Ometepe island – undiscovered tropical paradise | Nicaragua9 min read
Back then when we just started researching about Nicaragua, there was a lot of excitement about colourful cities and stunning beaches. How little did we know that this country is full of epic landscapes including 40 volcanoes and second biggest rainforest in the Americas. If you dig a bit more you will also discover an island formed by two majestic volcanoes in the middle of the huge lake. It doesn’t look that big on the map but in fact, Ometepe is the largest freshwater lake island in the world – try to imagine 276km2!
WHERE IS OMETEPE AND HOW TO GET THERE
Guess which city you will have to go first before heading Ometepe? RIVAS 😀
It became our curse because of the constant battles with taxi drivers trying to scam you with their overpriced services. Don’t get fooled by someone who is saying that the last boat to Ometepe leaves in 15 minutes. They are running frequently every hour until late afternoon. Same story with chicken buses from Rivas to the Port of San Jorge, except Sundays.
Bus from Rivas to the Port of San Jorge: 8 Cordobas (~ 0.20£) Time: 15 minutes
We were lucky to have a smooth ferry ride because it wasn’t windy. You have to purchase a ticket in the office not far from the boarding gate. Get a bigger ferry for the more steady journey and enjoy the view of twin volcanoes. Don’t expect anything fancy though! We shared our ride with a local man who was carrying a little puppy in the carton box.
Cost: 50C (~1.20£)
Time: 70 minutes
We hopped off the ferry in Moyogalpa – the main port city – located on the northwest part of the island. You will easily find accommodation and places to eat so as the limited number of public buses and minivans heading other parts of the island. Another option is to rent a scooter, probably the best way to roam the bumpy trials. In this case, we recommend to research in advance and read reviews.
One thing to note about Ometepe – it’s quite isolated and still developing the island. However, with a small effort, you can reach out other parts of this unspoiled land. Our Airbnb host from Balgue only mentioned about bus and taxi option. Luckily there was a group of Germans who had pre-booked colectivo to Santa Cruz and spare seats for us both. Cost 5$~3.7£ Even though you don’t have anything booked in advance there are always minivans to catch the ride on the island. No matter what always try to negotiate the price!
WHERE TO STAY IN OMETEPE
It took us one and half hours to get to our Airbnb allocated between Santa Cruz and Balgue. Outdoor shower and rustic setting in the room gave us more concern than joy. Ometepe is home to many insects and you might have a visitor while sleeping! Apparently scorpions and tarantulas were not poisonous but we still had shivers thinking about it!
Options to stay in Ometepe:
- El Zapilote Hostel – private huts, dormitories, camping areas and hammocks.
- Hotel La Omaja – offers stunning views of the volcano, swimming pool, private rooms, secluded
- Hostel Lazy Crab – colourful, and super relaxed hostel in Balgue
- Little Morgans – treehouses spread over a six acre property, filled with flowers, mango trees and coconut palm trees
THINGS TO DO IN OMETEPE
- RENT A SCOOTER AND DRIVE AROUND THE ISLAND
Honestly, we found this to be the most exciting way to get to know the island. The roads are wide and not so busy, beautiful views and a lot of unmarked spots for photo opportunities. However, keep in mind that half north part of the island doesn’t have proper road so drive cautiously. We recommend renting yours from the scooter rental next to El Zopilote hostel. Guys were very helpful and honest. Cost 25$ (~19£) per day.
- VISIT OJO DE AQUA
If volcanic sand beaches are not enough head to this natural spring pool filled with crystal clear water from an underground river that comes from volcano Maderas. The place gets a bit crowded in the afternoon but it’s the ultimate experience. Cost 5$(~3.8£)
- WATCH SUNSET AT PUNTO JESUS MARIA BEACH
Offers the best sunset in the whole island. If you turn around you will also be met by lovely views of the volcano. Bring a drink and enjoy!
- EXPERIENCE HORSEBACK RIDING AT THE BEACH
A very popular activity on the island with a variety of trails for riding. Please choose responsibly which finca you are supporting and make sure horses are healthy, respected and well kept. We were happy with our two gorgeous companions from a rental nearby our Airbnb.
Prices are generally from $5 to $7 per hour, the time required around 2-3 hours.
- VISIT EL PITAL CHOCOLATE PARADISE
This place was our little oasis and we ended up spending all day hanging out and meeting other people. Amazing space surrounded by over 300 cacao trees, raw chocolate factory, yoga temple and superfoods cafe. Make sure you try their smoothies and the famous The Magic Ball. They also accept volunteers to take part in their projects!
Lots of people go on hikes and climb volcanoes Conception and Maderas although we were very sceptical about it. If you are motivated enough we would suggest to first read reviews and beware of difficulties – lesson learned from Guatemala. Another difficult trek – San Ramon waterfall. Honestly, we weren’t sure what was the hype about. Perhaps we are spoilt with much more beautiful waterfalls but this just wasn’t worth to climb 4km in the heat.
WHERE TO EAT IN OMETEPE
- El Zopilote; located on the top of the hill this low budget hostel has in offer great food menu with plenty of vegan options, on Tuesdays and Saturdays they are throwing pizza nights,
- El Pital; as mentioned before, head for all your sweets cravings!
- Café Campestre; lots of vegan options and the best Michelada on the island! They are selling organic coffee and delicious freshly baked bread. Furthermore, you can book a coffee tour and visit local plantations,
- El bamboo; great, homemade food, lots of vegan dishes, friendly staff
Ometepe is one of these places that looks too good to be true. Roaming piglets, orange sunsets, the sounds of howler monkeys and raw green nature everywhere you turn! Again we found ourselves in a perfect laid back spot. This tropical paradise awaits you to enjoy its charm.