enjoy an early morning kayak, work out with a view of the lake, and watch the amazing sunsets in the evenings, look for a place to stay close to the waterfront. It might be a bit more expensive, but you’ll get to enjoy the lake views to the fullest during your stay.
- In the town center. If you want to be close to the lake, parks, and restaurants, you’ll want to stay in the San Bernardino town center. You’ll have easy access to everything and can walk or bike to get around during your stay.
- In the hills outside the town. Stay in the hills above the Ypacaraí Lake and enjoy lush green panoramas and more secluded accommodations. There are plenty of places to stay with lake views, hiking trails, and natural surroundings.
Best Hostels in San Bernardino
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Hotel Ruta del Sol: This hotel is a good budget option away from the center, near the entrance to the town. It also provides easy access to the main highway if you’re planning on visiting other cities. It offers simple rooms, a pool, WiFi, and onsite parking. Guests like the breakfast and the peaceful atmosphere.
Oasis-Dream Hotel: This vacation property offers everything from studio suites to multiroom apartments with kitchens. There’s something for every traveler’s needs and budget here! Located in San Bernardino’s center, Oasis has many amenities, including a pool, WiFi, a gym, a spa, and an onsite bar and restaurant. Guests love the comfortable, clean accommodations and the delicious complimentary breakfast.
Eco Posada San Ber: Surrounded by nature away from the city center, this hostel is a simple, quiet place to relax and enjoy the beauty of San Bernardino. Reviews say it’s a comfortable place to stay and that the host provides excellent service.
Mbokaja Cabañas: Looking for more unique accommodations? Mbokaja offers rustic cabins in San Ber’s hills, with beautiful lake views and a pool. Guests love that it’s quiet, located in a natural setting, clean and comfortable. Plus, the free breakfast is delicious! If you prefer something different and want a getaway close to nature, check out Mbokaja Cabañas.
These are just a few of the many accommodations options in Paraguay’s San Bernardino. Since it’s a popular place to visit, there are tons of options for anyone’s needs and budget. From fancy vacation homes to inexpensive hostels, San Bernardino has it all.
Things to Do in San Bernardino, Paraguay
1. Take a Walk Down the Waterfront
San Bernardino has a beautiful waterfront with picturesque views of the Ypacaraí Lake, wooden swings to rest on, and grassy areas to picnic in. Take a look at the Paseo del Recuerdo, where you can play a melody inspired by this place. And be sure to take a picture by the ‘Yo ❤️ SanBer’ sign!
2. Climb the Stairs to San Ber’s Highest Point
The Bella Vista lookout takes you to San Ber’s highest point. Climb up the stairs for a bird’s eye view of the Ypacaraí Lake. It’s a small spot of interest, and the view is a bit obstructed by trees but it’s still worth taking a look. When you come back down, you can head across the street to La Lilia Café for coffee and a snack.
3. Go On an Adventure with Xtrema Adventure Tourism
Xtrema offers a wide variety of outdoor adventure activities. Spend a day in the trees with the arborism adventure, or go on a mountain bike ride through the hills. You can also head out to explore the area in ATVs, take a boat ride on the Ypacaraí Lake, or practice your archery skills. If you’re visiting San Bernardino, be sure to check out the Xtrema Adventure Tourism and pencil in as many adventures as you like!
4. Get Out on the Water
For years the government has advised people not to swim in the Ypacaraí Lake because of potential contamination. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the water in a different way!
On the dock, you can find several boats. For a small fee, they’ll take you out on a short trip. You can also rent a kayak or a stand-up paddle board to get in a workout while enjoying the water!
5. Visit the Market in the Plaza
On many weekends, an open-air market called Shopping Mercado SanBer takes over the Plaza General Bernardino. People set up stands and sell everything from fruit and baked goods to clothes and locally-made handicrafts. Stroll down on the weekend to browse the market and pick up a souvenir or something yummy to eat.
6. Try the Local Food
Speaking of food, San Bernardino has some amazing restaurants you shouldn’t miss during your stay. Try bollo, a fried donut-like pastry filled with cream, guava jam, or dulce de leche, at La Alemana. Or head to O Gaucho for an all-you-can-eat barbecue, sushi, and dessert.
German cuisine is also popular here, as there are many Germans who live or vacation in this resort town. Head to a restaurant in the town center to try the local food, or order to go and head to the lake for a picnic.
7. Play a Game of Soccer or Volleyball With the Locals
Paraguayans love playing soccer and volleyball. In the evenings and on weekends, it’s not uncommon to see the fields and courts full of friends playing and drinking beer. If you make some friends during your stay, be sure to ask if you can join them in a game of soccer or volleyball.
8. If Soccer’s Not Your Thing, Try Padel
If you’re not into soccer or volleyball, head over to the padel courts. Padel is becoming popular in Paraguay, and in the past few years, lots of courts have opened up all over the country, including in San Bernardino. You can rent a court and racket with some friends and enjoy a few matches for a fun evening.
9. Tour the Town by Bike
San Bernardino is a bike-friendly town – just be prepared for the hills! Biking is a great way to explore this cool town. There are plenty of bike paths, and there are even places to go mountain biking if you like. You’ll get to enjoy the fresh air, meet new people, and discover everything this lakeside town has to offer.
10. Watch a Lovely Sunset on the Ypacaraí Lake
There are plenty of things to do in and around San Bernardino, but one thing you shouldn’t miss is an evening spent waterside watching the sunset. Set up a picnic and invite friends or whoever you’re traveling with to join you. Watching the sunset over the lake on a clear day will be a highlight of your trip to San Bernardino.
Food and Drink in San Bernardino
In San Bernardino, you’ll find everything from food trucks and stands to upscale restaurants. There are plenty of different cuisines to choose from here, with typical Paraguayan fare and German cuisine being the most common. Here are a few restaurants to try during your stay:
- La Alemana
This quick-service German restaurant has been around for years and is well known in the area. It’s famous for its bollo, a fried pastry with sweet filling, as well as a variety of other pastries. They also serve empanadas, sandwiches, pasta, and other plates. It’s nothing fancy, but great for a coffee and a pastry or a quick bite.
- Summer Park SanBer
A seasonal food park where you can choose from different food carts and trucks. You’ll find burgers, pizza, lomitos, barbecue, and more. The food park only opens during the summer months, so don’t plan on eating here if you’re visiting during the off-season.
- O Gaucho
An all-you-can-eat buffet of barbecued meats, side dishes, sushi, and desserts. They have pretty seating areas indoors and outside and delicious, high-quality dishes.
Getting Around San Bernardino
You can get around San Bernardino on foot or by bus, bike, or car. If you’re staying close to the lake or town center, you’ll have easy access to everything and it will be easy to walk to grocery stores, the waterfront, and restaurants. The town also has many bike paths and it’s fun to cycle around and explore this way.
Buses pass by on the main road and can take you to other nearby cities you might want to visit. You can also rent a car to get around, especially if you’re planning on visiting other places nearby.
How to Get to San Bernardino
If you’re traveling to Paraguay by plane, your flight likely arrives at the Silvio Pettirossi Airport in Luque. San Ber is about 40 kilometers from the airport, and you can get there by bus or take an Uber. If you’re traveling to San Bernardino from a nearby city, you can take a bus (or two) to get there, as bus travel is common all over Paraguay.
Where to Go Next:
Areguá: Head over to Areguá and experience the other side of the Ypacaraí Lake. Areguá is a small town known for its locally-made pottery and Strawberry Expo in the winter.
Itauguá: The City of Ñanduti is just a bus ride away from San Bernardino. Shop for ñanduti, hike Cerro Patiño, or visit a local bar for a beer to meet some new friends.
Asunción: A trip to Paraguay isn’t complete without visiting the capital. Head to Asunción’s waterfront, historic buildings, and vibrant shopping malls to see everything the city has to offer. Also, don’t miss Asunción’s culinary scene. The city has lots of amazing restaurants, from street food to upscale dining.