San Bernardino, Paraguay.
San Bernardino is the classic ‘summer home’ destination for the middle and upper class of Asuncion, Paraguay. Certainly many people live in San Bernardino full time, but for the majority of residents San Bernardino is their second home.
Located on the shores of the rather-polluted Ypacarai Lake in the Cordillera Department, Sanber (as it is affectionately known) was founded by Swiss and German immigrants a century ago. Today it is a popular holiday resort for people from all over the Greater Asunción area. San Bernardino boasts a somewhat walkable downtown, tons of events in the summer, and a plethora of restaurants and bars. The infrastructure is quite good and the city feels wealthy by Paraguay standards.
Asuncion is just so damn hot and mosquito-filled in the summer that Paraguayans need a place to escape to. San Bernardino fills this need, and serves as the number one destination for Asunceños fleeing the brutal heat of Asuncion for more moderate climates.
POPULATION: 20,000 full-time (2012), perhaps 100,000+ on summer weekends.
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WHERE IS SAN BERNARDINO, PARAGUAY?
San Bernardino is located 50 kilometers or a one hour drive from downtown Asuncion, Paraguay. When there is traffic, typically on Fridays and Sundays in the summer, the drive can take even longer. You’ve been warned! San Bernardino sits on the shores of Ypacarai Lake in the Cordillera Department of Paraguay. Ypacaraí Lake is a major body of water, measuring 24 km long from north to south and 6 km long east to west. The average depth of the water is roughly 1.72 metres (5.6 ft), so it’s not that deep and not very well suited for larger boats. As a result of toxic algae, Ypacaraí lake is the most polluted in Paraguay. You cannot swim in the lake, so if you are coming to Sanber to swim you will be disappointed. The government has banned access to its waters, however the lake’s beaches are open to the public for sun-bathing.
CULTURE IN SAN BERNARDINO, PARAGUAY
Sanber was first German and Swiss colony in Paraguay, founded in 1881. Due to the significant European influence, San Bernardino has a notably different culture than Asuncion at large. The streets of Sanber are much cleaner and organized. The residents of San Bernardino are on average more healthy than those of Asuncion. It’s a great city to spend a weekend or even the whole summer. Everybody is happy and the sunsets over the lake are spectacular.
DIGITAL NOMAD COMMUNITY IN SAN BERNARDINO, PARAGUAY
As Paraguay grows in popularity among foreigners, expat San Bernardino to grow in popularity as well. Currently you won’t find too many digital nomads in town. The crowd is decidedly older and more family-oriented. This isn’t the type of place that igital nomads are going to pilgrimage to get here, but most digital nomads in Asuncion will pass through from time to time.
EXPAT COMMUNITY IN SAN BERNARDINO, PARAGUAY
There are many expats in San Bernardino. In fact, the town was founded by Swiss and German immigrants! Today you will find foreigners and expats living here of all backgrounds. Expect to run into tons of Canadian, American, and European expats here in town. Many will be here with families. There are tons of modern houses for sale and it should be very possible to find a nice house to rent for the weekend, summer or year-round.
DAY TRIPS AND THINGS TO DO IN SAN BERNARDINO, PARAGUAY
Go take photos at the Mirador Bella Vista, a cool colorful stairway near downtown.
Check out the historic Hotel del Lago. It’s worth a look even if you’re not staying here.
Hit the beach! Playa La Rotonda is the main beach in town and a main gathering point. You can go for a walk along Paseo del Recuerdo, a walking path along the beach and downtown core.
Go to a show at Jose Asuncion Flores Amphitheatre, a beautiful venue with views of the lake.
Visit the Proyecto Boa Serpentario SanBer, a museum/science exhibit of snakes! Fun place to take kids or a date and take photos with snakes around your neck.
Play a round of golf! There are several great courses in the area.
WHERE TO STAY IN SAN BERNARDINO, PARAGUAY
The best place to stay in San Ber, if you want to be near the action, is between Plaza Bernardino Caballero and Playa la Rotunda. This is where the majority of the best restaurants, bars, and activities are located. One of the best parts about San Ber is that it is very walkable, and so even if you are within a 15 minute walk of this area you’ll still be all set.
HOW TO RENT AN APARTMENT IN SAN BERNARDINO, PARAGUAY
Your best bet is to book a hotel or Airbnb. You can expect hotels to sell out fast on summer weekends, especially if there’s a big concert or event in town. It’s best to plan in advance and reserve your hotel or Airbnb as early as possible.
BEST CAFES IN SAN BERNARDINO, PARAGUAY FOR DIGITAL NOMADS
There is a chain of cafe/restaurants in Paraguay called La Vienesa, and the wifi there is usually passable. It’s also a relaxed environment, laptop friendly, and the coffee and breakfast foods are very good.
BEST RESTAURANTS IN SAN BERNARDINO, PARAGUAY
Trust me, you are going to eat VERY WELL here in San Ber. Like anywhere in Paraguay, the meat here is top notch. San Ber is very close to many farming communities, so expect much of the produce to be very fresh. You will even see street vendors selling strawberries and other foods on the side of the main roads.
Restaurants that My Latin Life recommends:
La Alemana: Very popular restaurant serving all the classics in a casual settings.
O Gaucho: High end restaurant where you will eat some of the best meat of your life.
El Cafe Frances: Beautiful looking building and environment, serving French food with a Paraguayan twist.
Super Chivito Uruguayo: Local place for cheap tasty sandwiches.
Casa Di Peroni: Italian place with great pizza.
BEST BARS AND NIGHTLIFE IN SAN BERNARDINO, PARAGUAY
8/10 (in the Summer)
The best parties are not held in the center of town, but rather at mansions with pools or mansions up on the hill with a view of the lake. Once you meet some locals, you’ll be more ‘in the know’ and get invitations to these exclusive events. The young people tend to congregate in venues far from downtown and the judgemental eyes of parents. That being said, you’ll still see tons of young people in town.
Bars that My Latin Life recommends:
San Beer Cervecería: Chill place with tons of patio spaces an chairs, well located in the middle of town.
Sacramento Brewing Co. San Bernardino: The San Ber outpost of this classic and highly popular Asuncion bar.
Manguruyu San Bernardino: Nice place to watch the sunset outside with food and beers.
La Terraza de Sanber: Standard outdoor bar near the beach with a decent ambiance.
IS SAN BERNARDINO, PARAGUAY SAFE?
Yes, San Bernardino is 100% safe.
IS SAN BERNARDINO, PARAGUAY A GOOD PLACE TO LIVE?
Yes, San Bernardino is a great place to live. It’s very safe and a great place to raise kids. It also has enough going on in terms of social life and nature activities to keep you busy. You are close enough to Asuncion that you can head into town for important meetings or to buy things. San Ber has great infrastructure, supermarkets, gyms etc and should have everything you need. There are a number of schools in the area as well. If you need to go to the hospital, you are best off heading into Asuncion. Overall, San Bernardino is very liveable.
BEST TIME OF YEAR TO VISIT SAN BERNARDINO, PARAGUAY?
The best time of year to visit San Bernardino is in the summer. The city is most busy between December and February as residents of Asuncion flee the city to relax in San Bernardino and throw barbecues and social events. The weather here in the summer is still very hot, and you will experience more moderate weather in the spring and autumn.
HOW TO GET TO SAN BERNARDINO, PARAGUAY
The best way to get here is to drive from Asuncion. The drive will take around an hour. You can also get here by Uber or rideshare app. There are some bus routes but we wouldn’t recommend it – Uber is cheap enough. Buses to San Bernardino leave from the Asunción Bus Terminal. You are probably going to be traveling to San ber as a group of friends and probably traveling by car. You are probably not going to fly to San Ber. There’s a recreational airport called Club de Vuelo Deportivo Yvytu but no real commerical airport.
COST OF LIVING IN SAN BERNARDINO, PARAGUAY
The cost of living is low in San Bernardino. This city has among the highest GDP per capita of any region in Paraguay, but costs are still very low by international standards. The price of housing can be somewhat inflated, but you can still find a deal. The cost of restaurants and entertainment is very reasonable.
HOW LONG SHOULD I STAY IN SAN BERNARDINO, PARAGUAY?
It’s a great city to spend a weekend or even the whole summer.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON SAN BERNARDINO, PARAGUAY
San Bernardino is one of the hidden gems of Paraguay. It’s the type of place that you have never heard of until you arrive in Asuncion and learn that everyone is away on the weekends at their second home in San Ber. It’s a very pleasant city. The city is well suited to expats and retirees who want to be close to the big city of Asuncion but live in a quieter, safer, and more organized place. The city is certainly more suited to expats than digital nomads. This is a great place to spend the summer months while in Paraguay, beat the heat, and enjoy yourself. You will enjoy your time here.
OVERALL RATING: 8/10
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