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.
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.
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.
We rented an old jeep from the hotel and toured around the Island trying to visit as many of the hot spots as possible.
Charco Verde nature reserve offered a short trail walk that was mildly interesting at best. It quickly became time to move on.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)