Ometepe Island Getaway

Why is it that the attractions closest to our homes somehow seem less exciting and adventurous than those further a field?

Isla de Ometepe is promoted as one of the premiere travel destinations in Nicaragua. It is an island created from two volcanoes (Concepción and Maderas) that rose from the depths of Lake Nicaragua. One of the volcanoes is still quite active. Ometepe boasts some of the most lush jungles and diverse ecosystems in the country. The ferry terminal is only 30 minutes from our house so of course we had never been there. 

Our friends Harry and Keeley really wanted to go so we decided to join them. 

We took our friend Irish John’s advice and parked our truck in the secure lot at the ferry terminal. Many of the ferries are not large enough to transport vehicles and those that can are often full and relatively expensive. It was a good thing that we decided to leave the truck because the large ferry broke down and we had to take one of the small foot passenger ferries anyway.

Ometepe Island Getaway

– Boarding the ferry in San Jorge

Ometepe Island Getaway

The ferry ride to Ometepe was relatively smooth and we enjoyed increasingly better views as we neared the island. We were excited to start our adventure.

Ometepe Island Getaway

– Almost there!

Many travelers to Ometepe go from the ferry terminal directly to rustic, secluded accommodations set deep in the jungle or choose similar accommodations on the most popular but secluded beaches of Santa Domingo. We are not at all into seclusion so we stayed in the port town of Moyagalpa.

Moyagalpa is a small city and has plenty of great little restaurants. We tried and would recommend the Cornerhouse for breakfast or lunch, Buon Appetito for wood oven pizza and La Galeria for some choices unique to Nicaragua including gnocchi.

We stayed at a new hotel – Nicaraus – on the edge of town with a pool that our miniature schnauzer loved. 

Ometepe Island Getaway

– Keeley & Harry at Hotel Nicaraus

Ometepe Island Getaway

Hotel Nicaruas offered clean and spacious rooms with breakfast included for just $35 USD per night

We rented an old jeep from the hotel and toured around the Island trying to visit as many of the hot spots as possible. 

Ometepe Island Getaway

– Daily rate for the jeep rental was $45 USD

Charco Verde nature reserve offered a short trail walk that was mildly interesting at best.  It quickly became time to move on.

Ometepe Island Getaway

Ometepe Island Getaway

– An easy 30 minute hike took us to this look out

Ometepe Island Getaway

– A family photo on our way out of Charco Verde

Altagracia is the second largest city on the island and seemed far less interesting than Moyagalpa. To be fair we only stayed long enough have doughnuts, a litre of Tona and a walk around the central park area.

Ometepe Island Getaway

– Parque Central in Altragracia

Ometepe Island Getaway

We moved on to the Santo Domingo beach to find a spot with a breeze and good lunch menu. The first place that we stopped at was a tourist trap charging North American prices. In our experience the higher priced food in Nicaragua is not indicative of higher quality food. It usually is basic Nica fare served in a more North American setting.

Ometepe Island Getaway

– The beaches of Ometepe

We walked down the beach to a Vegetarian/Indian restaurant and while looking at the menu noticed a troop of Capuchin monkeys across the road. They are most likely always there as the restaurant owners feed them regularity. The menu looked very unique for Nicaragua so we decided to give it a try. An hour later we were still waiting for lunch to arrive and were hungry enough that anything would have tasted delicious. Well anything but what we ended up being served. Unfortunately it was barely edible.

Ometepe Island Getaway

Lunch Companions

Our next stop was the famed Ojo de Agua. It is a natural spring in the jungle which sounded perfect and we really needed something good to happen today. The huge, full parking lot didn’t bode well for our visit. Ojo de Agua is a large cement and rock pool. Neither completely natural nor comfortable and modern. The pool was filled with screaming children which did not fulfill the serene soaking experience that I envisions but the water is rumored to add ten years to your life so we jumped in. 

Ometepe Island Getaway

– Sunday Funday?

Oddly enough for the first time ever our pup Maggie didn’t even want to swim here. We wanted to swim in a calm area and have a few Tona and we know exactly where to go. Back to our hotel of course. The pool and Tona cleansed our negative attitude both inside and out and we were ready for one more shot at redemption. Our host advised us to go to Punta Jesus Maria for sunset.

Punta Jesus Maria is a sand bar located on the west side of the island where the two volcanoes meet. It stretches straight out into the lake like a 400 meter long finger. It is truly amazing to see and a perfect spot to watch the sunset. This was easily the coolest thing that we experienced on the island and we would go back just for this one place.

Photo Credit to Chad Kruckeberg

Many of our friends absolutely love Ometepe island and go there any chance they get. We didn’t have the best experience and when we go back we will try a kayak tour through the jungle and revisit Punta Jesus Maria. The restaurants in Moyagalpa are as good as anything that we have tried in Nicaragua and worth visiting even for a day trip. 

If you have been to Ometepe Island and to there is a must do experience that we missed leave us a comment for our next visit.

(To view full size images click on any thumbnail)

Posted on April 2, 2014, in Sights & Activities and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. We did the same thing. Allowed enough time for a quick trip to the island and found that getting around the island takes FOREVER! The roads are rough and unlit, so leave plenty of time to get from A-B during daylight. We really enjoyed climbing the San Ramon Waterfall. It was a full days trip but it wasn’t full of tourists. In fact, the local sites and people along the way made up for the looooong drive. If you are in shape and have the time, I suggest you climb from the gate instead of paying for a car to enter. Or, a car can take you up to the trail head where you hike the path up to the waterfall. It is breathtaking and the swim in the base pool will refresh you for the hike back down.

  2. We visited Ometepe late last year, and had similar experiences at Cornerhouse (great food in a chill cafe), Charco Verde (pretty, especially the island within a lake within an island within a lake…), and Ojo de Agua (nice swim but over-crowded with noisy families).

    Both volcanoes offer a variety of challenging hikes; we did only a short, self-guided hike after an amazing lunch at Finca Magdalena (east side of the smaller Maderas volcano). Although we didn’t visit other fincas in the area, I understand that they offer a variety of accommodations, particularly for those interested in yoga, permaculture, and psychonautics (Project Bone Fide, Inanitah, Zopilote, etc.).

    Swimming in the wild waters on the east side of the island (Playa Domingo), especially at night, is thrilling and a little scary.

    Keep up the great posts.

  3. I’m sorry that Ometepe Island didn’t live up to your expectations. We’ve lived there for almost 11 years, near Punta Jesus Maria.

    I’m not exactly sure what didn’t meet your expectations, but it may help if next time you go, you don’t expect Ometepe to be like San Juan del Sur.

    Ometepe Island is a Biosphere Reserve. It is a small agricultural island where sustainable tourism is growing to meet the needs of the local people, not to meet the needs of irresponsible tourists. There are several local communities that offer cultural tourism programs, such as Puesta del Sol and Los Ramos. Staying with the local families and attending their cultural programs (like the cultural cooking class) responsible travelers can support the local communities and provide much needed financial support so the young families can stay on Ometepe Island and not have to go to Costa Rica to find jobs.

    If you are looking for a cultural experience, El Museo offers tours through the museum where many archeological Pre-Columbian pottery pieces were found on the property.

    Ometepe Island is a rich, historical island steeped in legend and mystery, with diverse ecological flora and fauna. The people are gracious, vivacious, and friendly. Honestly, if you are looking for a touristy place with little beach umbrella drinks, you are better off staying in San Juan del Sur.

    If you want to experience the culture and the natural beauty in a natural setting, please come back. There are many programs where you can volunteer. That’s the best way to really see the true Ometepe Island.

    • We are probably just spoiled. We used to live in Laguna de Apoyo and found it similar, but more enjoyable.

      • My wife and I own ‘Casa Lily’ in Granada and love it there. Can’t believe we haven’t yet made time to visit Ometepe. Back, hopefully, this November and it will be top of to do list.

  4. Good Afternoon to you,

    I am planning to be in Nicaragua in August/September for a visit of ten days. Nonetheless, I would very much appreciate your advice on the following two issues:

    1. What are the official requirements to bring in two cats when I am ready to come and settle there?
    2. In view of my vast expertise in humanitarian fields, is it possible to volunteer? To me it is not necessary to be among a lot of ex-pats. I need to be among locals and try to help.

    Thank you so much in advance for your kind reply.

    Vassil

    • To bring your cats you need a USDA or CFIA licensed vet to complete a Health certificate stating all vaccinations are up to date. Rabies vaccine needs to be between one and twelve months old. The report will also need to state that your animals are healthy and free of ticks and fleas. An agent in the Managua airport will check your documents.

      The process is really quite easy; many people bring their dogs to Nicaragua on vacation with them.

      As for volunteering you will have no shortage of opportunities. We live in San Juan del Sur which has a large expat community, however that also means there are multiple programs and services for local Nicaraguans. Most organizations are happy to have any volunteer who is willing to make a regular and sustained time commitment.

      • Thank you for your reply. It is most helpful. When the time comes, I will take the necessary steps and proceed. Yes, I want to help the locals in small towns and initiate projects that would help and guide the young generation to interact with other countries and enhance their life in different fields. You can check me out on Linkedin.

        If you don’t mind, I would like to continue corresponding with you until my arrival. Thank you again.

        Have a pleasant evening!

        Vassil

  5. Hi. I heard Hotel Nicaraus also rents dune buggies. Did you see any and do you happen to know the daily rate? Also can anyone rent or just the people staying in that hotel?

    Thanks

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